Do You Love Your Phone More Than Your Spouse?

Before you answer too quickly, check out the surprising research. Today is the day the highly anticipated iPhone 4S comes out, and I’m hankering for one as much as the next person. It’s a good time for all of us to read how our phones may be affecting our brains, feelings, and love lives.

The question isn’t, “Are you addicted to your phone?” (Which is what many have been asking in recent years.)  Instead, researchers say they have concluded that you “love” your phone in a similar way that you love your partner or your religion.

Branding consulting and researcher Martin Lindstrom explains in the New York Times, “A recent experiment that I carried out using neuroimaging technology suggests that drug-related terms like ‘addiction’ and ‘fix’ aren’t as scientifically accurate as a word we use to describe our most cherished personal relationships. That word is ‘love.’

“Come on,” you say, “I don’t love my phone that much.” But think back to the quiet meals with your spouse, or the times you sat in front of the fire, when you either pulled out your phone or wished you could. Lindstrom says those who leave their phones at home feel stressed-out, cut off and “somehow un-whole.” I know even when I go out to dinner with my husband, my phone comes with, and so does his.

Lindstrom carried out an experiment using functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine if iPhones were addictive (as in cocaine, shopping, or video games). Eighteen people (half men, half women) were exposed separately to audio and video of a ringing and vibrating iPhone. Whenever they were exposed to either the audio OR the visual, the participants’ brains activated BOTH the audio and the visual cortices.

“In other words, when they were exposed to the video, our subjects’ brains didn’t just see the vibrating iPhone, they “heard” it, too; and when they were exposed to the audio, they also “saw” it. This powerful cross-sensory phenomenon is known as synesthesia. But most striking of all was the flurry of activation in the insular cortex of the brain, which is associated with feelings of love and compassion. The subjects’ brains responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member. In short, the subjects didn’t demonstrate the classic brain-based signs of addiction. Instead, they loved their iPhones.”

So, we respond to our phones in a similar way that we respond to our spouses. (And, I’m guessing sometimes, the response to the spouse may be more negative.) Have you considered how this response may affect your marriage? I’m sure many of us can share how an “important” call or text disrupted our alone time or family time. Do you love your spouse enough to turn your phone off for a few hours a day? One hour a day? Half a day on the weekend? Half an hour before bedtime? Do you have any structure or limits on how and when you use technology?

Lindstrom suggests, “As we embrace new technology that does everything but kiss us on the mouth, we risk cutting ourselves off from human interaction. For many, the iPhone has become a best friend, partner, lifeline, companion and, yes, even a Valentine. The man or woman we love most may be seated across from us in a romantic Paris bistro, but his or her 8GB, 16GB or 32GB rival lies in wait inside our pockets and purses. My best advice? Shut off your iPhone, order some good Champagne and find love and compassion the old-fashioned way.”

If you answered that you love your spouse more than your phone, here’s your chance to prove it. Set limits that you both agree upon, then stick to them. (Try 30 to 60 minutes a day if the idea makes you sweaty with nervousness. No, sleep time doesn’t count.) If you find you cannot stick to the limits, then you’ve proven that your feelings for your phone are stronger than your feelings for your partner.  Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

How much do you love your phone? Why do you think that is?

Photo by Ambro courtesy of

6 responses to “Do You Love Your Phone More Than Your Spouse?

  1. What an eye-opener! I’m sure there are some spouses reading this and thinking, “If only I could download apps to my husband to get him to perform tasks, provide information, and entertain me; then I’d love him as much as my iPhone!” (I actually think my husband would accuse me more of having an affair with my laptop. It’s so addictive.) Thanks for the information and the refocus, Lori!

  2. This came through on my new 4s as I was setting it up. I’m relieved to know I’m not addicted to my phone, just in love with it!
    So, you made me laugh. And then I put down the phone. 🙂

  3. The love affair begins. I am slightly jealous though! Congrats on joining the revolution.

  4. Funny – I just scheduled a tweet with this same question! Thanks for some scary research!

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