Study: Smartphone threatens marriage
Spouses who use their phone day and night are more likely to feel dissatisfied with their marriage. The more they scroll, the less time they have for each other.
"The biggest change I have seen in relationships is the smartphone", says Canadian couples therapist Andrew Sofin, who has been working in the field for over 25 years. "They have caused more upheaval than anything I have seen in my career. We have normalised them being intrusive and taking precedence when people are lying in bed, playing Worlde, or scrolling through TikTok rather than talking to each other", he notices.
In addition, smartphones are designed to fulfil people's needs and wants instantly. And that is not realistic in real life, Sofin points out. "A healthy relationship requires you to slow down and listen to each other. But our lives don't really allow for that."
American research has confirmed Sofin's observations. It found that couples who spend too much time on their phones worry more about divorce than couples who have a lower amount of screen time.
Not only does excessive phone use lead to general frustrations, but it can also ruin marriages, the researchers write in their report. Only 60 per cent of the spouses who say their significant other is on the phone too much say to be happy with their marriage. Of those who do not struggle with the problem, 81 per cent is satisfied with their wedlock. Of the first group, 21 per cent is explicitly unhappy with their marriage, compared to 8 per cent in the latter group.
Also, 26 per cent of the couples who spend much time on their mobile device worries about divorce, compared to 7 per cent of the couples who do not have a phone problem.
Considering all of these factors, the report reads, couples who struggle with too much screen time are 70 per cent less likely to be happy with their marriage.
According to the researchers, this unhappiness may be explained by two factors. The first is that couples who spend much time on their phone have less sex. Only 44 per cent of this group says to be intimate once or more a week.
In addition, these couples have less time to go on dates together. Regular date nights are linked to happier marriages, the reporters say. Of the couples with higher screen time, 58 per cent say they do not have date nights at all or only a few times a year.
And the problem is widespread. More than a third of the American participants say their spouse is often occupied by a screen, whether that is their phone or the TV or anything else. As a result, they spend less time talking or doing an activity together. The problem occurs more often in lower-income marriages (44 per cent) than in higher-income households (31 per cent).
Young couples are more vulnerable to the distraction of the smartphone, the researchers discovered. Of those under 35, 44 per cent indicated that their spouse spends too much time online. Of the group with spouses older than 35, this percentage amounted to 34.
Whether a couple is religious or not does not make any difference to their screen time.
It should be noted that excessive phone use cannot be seen as an exclusive cause of marital problems, the researchers write. Instead, it may be an indicator of a marriage that is unhappy already. In that case, screen time may worsen the problem.
On the other hand, the researchers point out that phones are made to be addictive. "The most likely scenario is that marital difficulty and addition to smartphones are reinforcing each other." In the worst case, this cycle can lead to divorce when smartphone addiction is not addressed.
The researchers suggest couples spend more time together and turn off their phones more often to improve the quality of their marriage. And that is crucial, according to them. "Marriage is the thread that holds society together. For the sake of their families and for the good of society, spouses should be empowered to resist the technological forces that threaten to fray the marital bond."
Suggestions to improve marriages
- The researchers suggest the following to combat phone addictions and strive for better marriages:
- Marriage counsellors should urge couples to establish rules about their screentime.
- Couples should decide to use basic phones –that can only phone, text or e-mail– to reduce the risk of addiction.
- Social media platforms should remove elements that make them so addictive.
- Community and national leaders should promote social norms concerning phones in public spaces and propagate that too much screen time is unhealthy.
- Campaigns should be launched to make people aware that devices can destroy their marriage.
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