Get Off Your Phone, Get Back to Nature, and Rebalance Your Relationship

couple holding hands

How To Break Up With Your Phone

One of the most common complaints that comes up in couple’s therapy these days is “You’re always on your phone.” There is even a term for when someone is scrolling their phone instead of interacting with the person they’re spending time with — “phubbing” (a combination of “phone” and “snubbing.” This has been an issue since smartphones debuted, but it’s probably become more of a problem recently, as many of us have been spending the majority of 2020 staying at home, working from home, and relying on our phones to connect us to the outside world. Survey’s say phone usage has increased up to 20 percent since pandemic-related lockdowns and quarantines began in March. If you’ve been quarantining with your partner, it’s likely that “phubbing” is in full force, and it’s possible that it is driving both of you crazy.

In the 2018 book “How to Break Up With Your Phone,” author Catherine Price begins breaking her own phone addiction by challenging herself and her husband to completely turn their phones off for 24 hours. When the 24 hours were up, neither wanted to turn their phones back on. In addition to negatively affecting the addicted individual (short-term memory and concentration issues), excessive phone use can decrease trust, intimacy and empathy within a relationship, not to mention the quality time together that is sacrificed by spending time scrolling. These negative effects are compounded by the fact the novelty of your romance tends to wear off when spending so much time together.

“You don’t have as many opportunities to miss one another and it’s easy to take one another’s presence for granted,” Jess O’Reilly, PhD, explained to Kells McPhilips for wellandgood.com, (You Might Be Guilty of Quarantine Phubbing if You’re Reading This on Your Phone Right Now).
O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist, recommends going on “phoneless, pointless” walks together as a way to reconnect without distraction.

Take a Hike or Try a Canoe Trip to Unplug and Reconnect

A walk around the neighborhood is a great way to reset your connection on a typical evening night, but why not take it to the next level by planning a hike at a park or nature preserve where you’ve never been? While a weekend camping trip might seem like the obvious next step, I would actually recommend hiking, biking, or a canoe excursion instead. If there is already tension between you, scouting out a location, carrying supplies, setting up the tent, making a fire, and then sitting in the woods while you try to bond and avoid your phones might not be the relaxing reboot your relationship needs.
Furthermore, hiking, biking or canoeing include the element of motion, moving forward, being present, which will keep your energy flowing as well as exercise-induced endorphins. Sitting around a campfire with someone you’ve been stuck in the house with for months might be marred by the same stagnant energy causing tension in the first place. The change of scenery also offers neutral ground for more productive and positive conversations. You don’t have to use this time to discuss major relationship issues. You might want to reminisce about when you first met, or exchange stories from childhood you’ve never shared. There’s something magical about a long canoe trip that gives you a big-picture outlook combined with a feeling of returning to your roots. Ideally, both of you will leave your cell phones locked in the car. As long as you aren’t the only two people in a remote area after dark, there’s no reason you can’t pretend it’s the 90s and go sans cell phone.

Choose a Nature Doc When Netflix is Not “Chill”

If the great outdoors doesn’t sound great to you, you can get a dose of nature from Netflix by turning on a nature documentary. Having this option on deck is also a great way to end any “what should we watch?” arguments or indecisive scrolling. Allow me to suggest “Dancing with the Birds,” a delightful documentary detailing the mating rituals of the most beautiful, exotic birds you’ve ever seen. Clocking in at under an hour, this Netflix option escapes the “fear of commitment” that can often discourage us from making a movie decision. I’ve yet to meet anyone who isn’t awestruck by this documentary. The quality of closeups is ever-improving in the science and nature doc scene, capturing jaw-dropping imagery that has the power to entrance just about anyone. The brightly-colored male birds go to great lengths to find love. After tidying up a clearing, they perform mating rituals that require them to shapeshift, twirl, and display their talents to the discerning female perched on a branch above. It can be particularly fun to watch with a romantic partner. Because the topic is literally “the birds and the bees,” it can inspire some playful discussions about relationships and your love life. Whichever activity you choose, the important thing is that you put down your phone, and put a little more effort into your relationship.