‘Fexting’ Ruined My Relationship. Here’s How To Stop It Ruining Yours

When speaking to friends and peers, I quickly realised although my experiences are not ideal, they’re not uncommon either. “My ex and I had so many arguments over text, which culminated in us breaking up over text after 5 years together,” one friend tells me. Another, who was in a long-distance relationship, says: “Communication was the main thing we fought over; at distance, all you have is texting and sharing information.” She found that fexting often happened when “you’re bringing up an issue and it becomes a huge argument you never even intended it to be.”

Another friend – who just got engaged to their partner – explains that fexting is actually a common occurrence in her relationship, but that it actually works for them. “We argue a lot over text and not much in person – neither of us like face to face confrontation,” she tells me. “Arguments can be anything from sending petty pictures of mess the other person has left around the house or playing tit-for-tat until we’re tired of it, to full blown ‘screaming’ (typing in caps) about more serious things like a lie he’s been caught telling.”

Like the previous situation, this friend has periods where she does long distance with her partner, meaning “arguing over text is our only option as we’re too impatient to wait for a phone call to discuss or wait to see each other again.” And while most things are dropped and forgotten about within a few hours, she says, “we will sometimes go back to it in person depending on what the argument was about.” She adds: “We follow the 5-day rule with arguments – if we’re likely to not remember what we’re arguing about in 5 days, then we drop it.”

So, perhaps fexting isn’t always negative? This is something dating expert Sarah Louise Ryan agrees with.“It’s a useful tool, as sometimes individuals in a couple have different processing speeds and so by typing out thoughts and feelings it may give each person time to come into co-regulation, if there is enough empathy to see each other’s point of view and take both time and consideration in each response.”

But fexting must be be done in the correct way, and that usually means waiting to see each other in person to really clear the air. “Prioritise in-person conversations (or video calls) for sensitive topics so you can co-regulate with your partner (the ability to soothe and regulate each other’s emotions through comforting and supportive interactions),” suggests Vicki.

If your partner’s message has upset or irritated you, it can be best to hit pause for immediately launching into a ‘fext’. “After having a few hours to cool off, you may not feel as strongly as you do in the moment,” says Hayley. “This doesn’t mean you then have to sweep your relationship issues under the carpet, but that you can deal with them when you next see your partner in person. If you have a long distance relationship, hopping on a video call is a much better method of communication than fexting.”

Arguing can be constructive. It allows you to air any issues and work through them together. But what I’ve learnt is that fexting is, for me, rarely constructive. From now on, with the new person I’m dating (which is also long-distance somtimes), when any issues arise I will be putting the phone down, leaving my ‘keyboard warrior’ past behind me, and talking it out with her IRL or on FaceTime instead.


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