What is the secret to a happy and healthy relationship? Well, my friend, that is a trick question. We all know that relationships are complex as hell and there isn’t one thing that can make or break them; what helps them thrive (or causes them to crumble) varies. However, there is one key thing that separates a strong relationship from a fragile one, and that is effective conflict resolution.
I’ll be the first to say that nailing down how to manage and resolve conflict in any relationship takes some serious trial and error, but when couples (or friendships, for that matter) can figure out how to do it in a way that works for them, they can become unstoppable. Take the President and the First Lady for example: In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Dr. Jill Biden revealed that she and Joe Biden turn to “fexting” (fighting over text) to carry on their fights without the Secret Service knowing about them. Sure, we’re not all in such high-stake situations, but the point is this: They’ve been married for over 45 years, and if text messages are helpful for managing conflict in their relationship, then more power to them!
As someone who cringes at the thought of being in a fight over text (I’m more of a face to face kinda gal), I’m still endlessly curious (read: nosey) about how others approach problem solving. So I did some research on this so-called “fexting” to find out how and why it can work because hey, if it’s legit enough for the President and First Lady, there has to be some merit to it, right? Read on to find out:
What is fexting?
Believe it or not, fexting has been around as long as, well, texting, so it is not a new concept at all. Many people, including the aforementioned President and First Lady, use it—whether intentionally, in their case, or unintentionally—to argue. From what we can tell from Dr. Jill Biden’s Harper’s Bazaar interview, it sounds like she and President Biden have fexting down to a science. If done right, fexting can be beneficial for individuals and couples alike, but be aware that it also has its downfalls. Whether it will work as well for you as it does for the Bidens is TBD, so consider the pros and the cons we are outlining next before trying it for yourself.
Positive Effects Of Fexting On Relationships
Fexting gives each individual more time to process their emotions
One of the main benefits of fexting is that you have much more time to process what is being said and how you are feeling. Since there is no pressure to respond right away like there usually is in person or even on a phone call, each person is able to really consider their own feelings, and alternatively, the feelings and point of view of the other person. This can lead to more effective, honest communication in many types of fights.
Fexting helps you avoid saying things you might regret later
Sometimes, an argument can get so heated that we put our guard up and act on defense (been there). When this happens, it can be difficult to slow down and really consider what we are saying to the other person. Through a text message, you have to physically type out what you really want to say and you have the opportunity to review it and delete it. In the wise words of Dorinda Medley from The Real Housewives of New York City, “Say It, Forget It. Write It, Regret It.”
Negative Effects Of Fexting On Relationships
A lack of tone and body language can make it difficult to understand one another
Body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice are three things that play a huge role in communication, and we can’t rely on them at all when texting. We are unable to tell if things were said with good intentions or not because we can’t hear the tone of voice, and similarly, we can’t tell if someone is getting really upset or angry because we can’t see their face. This can lead to a more heated or hurtful argument when, of course, we don’t intend it to be that way if we care for someone.
Fexting can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication
We can try to be as careful and clear as possible when fexting, but at the end of the day, misunderstanding a text is something we have all done. In face-to-face conversations, we can more clearly articulate what we are saying and we are more likely to ask clarifying questions if we don’t understand what someone means.
Alternative Ways To Resolve Conflicts In Your Relationship
Set aside specific time to talk through issues
Instead of firing a text message at your partner in the middle of the day that catches them off guard, propose a time to talk. I know the dreaded “we have to talk” text is nerve-wracking and stress-inducing for anyone to send or receive, but setting aside time to talk about whatever is going on can help you both give your full attention to one another to problem-solve.
If you and your partner, family member, or close friend have tried multiple methods to manage and avoid conflict on your own, including fexting, and you are still struggling to understand one another, try therapy—individually or together. Talking to a licensed professional can help each person learn new communication skills, see different perspectives, practice new tools for problem solving. and learn how to argue in a healthy way.
Agree to disagree
It’s important to remember that you won’t always agree on everything with everyone, and there is not always a right and wrong. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s best to drop whatever the issue is and agree to disagree.