How texting helps and harms relationships

Strong relationships are built on communication, or so the experts say. So digital relationships fueled by a torrent of texts should be ironclad, right?

Maybe not. About 82% of young adults say they text their romantic partner multiple times a day, but all that connectivity, it seems, doesn’t always translate to greater relationship bliss.

A new study published in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy surveyed 276 men and women around age 22 in meaningful relationships (casual daters were excluded). Among the participants, 38% were in a serious relationship, 46% were engaged and 16% were married.

All said they used texts to communicate with their loved ones, but it wasn’t the volume of messages but their content that affected the quality of relationships.  In general, those who sent loving messages also reported higher satisfaction with their relationship, so texting was an effective way to enhance romance.

When it came to the number of messages, however, men who texted more often in general reported lower relationship quality than those who didn’t ping their significant others as frequently. The researchers can only speculate about why, but suspect that as men disconnect from a relationship, or consider a break-up, they replace face-to-face interactions with less intimate communication in the form of increased texting.

Women who texted more often, on the other hand, reported higher quality connections with their mates than those who messaged more sparingly. Women tended to take to their smartphone keyboards to apologize, work out their differences and make decisions — in other words, when their relationship was in trouble. As their connection with their loved one deteriorated, women attempted to make up or resolve their differences via text, which the scientists believe is the online version of the need to “talk things out.”

The researchers say that such understanding about the role that texting plays in the way lovers communicate could lead to greater appreciation for when such missives help, and when they don’t. For now, texting seems to be best for the first blush of new romance, and better left alone when deeper conflicts arise.

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