Doing so with your phone can save your relationship, says new study

There’s a lot of mixed advice out there when it comes to how your phone should be included in your relationship. Some experts say having time to connect without technology is best for you and your partner, while others claim cell phones are a valuable tool for improving communication and staying in touch throughout the day . If you’re in a relationship, chances are you’ve developed your own methods of using your phone to get in touch with your partner, whether it’s a call at lunchtime or a text message before you leave the office. But according to a new study, there’s an unexpected phone habit that could actually save your relationship. Read on to learn what the results say and get therapist reactions to this recommendation.

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man holding smartphone sms message or playing mobile game

A study recently published in the journal New Media & Society examined the way Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980) conduct their relationships via text (or, in the study’s case, WhatsApp, due to the fact that it was directed in Israel). Researchers found that the way this group reasoned digitally reflects their personal style, regardless of whether that pattern is avoidant, emotional, or rational.

“Correspondence via WhatsApp not only provides another place to conduct the relationship, but can also help to save it,” the researchers said in a media release. They note that this provides “another place to fight and reconcile.” But why is it good to have another place to let go of our frustrations? According to therapists, arguing over text provides several conflict resolution tools that couples would not otherwise benefit from.

man looking at text on phone

No, anger when texting your significant other after a disagreement with your conscious thoughts will never be productive. But there are times when you can use a text conversation to your advantage.

“This type of communication can give people some time to calm down before responding, and it can also allow for a more considered response,” she says Ketan Parmar, MD, Psychologist and Mental Health Expert at ClinicSpots. “It can also be helpful for people who have a hard time expressing themselves in the heat of the moment.” For these types of people, texting allows them to gather their thoughts and communicate more effectively. In other words, they can say exactly what they need to say, safe in the knowledge that they can edit their answer as many times as they like.

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young asian woman texting on the couch

While many of the therapists we spoke to noted that couples shouldn’t have major disagreements over text, they added that there were some exceptions.

“When people find themselves in constant cycles of heightened tension in arguments, often crying, yelling, criticizing, interrupting, or swearing at one another, it is too charged [of] a topic that can be discussed without guard rails,” he says ChelseaJohnsonLMFT, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with Horizons Marriage & Family Therapy.

In this case, an SMS or a letter can be helpful. “I encourage my patients to virtually jot down any thoughts they want to share with a partner and then go back and edit anything ‘editorial’ like verbal abuse or emotionally charged language,” explains Johnson. Avoid “you” or finger pointing to ensure your correspondence reads factually like an essay.

So, when is texting most helpful? “This works best for disagreements about making a particular decision, financial issues, or anything that feels very stuck,” says Johnson. “The nature of a back-and-forth text exchange also encourages partners not to interrupt each other and take turns sharing perspectives.” If you need help using this strategy, make an appointment with a couples therapist.


On a more everyday basis, SMS can be used to resolve issues and low-risk issues, says Kimber Shelton, PhD, Licensed Psychologist and Owner of KLS Counseling & Consulting Services. “For example, a partner writes, ‘Hey, it hurt me today when you left and didn’t say goodbye,’ and the partner responds with, ‘Oh, I’m sorry; I wanted to rush to a meeting and didn’t want to hurt your feelings. I hope you are having a good day. The problem is solved,” says Shelton. “Now both parties can go about their day without carrying the emotional weight of an unintended emotional hurt.”

You can use a similar strategy for small disagreements about chores, schedule changes, and more.

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elderly couple looking at receipts
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It’s important to note that not every couple can use a texting method for their disagreements, as everyone argues differently.

“Resolving conflicts via text would be best for couples who already have a conflict resolution strategy outside of text,” she says Kathie Borek, MSW, a therapist at Aligned Minds Counseling and Therapy. “This includes couples who understand each other’s attachment styles and are responsive and empathetic to any fears that may arise; even couples who understand the difference between minor conflicts and major conflicts will have great success deciphering which conflicts are appropriate for text messaging. “

Finally, you should also set healthy boundaries when it comes to communicating via text. “This means that if a partner expresses their inability to engage in dialogue via text message, the dialogue ends immediately and the couple can agree to bring up the subject again later,” says Borek. “Borders could also include topics that are completely taboo. A simple example of this might be discussing appointment coordination so the couple can arrange to meet because one party is overwhelmed with coordinating and would rather discuss this over the phone. “

With these tips in mind, your phone can help you overcome your differences in a healthy and controlled way so you can get back to your usual messaging habits. Doing so with your phone can save your relationship, says new study

Sarah Y. Kim

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