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Cellphones Are Ruining Relationships, Study Finds

The mere presence of your smartphone may be dumbing down your love life.

By Kristin Wong Sep 5, 2012 3:24PM

Photo: Uli Pfeiffer/Getty ImagesYou've met a friend for dinner and are in mid-conversation when a discordant, robotic noise captures his or her attention. Suddenly, your conversation/ dynamic/ friendship is sent to a screeching halt while they respond to a text, take a call, 'like' something on Facebook — whatever. So you sit there, idly. Maybe your glass of water has now become an interesting work of art worthy of your deep examination.

Chances are, you've found yourself in this situation at some point. People haven't quite seemed to fully refine the concept of cellphone etiquette, and, in fact, a recent study has found that the mere presence of a cellphone can lower relationship quality among couples.

"Go on airplane mode."

This advice, from dating coach and author Adam LoDolce, seems simple enough. But we were surprised to hear just how often Adam has to tell his clients to silence their cellphones during dates. He told The Heart Beat:

"One of the biggest mistakes that men make on a date is checking their phone."

 Apparently, the guys think it will impress the ladies, making them appear popular.

"I know for a fact that there are guys out there who think it's going to help their cause to put their cellphone right side up on the table and have it buzzing a few times [during the date]."

Simply put, it doesn't work.

"It's the biggest deal breaker," Adam adds. His straightforward advice:

"Airplane mode. Put it in your pocket. Done deal."

If you didn't already know how much of a turn-off bad cellphone etiquette is, researchers have the data to prove it.

Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein of the University of Essex recently conducted a study which found that having a cellphone nearby can ruin intimate interactions between people.

Here's what they did. Subjects were paired up to discuss a moderately intimate topic. Scientific American explains that it was "an interesting event that had occurred to them within the last month." The conversation was to last 10 minutes, and the subjects left their belongings in a waiting room while they proceeded to have their conversation in a private booth.

In that booth, there were two chairs facing each other, and only a few feet away, there was a desk. On top of that desk, researchers placed a book and one other item. In plain sight for the duration of the conversation, that "one other item" was the star of the study.

For some conversations, the other item was a notebook. For others, it was a cellphone. After the conversations were completed, the subjects were asked to fill out questionnaires about their perceived relationship quality.

Yup, you guessed it — the couples who conversed in the presence of the cellphone reported lower relationship quality and less closeness.

The cellphone was an intimacy buzz kill.

"What happened to the day in age when we can just live in the present and just enjoy our time with the person?" Adam asks.

Related video: 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship

Speaking from experience, nothing ruins a dinner with my significant other more than my checking my cellphone, even if it's work related. In fact, even the mere notification ring is now enough to build a cloud of awkwardness over our date. To remedy the problem, I've started leaving my phone at home on date night.

Oddly enough, my world has not come crashing down. Actually, it's improved.

It's time to hang up. Or, at least, take cellphone etiquette a bit more seriously in order to save our relationships, if nothing else.

And one final thought. We previously wrote about how the three-day rule has become antiquated because texting has replaced the icebreaker call. We asked Adam whether, in this day and age, it's appropriate to ask someone out on a date via text.

"Is it appropriate? Yes. Is it most effective? No," Adam told us. "Guys are usually the ones asking out the girl. What I usually recommend is to call. Women appreciate a call."

He adds that a voice-to-voice phone conversation will remind the other person of the spark that made them give you their phone number in the first place.

Want to learn more about Adam? Check out "The Dating Confidence Coach" for men and women at: www.AdamLoDolce.com

Photo: Uli Pfeiffer/Getty Images

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