Recently, I was counseling Mr. D and Ms. E; a couple that had separated, but were trying to get back together. Predictably, (like nearly every couple) poor communication was at the heart of their difficulties.
Early in the treatment, they described how they frequently had their arguments via text messages. For, example, Ms. E would cancel a date scheduled for that evening with a text like “changed mind not coming” Or Mr. D would become agitated and furious when - in the middle of a “conversation” - Ms. E would stop returning his texts altogether. More often than not, when the dialogue resumed (hours or sometimes days later), it would begin again through text messages.
I have learned that many people today prefer text messaging to phone calls. And I understand (or think I do!) the usefulness of texts as a form of communication. But I am also sure that having a dispute or expressing conflict about something as important as one’s relationship through text messages can be both emotionally limited and potentially more damaging than effective.
So… I remember saying to them, “You know, I realize that I am older than you are and it’s perhaps even likely that you might think that people of my generation just don’t “get” texting. And I can appreciate that sentiment.
“But it’s important for me to say that, in a relationship, honest and effective communication is an incredibly difficult skill to maintain consistently, in the best of times and circumstances. Even talking… looking into each others’ eyes with the best of intentions… often can’t capture exactly what we are feeling and what we need our partner to understand.
“It’s hard for me to imagine that text messages can be relied on for a nuanced and effective communication of emotions. Even the disembodied voice of a phone call can express subtle information that texting misses. I really believe that the bottom line is, if you're not making your absolute best effort to communicate effectively, you are being disrespectful to the relationship.”
I asked Mr. D and Ms. E to commit to each other that all future communication that they felt was important to the relationship, be done by phone - or even better, saved for when they would see each other in person.