This annoying habit could be damaging your relationship, experts say


Scrolling on your phone in the presence of your partner can be harmful for your relationship. — AFP Relaxnews

Scrolling on your phone is a habit that's hard to break on a daily basis. But as well as impacting our concentration, it can also affect our relationships, especially when it comes to scrolling at bedtime.

It's no secret that screens have become formidable enemies for our attention spans. Their presence often monopolizes our interactions, even during precious moments with friends and loved ones. But what about the impact on our romantic relationships?

According to marriage and family counselor Tracy Ross, interviewed by HuffPost US, "parallel scrolling" – ie, silently scrolling on your phone while in bed next to your partner who's doing the same – could actually wreck a relationship.

Indeed, phubbing (ignoring people physically present by looking at your phone rather than interacting with them) and parallel scrolling are scourges for many couples in today's society. In 2017 research by Baylor University in the US, surveying 143 people involved in a romantic relationship, 70% of participants said that “cellphones 'sometimes’, 'often’, 'very often’, or 'all the time' interfered in their interactions with their partners”.

"You’re basically decreasing the chances of intimacy and affection, or just generally engaging with your partner," Ross told HuffPost. "Connection is critical for a strong relationship – and it needs to happen regularly, without fail, for a couple to thrive."

For example, lying in bed with your partner at the end of the day is a crucial moment for reconnecting with each other. But it turns out that many couples neglect this shared moment of closeness, connection and intimacy. Ross says her patients often complain that their partner is "constantly on their phone" or seems "distracted", which makes it difficult to get their attention and, in turn, can increase the chances of a breakup.

Nevertheless, Aimee Hartstein, a psychotherapist also contacted by HuffPost, admits that it might be unrealistic to expect couples to steer clear of screens for an entire evening.

"Like it or not, our phones are here to stay, and it’s an unusual couple who will put them away for the entire night," she says. In fact, the smartphone has become essential for getting information and interacting with loved ones.

So how can we remedy this potentially damaging habit, which is so deeply rooted in our daily lives? First of all, try to understand the reasons why you or your partner use your phone in each other's presence.

"Ask yourself if you are using the phone to avoid your partner – and if so, what could that be about," suggests Ross. "Habits tend to stick, and unless we actively try to change them, they persevere."

If scrolling encroaches considerably on your life as a couple, you can discuss this with your partner and set screen-time limits. For example, you could avoid using the phone at bedtime or at dinner. You can also try a digital detox, by giving up digital devices for a day, or several days, depending on your needs and abilities. – AFP Relaxnews

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