How Texting Can Strengthen a Relationship
… and how it can tear a relationship apart.
Posted Feb 11, 2015
“You never call, you never write!”
Maybe you don’t have to. Can texting be a key ingredient to a great relationship?
We generally think that texting is a limited way of communicating – especially within relationships, where misunderstandings can flourish and fester. While it’s true that texting removes many important layers of communication, such as facial expression and voice tone (especially the voice intonations that signal, “I’m joking, don’t take this seriously”), it can also be a very handy tool for maintaining great relationships.
Here are 4 practical tips for texting the right way – to strengthen your relationship and build closeness.
You’re Doing It Wrong: Sharing New Information
The major downside of texting is potential miscommunication, both in the words themselves and in the “downtime” – the time it takes for one to respond to a text. To avoid misinterpretations, it’s best to refrain from sharing new information with your partner – particularly about life changes and changes in your feelings about the relationship – over text.
In other words, just because you can tell anyone anything at anytime doesn’t mean you should.
It might be common sense to not communicate changes in your feelings about the relationship via text. Texting your boyfriend, “I’m breaking up with you,” is generally considered a heartless move.
But the pitfalls of sharing about life changes over text is more subtle. Let’s say you got a promotion at work and text your boyfriend right away with this information. You’re just so excited! But he doesn’t respond immediately. In fact he doesn’t respond... for hours. When he finally responds with, “WOOT,” you’re already annoyed. It took you 4 hours to say… woot?
Of course, when he gets home you can tell that he is genuinely excited for you. But by then, the annoyance – which is really your interpretation that he doesn’t care – has taken hold. Imagine how much more fun it would have been to wait a few hours and celebrate in the moment?
You’re Doing It Right: Reinforcing Positive Habits
There’s no doubt that texting is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to “ping” someone – essentially “say hi” throughout the day. Customizing the ways in which you “say hi” to fit your particular relationship is an awesome way to build closeness in small ways all day long.
Let’s say you and your girlfriend are obsessed with getting a dog. You’ve made it a habit to spend hours each weekend ogling puppy photos. You can so easily keep this “thing you do together” going even when you’re not together through texting. The puppy photos you send back and forth can even, over time, develop a whole structure of meaning that only the two of you understand. Lazy pug means “I’m tired.” Bulldog means “I miss you!”
It may sound simplistic, but a handful of sweet, personalized “pings” over the course of a day can easily equal one expensive date night in terms of how much closeness it generates. Texting in this way reminds her that you’re thinking of her – an easy way to show her that you care.
It also, just as importantly, reminds you that you care.
You’re Doing It Wrong: Making it Serious
As mentioned earlier, it can be very difficult to distinguish humor and sarcasm from anger and criticism over text. Sarcasm in particular is very culturally-specific and can easily be misunderstood even with facial expression and voice tone included. It’s a good idea – especially when you’re first getting to know someone – to avoid sending any “I mean the opposite of what I appear to be saying” texts.
That being said, texting is an inherently playful medium. Have you seen the “poo” emoji? If texting isn’t made for lighthearted fun, I don’t know what is. Use the playfulness that’s built into texting to develop and enhance inside jokes – which are really just simple, little reminders that the two of you like each other.
Just be sure to make it clear that if you’re actually mad at one another, you won’t discuss it over text. You don’t want the “poo” emoji to be taken seriously.
You’re Doing It Right: Making it Useful
A special attribute of texting is that it is so – literally – mobile. It’s one of the best ways to make plans with someone on the go, in real-time. This makes texting particularly useful for arranging to see your partner in person. You happen to be in her neighborhood this afternoon and want to drop by? Texting is perfect for that.
The reality is that in-person communication is the best for building closeness. But that doesn’t mean texting can’t be used in service of meeting in person. It’s a fantastic tool for making plans – and for making plans flexible. Spontaneous meet-ups with your partner are just as good for building closeness (if not better) than routines.
Try these 4 tips to make texting work for your relationship.