When I first started dating after my divorce, I didn’t have a smart phone or a texting plan. When a man texted me, I’d get annoyed. “How dare he hike up my phone bill with useless texts? He didn’t even check to see if I had a texting plan!” It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, I was stressing about a few extra dollars and a keyboard I had to painfully scroll through to type out a sentence.
Today, most people have smart phones and use texting as an excellent means of supplementary communication. But technology can be a double-edged sword in dating. Texting is an easy, quick, and fun way to communicate with your date. But it can also serve as a poor (and sometimes misleading) substitute for real personal connection.
That’s when it fails miserably. I see many couples substituting texting for authentic connection. Misunderstood texts can ruin relationships.Whether you’re in the courting phase or in a long-term relationship, it can be confusing to figure out when to text and when you should just pick up the phone and talk or meet in person. How do you know when to text and when to call?
Talk by phone or in person when:
1. Conveying emotions. My basic #1 rule of dating etiquette is to speak your feelings. Don’t text or email them. Emotions are difficult to convey by text, and nuances often get lost. If you have something important to say, speak it, don’t type it. “I lv u” is so much better whispered in his ear than popping up on his iPhone. “I am angry at u” is better said face-to-face, even though it’s much easier to hide behind the safety of a text.
2. Confronting/difficult conversation. People notoriously shy away from difficult conversations. It’s so much safer to write it when the stakes are high. I encourage you to set aside some face-to-face time instead. It might feel scary, but if you have the right skills, confrontation is not as bad as you think. It’s an opportunity to bring you closer. And it’s really about being honest with each other, which is one of the cornerstones of a great relationship.
3. Breaking up. Remember the Sex and the City episode when the guy breaks up with Carrie Bradshaw on a Post-it? A breakup text is pretty much the 21st century version of that Post-it breakup. Please have the courage to say the tough things to each other. Breaking up should be done with dignity. Do it in person.
1. It’s informational. Text to tell him you’re going to be five minutes late. Text the address where you’ll be meeting for a date. Simple informational texts can be a good substitute for talking.
2. You’re thinking of him/flirting. It’s fun to flirt by texting, “Ur sexy,” or “Can’t wait to c u.” Texts can be fun and flirty between dates and phone calls. Just letting him know you’re thinking of him can make his day. Shopping at Victoria’s Secret for a sexy bra? Text him a photo with a flirty caption. That will bring a big smile to his face, especially if he’s sitting in a boring board meeting.
But be careful not to text too much too soon. And don’t get anxious if he doesn’t reply immediately. You can kill a relationship with anxiety. One of my clients received an inordinate amount of texts the day after a first date. The guy got angry when she didn’t immediately reply to his flirty texts, even though she said she was at work. Bad move! He was history before they even had a chance at a second date.
A talk/text/email dating story
“Julie” initiated contact with a handsome guy she met online. They quickly progressed from email to IM on the dating site. A first phone call followed, and two days later, they had a video “date.” He lived a few hours away, so this was a great way to see if there was any physical attraction. Oh yeah! The attraction was strong. Julie was excited. Finally, someone with potential!
Flirty texts followed throughout the weekend. This was fun.
They had their first date the next week. There was attraction and conversation flowed.
Second date a week later. All was going very well.
And then the texts began. Nonstop texting. And the initial flirty excitement was gone.
Instead of, “Good morning gorgeous,” she got, “Good morning!” Instead of a morning call on his way to work, she got this text: “One more client and then lunch!”
Julie was confused. Why the sudden switch to nondescript texts?
Frustrated, she texted him back, “Enjoy your day. I prefer talking to texting. Speak to u soon.”
She heard nothing from him for several days.
She finally wrote him an email:
“I’m not sure what’s going on, but you dropped out of communication suddenly and with no explanation. If you’re angry/upset with me about something, I’d like to have an open discussion. We went from ‘hot’ to ‘not’ in a few weeks’ time. I am really confused about what’s going on.
It doesn’t feel good to me to have you just drop out of my life without talking about what happened. Please give me the courtesy of an explanation.”
He immediately called. He claimed that nothing was wrong, and they spoke for about an hour.
And then the texting began again. No calls, only texts.
My client was frustrated.
I advised her to let him go. He was communicating in a very immature way. At this rate, there was no way to escalate the relationship. You can’t develop intimacy through occasional texting.
She left him to make room for a better relationship.
Have you ever had a misunderstanding because you texted instead of talked? Please share your comments below.
For more midlife dating advice and a copy of my FREE report, “The Top Three Mistakes Midlife Daters Make (and how to turn them around to find love now)” click here.