Love

Why Texting Causes Serious Damage In Relationships (And How To Fix It)

Photo: Cast Of Thousands / Shutterstock
woman looking at her phone shocked by texts

Bzzz... bzzz... 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, we could talk face to face instead of screen to screen, and we might understand one another a little better.

Turns out there's something to how I was feeling.

What science says about texting in a relationship

A study conducted in 2013 showed 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?

RELATED: 2 Awful Texting Mistakes That Cause Unnecessary Relationship Drama

Why texting is bad for a relationship

Texting doesn’t look or sound like real conversation.

Dating coach Julie Spira offers some relationship advice, saying 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).

RELATED: What Guys Wish Women Already Knew About How To Text

Examples of messages you should not text your partner

1. "I'm sorry."

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."

2. "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.

3. Overusing emojis in place of almost any words.

While it's difficult to interpret the tone of voice and overall inflection of what someone's words mean in a text message, and it really doesn't help that you can't see each other's facial expressions, emojis and emoticons aren't a replacement for them.

They can help temper the tone of a text, but they can't mimic your unique smile, which may brighten up your partner's bad day, and they aren't the same thing as a passive-aggressive "fine" after one of you asks how the other's day was, signaling a real discussion needs to take place.

4. Using texting for long conversations.

Not only will you probably get sore thumbs, but long conversations are really best left for face-to-face interactions where you can hear each other's voices, pick up on nuances in tone and facial expressions, and convey emotion more easily and organically, including, using body language to communicate more effectively with each other.

RELATED: 10 Little Communication Tricks That'll Lead To A Much Deeper Love

Examples of messages you should text your partner

1. "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.

2. "Can't wait to see you tonight. XO."

And similarly, a text like this lets your significant other know that they're loved. And maybe a sexy prelude to a later reunion (winky face).

3. Funny pictures or memes, or other texts letting them know you are thinking of them or that you wanted to make them smile.

It's thoughtful and, at worst, might make them roll their eyes at your endearment and, at best, filling them with joy, laughter, and the feeling of being loved.

4. Quick texts confirming the time, place or address for plans.

Texting is useful for quick, convenient questions that aren't emotionally charged and are mostly for utility, so they don't need to be accompanied by a conversation.

RELATED: If You End Your Texts With A Period, You're Basically A Jerk

The bottom line on texting in a relationship

Technology isn't necessarily a precursor to a doomed relationship, although texting can mean different things to men and women, and cause different emotions in one from the other.

The Brigham Young researchers from the study discovered that males' texting frequency to their female partners was associated with less overall satisfaction in the relationship, while the opposite was true for females if they frequently texted their male partners.

The study found that women and men felt happier and more securely attached when they both frequently sent each other loving texts.

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 not sending 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 on the road to ruin when you text one another — but we often use texting in all the wrong ways. A lack of so much as a smiley face or a "K" can end up being seriously taken out of context.

Spira phrases it perfectly: "It's hard to 'listen' when you're reading."

RELATED: Why Technology And Social Media Are Ruining Our Relationships (And How We Can Put A Stop To It)

Alexandra Churchill is a writer who covers relationships.

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