The Problem with Texting

My husband and I were recently talking with a young, newly married couple when we got on the topic of communication. They had been having many disagreements and arguments, most of which happened while the husband was at work and they were texting. Pages and pages of texts were sent back and forth, full of accusations and hurtful comments. When the husband got home from work, they went about with their normal lives, not referencing the texting conversations, but also barely talking. I asked them, “When was the last time you had a conversation in person where you shared your feelings with each other?” They looked at each other and shook their heads; neither of them could remember a time when that had happened. They mostly communicated their needs, frustrations and heart-felt apologies through text messages.

A study published in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy found that 82% of couples exchange text messages with each other multiple time a day. Their research study findings were surprising: for men, researchers found that the more often they texted their partners, the lower their relationship quality was. For women, the researchers found that those who used text messages to apologize, work out their differences or do “relationship maintenance” also had a lower relationship quality. On a positive note, expressing affection through texting was associated with higher relationship quality.

The influence of technology in our lives and relationships affects most of us and its impact should not be taken lightly. Relationships can be much more complicated now that there is less opportunity for face-to-face interaction and more opportunity for interaction (and misinterpretation) through our devices. Unfortunately, many of us have developed “cyber courage” where we are more willing to say difficult things online or through texting than we are in person. When we choose to communicate negatively with our partner in this way, rather than in person, our relationship tends to suffer. So why do we do it?

  1. Because it is easier. It is hard to have face-to-face conversations about difficult topics. It takes less effort to just text our response. When we get tired of texting about a difficult issue, we can just put our phone down or turn it off – it is easier to escape than it is in person.
  2. Because we are afraid. It is easy to shoot off words that we would never dare say in person, because if we are doing it from a distance, that person cannot immediately react to us and we feel safer. We are also afraid of not being heard by the other person, so we often feel that we can say more in a text than we can in person.
  3. Because we are poor at communication. People who utilize texting primarily to communicate all of their negative thoughts are usually not good at communicating in real-life. When you are strong in who you are and you have the skills you need to have hard conversations, you are not afraid to speak in person with someone.
  4. Because we are too busy. “Well, I never see him, so we could never have these conversations otherwise.” Maybe instead, you are avoiding the hard conversations by filling your time with other things. Important conversations should be made a priority; carve time out of your schedule. If your schedule is more important than the health of your relationship, that is a problem to begin with. If you have an event to attend together but have unresolved anger, dealing with the anger should be the first priority over attending a function together.

If this has become a problem in your relationship, here are some ways you can strengthen your real-life, in-person communication:

  1. Set boundaries. Do not allow heavy or negative conversations to happen over texting. If you find yourself starting to have a heated or difficult exchange, let the other person know that you would like to have that discussion in person instead, and do not continue to feed into that conversation through texting.
  2. Make time to have real-life conversations. The most common excuse for the absence of these conversations is busyness, so intentionally make time for each other again. If your schedule has gotten out of control, sit down together and re-prioritize so that in-person, face-to-face contact is more frequent.
  3. Take the risk. It is always a risk to bring up hard topics. We are afraid of how the other person will react. We are afraid of rejection, of anger, of words that might be said. But the more patience and love you can show each other through those conversations, the easier it will become. If you need help and feel like the issues are bigger than you can handle on your own, don’t be afraid to seek help and get outside counsel.
  4. Turn it off.  If the phone tends to be a frequent source of distraction and conflict, then turn your phone off during certain hours of the day when you are together. Make your relationship a greater priority than your phone. If you are texting your loved one all day long and the exchanges start to get heated, that is another good time to turn it off, until you can see each other in person again.

Texting is not a bad thing; it can be very beneficial and helpful for keeping in contact with those we love. However, if we already have unhealthy relationship patterns, texting can be used in a way that will hurt our relationship more than help it. Be sure that if you are frequently communicating this way, that the purpose behind it is helpful and positive for your relationship. If it is hindering your communication or connection with each other in negative ways, it is  a sign that you need to reevaluate and strengthen your in-person relationship.


Jaimie Bowman is a pastor's wife, speaker and writer who lives in Southern California. She loves speaking truth and grace into people's lives and helping them find their unique purpose. Together with her husband and two sons (ages 6 and 8), you can often find them trying to find new places to explore. You can find out more about her at and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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