There’s no getting around it: phones are addictive. They’re designed that way. All of those bright colors on your screen and the beeps when you get a text or call are designed to give you a hit of dopamine, the happy drug.
The hunger for that same pleasure is what drives us to seek out food, exercise, and sex, and we all know how addictive those can be.
So it’s little wonder that many of us are completely obsessed with our phones.
Apps are specifically engineered to make them more rewarding, so we want to use them more and more.
There are a million upsides to the technology that’s now a core part of our daily lives, but one of the huge downsides can be the effect it has on our interpersonal relationships.
Being plugged into our devices means we aren’t truly present in the moment.
We’re focused on maintaining virtual relationships with people that aren’t in the room, whether through email, Whatsapp, or Instagram likes, meaning we don’t give our full attention to those we’re actually, physically with.
Even if we’re meant to be in love with that person.
You yourself might have managed to keep your smartphone use to a healthy level, but it takes two to tango.
Your partner being constantly plugged into a device can cause all kinds of relationship issues, as you can easily start to feel like they value their virtual life more than they do you.
The feeling that you get when your partner snubs you for their phone, known as ‘phubbing,’ is just like experiencing emotional infidelity.
11 Warning Signs Their Smartphone Usage Has Turned Into An Addiction
If your partner is continually glued to their phone and you think it might be taking its toll on your relationship, these signs show that you really do have something to worry about.
1. They Ignore You
They’re so lost in their virtual world when they’re on their phone that they completely zone out. One would hope that they’re not consciously ignoring you when you speak to them, but they sometimes don’t seem to hear you at all.
2. It’s Noticeable
You’re not the only one who’s noticed that your partner seems to be glued to their smartphone. Their family or friends (or even worse, your family or friends) have made comments about it too.
3. They’re Distracted
They see no problem with flicking through Twitter or Instagram whilst they’re having a conversation with you or whilst they’re meant to be concentrating on something else or working. They don’t seem to realize they’re even doing it.
It’s generally seen as common courtesy to apologize to someone if you’re having a conversation with them and need to check a message that’s come in. Your partner doesn’t think an apology is necessary.
5. They’re Easily Bored
A side effect of our screen age is that we’re all constantly stimulated and can feel twitchy if we don’t get our phone fix. They get agitated whenever they’re not checking their phone.
6. They Get Separation Anxiety
They’re on their phone from the moment they wake up till last thing at night, and if their phone suddenly stops working or breaks, they’re disproportionately upset about it and nervous that they’re going to be missing out on something.
7. They Can’t See The Problem
A problem recognized is a problem that’s on its way to being solved, but warning bells should be going off if they don’t seem to be aware of the fact that they’re addicted.
8. They Get Stressed By Social Media And Emails
All the time they’re spending on their phone is making them anything but happy. Social media means they spend their life comparing themselves to others.
Emails arriving at all hours of the day mean they’re always switched on and in work mode. Their bad mood gets in the way of your quality time.
8. You Feel Rejected
If your partner seems to be consistently more interested in an electronic device than they do in you, it’s completely normal to feel hurt or rejected.
You often feel snubbed if they reach for their phone when you’re spending time together and that means feelings of resentment begin to bubble under the surface.
9. Your Sex Life Is Suffering
Your partner gets into bed and starts flicking through their phone which means they’re not thinking so much about cuddling and physical closeness.
6 Practical Fixes To Help Address Your Partner’s Phone Addiction
If you’ve been noticing that your partner is guilty of the behaviors mentioned above, don’t despair.
Sure, you can’t go completely cold turkey like you might do with alcohol or cigarettes, as you do need your phone to operate in the modern world, but phone addiction is treatable if you set your mind to it.
Here are a few ways to help fix things and get your relationship firmly back on track.
1. Get Things Out In The Open
First things first, you need to be honest with your partner about how their phone addiction has been making you feel.
If they realize that you have genuine concerns about the relationship as a result of their phone habits, it might be the motivation they need to make changes.
2. Have Technology-free Times And Zones
I think we can all agree that turning our phone on first thing in the morning and diving straight into work emails isn’t a great way to start the day.
Flicking through Facebook last thing at night whilst in bed isn’t a great way to end it, either, as all that bright light has been proven to disrupt sleep.
From a relationship point of view, making the hour before bed phone-free and not allowing devices in the bedroom can mean you’re more likely to talk and touch when you get between the sheets.
It’s also a good idea to make a rule that no one touches a device whilst you’re eating dinner, for example, to give you a chance to have genuine conversations.
3. Suggest A Few Changes To Settings
Suggest to your partner that they might want to make a habit of turning off notifications for everything except urgent phone calls when you’re meant to be having quality couple or family time.
If their phone isn’t vibrating or beeping, they’re more likely to be able to forget about it and focus on being present instead.
4. Make It A Game
If you’re out for a meal or a drink with a group of friends, suggest that everyone puts their phone in the middle of the table, face down. The first person to crack and pick up their phone buys a round of drinks.
5. Set An Example
I wouldn’t mind betting that even though your partner’s smartphone use bothers you, you could do with a little less screen time yourself.
Make it clear to your partner that you’re putting your phone away when you’re with them so that they can be your sole focus.
Consciously try to reduce your phone time, perhaps with the use of a tracking app like Moment or BreakFree, and tell your partner what you’re trying to do.
Seeing you consciously trying to make changes when you already spend less time on your phone than they do should make your partner realize that they need to address their problem.
Whether you just lovingly caress your partner more, hug them more, or get up close and personal between the sheets more, show them that you’re a far better way to get a dopamine hit that a phone screen is.
If your partner is on their phone all the time and it’s ruining your relationship, you now have the tools to identify their addiction and help to alter their behaviors gradually so that you can avoid further problems down the line.
Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.