One of my favorite quotes is by Beverly Sils who famously said, “There is no shortcut to any place worth going.” This is true not only in life, but in relationships as well, and I often tell my clients that there is no shortcut to a healthy, meaningful and successful relationship. Having a deep connection with your significant other requires hard work, vulnerability and “putting yourself out there,” so to speak.
Communication is one of the most important components to a healthy relationship. While most would consider words to be the key element in communication, research shows that communication consists of body language (55%), tone (38%) and words (7%). Yes, you read this correctly… only 7% words. This means that when you use text as a way to connect, you are missing out on 93% of real communication! Texting, in fact, can be quite dangerous to relationships since one cannot distinguish tone or read body language. With a text, tone must be assumed, and since we determine this through our own filter, too often we assume incorrectly. Though one may see texting as a means to connect, it is often a catalyst for misunderstandings and confusion.
Now I understand there are times when it’s just easier to text, and there are times when you genuinely may not want to talk in person or on the phone. However, in working with individuals and couples in relationships on a daily basis, I feel confident in saying there are certain situations where texting is absolutely not a good idea.
Serious Conversations or Arguments
I recently saw a couple who were telling me in detail about a big argument they had. We had been exploring the conflict for the majority of the session when the wife added, “well, then he texted this…” to which my response was, “Wait. WHAT?!?! This entire conversation was through text?!” (For my clients who are reading this, I’m sure you can picture my facial expression at this point.) It became quite apparent that the bulk of the argument was miscommunication caused by text-messaging– each person was assuming the tone of the other and reacting with subsequent defenses. When we began to explore the actual topic of the argument, the couple resolved the mishap and were on the same page by the end of the session because they were able to truly communicate with body language, tone and words.
There is an appropriate time and place for heavy conversations– and it is not over text messaging. Most of the time, text-messaging will simply exacerbate an argument instead of bringing it to resolution. Do yourself a big favor and have these discussions in person. Having any serious conversation or argument over text message is a disservice to you, your partner and your relationship.
Asking Someone Out
Now, I realize I may sound a bit old-fashioned, but hear me out on this. Not too long ago, cell phones did not exist. A guy had to call the house phone to ask a girl out, and if your house was anything like mine, a father took every opportunity to answer the phone when his daughter was expecting a call from a boy. Looking back, I have to give these guys a huge amount of credit—it takes a lot of guts to ask out a girl, much less to call her and have to speak to her dad when trying to do so.
The convenience and ease of text messaging has taken away from the real pursuit. Guys now have options when asking a girl out: in person, a phone call or through text message (there is also email and Facebook, but I’m not going to go there). Texting requires the least amount of effort, risk and vulnerability. It is protective by nature as a rejection via text message stings less than hearing an “I’m not interested” over the phone. However, texting also prevents deeper connections from occurring. As I mentioned in the blog post, Navigating Life’s Storms, when we attempt to protect ourselves from pain and rejection, we subsequently prevent the possibility of good things like trust and deeper connection from occurring.
Guys, you have what it takes! I get that texting is convenient and an easier way to handle the possibility of rejection, but deep down women want men who are MEN– someone who will really step up to the plate for them. Calling a girl shows you are willing to take a risk for her, which is not only an attractive quality, but it shows you respect her. This can help create a foundation of emotional safety which can lead to deeper intimacy in a relationship.
Ladies, you are worth a phone call. Period. If a guy continues to ask you out via text, he is either not really interested in you or he is playing it safe and not willing to take a risk for you. Is that the type of man in whom you want to invest your time and emotional energy? As one of my favorite guys, Greg Behrendt, says, “If he’s not calling you, he’s just not that into you.“ Take note and move on.
This one is a bit tricky. Let me just go ahead and say that taking personal responsibility for yourself and apologizing when appropriate is always good thing. Relationships are tough. If you or your significant other does not know how to take responsibility for your own words/actions and apologize with sincerity, it’s going to be a long road. Part of my work as a marriage counselor is to teach couples how resolve conflict in healthy ways by taking ownership of what is theirs (actions, words, feelings, etc.) and learning techniques on how to truly apologize. While an “I’m sorry” over text message is technically an apology, it really just skims the surface– it does not provide the resolution or understanding needed at the core level. The person receiving the text cannot infer tone, eye contact, or body language, all huge elements of healthy, meaningful communication.
A text apology can serve a purpose– if you are going to apologize via text, use it as an introduction to a further conversation. An “I’m sorry” text can serve as a temporary apology until you approach your partner with a follow-up conversation at a later time. A sincere apology can really open the door to healthy communication and deeper connection. Don’t miss out on this opportunity!
There is no shortcut to a good relationship, and at times it will require having some difficult conversations or taking a risk to get to where you want to be. I encourage you to consider your motives and the health of your relationship when opting to send a text-message. In certain situations, texting can be a disservice to you, your significant other and your relationship. If you would like to learn more about healthy communication and effective conversations, contact me. I would love to work with you.