(404) 874-8536 johnballew@gmail.com

Texting, email and intimate communication

Ah, modern communication.  It makes our life easier in so many ways.  Many of us get tons of email at work and then still more at home.  Or dozens of text messages.  It’s easier than a phone call – and way easier than writing an actual letter.  Does anyone write letters anymore?

It is understandable that we would want to use email or texting to stay in touch with those we care about.  There’s the weekly email to Mom and Dad, the Facebook message from that friend who moved to California last year.  And then there are the special ones.  When we see a message in our inbox or phone from someone we’re dating, it gives us a little jolt of pleasure.  Especially early in a relationship, we may find ourselves checking the ol’ inbox every 10 minutes to see if he committed his thoughts to paper – well, electrons, I suppose.

I know someone who claims to have had almost an entire relationship, from initial flirting to the final flip off, via texting on his phone. It was very efficient, but not especially juicy. What’s the best way to make sure you use technology effectively when it comes to matters of the heart?

Caution!  Email and text messages are wonderful for some types of communication, and a terrible one for others.  (Ask anyone who has had his employer tell him he’s by email that he’s been fired, for instance.)

Digitial communications transmit ideas and opinions.  That makes it great for setting up dates and other appointments, and for conveying information in an efficient manner.  Unfortunately, email is a perfectly awful medium for transmitting emotions, especially the subtle emotions that are so important in maintaining intimate relationships.  We miss the little cues that are present over the phone – voice inflection, hesitation before responding, and so forth.

While you might imagine your email correspondent sitting in the same room with you, if he actually was you could see his facial expression, sense his emotional state.  🙂 is a very poor substitute.  In fact, the content of an email or text can be like a Rorschach inkblot, just waiting for us to project our interpretation onto it.

One of the big advantages of this way of communicating is that it is quick and leaves a permanent record (unless we delete it).  One of the big disadvantages of email is that it is quick and leaves a permanent record.  The quickness means that we can give someone our thoughts right away…and that can sometimes be problematic in intimate relationships where we would do better to consider our words sometimes.  Have you ever hit the “send” button and immediately known it was a mistake?  You’re not alone.  Text in haste, regret in leisure.

A phone conversation becomes a memory moments after it ends, but an unhappy written message just sits there until we delete it.  We can go back and reread it and wound ourselves yet again.  It becomes a part of the long-term record of our love life, for better or worse.

For all of these reasons, if you have the need for an intimate conversation with someone, please consider picking up the phone or having the conversation face to face.  The give and take of live, real-time conversation is nourishment for relationships.  If you find yourself exchanging intimacies via messaging, be aware that you may be misunderstood, or may misinterpret what has been written to you.  If that seems to be happening, pick up the phone as soon as possible.  Keep it real, not virtual.

All of this goes double for text messages, by the way.  Sending little messages by phone may be convenient, but…it’s a phone.  Unless you are texting a quick “I luv U,” pick up the phone and turn it into a phone call.

About John

I have been  licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years.  My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression.  My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships. 

I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems.  My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.

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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions.  It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist.  I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.