I keep hearing marriage lectures that say texting your spouse throughout the day is not good because it will make you run out of things to say when you see each other, or otherwise lead to misunderstanding. What’s your opinion?
— In Love and Texting
Dear In Love and Texting,
The only time you should not text your spouse is when you are behind the steering wheel of a moving vehicle.
I completely disagree with what you have been hearing and, frankly, it is a bit frightening that people would make such blanket statements about marriage. The only way to have a good marriage is to do what works for you two. So if there is something that you are doing in your marriage that improves it, disregard those behind a podium who bash it. God gave you your own brain for a reason.
More on that brain: Sometimes we get upset when we are around our spouse. A comment is made, and it activates us. Either we show our upset by wearing it on our faces and bringing it out in the open, or we get withdrawn and pull away from our spouse by physically leaving or mentally checking out..
When this happens, our brain is affected. We don’t have much access to reason because the blood that was in the logical prefrontal cortex rushes away to the fear center. In that state, seeing your spouse is like seeing a threat. All of this happens in a fraction of a second. And once you are in that state, every move becomes either defensive or offensive, with lightning fast speed. By the way, this happens to all couples: from the amazingly happy couple to the couple contemplating divorce.
The difference is how to get out of it. The happily marrieds know about deescalating. One way that I have seen many, many couples successfully deescalate is through texting.
Getting an olive branch through a text makes you more likely to accept it. Your brain needs to slow down to read it, so you have time to break out of the state you were in when things became heated. The pace and rhythm of interacting slows down, so you can breathe more slowly and de-escalate. That’s one point for texting.
When you get the text, you are not in front of your spouse, “the guy who will never get me.” You are not being triggered, so you can more clearly hear (read, really) the message of reconnecting. Instead of hearing it from him in the heat of the moment, you are at a safer distance and can be more trusting. This makes you are more likely to realize that he is there for you. Back to the scoreboard: texting gets a second goal!
And to cap it off, if you are the one sending the text, your fingers and keypads have access to words and feelings that your mouth doesn’t. If you are generally a withdrawer when conflict comes up, texting can help you be present. You can have a voice that you never would be able to have if you had to say it to your spouse’s face. Some things are very hard to share like, “I don’t want to fight like this.” It’s similar to why some people love keeping a journal — writing can explore places that are too uncomfortable to talk about. So you can give a piece of yourself to your spouse that you never would have been able to by just talking. Not a piece of your mind, but a piece of your heart.
And another thing: let’s say you guys aren’t fighting. You can still use texting to stay connected throughout the day, especially if you are way too tired at the end of a long day and find yourself falling asleep instead of hanging out. This connection won’t alienate you from each other later. This will bring you closer. If for some reason you can’t think of things to say to each other at the end of a texting day, maybe you two need to work on your connection further.
Or maybe texting really isn’t a good thing for your marriage, but that’s up to you to decide, not someone who is making non-research based statements that hold a lot of weight. (Yes, I am unhappy that people perpetuate unsubstantiated myths, in case you couldn’t tell).
Or, maybe you are fine not talking at the end of the day. Maybe you are perfectly content and connected just sitting with each other while each of you is doing your own thing. If you are happy with that, then I am happy for you. Whatever works for your marriage is what works.
So txt away, and put some <3 into it!
Aviva Rizel, MA, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Aviva maintains a busy private practice in Cedarhurst, NY where she sees couples, families and individuals. She previously served as the Clinical Director of The Five Towns Marriage Initiative. She is trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), the most effective, research-based model for strengthening couples’ connections. Aviva is also active in educating therapists and laypeople about EFT. Mrs. Rizel and her husband, Meir Rizel, MS, a Mental Health Counselor, enjoy co-lecturing across the tri-state area together almost as much as they enjoy raising their three children together in Far Rockaway, NY. To reach Aviva, email AvivaRizel.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 347-292-8482 To find out more about Emotionally Focused Therapy, go to iceeft.com.