I sigh halfheartedly. I don't have to pick up my phone to know who is texting me half past midnight. It's my boyfriend.
For the past few days, we'd been rehashing the same stupid argument. We were in the middle of a big move to New York and I was still mildly irritated that he insisted on moving ahead of me to get things settled with his job, leaving me and a million half-packed boxes behind. Reception wasn't too clear between us, so a phone call wasn't viable. It was just the two of us trading texts (my panicky, long-winded rants and his brief, passive-aggressive "Ks"). I couldn't help but feel that if there weren't several state borders separating us, that we could talk face to face instead of screen to screen, we might understand one another a little better.
There's something to how I was feeling. A recent study proved that too much texting back and forth (especially to hash out problems) can cause a disconnect in even the most committed couples. Researchers from Brigham Young University asserted that the frequency and content of texts can determine the quality of your relationship. After getting nearly 300 people (all in committed relationships) to participate, the researchers found that most couples use texting for "relationship maintenance" and even worse, to argue. And a lot gets lost in translation.
So why are we so tempted to frenetically button-mash on our phones instead of dial and call? Or better yet, work things out in person? And why is this ruining our relationships?
YourTango expert, Julie Spira, says that she has never seen an argument via text have a happy ending. "When the anger brews and escalates, usually a long-winded text message won't resolve relationship conflicts," she says. "This reactionary behavior puts you in a digital war-zone."
Spira is an online dating expert and founder of CyberDatingExpert.com who specializes in the intersection between love and technology. She says that when you're sending text messages back and forth and don't hear the sound of someone's voice, you can't know how upset they really are.
Obvious, right? Don't text about the big things: problems in the bedroom, nagging in-laws, or an imminent breakup (because really, that's just the 21st century version of the "post-it" breakup method). But what specifically should you never type and send to your SO?
Texts Never To Send
"I'm sorry." So what's so wrong with apologizing over text? "When someone says ‘I’m sorry’ over a text message, the recipient isn’t really sure how sorry they are," Spira says. "It can be taken as a way to end the uncomfortable text exchange, but how sincere is the apology? You really aren’t sure and they aren't as valued as an in-person or on-the-phone apology where it can be a two-way dialog."
"We need to talk." Ughhh. Your stomach drops, right? Your partner's automatic response is going to be dread. Spira says you might even find that your significant other conveniently "disappears" for a few days, if only to avoid this conversation. Why start a conversation with this one-line bomb? It will guarantee only a negative response.
Texts To Definitely Send
Technology wasn't necessarily a precursor to a doomed relationship. The BYU researchers also found that the more loving texts both men and women send to each other, the happier they were in their relationships. So what are some good loving texts we can swap with our partners?
"Thinking of you … have a great day!" Who wouldn't want to wake up to this good morning text? It starts both of your days off right: with love.
"Can't wait to see you tonight. XO." And similarly, a text like this lets your significant other know that he or she is loved. And may be a sexy prelude to a later reunion (winky face).
Really, the point is this: When in doubt, pick up the phone and talk it out. Once you push the send button, you can't take it back. Spira suggests drafting an email (but do not send it) and checking back on your written thoughts in the morning to see if you might be overreacting to something. So your relationship isn't necessarily doomed when you text one another — but we often use texting in all the wrong ways. A lack of a smiley face or a "K" can be taken out of context. Spira phrases it perfectly: "It's hard to 'listen' when you're reading."
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