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How Your Partner’s Phone Causes Jealousy

Smartphones have changed the landscape for romantic relationships.

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Jealous man
Source: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

We are addicted to our phones—no question. Our phones contain our personal data and information and also function as relationship-facilitating devices, allowing us to easily connect with others. Our phones are probably the last thing we look at before going to sleep and the first thing we reach for upon waking up. Even in the bedroom after sex, people have reported basking in the glow of their phone screens, rather than the afterglow of a sexual embrace. Some couples have even reported mid-coital check-ins.

Phones also provide an array of options to hook-up quickly. Some of the more quirky apps include Dog Tinder—where you can like a person’s dog—Tinder for Threesomes, Sizzl, which caters to dating for bacon lovers, and Salad Soulmate, for those who prefer to date those who like salad.

These apps are used by those in relationships or even those who want to engage in sexting behavior—a combination of the words sex and texting, which refers to the sending of sexually charged messages or the sending of nude or semi-nude photographs. It is obviously easier to send such messages over text than convey such messages face-to-face. For some people, this may even be a substitute for sex.

Meeting and communicating online makes it easier to end a relationship or never see a dating partner again by just stopping contact. This can be done simply by no longer messaging someone or replying to their messages and is referred to as ghosting. Some 80 percent of people have now reported experiencing ghosting, and the practice is to some extent explained by the relative anonymity of people using dating sites, and the relatively short-term nature of the current hookup culture.

Our increasing use of smartphones has led to the practice of phubbing, which is a combination of the words phone and snubbing and refers to the practice of ignoring a person in your company and preferring to look at your phone. In relationships, many have reported glancing at smartphones when talking to a partner, checking their phone when there is a lull in a conversation with their partner or using their phone when being out together with their partner.

What Has Changed?

The question is whether this change in behavior as a result of smartphones has changed how people now behave in relationships. Has the existence of smartphones made us more jealous in romantic relationships?

The practice of micro-cheating refers to acting in a way that might imply an interest in a third party when currently in a romantic relationship. It may not be cheating in the strict sense but behaving in a way that could lead to cheating.

Before the advent of social media or smartphones, the same concept could be achieved by denying or downplaying the significance of a current relationship or making a pass at someone else. Now, it is easier to indicate to someone that you like them simply by liking a post or becoming friends or followers on social media. Furthermore, online communication is far more ambiguous compared with face-to-face communication, which means that working out whether a person is actually interested in someone else is all that more difficult.

Are We Bad People Anyway?

Are we correct to be jealous of our romantic partners or are we overreacting? Are we bad people deep down? A recent study has revealed that around 60 percent of college students have back-up partners who they think they could turn to if their relationship fails. Furthermore, it is estimated that 10 percent of children are fathered by men who are not their putative father, indicating how lightly we regard our romantic relationships.


Jealousy is an emotion we experience when we feel that something we have may be threatened by a third party; this feeling may arise in relationships when it appears that someone else may be attempting to steal our partner. There are very distinct gender differences here, with men tending to become more jealous of other men who may be wealthy, intelligent, and powerful, whereas female jealousy tends to be more motivated by women who are physically attractive. Furthermore, men become more jealous of sexual infidelity, whereas women become more jealous of emotional infidelity.

One study using smartphones involved getting men and women to look at messages, which were either emotional or sexual in content. The researchers found that women spent more time looking at emotional messages and men looked at sexual messages, suggesting that gender differences in jealousy are still evident even through smartphones.

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Suspicious woman
Source: Dan Race/Shutterstock

Are Some People Just More Suspicious?

Some people do score higher on measures designed to assess relationship threatening information and simultaneously score lower on measures of relationship trust. However, when we consider that around 60 percent of college students snoop on their partners social media accounts, and 40 percent of cases of cheating are discovered through evidence found on a smartphone, with 10 percent of these broken as the result of being dropped or broken following an argument, it would seem that we may have good reason to be suspicious. Furthermore, around 20 percent of men admit to snooping on their partner’s smartphone while they sleep at night, opening their partner’s phones with their sleeping partner’s finger.

All in all, then it seems that smartphones and social media have changed the landscape for romantic relationships, especially when it comes to trust and jealousy.

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