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Which one is more important to you: your partner or your smartphone?

28.04.2020 13:52 - Written by Written by Jaana Ojanen, Psychologist, the Family Federation of Finland , Family Federation of Finland
The latest technology - especially smartphones - interferes with the well-being of relationships. While smart devices help maintain relationships, there is a downside to the recent increase in dependence on them. According to the latest studies, the heavy use of a smartphone has many disadvantages. Peeping the cell phone causes breaks in conversation and impairs empathy. Browsing the phone creates arguments and distrust in romantic relationships. As a result of a weakened relationship, cell phone use is associated with an increased risk of depression.

Modern people form an intimate relationship with their cell phone. They sleep next to it and even take it to the bathroom. The phone passcode is not shared with the partner. According to recent studies, US students use their cell phones on average 9 hours a day. Finns are probably not far from these numbers.

A partner immersed to their cell phone evokes jealousy. Smart devices cause insecurity for some people precisely because of their social nature. The feeling of exclusion is emphasized by the contradiction that the partner is physically present but mentally elsewhere. Constant jealousy diminishes the quality of the relationship.

The amount of disagreement between partners regarding the use of a cell phone will influence the amount of arguments related to cell phone use. If the partners use their cell phones almost equally much with each other, there will be fewer arguments. Their individual needs and expectations for the relationship also have an influence. Someone who needs a lot of attention from the partner is more likely to be disturbed by the cell phone use.

Cell phone addiction has exploded in the recent years. Addiction is particularly prone to the fear of being excluded from social circles, i.e. fomo. Difficulties in self-management also increase the risk. Social and impulsive people find it harder to resist social media.

The use of smart devices is affected by changed manners. People who utilize a lot of digital devices consider it normal to place cell phones on the dining table and to react to incoming messages. Addiction goes unnoticed because heavy cell phone use is not considered harmful.

The sudden disappearance of the partner in the digital world can be offensive. The insulted partner may react to the situation in many ways. A typical reaction is to seek attention from the partner and to try to prevent the use of a cell phone. Repeated failures to attract the attention of the partner lead to disappointments and arguments. The foundation of the relationship, the feeling of connection, begins to crumble.


Wang, X, Xie, X, Wang, Y., Wang, P. & Lei, L. (2017). Partner phubbing and depression among married Chinese adults: The roles of relationship satisfaction and relationship length. Personality and Individual Differences, 110: 12-17.

Robert, A. & David, M. (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.

Chotpitayasunondh, V. & Douglas, K. (2016). How “phubbing” becomes the norm: The antecedents and consequences of snubbing via smartphone. Computers in Human Behavior63: 9-18.

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