Excessive Texting - Is it a Relationship Deal Breaker?

By Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW

We are on our phones all the time. Whether it’s checking work emails, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram there are countless ways to distract ourselves. Our phones are also the threshold to communicating with friends, lovers, family, business associates and acquaintances. Gone are the days of long phone calls. 

Telephonic communication has been largely replaced by texting. The stereotype is that women are constantly on their phones texting friends. However, I find that men are just as guilty of texting while with their significant others. Have you ever seen a couple at dinner not talking, both typing furiously on their phones? Have you ever been that couple? 

When I work with couples phone use is a frequent topic of discussion. Often partners feel they are being neglected and that their partner is not fully in the moment with them. The retort from their significant other is often that they use their phone as a way to distract themselves from the loneliness they feel in their relationships. 

Not texting or using your phone in the presence of your significant other at all isn’t realistic but below are several tips to help create more balance and use your phone while still enjoying one another’s company. 

  1. Have a discussion - Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about texting and how it makes you feel. They may be defensive at first so don’t approach it in a blaming way. Instead try to have a mutual conversation about how it makes you both feel. 
  2. Set boundaries - After you’ve had “the texting talk” brainstorm on ways to allow each other to engage digitally without making the other person feel neglected. For example, banning texting when you’re at dinner or doing an activity together. 
  3. Keep your partner engaged - Give your partner a reason to put down the phone. Clients have told me they just lie in bed next to each other and “it doesn’t even feel like we’re a couple.” Stop that feeling and the texting by reaching out to your partner for a snuggle or engaging them in a conversation. Then they will want to put down the phone. 
  4. Be mindful - Learning to deal with over texting is a great time to deal with the bigger issue of staying present in the moment. Texting is an easy way to distract ourselves from what is going on around us. However, we often end up missing out on great experiences with our partner. 

If after trying these 4 steps to find balance with texting in your relationship and you still find you are having issues you may want to consult with a couples therapist to explore the deeper issues that drive this behavior in your relationship. 

Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW is a therapist in private practice in New York City providing therapy to individuals and couples. If you want to explore your relationship and ways to improve it you can learn more at cobbpsychotherapy.com.