Texting: A Modern Pitfall for Relationships

“what are you up to?”


“how was your day?”


“what are you doing later?”

    “no plans” 

“are you mad at me?”…

As we become a more technology based society, our relationships are scrambling to catch up with “how to” rules and norms. We haven’t gotten it all figured out yet. I frequently see examples of where texting makes relationships more confusing. 

There is a new phase of a relationships. Before dating or talking, there is texting. You and your new interest begin a texting relationship where you have a continuous dialogue throughout the day. Supposedly, this is a low-key way to get to know someone. However, think about what you do: you only send the your best thoughts, you carefully edit yourself, you think about your response received before hitting send, you time your reply to seem interested but not too available. We present a carefully choreographed version of ourselves. Its safe to assume that the other person is doing the same thing. Then after a few dates, you might start to get the added curve ball that the text and real life version of your new interest don’t line up.

The solution: Texting as a primary means of communication earlier in a relationship isn’t inherently a bad thing. You just have to know the game. Know that texting doesn’t substitute for getting to know someone in person. If you do detect a difference between texting and in-person, likely the in-person is most accurate.  Know that by texting throughout the day, you are letting someone in your life. Be sure that you want to invest yourself in this way.  

New Relationships. 
Likely through the texting phase, you have developed expectations that you or your partner should respond to a text in a certain amount of time. Maybe 5 minutes, within the hour, whatever has become your norm. However, the truth is that we make ourselves very available at the start of a relationship and for most people this level isn’t sustainable indefinitely. Later when someone doesn’t text back in their normal time, its interpreted as a problem: she is losing interest, he is mad at me, she didn’t like what I just said. 

The solution: Consider more than one explanation. The above options might be true or it might be much more benign. Don’t come to a conclusion about the other person’s intentions based on few texts. 

Established Relationship. 
Now enters the dreaded texting fights. The main problem with texting to address an issue is that you have eliminated 80% of your information. (Communication is 80% non-verbal and 20% verbal).  Over text, we do a LOT more interpreting than we do in person and we are less likely to question our interpretation because you don’t get that in-person feedback. Also, we are often a little braver when we don’t have to deal with people’s reaction face to face. So you might not restrain yourself via text in the way you would in person. Add to all that, when the fight is over you have a digital copy of all the regrettable things that each other said to pull back up at a later date. 

The solution: (for lack of better words) DON’T DO IT. If find yourself fighting over text, stop and call or plan to talk face to face. Many people are more comfortable addressing problems over text and not face-to-face but for a relationship to work long-term, you have to be able to deal with conflict in person. 

I don’t want to give the impression that texting is completely negative for relationships. Because of texting, you can share the little parts of your day that you wouldn’t normally call to share or can still communicate when both of you aren’t available at the same time. The main point is know the boundaries and potential pitfalls of this type of communication. 


Sliding vs. Deciding

Sliding vs. Deciding

Another relationship concept I really like is sliding vs. deciding. Scott Stanley coined this term and I just found he has a blog by the same name: http://slidingvsdeciding.blogspot.com. If you are in Oklahoma, you hopefully have heard of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative. The curriculum used by the OMI, PREP, was created by Scott Stanley. 

Sliding vs. Deciding refers to how relationship decisions and commitment happens in modern relationships. Instead of making active decisions to chose the next step of a relationship, couples are often sliding into the next step. Sliding bypasses critically evaluating a relationship to decide if one should move forward and it gives the allusion that both people are more committed to the relationship because they have moved on the next step. 

The great example of this idea is shown in living together. Most couples often start living together out of convenience then gradually more and more your things accumulate at your partner’s house until you decide not to renew your lease. Now the couple is definitely more committed physically (its harder to break up when you have to find a new place to live) but their internal commitment  may or may not have increased. Often females are more likely to see the relationship as more committed and moving forward but the male’s commitment is often unchanged. 

What’s the risk to sliding? The more you slide through your relationship, you are less likely to evaluate how the relationship is working and more likely to have a different outlook on where the relationship is going than your partner does. Often people find themselves in a relationship that is not working but now has a lot of constraints keep them in the relationship. 

Not every choice demands a carefully thought out decision but when it comes to our relationships, the stakes are too high just to slide. If you found that you have been sliding through some major milestones in your relationship, it might be helpful to have a good conversation with your partner about where you each see the relationship now and in the future. 


What is Love?

What is Love?

The scenario is not uncommon to the counseling room: teenage girl who has found her first true love and her parents are less than impressed by the guy which she writes off as they just don’t understand their love. 

One of my favorite things to talk about with adolescents is what is love. I have asked many teens and parents to give me a definition of love. At first, I get the that’s a silly question look and then people get a little stumped as they try to construct a definition. The best answer I’ve gotten (not kidding) is love is a feeling that two people share. Mostly people just say you can’t define love; you just know it when you are in it. 

I believe that most people think of love in this way – just having that feeling, just knowing. However, this creates some problems for relationships in the future. It is shown in divorcing couple who says we just feel out of love. Now love is an undefinable feeling that can come and go without warning. From this perspective, it would be hard to love one person for a life time. 

Romantic movies are giving teens and young adults a slim picture of what love and being and staying in love takes. We will give Hollywood a break because its much more fun to watch the Bachelorette on a date in a sailboat in the middle of a sparkling bay than to watch a couple with small kids sitting slumped over besides each other watching the Bachelorette (she is watching, he is sleeping). 

I love to talk to teenagers about thinking through relationships, evaluating a partner, and what makes a relationship work in the longer run. Of course, that exciting feeling is great but they often don’t know the spark isn’t all that a relationship needs. 

Some things we talk about are:

  • What is love?
  • How should a partner act towards you and those you love (i.e. family, friends)?
  • How do our values, beliefs and goals align? Do I even what mine are?
  • What are we doing? Are we dating? Do I want to date? Do they want a future together?
  • When should things happen like saying I love you? meeting close friends and family? having sex? getting married? moving in together?
  • How would you know they are not the right person for you?
  • Are you different around them than when you are around your friends and family?
I could keep listing areas but the goal is to get people thinking and working more on their love than just floating with the feeling. If you just rolling on the river on love, it will eventually dry up and usually not in a place you would chose.