Did you think it was just you and your partner who were going out for that delicious meal after a hectic week? Little did you know that she had booked a table for three – you, her and her mobile phone.

While it’s true that mobile phones have become an integral part of modern life, there is nothing less romantic than the appearance of the little device right in the middle of an interesting conversation.

Many recent studies have been conducted examining how phones affect relationships. Some suggest that expanding the channels of communication has had a positive influence since people are likely to feel more secure when they are in touch with others more often.

On the other hand, some believe that when one partner is constantly on their phone or distracted by different notifications, it can have a negative impact on the relationship.

Couples also feel they have to constantly compete for their partner’s attention or that many of their discussions now revolve around social media posts or application- related topics.

Even though we pretend that we’re still paying attention, our divided consciousness, in the long run, seriously undermines the depth and strength of our intimate bond. If this happens frequently enough, there are a number of consequences that are likely to follow such as arguments or conflict about phone usage, feeling neglected and ignored, a decline in the quality of conversations, and trust and insecurity issues.

It’s no surprise that one partner may finally get so fed up that they make their loved one choose between them or the mobile magnet!

Due to the negative impact of these devices, it seems they can cause problems, even if they’re not being used. In 2014, Virginia Tech psychologist Shalini Misra and her colleagues examined the interactions of 100 couples in a coffee shop.

They found an interesting pattern emerging known as ‘the iPhone Effect’ – the mere presence of a smartphone, even when on the table and not in use, degrades private conversations, making partners less willing to talk or to disclose deep feelings and less understanding of each other.

The excessive dependency and attachment to our devices are a cause for concern. However, smartphones are here to stay so instead of feeling defeated, there are a number of ways to use them mindfully in order to avoid damaging relationships.

Here are a few smart ‘smartphone’ practices:

Set a period of time during the day that is completely mobile free

Speak to your partner about how he or she feels about your mobile phone usage and habits

When out for meals together or with friends, agree to leave mobile phones in the car or bags so your evening isn’t constantly interrupted

Turn off unnecessary notifications

Make a commitment to charge your phone in another room at least one hour before going to bed

Don’t be secretive with your phone

Agree to discuss serious matters face-to-face, rather than via email or text

The good news is that we have a choice about continuously connecting virtually or to communicate in person. Perhaps knowing what some of the negative outcomes of excessive mobile phone habits are will help you and your partner make better decisions.

Ultimately, mobile phones should bring you closer to those far away, not take you away from those close to you.

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