Oct. 18, 2015 at 12:01 AM
While texting may be the new form of communication, when it comes to couples’ texting, it can be damaging. Texting tantrums are becoming the new way for couples to argue.
Have you even been in a room in which a young man keeps answering text after text? Then he looks up and says, “She won’t leave me alone.” Can it be that while he is spewing angry text messages, she is trying to set the record straight? Or it can be the other way around.
Angry texting creates emotional distance along the “ghoster” road; this is, angry texts become less frequent until the texter disappears.
In a 2014 North Carolina study with some 395 participants, most of whom were 19 years of age, researchers found that couples who spent a significant amount of time texting were less satisfied with their relationship than other couples. It appeared that texting replaced kinder and more intimate communication.
As a longtime advocate of creating serenity spaces for men and women to try to solve a problem face-to-face, I see texting as the cowardly way out. When a man starts sending angry texts, women often try to mitigate this by responding with smiling faces, sad faces or kisses. Although women also send angry texts, they tend to prefer talking to texting.
From texting tantrums to children throwing a supermarket tantrum, there may be little difference. When a child wants something in a store, screaming is an attempt to control the parent. When men want to avoid a face-to-face conflict, they send angry texts, even when they know they should call. Although men are often conflict-resolution champions in the work place, they will often try to avoid any kind of conflict at home.
The real problem with angry texting is that one person controls the argument. When couples argue face-to-face, there is the opportunity for one person to say, “What are you talking about? You’ve got this all wrong.”
Author Jeff Wilser, in writing about men and texting for New York magazine, says that men have not figured out how to text as well as women. If men are the other half in a romantic relationship, this can spell trouble. Researchers have determined that most couples have one to three disagreements in one week alone. Two people in a not-so-happy relationship might be arguing daily. With texting tantrums, if there is no resolution, both lose.
It does not take research to determine how to handle the tantrum-throwing texter — whether a man or a woman. One person must end it either by texting back saying, “When we can have a calm conversation, please call me,” or simply stop answering the texts.
— Rita Watson, MPH, is a Journal relationship columnist who writes “With Love and Gratitude” for Psychology Today.com.