I've never had a meaningful relationship with a person I've never fought with. Double negatives are annoying, so let me be clear: Romantic or not, if I have known you for more than a year and we've never argued, we're not close. I recently fought with my brother over my dad's 60th birthday. Ideal? No. Real life? Yes. Confronting problems in any relationship is important and mature if they are confronted in the right way. Fighting over text (like fighting over a 60th birthday party) is not ideal, but it is real life.
I would bet that if you're a person with a phone, you've had a fight over text at some point this year. Just look at the White House: Our president gets into fights on Twitter. Or, go to your Facebook feed: Trolls who are strangers tell each other to "go die" in comment sections. Maybe engaging in a text fight with a partner is in fact decent behavior in 2017.
But, is it ever possible to fight over text productively? Or will it always end up with one party sending the other four to seven emoji middle fingers in a row? (MATURITY IS BEAUTIFUL.) I spoke to dating coach and licensed marriage and family therapist Pella Weisman to find out if fighting over text is ever a good move.
First Off, Is Fighting Ever Productive?
It's very possible that I'm the only one who thinks a healthy fight in a relationship is a great thing. (I am a Scorpio. Arguments are my jam.) In any relationship, fighting is, indeed, inevitable. It's also complicated. Fights can range from scuffles over who forgot to buy hand soap, to actual dangerous situations. (Which are never OK.)
"Fighting can be productive when it is used as a chance for a couple to be open and honest about the difficulties in their relationship and work together to solve the issues," says Weisman. "If the fighting turns into a game of blame, shame, or criticism, then you are in dangerous territory."
If the fights you and your partner have are consistently started by one party, or are consistently about larger issues like control or jealousy, take notice.
So, How Do You Fight Productively Over Text?
Spoiler alert: It's not entirely possible. Texting not only means minced words due to a tiny keyboard, but also misinterpreted tones and 'tudes. When I'm busy, or just grumpy, my text tone reads as Tony Soprano. (Again, #scorpio.)
"I don't think that talking about emotionally charged subjects over text or email is ever a good idea," explains Weisman."You can't read tone or facial expressions and things can easily get misinterpreted and escalate unnecessarily." Exactly! No matter how hard I try, I cannot manage to craft the perfect sarcastic text without sounding like a jerk.
It's also very easy to say things you don't mean when there's no human face in front of you, just a little photo on a screen. "As they say with driving: 'It can wait,'" adds Weisman. So there's only one way to have a productive fight over text: Don't do it. Just say no. Get high on life, not on fights. Basically, any slogan your parents used to convince you not to do drugs also applies to text fights.
OK, But What Happens If The Fight Starts On Text?
Again, first heed our expert's advice and say "Can we talk about this later?" If your partner continues badgering you or you simply can't wait to fight it out in person, try FaceTime or a phone call first. If neither of those are possible, there are certain general rules that apply for all fights, text or not.
"Take turns listening and talking," says Weisman. So, in text land: Don't send 32 angry texts in a row before your partner can get a word-blurb in edgewise. "The listener repeats back what they heard and validates it," adds Weisman. "Make sure you understand each other and validate each other's feelings before moving into problem-solving mode."
Working on an issue from a place of love and trust is hard to do when you and your partner are only connected by Verizon's LTE network (3G if you're in a dead zone). If your partner texts you angrily about a double date he planned that you forgot (but maybe he also didn't even tell you about?), here's what I would text: "You seem upset, and I'm sorry. Can we talk about this in person later?" Or, you can always pretend your phone died. But no matter what, have the real fight in person.