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Archive for Monday, July 25, 2011

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Double Take: Texting muddles communication in teen relationship

July 25, 2011

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Dear Dr. Wes and Ben: My boyfriend and I have been together for over seven months, and when we first went out in December he was always texting me back and asking about my day and now sometimes I send him a message and I don’t hear from him for hours, nor not at all. I’ve asked him about this and he always has an excuse, but I tell him that he used to be really sweet to me and now he’s not. What should I do?

Ben: I remember a Calvin & Hobbes strip where Susie asks Calvin why he’s so happy he got a C on a test. He aptly replies, “I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep everyone’s expectations.” There’s some shelter in laziness. The more consistently lazy we are, the more shocking and awe-inspiring it is when we finally step up.

I say this so pointedly because my girlfriend had the same problem with me a few months ago. I’d be indifferent and distant for a few weeks, but then I’d do something incredibly sweet to try to make up for it. That’s the thing about guys: We’re doers.

Sometimes we don’t realize what a genuine compliment or a simple “How was your day?” can mean or do. We put those things on the backburner because we really don’t realize that they matter.

So what do you do? My girlfriend snapped me out of my daze when she said, “You know, I liked when you used to be sweet instead of just doing sweet things.” So tell him about the little things that make you feel special. He might be surprised at just how simple it really is.

Wes: There are two intertwined issues here, one electronic and one emotional. Texting has become the new way to gauge whether someone is really into you. This gets to be a problem in part because of gender differences in texting behavior. From a sociological standpoint women and teenage girls have always been interconnected in social networks in a different and more intimate way than guys. Now Facebook, Twitter and texting have extended that way beyond anything we imagined even five years ago.

Texting offers a new metaphor for relationships. thumbs fly over the keyboard when you’re trying to attract each other, moderate after the relationship is established and crawl when things begin to slide. So you’re correct to WONDER right now if you and your boy are headed downhill. But you don’t really know, because the unfortunate side of texting and Facebook is that they actually limit communication in many ways by running it through a digital filter that cuts out body language and facial expression and touch. So I agree with Ben. Take your question straight to the boy, sit down and ask if things are dying off or perhaps worse, he sees everything as perfectly OK. If that’s the case, maybe you two aren’t well-matched. If a couple doesn’t share expectations for these things, they won’t survive long-term.

Remember, the purpose of being in a relationship at this age is NOT to stick yourself into a little marriage or to see breaking up as a divorce. It’s to find out which people you’re right with. That takes time and practice. Don’t be afraid to fail and always be ready to move on to the next one. Having this talk is a good practice for all your future loves.

— Send your questions about adolescent issues (limited to 200 words) to doubletake@ljworld.com.

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