One of the most exciting notifications you can get on your phone is a new message from your crush/current bae. One of the most anxious feelings is waiting for that notification to come in. What if we just eliminated texting in relationships all together?
That’s exactly what writer Clara Artschwager did, as she explained in an essay for The Cut. Artschwager had been casually dating someone when text communications became far more fraught with meaning than either of them intended. Deciding to try again, they made a really shocking agreement: no texting. At each date, they’d plan for the next date. If they needed to talk, they’d call, and texting was okay if you needed to warn someone you were running late or confirm some other type of logistical detail. But that’s it.
It’s a shocking thing to consider—cutting off communication with the object of your desire. What would you do without the thrilling anticipation? The cutesy inside jokes? The sexting? Sexting is important for keeping all sorts of relationships spicy. Letting go of all that seems like an impossible task.
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However, texting hasn’t really been a part of courtship for very long, in the grand scheme of things. Psychologist Theresa E DiDonato Ph.D. writes for Psychology Today that the core of most of our interactions in budding relationships once mainly took place face-to-face. Sure, you might wait by the phone at times or hope the mailman was delivering a letter soon, but there wasn’t this constant (and instantaneous) communication without real life meet-ups.
There are both benefits and negative consequences to texting. Here are some pros, according to DiDonato:
Texting does not require spontaneous wit; texters have some time to think and carefully craft clever messages.
Text messages are void of nonverbal signals, allowing texters to communicate the message they wish to send without concern that unintended nonverbal signals (sweaty hands, shaky voice, etc.) are polluting their message.
Texting is easy; in-person conversations can be complex.
It’s true that for people who are very nervous about interacting in person, being able to think about what you’re saying early on can be very beneficial. Just remember, you’ll have to meet up with that person eventually, and it’s very easy to construct an idea about someone that isn’t who they really are when everything is conducted via text.
Here are some benefits to not texting:
It’s Less Distracting
DiDonato says that frustrations with texting reported by individuals included a feeling of “an overdependence, such that the texting is preventing them from other activities—like attending to other relationships; meeting academic or career responsibilities, or even seeing each other in person.”
Artschwager also writes that “the good-morning-how-was-your-day-goodnight banter—and the incessant distraction that came with it — all of that was off the table” in her relationship, which felt great. Both she and the person she was dating were able to concentrate on their own lives without either being engaged in conversation, or wondering when the next text would come. It wasn’t going to.
Recently, I dated someone who would go a day or so before responding to me. Obviously, they weren’t into it! But the few weeks we went back and forth like this were maddening. It was incredibly distracting to wait, wonder, and check my phone. Maybe it would have been better if we’d had those ground rules. Though, in this case, it may have taken me longer to get the real message: they didn’t want to date me.
Less Texting = Less Drama
Which brings me to another benefit. No texting, no drama. Just kidding, there’s always the potential for drama; it’s just that texting offers so many opportunities for miscommunication and misunderstanding, as DiDonato says:
Texting is often fraught with confusion. Without our non-verbal signals, messages can be misinterpreted or misconstrued, leading to uncertainty and anxiety. (He just texted, “Hi.” What does that mean?)
Who hasn’t deconstructed every syllable of a friend’s text exchange with their new lover, helping them agonize over ever punctuation mark? It can be a fun way to pass the time, or a psychological minefield. No texting means there’s nothing to analyze, and the bulk of your interactions take place face to face. What a relief.
You’re Creating (Good) Space
Artschwager says that since she and her new guy had stopped texting, they had time to actually miss each other. It made the times when they were actually together revelatory:
I spent my days exactly as I saw fit, and while I did, my mind wasn’t filled with worry over when he would text me or whether I should text him; my hand didn’t reflexively reach for my phone a dozen plus times a day. Anticipation took that anxiety’s place: I was excited to tell him about all the things I was reading, seeing, and doing. I had so many questions for him: How was his week? How was his writing? What did he eat? What was he reading? There was so much to talk about.
It can be fun to have a texting buddy when you’re feeling lonely, bored, or like you just need some attention. It’s also nice to have something to talk about with the person you’re dating that you haven’t already covered while texting incessantly every second you were apart.
On the other hand, avoiding complex conversations can torpedo relationships, or at least limit their development. People might be less likely to ghost if they couldn’t just text you back less and less until not responding at all is an option.
You’re Forced to Say Difficult Things In Person
This could be good, this good be bad, but the fact is, a lot of people use text to say the hard stuff. Like breakups. About one in five “texters” have been dumped this way, even though people mostly agree that this is an unacceptable way to end a relationship. DiDonato says leaning on texts to discuss difficult things is a way to avoid real growth:
While technology makes it easier to avoid having difficult face-to-face conversations, those conversations are often worth having in person, despite the discomfort they can bring. If nothing else, they are growth opportunities and adhere better to the social expectations for how a breakup should occur.
You can’t force people to act right in relationships, but saying “no texting’ is one way to set the precedent that all your important stuff happens in person. Text is just filler.