As glorious and convenient as it is to have the entire world at our fingertips, Americans now spend an average of 3-4 hours a day on their mobile phones. For most of us, that includes nearly 2 hours a day on Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. This is bad news for intimate partner relationships, and just about everyone is starting to notice by now. This phenomenon has even coined up a new term – “phubbing”- which is a mashup between “phone” and “snubbing.” Phubbing is when someone you’re with is so involved with their smartphone that you feel they’re no longer really paying attention to you. If you’re like most people these days, you’ve probably endured a fair amount of phubbing by people close to you. Be honest – you’ve probably done your share of it, too. And I get it. All successful apps and social media platforms do three things to get you hooked: They give you lots of attention, they give you a sense of accomplishment, and they make you feel loved. So, as you can see, the solution to “phubbing” cannot be as simple as saying, “Honey, put down your phone.” The problem is deeper than that. To address these problems and save your relationship from technology, here are three things you need to do.
Reclaim Attention in Your Relationship
Attention is very important to human beings. As helpless infants, we need attention from others to thrive and survive, so from the very beginning, it is engrained within us that attention is something we need. Later, as you get older, you learn to make do with a lot less attention. Then, when you enter a relationship, you suddenly get this really powerful hit of attention once again. That’s one of the best parts of being in love, isn’t it? But in a long-term relationship, that eventually fades. Other things start to make demands on your partner’s time and energy, and you must go back to being satisfied with less of their attention.
Your smartphone, on the other hand, is engineered to give you all the attention you could ever want. It waits on your beck and call, and it never has anything else on its mind. It only exists to make you happy. On the other hand, your partner has their own opinions, emotions, concerns, and all sorts of other things on their mind. It’s not even a fair competition… but here’s a secret: Your smartphone can’t enjoy you and it can’t share special, meaningful moments with you. It could be anything: the scent of your partner’s hair, the color of their eyes, the way they laugh, etc. Spend a minute or two enjoying your partner in that way and see what happens. Chances are, they’ll be so happy about this that they’ll start enjoying you, too. Your capacity to enjoy each other is the one secret advantage you have over technology ruining your relationship.
Stop Doing and Start Being Mindful Together
The human mind is naturally restless and it loves a good challenge to conquer. The beginning of a new relationship usually involves lots of challenges. Conflicts, disagreements, and misunderstandings are inevitable and they can keep you pretty occupied. Eventually, if all goes well, you settle down as a couple. But that can spell trouble for that restless part of your mind that’s always craving new obstacles, the part of your mind that compels you to reach for the phone for stimulation. As strange as this may sound, the best solution to this problem is to spend a few minutes together with your partner doing absolutely nothing at all. This naturally leads to a state we call “mindfulness,” which simply means paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Cultivating mindfulness together can be a welcome break from all the problem-solving you’re doing the rest of the day.
Realize the Internet Will Never Love You Like Your Partner Does
Traditionally, the only way to feel intensely special, important, and valued was in a romantic relationship. With smartphones and social media, you are bombarded by so much online attention all the time – the “likes,” “faves,” follows,” and so on – that sometimes, your real relationships can wither from lack of interest. As I mentioned before, your smartphone never stops thinking of you as the most important person in the world. So it’s not surprising that most married couples these days first reach for their smartphones when they wake up in the morning, rather than for each other.
How do we stop something so terrible from happening? In my opinion, the best way to fix the situation is to let yourself burn out on social media. Let yourself get tired of it and bored with it. Admit that the “moment-to-moment” experience gets stale. As I’m sure you know by now, there’s really no end to it. No matter how many likes you get, there’s always someone who has more. Your smartphone and people on social media will never really know you. But look beside you: now, there is someone who truly wants to know you and deserves your attention the most of all.
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