May 27, 2009

Dating, Marriage, Relationships & Family

Ask Wayne: Man Apologizes to Wife In Text Message; Wife Responds With Snark

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Q:

My wife and I got into an argument the other night about how many hours she has been working at her job. I would like her home more. I let things cool down a bit and did not speak with her again that night. The next day, I thought I would apologize to her for getting into an argument. But when I texted her, she responded with a snide remark. As hard as I tried to make things right, it just turned into another argument. It seems like no matter how hard I try, she is not willing to make up. Should we go to counseling?

A:

Hold on, let me get my police issue bullhorn. Testing one two. Okay. “PUT DOWN THE PHONE. REPEAT, PUT DOWN THE PHONE. IF YOU VALUE YOUR RELATIONSHIP, STEP SLOWLY AWAY FROM YOUR TEXTING DEVICE.”

Let’s talk about texting. I’ll get back to your marriage in a moment.

Call me old-fashioned (believe me, it won’t be the worse thing I’ve been called) but I just don’t believe that all of our problems can be solved with technology…or pharmaceuticals (something I’ve mentioned here in a previous column). Some things should be handled old school. In this case, we’re talking about…well, talking.

If you care about her, AND you’re dealing with a touchy topic, do not text, do not email, do not Twitter. Really, don’t you think your relationship deserves more than 140 characters?

If everything is just peachy, then sending an I love you is swell. But if you’re wanting to apologize, explain, plan, express feelings, offer support, debate or disagree, DO NOT do it electronically. If you must, pick up the phone. But this old guy’s advice is to do it face-to-face.

Relationships are complicated. Most men don’t do complicated very well. That’s why we need to keep it simple. Now-let me know if I’m going too fast for you-when we…talk…face-to-beautiful-face with our women, we can see them and they can see us. If they seem to be misunderstanding us, we can change our words, or adjust our eyebrows, to alter our message. When we talk in-person to those we care about, all of the complicated nuances of interpersonal communication happen naturally.

When we go electronic, all bets are off. Only the very talented can maintain any sense of nuance. And even then, both sides have to either still be in their honeymoon period, or know each other ridiculously well to avoid all possibility of confusion.

Let me give you a real-life example of how texting can foul up your intended meaning. For this column, I texted my 18-year-old son and asked him how he abbreviates a few phrases when he texts. He sent me a short message. I responded with great. He then responded with was that ok? I knew immediately that he thought my great was sarcastic, as if I was disappointed with what he gave me. But that was inaccurate. I thought it was awesome. I called him to verify my suspicion. And yes, he had inferred sarcasm when none had been implied. Now, that was between two men discussing nothing of any significance at all!

Cut to…you and your wife in the middle of an argument and your need to apologize, for being a jerk, via text.

One of the BetterMen Tools is “Don’t Argue,” (get a copy of my book to find out why I’m so adamant about not arguing) so I can see why you’d want to apologize. Now that you know to wait until you see her at home, let’s switch gears to the nature of your argument.

You’d like her home more. I don’t know what your financial situation is, but I assume you’d survive if she worked less. My suspicion is that you value what she does for you at home more than you value how her work makes her feel. I say this because the only reason you got into an argument with her was because you weren’t listening to her. What you wanted to communicate was more important to you than your wife.

Go back home, apologize for trying to apologize via text (oy, this is getting complicated) and then gently let her know that you miss her and wondered whether the two of you could discuss a new balance between work and home. You don’t need counseling to turn this around. You just need to care. Hope this helps. g2g c u l8r

Got a relationship question for Wayne? Email him @: askwayne@bettermen.org

Wayne M. Levine, M.A., mentors men to be better men, husbands and fathers. See how you can become a better man at www.BetterMen.org.

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