You're watching a movie with your significant other and whip out your iPhone to Google the cast. You sit down for a Sunday brunch together and have to snap a 'grammable shot of your waffle platter mid-conversation. Does this sound familiar? You may be guilty of 'phone snubbing'—dubbed 'Phubbing'—and there's a chance it's messing with your love life and in turn, your mental health.
A new study from researchers at Baylor University surveyed a group of men and women in romantic relationships about the extent to which being distracted by their phones is affecting their bond. They found that when folks felt snubbed by their partner's phone behavior, it created conflict, and also lead to less satisfaction in their relationships overall.
“These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression," study co-author James A. Roberts, PhD, said in a press release.
In other words, these little distractions may seem small in the moment, but they can add up to big consequences.
Are you being phubbed?
The researchers asked more than 300 adults for input about what constitutes phubbing, while also referring to popular magazines, websites, and previous studies. Based on the feedback, they built the Partner Phubbing Scale below to assess couples' phubbing habits.
See where you stand by rating the following statements from one to five, a one meaning "never," a three meaning "sometimes," and a five being "all the time."
1. During a typical mealtime that my partner and I spend together, my partner pulls out and checks his/her cell phone.
2. My partner places his or her cell phone where they can see it when we are together.
3. My partner keeps his or her cell phone in their hand when he or she is with me.
4. When my partner's cell phone rings or beeps, he/she pulls it out even if we are in the middle of a conversation.
5. My partner glances at his/her cell phone when talking to me.
6. During leisure time that my partner and I are able to spend together, my partner uses his/her cell phone.
7. My partner does not use his or her phone when we are talking.
8. My partner uses his or her cell phone when we are out together.
9. If there is a lull in our conversation, my partner will check his or her cell phone.
If you got a high score, you're not the only one
Tallying up mostly 3s, 4s, and 5s? It sounds like you're being phubbed often. And sadly, it's all too common: A second survey of 145 adults included in the paper showed that more than 46.3% of people felt snubbed by their significant others, and 22.6% said it caused issues. Unsurprisingly, the bad effects of phubbing among "anxiously attached" couples—those in shakier relationships—were more severe.
“When you think about the results, they are astounding,” Roberts said in the release. “Something as common as cell phone use can undermine the bedrock of our happiness—our relationships with our romantic partners.”
Thankfully the fix is pretty easy: put away your phone!