I’ve been a marriage and family counselor for more than 40 years. Though the times and technologies have changed, the basics of dating and mating haven’t. The new science of love demonstrates that there are 5 stages for having a great relationship that lasts through time:
Stage 1: Falling In Love
Stage 2: Becoming a Couple
Stage 3: Disillusionment
Stage 4: Creating Real, Lasting Love
Stage 5: Finding Your Calling as a Couple
All five stages work best when we communicate with all parts of ourselves. There is an old saying, going back to biblical times, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” In our fast-paced, hyper-kinetic world, we increasingly use technologies to help us save time and be more efficient. Texting is one of those technologies. When we’re in a hurry we can communicate with a few quick strokes and get a message through.
Texting may be more efficient, and there are times when efficiency serves our purpose, but in the area of dating, mating, sex, and love, too much texting and too little direct contact can undermine our deepest desires. The reason is simple and straight forward, but we often fail to understand these facts of life:
• Human connection requires that we use all our senses. We need to see each other, hear each other, touch each other, taste each other, and yes, smell each other.
• Our conscious mind may think we’re connecting when we text our feelings in words, but our bodies, spirits, and souls know we’re missing vital elements.
In her book, Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become, Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D., says “You use the phone, email, and increasingly texts or Facebook, and it’s important to do so. Yet your body, sculpted by the forces of natural selection over millennia, was not designed for the abstractions of long distance love, the XOXs and LOLs. Your body hungers for more. It hungers for moments of oneness.”
Without real connection we feel lonely and disconnected. We often become more anxious and depressed. As I say in my book, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, “Without real connections we get hooked on love addiction rather than real love. Healthy love creates life. Addictive love creates melodramas.” So here are the reasons I believe calling is better than texting at all stages of relationship:
1. The sound of the human voice goes straight to the heart.
Think back to a time when you first fell in love, that first wonderful stage of love. Chances are you were in the physical presence of your loved one and when you were apart you longed to hear their voice. Words on a screen don’t touch us nearly as deeply as words that are spoken.
2. A phone call is now.
We all long to be seen, heard, cherished, and held. Texting can be quick and efficient, but it isn’t in real time. In the second stage of love when we’re deepening our relationship and becoming a couple we want to feel the immediate presence of our partner. If we are not together we want to hear their voice and know they are reaching out to us now.
3. Calling requires persistence.
In our busy lives we don’t always answer our phones. Calling requires us to keep trying if we’re going to make a connection. Whether we’re in the early stages of dating or the later stages of love, we need perseverance and persistence if we’re going to deepen the relationship and help it grow.
4. Talking can be awkward, but it’s real.
When we talk, we are interacting with a real person in real time. We are aware of our flaws as we stumble over “saying what we feel.” We can’t consult friends or edit the text before we send it. We are more transparent and real. We can “hear” a smile or a frown more easily listening than reading and the immediacy of back and forth communication helps us be more honest and uncensored.
5. Disillusionment is a stage in all relationships and the sound of a voice can heal the pain.
In my experiences as a marriage and family counselor I’ve seen that most people are blindsided by stage three. We often project our own illusions, both positive and negative, on to another. When they don’t live up to our projected image we become dismissive and begin looking elsewhere. It’s much more difficult to understand and heal the pain and reconnect when we do more texting than talking. The sound of a voice can provide soothing and healing when the misunderstandings of human interaction get in the way of care and connection.
6. Creating real, lasting love requires that we talk about old wounds.
Most everyone grew up in families that were less than optimal. We suffered from various degrees of neglect, abuse, and abandonment. In order to get through the dating stage and develop a real relationship, we have to talk about our wounding. Interestingly, I’ve found that many people, particularly men, seem to find it easier to talk on the phone about these issues than talking in person. Texting is a poor substitute for talking when we reach stage four and are wanting real, lasting love.
7. The five most important words of love are these: “I am there for you.”
In a world that is becoming increasingly stressed and more of us feel overwhelmed, anxious, and afraid, we need to know there is someone who has our back, who is there for us. We need real friends, real companions, real lovers. A call when we need connection can be life-saving. A text just doesn’t get it. Words of love and encouragement that are given in real time by a real person, meant just for us can open our heart.