A recent study found that for couples who communicated by text for things like apologies, disagreements and decision-making, the women reported less satisfaction in their relationship. For men who reported less satisfaction in their relationship it was because of too much texting. On the positive side, affectionate texts did help relationships.
Given that the study found that over 80 percent of couples communicate daily by text, it’s no surprise that this constant communication is rife with opportunities for misunderstandings.
In the Huffington Post last week, one mom of two teenage girls wrote about texting habits and a “break up.”
Recently a friend of my daughter’s told me that her boyfriend “wanted a break.” Since I write young adult novels for a living and aspire to be known as “The Cool Mom,” I said, “Sit down, honey. Have an iced tea and tell me what happened.”
You see in the case of this particular girl, I was confused. She wasn’t one of those needy girls. She was strong and independent. Her boyfriend was too. This pair of lovebirds weren’t the stereotypical glued-at-the-hip kind of couple. Both had very active social lives, apart from their relationship, and both admitted to still being very much infatuated. So, if there wasn’t another girl in the picture, why the break?
The girl had no idea.
“Is he still texting you?” I asked.
“Yes Ma’am.” (We live in the South.)
“Like all the time?”
And then I asked the key question — one I thought I understood, but apparently did not. “Explain this texting thing to me.”
“It’s like a tennis ball,” she replied. “He texts, and then I text back, and it goes on like this all the time. Back and forth. Back and forth.”
“Can you elaborate?” Surely she couldn’t mean ALL the time. What the heck were they talking about?
She shrugged. “Well, today he said something about his class. And then I sent him a pic from volleyball practice and then he asked me a question about it. And I replied.”
“But then it should stop, right? After you answered his question?”
“Well, no. Because then it’s his turn.”
“But the conversation was over,” I pointed out.
“The conversation is never over… ” she repeated, emphasis on “never.”
The problem was becoming clear, and I jumped in with a diagnosis. “I can’t even fathom being forced to talk to my husband, my mother, or even my best friend every day like that! No wonder the guy needs a break. He’s sick of you.”
In my book, Finding Mr. Righteous (out on Feb. 25 and available for pre-order now!) one of the themes is how relationships that stemmed from social media and texting can form quick bonds, but not necessarily ones with deep or long-lasting intimacy. Unfortunately, many adults have the same obsession with the back and forth as the teenage girl above.
In Verily magazine, a writer tells the story of Jay and Jenny.
They talked about everything from family and vacations to pet peeves . . . over text. Quickly, they were saying goodnight, good morning, and texting all day, every day. A few weeks went by, and Jenny wondered when Jay was going to ask her on a date.
It felt confusing when Jay would text Jenny “I’m falling for you,” “I can’t wait to see you,” or “I miss you”, but didn’t seem all that interested in getting together.
The texting continued for months, interspersed with an occasional dinner, late-night rendezvous, and group hangouts. Jenny still felt like she was always waiting around for the next time she’d get to see Jay. But Jenny reasoned, and brushed off concern that maybe his texts and his intentions didn’t quite line up.
Then all of the sudden, Jay broke it off, citing that they didn’t share much in common. Soon he was dating someone else. Jenny was heartbroken and angry, feeling that he’d led her on for six months, most of which she waited around and made excuses to see if he’d come through.
Jay and Jenny obviously had different feelings about where their texting was leading. I suspect Jay’s new love interest played a role in why he cut off communication — a terse “Who are you texting?” from the new girl put a stop to that. Jay seemed to use texting as a way to pass time with a friend, while Jenny thought it was leading to a relationship or was part of some kind of courtship. I don’t think either one holds all the blame. Certainly, Jay should have realized that comments like “I’m falling for you” sound more serious than he may have intended. Likewise, Jenny should have taken clues from Jay’s lack of initiative in asking for a date. Generally, if a guy is interested in a girl, he’s making plans to see her as frequently as possible. As the book-turned-movie saying goes, all of the things that girls interpret as mixed signals are really just evidence that “he’s just not that into you.”
So, how do people reclaim romance in a texting world? I think it’s up to both men and women to not put expectations on others and put their energy into real interaction. In Finding Mr. Righteous, there were times when I wanted someone in my life for a particular purpose, but God had other plans. Some love interests were meant to only be friends. Some friends were meant to only be messengers. In the case of texting or online communication, it should not be a substitute for real interaction. Prolonging shallow, easy communication doesn’t advance relationships or friendships. It’s easy to fall back on texting when we’re all busy, but that makes the “real” interaction — phone calls, dates, quality time with friends — all the more special.