Have You Set Cell-Phone Boundaries in Your Relationship?

Posted by on 08 27 14 in Love Addiction News | Comments Off on Have You Set Cell-Phone Boundaries in Your Relationship?

Case Study 1:

Max loves his girlfriend, but he is worried that she is too attractive and might leave him for another man. Max texts her regularly throughout the day. If she does not text back within a few minutes, he sends more texts and checks his phone repeatedly, waiting for her reply. One afternoon, when Max does not get a reply from her within four minutes, he starts sending longer messages. With each text message, he gets angrier and more suspicious.

One hour later, after Max has sent 23 text messages, his girlfriend finally sends a reply. She has been in a meeting, and no cell phones were allowed. She does not understand Max’s angry messages, and she wants to speak with him immediately. She is not sure if she can remain in a relationship with him due to his suspicious nature and wild accusations. 

Case Study 2:

Karni and Jon have been married for two years. Recently, Karni has been secretly checking Jon’s smartphone. She noticed that he was receiving a lot of texts from an ex-girlfriend. In the texts, Jon complained that Karni was a “nag.” The ex-girlfriend sent texts in which she said that Karni was controlling. They even texted about meeting at the gym and going out for lunch. When Karni finally confronted Jon last week, she told him that she wanted a divorce. Jon is now complaining that his privacy was violated, and that he had no idea that the marriage was in trouble.

If you’re worried about how cell phones may be affecting your relationship, you’re not alone. Increasingly, cell phones have become the third partner in couples counseling, divorce courts and on social occasions. In fact, many people see cell phones as causing addictive behaviors in all of us, yet their positive effects and their immediacy lead most of us to keep them on hand.

While couples frequently complain about cell phones buzzing and beeping their way into interrupting romantic situations, it seems that the content as well as frequency of our digital messaging is coming under greater scrutiny. Who makes up the rules about sharing texts with our spouses? How intimate may we get in our cell-phone conversations with others? When should we expect text replies from our partners?

Establishing the Ground Rules

More and more couples are discovering that it is important to establish ground rules for cell-phone usage. While it is clear in the above case study that Max has trust issues, his relationship with his girlfriend might have been better if they had set up some rules. Simply stated, Max would have benefited from understanding that his girlfriend did not treat his texting with the same degree of urgency that he did.

Many people send texts and expect nearly instant replies. The immediacy of our cell phones has led us to look forward to quick rewards. We have our phones with us almost everywhere we go; we are able to check them frequently, and we have buzzers and alarms that tell us when new messages have arrived. For these reasons, when we are separated from our loved ones and colleagues, we feel that they must have their cell phones with them, charged and easily accessible. If people choose to put down their phones or mute them for other conversations or meetings, then the rules of texting change dramatically

Of course, there is also the example of the “polite” texter: many people feel that texting interruptions are rude during conversations. If so, those users may not even see a text for minutes or even hours

The Value of In-Person Communication

In the case study of Karni and Jon, their relationship would be much stronger if both spouses had been willing to communicate more—in person—with each other. Jon could have explained his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, and Karni could have asked him direct questions. They could have explained their expectations of what is fair to discuss in text messages. Both Karni and Jon would have benefitted from a mutual agreement about looking at each other’s phones and sharing the information on them.

For most couples, cell-phone sharing is not allowed. If one person looks at another’s cell phone, that alone is reason for a conversation. If couples agree to share all the information on their phones, then both individuals in the relationship fully understand that their phones are not private. Karni thought it was fine to check Jon’s phone. Jon felt it was a violation of his privacy. They can both argue their points, but this will not save their marriage.

A Modern Definition of Healthy Communication

Good communication is the basis of a good relationship. If cell phones are a central part of communication, then be sure to establish cell-phone rules upfront. If you are in a relationship with no rules, then consider adding some rules. Talk with your partner about whether cell phones are private or shared. Be sure to establish texting rules. If cell-phone usage starts to intrude on your relationship, discuss it openly and honestly with your partner. You both have a vested interest in fixing the problem by setting some boundaries.

Ultimately, nothing beats a good conversation. If cell-phone messaging is getting in the way of your relationship, consider talking—not texting—about it.