The Newest Habit in Couples Communication: Fighting Over Text

“If the couple already has problems, you’ll see the nastiest things,” she said, “I’m like, oh my god, this is insane.” Fighting over text message, she said, is a kind of compulsion for certain people, a need to get a response right now rather than having a conversation that unfolds face-to-face. “To me, it’s part of a larger culture of wanting that immediate answer.,” she said. “There’s a sense of urgency, where I am almost angry if I don’t get that instant answer.”

What she suggests to clients is a drastic break from text-based communications altogether, for at least three months. If they must text, she asks that couples greet each other, say something nice and end with a sign-off. “I try to make that rule — not that people follow rules,” she said.

To help guard against text fights, Ms. Wasser advocated using a special portal, from places like, an online divorce service that she works with, or WeParent. These sites can ferry messages between exes who have to, say, co-parent. Ms. Wasser says that a more formalized communication platform, one that might later be viewed by a judge, often “precludes people from going bananas.”

However, for some people, like the Loebs, there is no way to fight but text message. The couple met on and spent a week texting before they met, laying the word-based groundwork for their relationship.

Before the pandemic, their schedules often didn’t align, meaning that one of them would be getting home while the other one was starting work. But now, they both work at home as consultants at different accounting firms. That arrangement could have led to more fights IRL, but it hasn’t: When they start arguing, they immediately retreat to separate spaces to spar on screens.

“Our fights start like regular people’s — one of us might yell or scream, and usually, one of us storms off. That’s when the text argument starts,” Mr. Loeb said. “It’s worked well for us because text prevents you from talking over each other. You get to fully read what the other has said before responding.”