Text Less and Talk More
Communication, or a lack thereof, is a common complaint in marriage counseling. By the time a couple finds themselves at the counseling table, it's frequently alleged that the sessions of seemingly endless talk that lasted into the wee hours of the morning during dating disappeared once the wedding cake was cut.
In one sense, this isn't an altogether surprising effect of getting married. Marriage is not dating. Getting married, and living full-time under the same roof with another sinner-in-need-of-grace has its natural effects upon a relationship. We do well to not be naive about these things (pre-married couples, are you listening?).
One phenomenon I'm encountering in my work with married couples who struggle with communication comes from what may be a counter-intuitive source, namely, their text messaging habits.
Some couples are simply texting their way out of any chance of a meaningful opportunity to communicate face to face at the end of any given day. This is an unscientific, non-evidence based conclusion. But, I'm convinced there's enough smoke to point to a fire.
When Harry Started Texting Sally
What began a couple of decades or so ago as a modern technological convenience has become, for some, a stumbling block to meaningful, face to face human interaction. Text messaging, I'm concerned, has replaced the nightly review of the day's events that was once a common family occurence 'round the dinner table.
Instead of the convenience of text messaging being reserved for "Honey, grab a gallon of milk on the way home...," this instant mode of communication has become for some couples an endless stream of electronic ticker tape, with updates arriving every thirty seconds. The content of the messages are as varied as the days events.
The net result for a communication-depleted couple is that when they re-convene at the end of a given day, they seemingly have nothing left to talk about. What should have been properly reserved for face to face talk time was thoroughly transmitted in real time via text messaging, complete with emojies, or an appropriate follow up GIF.
In a very real sense, Harry and Sally have nothing meaningful or new to say over dinner.
Data Rates May Apply
These days, it seems every cel-phone plan comes complete with a text messaging component. There was a time when per-message fees applied, or a bulk amount was purchsed, beyond which individual charges got pricey. Unfortunately for some of our marriages, the American vision for life where bigger is better and more is best, unlimited text message plans have translated into decreased in-the-flesh, soul-to-soul talk time between (some) husbands and wives.
If we understand ourselves biblically, we must confess that our hearts often have a hard time regulating desire. We want, so we take, and often in ever increasing amounts. In this matter of communication within marriage, and especially with couples who are struggling to communicate effectively, it seems intuitive to engage throughout the day in this way.
For some clinically-significant percentage of couples, the way they utilize text messaging is simply doing them more harm than good. This is my conclusion after learning from too many couples that literally hundreds of text messages may be exchanged in a day, often concerning vitally important topics to the family unit, while virtually no in-person time to talk is taken. This is simply not the way communication is supposed to be.
Putting the Phone Down
Nothing that's been said here is meant to convey the idea that every couple struggles with this issue, or that texting is the mark of the beast. I love texting, myself, when appropriate. I love knowing that my wife has arrived safely at her destination, or seeing a picture of the kids playing with flour all over the kitchen floor while Mommy was in the shower.
But, my work with couples, combined with my own experience, has led me to this conclude that we need a reminder: Our spouse in our arms is worth more than a phone in our hand.
A biblical anthropology informs us that, being created in God's image, we are designed to reflect in marriage that beauty of relationship that exists within the Godhead, that is, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have no reason to think that the members of the Trinity ever relate to one another in cold, distant ways (whatever in the world that could possibly mean).
Yet, simply because we can, or because we find it nearly impossible to regulate ourselves, we do just this, saying over text what should properly be said in person, eye to eye, and heart to heart.
So, for couples who are struggling to find a fresh connection, or re-establish open lines of communication, know this: An ounce of your spouse in the hand at the end of the day is better than a bytes of him or her in a text all throughout.
Take the time then to evaluate your texting habits, and talk, in person, about any adjustments that might be warranted. Couples I talk to about this issue report real benefit to excercising restraint in text messaging, as it frees them up to share life's events with emotional intimacy when, by God's grace, they're back together physically at the end of the day.
As the old saying goes, absence [on the phone] makes the heart grow fonder.
*Note: This post may not apply to those couples who, for a myriad of reasons, actually need electronic communication in order to maintain contact, i.e. traveling spouse, military families, etc.
Join the Conversation
- How has text messaging blessed your marriage?
- How has text messaging been a hinderance to effective communication?
- What strategies to improve face to face talk time have been helpful?