Texting: A Modern Pitfall for Relationships

“what are you up to?”

     “nothing”

“how was your day?”

     “fine”

“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. 

Dating 
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. 

-Jennifer