Burn, Baby, Burn

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Ever been burned before? Burned again and again? No, I’m not talking about forgetting to slather on your SPF 50 sunscreen during an afternoon at the beach. I’m talking about the sting from those texts that your boyfriend or ex sent you: cruel, unfair, painful. Ever wonder what sparks those accusatory texts?  “You’re not being faithful.” “You don’t appreciate me enough.” “Are you still talking your ex boyfriend?” Have you ever paused between somewhere between your apologies and explanations to question if your boyfriend is actually the one crossing the line with his texts? George Washington University psychologist Dr. Amanda Visek and Dr. Maria Elizabeth Valente, Psychologist and Director of the State of Santa Catarina Brazil Association of Cogintive Therapy opine that sometimes, your partner simply isn’t work the pain.

George Washington University junior Chanel* says her ex-boyfriend would accuse her of cheating on him constantly. She didn’t know how to respond at first; when she finally called him out on his demeaning texts, he still refused to stop.

“He would text me accusatory messages, saying I was hitting on other guys and flirting. He would call me names; I didn’t react the right way. Sometimes I would reply rudely to him, instead of simply stopping responses until I got an apology. I repeatedly told him it was mean of him to not care about my feelings and sending those messages. I told him several times to stop several times, but it didn’t get any better,” said Chanel.   

According to Dr. Visek, texting is a double-edged sword because while it can be a convenient way for partners to communicate, people can also hide behind it. Texting can often be used to communicate things that people wouldn’t normally vocalize. Visek says a even a borderline offensive text is crossing the line into verbal abuse.

“Ultimately, it comes down to whether the relationship itself is healthy; that will determine whether or not the text communication is likely healthy. Crossing the line would be any form of domestic or partner abuse, be it verbally, non-verbally, or written via text,” said Visek.

Dr. Valente said that a partner will sometimes face miscommunication by addressing sensitive topics that may cause tension. When it comes to virtual communication, Valente says, perverse texts are detrimental to a relationship because the messages highlight insecurity from the sender; they give the individual a “green light” to send messages that put down their significant other’s feelings. She indicates that messages of this nature give the sender the upper hand and can cause the relationship to become a one-way street, catered exclusively to the feelings of the sender.

“Everything is made with an equilibrium; in a relationship, the balance between too much communication and a lack of communication is most desired and will lead to a successful partnership. It is not healthy to the relationship when a boyfriend or girlfriend gets depreciating messages because this favors jealously, fuels arguments, and is disrespectful to the other’s feelings,” says Valente.  

So should you attempt to brush off that those hurtful messages sent by your significant other? Is that one message really enough to call your partner out on? According to Dr. Visek, if you find even one messages sent by your significant other offensive, you should address it with them immediately. Visek says that vicious texts are a form of domestic or partner abuse and should not be taken lightly.

“Being mean should not be "normal" in any healthy, loving, respectful relationship. Any form of abuse should not be tolerated,” Visek says.

So when you get that next text, stop and think for a moment. You could just press delete and pretend it never happened, sure. Or you could follow in Chanel’s* footsteps; she dumped her boyfriend after two years of asking him to to stop sending awful messages. While Chanel* admitted that her decision was a difficult one to make, by letting go of her verbally abusive boyfriend of three years, she “was set free.”

So my friends, next time you receive a message that you find hurtful or offensive, don’t just hit delete. Because while the delete button can mask us on the surface much like sunscreen can, it can’t hide the disease that grows beneath. Stand up and say something to your partner; verbal abuse is a form of domestic violence, and you can’t just stand back and let it continue. If you speak up and they refuse to change their ways, then perhaps they are just another picture to burn. 

*Names have been changed.

Photo by Flickr user Jhaymesiviphotography

George Washington University

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