Whenever my boyfriend and I get in an argument, he will only communicate with me via text. It’s incredibly frustrating, because we end up getting even more off track. Texting is a horrible way to work things out. How can I get him to really talk to me about us?
Your question reminds me of a poster created by the folks at The Art of Manliness, who teach men how to be gentlemen. The poster says, “Deliver important news over the phone or in person. Texting is for cowards!”
Your boyfriend is being a coward by not facing you to work out relationship concerns. But he’s not alone. It’s easy to avoid people these days by hiding behind a screen. We all do it to some degree, so it takes honesty and courage to step out from our screens and face the people we need to face.
In graduate school, I had a professor who said that using caller ID was a “false boundary;” this was back in the days when it did not come standard on landlines and cell phones weren’t even a reality. He explained that before caller ID, we picked up the phone and had to face the uncertainty of who was on the other end. It required us to be more honest in our responses, as we couldn’t use the caller ID to set a boundary for us.
Now, I think we’re all guilty of avoiding people we don’t want to talk to by using not only caller ID, but all of the other ways we communicate. Don’t get me wrong; I think there is a place for all of these advances in communication, but if we neglect to talk to others about important things face-to-face, we’re not advancing at all. We’re hiding and regressing.
I recommend you tell your boyfriend — in person — that you’re not going to discuss relationship concerns via text anymore. If he continues to do it, text him that you’re not going to talk with him that way and then put the phone down. Wait until you meet up and then start the conversation over.
He may have no idea how to communicate and connect with a real person. If he’s open to learning, that’s a bonus for both of you. If he’s not, and wants to continue hiding behind his phone, move on (unless you simply want a texting relationship.) You don’t owe him anything more than your best efforts to connect. If he can’t reciprocate, then he doesn’t want to be connected to you.
We are wired to bond with one another through eye contact, tone of voice, touch and other connections that are only available through physical closeness. Relationships that only communicate through text, e-mail or chatting are not creating the kind of bond you get when you are with someone in person. Sure, we can use those things to enhance our relationships, but there has to be something real in place for it to work.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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