Disconnect to Reconnect

April 7, 2023

There are a number of interactions between people that I notice as a server. My coworkers and I joke around while serving our customers with the cold drinks and delicious food they’ve been waiting for. Amidst the laughter and scribbling of orders, there is the common yet lovely sight of seeing a couple going out for a date night. Not talking. Just being together and smiling while staring into… their phones. Does that sound painfully familiar?

It is true that phones are a part of our everyday life because they are useful and, in many ways, can really create a larger connection to those that we love and with our very outside world.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, a study was published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture of men and women and the effects in which common-phone-interference was in their romantic relationships. The findings showed the relationships with reported frequent occurrences of phone interference substantially low life satisfaction, overall. A professor at Baylor University, Dr. Robert made a separate study of 175 men and women. Of them, 46% disclosed being ignored due to their partners’ phone distraction. Of that survey, the couples with reported frequent occurrences of phone interference had relatively high conflict within their relationship. What I found in my research is the behavior of allowing excessive phone usage-intentional or not- when spending time with our partner is creating deep negative impacts between couples. loss of interpersonal connection, less genuine quality-time, and growing resentment for feeling ignored and undesired

Woman on her phone
Clay Banks, Unsplash

It is more than likely that you have had the experience of feeling like your partner felt their phone was more interesting or important than you, or perhaps you have caused this feeling toward them. But it makes sense, right? In an interview with my Uncle Mark and Aunt Julie, who have been together for 20 years, my uncle talked about how our phones have literally endless entertainment in the palm of our hands. My aunt went more in depth as to how it can take away from the “wonderment” in a relationship: “In order to develop intimacy, you need communication,” she stated. I had another interview with my classmate and friend, Sidney. In response to my question, “Do you think that phone use lessens a connection between couples?” she claimed phones are both an interruption and distraction from the moment taking place. There is the perfect opportunity of face-to-face time to have personal and more lengthy conversation while also being able to express affection and create security within the relationship.

The three in-depth interviews that I conducted were with people in different types of relationships, ranging from casual dating to a 20-year successful marriage. Each of them believed genuine quality times is what builds trust through having no distractions, bonding, and teamwork. Have you ever been on Facetime, and the person on the other end put you on “pause”? That, as my interviewee Ben Johnson stated, is what is equivalent to spending time with a phone-distracted person in real life. In regard to his feelings towards phone-use during time spent with a significant other, he has felt unimportant and as though the other person was not present. We are all in our own little worlds when we are on our phones. This creates a barrier between ourselves and those around us.

Yes: that may be a painful reality check! However, we are not doomed for a dull, superficial love life. Thankfully, there are solutions. What needs to happen first is a conversation and reflection. Is phone interference causing a lack in your relationship? How do you feel toward it within your romantic life? Having an open and honest conversation with your partner will strengthen your communication and boundaries to be made. In my conversations and research, I discovered a number of ways to lessen screen time and increase actual face time:

crowd of people on their phones
Hugh Han, Unsplash

Keep phones out of the bedroom.
Play games after dinner.
Watching and bonding over a good movie.
Talk in the car rather than checking emails.
Save time for screen time, or making it quick and intentional when spending time with your partner.
Simply be aware of the habit of using your phone and refocusing your attention.
Adventure without technology with your loved one.

In order to effectively use the solutions to manage the issue at hand, my Uncle Mark commented that changing behavior is better than controlling it. Changes can be made by recognizing the absolute benefits of reducing phone usage during one on one time. Benefits such as being closer emotionally, building teamwork, more pillowtalk (phones in bed are a big mood killer!), and better trust. Each of these allow both of you to see how great it is with just the two of you together in each other’s company. Get off that Facebook page and on the same mental page one.

Listen, I get it: we all have a phone addiction to some degree. From the notifications of Instagram to texting your friends to work emails it’s hard to make ourselves disengage from new information and constant updates. It’s no secret that letting it interfere affects more than just our romantic lives; however, starting somewhere is what will create a positive ripple effect. We all want to feel seen and satisfied in our relationship. The change starts with you. As my Uncle stated, “Be the change that you want to see.” Disconnect to reconnect.

two hands touching, a connect
Unsplash, Toa Heftbia
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