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Are Cellphones Ruining Your Relationships?

As a couple’s counsellor, one of the biggest complaints I hear is that my partner doesn’t listen to me. This complaint comes in many different forms. I hear things such as, “My partner is always distracted, my partner doesn’t talk to me anymore, my partner doesn’t spend quality time with me, my partner is…. always on their phone.” I believe cellphones are a major cause of disconnection in relationships which overtime becomes a big contributor to separation or divorce. This is not only true for intimate relationships, but also true in parenting relationships, friendships, and workplace environments. The good news is that more and more individuals are becoming aware that their phone use behaviours are problematic and would like to change, but they just they just aren’t sure what to do about it. 


Awareness is an important first step to making changes. To help build awareness, reflecting on your own behaviours around your cell phone can be helpful. Ask yourself these questions: What purpose does my cellphone play in my life? Am I happy with my behaviours around my cellphone usage? Do my behaviours match the intended purpose of my phone? 


Cellphones can be incredible tools for connection and enhancing your relationships, but unfortunately much of the time we spend on our phone is to disconnect and is taking time away from the connections right in front of us. When we lack boundaries with our time, and are not intentional about our time, cellphones become the perfect time killer. 


So how does this impact our relationships? Creating emotional safety within a relationship involves feeling heard and feeling seen. It is very hard to build or maintain a healthy relationship when we have a phone sometimes quite literally blocking us from seeing our partner. Life can be busy and chaotic at the best of times so finding ways to remain present with our partner is becoming increasingly more difficult. 


How can we improve this? Putting boundaries around when and where you use your phone can help. Reflect on what qualifies as an important phone call or text in the evening and what doesn’t. Discussing this with your family is an important step to make sure you are all on the same page and can help hold each other accountable. 


The amazing thing about technology is that there are many tools on our phone that we may not be using to the full potential. Change the settings on your phone to go into sleep mode from 9 pm to 7 am, allowing for proper sleep, connection with partners, and waking up. Set reminders, use different settings, monitor phone usage, use minimalist apps – these are all examples that can be helpful to reduce phone usage to what is most important. 


Establish a phone station in the home. Plug the phone into a docking station at home during important family times and treat your phone as if it were a landline. Answer calls when important and leave text messages and emails to be answered at a designated time. 


If you are struggling to be more intentional with your cellphone usage and set boundaries with your time, it may be beneficial to reach out to a counsellor. 




Shannon Baustad, MC, is experienced in many areas such as anxiety, depression, and relationships, plus many more. For more information on Shannon and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.