Those who know me know that at times, when I’m feeling a little crazed, I think text messaging and social media herald the downfall (again) of Western civilization. Despite my counsel, urging and pleading, my fears and worries have been in vain. Couples, parents and their children, and our pharmacy, physician and employers don’t call any more, they text.
However, while technologies has changed, the basics of dating and mating have not. Recent research on love and human behavior demonstrates there are five stages for having a great relationship that lasts: Falling In Love, Becoming a Couple, Disillusionment, Creating Real, Lasting Love and Finding Your Calling as a Couple. All five stages work best when we communicate with all the parts of ourselves. In our fast-paced, hyper-kinetic world, we increasingly use text messaging to save time and for efficiency. This way, we can communicate with a few quick strokes to get a message through.
And yet, I have seen couples in crisis who are in conflict over text messages. I have seen whole extended arguments about an issue taking place over text message. There are many reasons why talking on the phone provides a forum for connection and communication like no other. If I had a nickel for every time I worked with a couple and they came in with their “issues” only to discover that at the top of the list of their difficulties, unknown to them, was communication.
Hearing the voice of your loved one goes straight to the heart. This about a time when you were apart from your partner and longed to hear their voice. I have never had a case in a loving relationship where someone said, “you know, you could have just texted this” and was not thankful for a call, no matter how difficult the discussion, and then calling is even more important. We all have our need to be heard, cherished, and valued. A phone call is in real time, a text message is not. If we are apart, we want to hear our partner’s voice and know they are connecting with us now, not composing a text to send in a few minutes. This is more important when the phone goes unanswered (caller ID makes this especially easy) and one has to be persistent and persevere to make a phone connection. These efforts can deepen a relationship.
Now, I have worked with people who have said, “I don’t do phone” or “You know, I’m not great on the phone.” I too have to resist communicating about a work related matter over text or email when a call would be more immediate and impactful. Talking can be awkward with others, but it is real, communicating with some in real time, talking through the process of why we think or feel the way we do, without composing a grammatical correct text. It’s more transparent, allows for all manner of nonverbal communication as well. e.g. pauses, sighs. Talking is more honest and uncensored. Often, when we begin to become disillusioned with another (when the glow has worn off) we start to long for the falling in love phase, the intoxicating newness of connection when a relationship[ starts. Talking about things over the phone can help reconnection and healing.
In a world that is becoming increasingly stressed and more of us feel overwhelmed, anxious, and afraid, we need to know there is someone who has our back, who is there for us. We need real friends, real companions, real lovers. A call when we need connection can be life-saving. A text just doesn’t get it. Words of love and encouragement that are given in real time by a real person, meant just for us is, these days, a gift of time and care that can open the heart. As it was simply stated in the movie “The Bucket List”, say what you need to say.