In today’s blog, we will be exploring the phenomenon of phubbing and examining how it can affect your relationship with your partner.

What is phubbing?

Phubbing is a combination of the words “phone” and “snubbing,” meaning to be snubbed by someone who is using their phone while spending time with you (Roberts & David, 2016). Phubbing may look like one partner disengaging in shared time with the other partner to use their cell phone (Roberts & David, 2016). Many of us were probably familiar with the experience of “phubbing” without necessarily knowing the technical term for it. We’ve all likely experienced being ignored or neglected in favor of a cell phone at some point in our relationships, and many of us may also be able to think back to a time where we were the perpetrators of phubbing in our relationships. It can be easy to phubb or be phubbed, often times without even knowing it, due to the increasingly intricate role technology, and smartphones specifically, play in our lives. We have access to so much information and entertainment at our fingertips, and we are able to instantly connect with the larger world. It’s hard not to look to our phones for instant gratification and fulfillment, especially during challenging moments, where it can feel like an escape from life’s stressors. However, it’s important to recognize that when we choose to engage with our phones instead of our partners, we are losing out on opportunities for connection and harming our relationships. 

How can phubbing affect my relationship with my partner?

Phubbing can negatively affect couple relationships by impeding connection and intimacy and leading to feelings of resentment and anger. When we choose to connect with technology instead of spending quality time with our partners, it can leave them feeling neglected, lonely, betrayed, and isolated. Phubbing can also result in increased levels of conflict within the relationship, as partners may begin to feel resentment and anger toward one another due to the harmful role of technology in their relationship. 

How can I avoid phubbing in my intimate/romantic relationships?

None of us are perfect, and it’s inevitable for us to experience phubbing within our relationships – whether we are the one doing the phubbing or the one being phubbed. However, we can be proactive about trying to decrease the frequency of phubbing within our relationships. There are two key components in helping us reduce the occurrence of phubbing:

  1. We  must increase our awareness of what phubbing is and how/when it shows up in our relationships. If we are more aware of the role technology plays in our relationships, we can be more proactive and intentional about making choices that avoid phubbing. This may look like recognizing when you are using your phone while in the presence of your partner and then making an intentional choice to put it away. For example, if you’re going out to dinner with your partner and notice that you (and/or your partner) are constantly checking your phone, try turning your phone off/placing it on silent and putting it away. 
  2. Focus on using technology to connect with your partner. Research shows that when partners use technology in one another’s presence with the intention of creating a shared experience, they can build intimacy and strengthen their relationship rather than experiencing phubbing (Campbell & Murray, 2015). 

Though phubbing explicitly talks about the impact of cell phones on connection and intimacy in couple relationships, this concept can be applied to other forms of technology, as well. The most important thing to keep in mind is that, regardless of what type of technology you are using, you must be intentional about using it in a way that promotes connection and builds your relationship, instead of breaking it down. Stay tuned throughout the rest of this week as we share more tips to help you use technology to build connections with your romantic partner!


Campbell, E. C., & Murray, C. E. (2015). Measuring the Impact of Technology on Couple Relationships: The Development of the Technology and Intimate Relationship Assessment. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 14, 254-256. DOI: 10.1080/15332691.2014.953657

Roberts, J. A. & David, M. E. (2016). My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners. Computers in Human Behavior, 54, 134-141.


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