September 30, 2015
Maintaining Boundaries Using Electronic Communication
With all this talk about boundaries, it’s really important to look at how we maintain safe boundaries when using electronic communication, especially everyone’s favorite...texting!
Texting is wonderful. We have access to everyone by just pressing the “send” button and can have a real-time conversation even when we’re nowhere near who we are talking to. Texting can be safe and comfortable due to the distance it creates as you continue to get to know someone else.
Because texting increases the availability of other people, it’s only reasonable to expect them to always be available to respond to you immediately, especially if you are interested in dating them and vice-versa, right? WRONG! Texting can be a great way to stay in touch; it can also be a great way to gain control over another person by insisting they respond to you immediately, want to know your whereabouts every moment, reading your responses (or gaps in response time) as an indication of your interest and commitment to them, or placing unfair rules on how and when you can text them.
Of course, you have been taught that it is rude to not respond to someone who contacts you; it can be quite hurtful and upsetting if someone does not respond. After going out with someone, you might text them to show your continued interest in them or to tell them you would like to go out again. No response is seen as “Oh my gosh, they aren’t interested! What is wrong with me? What could I have done differently…”, the avalanche of negative thoughts and doubts that you worked so hard to overcome to get that first date is roaring back. What do you do? You become anxious and send more texts. The cycle continues with each delay in response and you may become angry at the other person. When they do respond, they may be equally upset and scared that they upset you, also worrying that they did something wrong to mess up their chances at seeing you again. They begin barraging you with text messages. Your boundaries have become as blurred as your thoughts and feelings about what went wrong. Maintaining appropriate boundaries when texting is just as important as maintaining healthy relationship boundaries. Here are some helpful tips on setting appropriate boundaries when texting with a person you are interested in.
Do refer to the posts on establishing healthy relationship boundaries; they apply here
Do communicate clearly with the other person
Do set clear limits on when you are available to text
Do try to have an idea of a reasonable time frame for responding to texts
Do respect each other’s time commitments
Do honor the other person’s request to end a texting session for the reason(s) they give
Do give the other person time to respond to your text
Do give the other person the benefit of the doubt if they do not respond
Do give the other person the space to be by themselves
Do not get stuck in worry over “if’s” you cannot control
Do not second guess yourself when sending a text
Do not try to read for hidden meanings in text messages; a text can be just a text
Do not let the “if’s” hijack your self-control and lead you to sending an avalanche of texts
Do not use texting as an excuse to push the other person into moving a relationship forward
Do not use texting to keep watch on another person
Do not overwhelm the other person with your own fears and worries by sending a text avalanche
Do not disrespect the other person’s request to stop texting; let it end even if you think you are having fun
Do not let texting become harassment
Remember! You are not being rude by saying you do not want to text or that you need to stop for another reason. Being able to do so and have your request honored is a BIG part of maintaining appropriate and safe boundaries!
Posted by Jonathan Rhoads, LCSW-C