Author and journalist Jo Piazza isn’t too proud to admit that she’s just like us — at least, when it comes to her phone. Like so many Americans, Piazza admits that her beloved device is “rarely more than an arm’s reach away.” Given what she’s learned from women in other countries about the potential our phones have to ruin relationships, though (phubbing, anyone?), the writer is now quick to blame them for many of our love troubles. After taking a 20-country world tour in search of the meaning of modern marriage for her book How to Be Married ($26), Piazza says she was often asked to share her best simple tip for improving a relationship. Her response? “The one thing that always comes to mind is to put your damn phone away.”
Danish women — who Piazza says “are really good at life” — were the first to draw her attention to Americans’ twisted phone habits. The author asked her Danish friend about the noticeable lack of phones on dinner tables in the Scandinavian country. Contrary to her initial assumptions, Piazza’s friend informed her that, no, the absence of phones had nothing to do with the cozy Scandi philosophy hygge. Instead, it was simply a matter of prioritizing human interaction over staring into a digital void.
Piazza says the French have similar sensibilities about phone use as it pertains to spending time with people IRL, often opting to leave devices out of the bedroom entirely in order to preserve their most intimate relationships. “The French told me they think the phones in the bedroom are contributing to a decrease in American sex drive,” she says. One Parisian woman went as far as to tell Piazza that bringing your phone to bed is “like having a third person in bed with you. And not in a sexy way.”
Orthodox Jewish women in Jerusalem echo these sentiments. Piazza’s interviewees in this community told her that engaging in quality time over meals with their significant other is key to the success of their relationships. The looming presence of a phone is thought to limit the deep, interesting conversations that can take place during that time, which can portend the decline of a relationship.
Generally speaking, Piazza found that these attitudes about cell phones overseas were reflective of an overall focus on marriage over career in these countries. Earlier this year, the French government even affirmed their support of this emphasis on citizens’ personal lives by passing a law stating that employees are not required to answer emails on the weekends (sign us up!).
“[In the United States], we tend to talk a lot about prioritizing our marriages, but it is a lot of talk,” Piazza says. “We often prioritize our careers over our marriages so much that we are on our phones a lot doing work when we are with our partners.”
Piazza’s understanding of how phones (or, more aptly, a lack thereof) can influence a relationship extends beyond what she learned on her world tour — in fact, she credits her own marriage to a bad internet connection and MIA device in the Galapagos Islands, where she met her husband.
“If we had [a cell phone or internet], I definitely would have been staring at my iPhone, replying to work emails, Instagramming blue-footied boobies, and tweeting tortoises instead of getting to know this amazing man right in front of me,” she says.
So what should we do with this international wisdom? The answer is far from complicated. It’s time to stop using our phones as a social crutch and tune back in to meaningful conversations, especially with our significant others. After all, why would you stare at a screen when the person across the table from you is so darn cute?
Does it surprise you that our phone habits differ so much from people around the world? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photo via Getty)