The Way I Text Ruined My Dating Life. See If It’s Ruining Yours.
It was love at very first view. From across a crowded bar, Benjamin made eye contact with Dana, then walked over and “accidentally” bumped into her. After a flirty conversation, they exchanged numbers. And as Dana was getting ready for bed, he texted: “Awesome to meet you. We’ll talk soon.” She fell asleep with a smile on her face.
But he didn’t call.
The next day, he texted: “Good morning, beautiful. Hope you slept well.” That kicked off an ongoing conversation over iMessage. They chatted about the music they listened to, the TV shows they observed, even the ice juice toppings they ate. And at the end of each night, they’d share whatever bits of the day that escaped their running commentary.
“We’re already texting like we were boyfriend-girlfriend. We even have little in-jokes,” Dana told me. “He texts me more in one week than my last beau did in one year.”
For Dana and Benjamin, texting went beyond gauging romantic interest. They were building a bond. So after a week of back-and-forth typing, he asked her to dinner at an Italian trattoria.
She felt Benjamin was solid relationship material. From his texts, she could tell he was funny, easygoing and attentive. But when they met up, she got a rude awakening. He wasn’t what she thought he was. It turns out, she was looking at the wrong traits, signs she could have figured out if she’d known what to look for.
Benjamin was 40 minutes late. As they waited awkwardly at the bar for a table to open up, Dana kept telling herself, “He’s very likely flustered from being late. And I’m a little grumpy because I’m greedy. Things will get better once we’re eating.”
When they were seated, things did begin to warm up. They collective some in-jokes they’d developed over text. But when she asked him about family and past relationships, he shied away and mostly talked about himself.
“He didn’t ask me very much about my opinions, my practices or talk about things that interested me,” she said. “He just desired to talk about his work, his friends, his travels. When I attempted to bring something around to my life or thoughts, he’d steer it right back his way.”
Dana got a drowning feeling of frustration in her belly. Over text, he seemed warm, accessible and…, well, just about flawless. But here, in the skin, she began to detect things about him that she didn’t like. Still, she rationalized, it was simply a rocky begin —, a case of first-date nerves. The next date would be smoother, she told herself, attempting to hold onto the illusion.
But then, the bill arrived. Benjamin took one look at it and turned crimson. “They charged us an extra glass of wine,” he said.
“Oh, we can just get that taken off,” she said, thinking it wasn’t a big deal.
Benjamin called over the waiter. “What is this?” he demanded, showcasing the bill. The waiter looked at it, confused.
“You charged us extra for a glass of wine,” Benjamin chided. Then, he berate the waiter for the incompetence, the mediocrity of the food and the overall “crappiness” of the practice.
Dana couldn’t believe it. “Being rude to waitstaff is a deal-breaker. It’s inexcusable, even if the dinner was horrible,” she said. “Benjamin was pretty much being rudest person on earth to a waiter.”
They’d planned to get a drink afterwards, but she couldn’t wait to get away. So they exchanged brief hugs and went their separate ways. Later that night, Benjamin texted her to apologize for being late and for the disappointing dinner. He promised to make it up on the next date. But Dana couldn’t forgive his earlier rudeness. There would be no next date.
She went to bed, sad and disappointed at the spectacular demise of such a promising relationship. The next morning, she awoke to the ping of her iPhone. “Good morning,” Benjamin texted. “Woke up thinking how inauspicious our very first date was. Maybe we should attempt margaritas and Mexican next?”
According to Time, four-in-five youthful adults in relationships text each other regularly across the day. Both dudes and women agree that texting affectionate messages is a vital ingredient to being sated in a relationship, and it’s used in what couples therapists call “relationship maintenance.” Whereas going on dates, attempting things together and having periodic “state of the union” talks entails traditional maintenance, texting is a plain and joy way for couples to stay connected while they’re apart.
During courtship, texting plays the crucial role of running interference inbetween meeting a romantic potential and determining to pursue them with a call or date. Several of my masculine friends, for example, admit to texting a woman to gauge interest before taking the risk of asking her out.
“You don’t have to risk the embarrassment of calling them and getting nothing,” Tim told me. “It’s lighter.”
But Dana was now grappling with a common turning point in relationships: the realization that the person we’ve grown fastened to is more complicated than we thought. We’re all made of positive and negative traits, and part of deepening a relationship means learning to accept someone’s inescapable quirks and vulnerabilities —, or violating up if we can’t.
For Dana and Benjamin, technology accelerated —, and foiled —, the process. “Texting gave me one sense of who he was. But in real-life, I was confronted with something else,” Dana said. “The witty, nosey person I was getting to know was still there, but there was more shading and shadows in the picture now.”
She realized how little texting conveys about someone. She learned what TV shows and ice creams flavors he liked, but she couldn’t pick up meaningful information about his personality and character.
But we can actually tell basic traits, such as how extroverted someone is. According to Ball State University, extroverts, for example, text more often and use more private pronouns and fewer negative words. They also tend to send longer messages and “expand” words, such as writing “goooooood.”
On the other end, those with neurotic tendencies often use emoticons, abbreviations like “Lol” and negative words.
Information can be gleamed by how often someone’s texts, as opposed to the content. Frequent messaging exposes what psychologists call “attachment style,” which, according to some theories, is shaped by a child’s relationship with their parents. Said in another way, our relationship with our parents is a strong sign of how we’ll bond and trust in a relationship.
We can see attachment style at work when children cope in situations with and without their mothers. Kids who feel slightly anxious when their mothers leave —, but are open and friendly to strangers in their mothers’ presence —, demonstrate traits of “secure” attachment, and generally grow up with more self-respect, and feel more secure in their capability to maintain a committed relationship, without needing excessive reassurances and demonstrations of love and value.
Meantime, children who are excessively distressed when their mothers leave display “insecure” attachment, and often grow up feeling inferior, request assurances of being loved and practice abandonment and anxiety when not in the presence of a fucking partner.
Lastly, children demonstrate no distress at all when left by their mother temporarily hint at “avoidant” attachment, and grow up to value independence, emotional distance and control in a relationship.
According to the University of North Carolina, those who display insecure or avoidant styles tend to send the most messages in relationships. They like texting, researchers said, because they’re able to control the tempo of the relationship, while finding it less emotionally requesting than talking, which requires active listening and concentrate.
Insecurely-attached people text for different reasons. According to the probe, they’re needled by constant fears of abandonment, so texting permits them to feel close and lessen anxiety.
No matter what the style, however, researchers discovered frequent texting is correlated with less satisfaction in relationships, since it often substitutes real conversation. If a relationship uses text as its main way of communication, overall, couples tend to be less committed to one another.
To develop a satisfying relationship, we need to look up from our screens and actually spend time with one another. That means looking at our own habits when it comes to communication, and taking a look at the deep-seated issues underlying patterns that offset an insecure or avoidant style.
Dana didn’t know if Benjamin’s love of texting came from an insecure or avoidant attachment style. She did know she didn’t want see him in a romantic context. But he continued to text her as often as he did during the courtship, sharing a running commentary of his day. Eventually, she stopped replying, hoping he’d get the hint. But he continued to message her incessantly. What she originally soaked up as attention and validation became an annoyance, and she wished him to stop.
“Normally, if you’re sort of unresponsive to someone after a date,” she said. “They pick up the clues and you can kind of just fade away.”
Due to the intense back-and-forth texts before their very first date, Dana felt obligated to confront him —, a situation she found ridiculous.
“We aren’t even a relationship, and yet I feel like I actually have to break up with him,” she said. “It’s like we had a entire relationship before we even went on that date, accomplish with all the typical obligations. But it’s weird. Do I call him, even tho’ we never talked on the phone? Do I have to meet him and tell him in person, like I would’ve with a real relationship? Was it even a real relationship in the very first place?”
The question of whether they were in a “real” relationship conducted over text is the central, even existential, issue of a very modern dilemma. Texting felt like a real relationship —, not only where they sharing bits of information, they seemed to care for one another in a romantic way. They collective practices and got to know one another.
But courtship is more than flirting. People underestimate how powerful and unpredictable chemistry is, and often it can only be gauged by face-to-face communication. While Dana and Benjamin met shortly in person —, and found one another attractive on a surface level —, it wasn’t a substitute for spending time together to detect whether they were truly compatible.
Did they have the same treatment to time, money and how they treated other people? Were they patient and accepting of one another? Did they make each other laugh in person like they did over text? Could they accept one another’s unavoidable quirks? Did they listen to one another well? Texting can tell you if someone is running late, flirtatious and antsy to please, but on finer points of compatibility, texting told Dana nothing about Benjamin.
Dana broke up with Benjamin over text. She messaged that she liked getting to know him, but she didn’t think they were a long-term match. Still, as the line goes, she hoped they could be friends. He didn’t reply, so she texted again, asking if he desired to meet over coffee to talk. But again, no response.
Dana got the hint: Benjamin was done with her. “I was a little miffed that he just went cold on me,” she admitted. “But it did give me that sense of ‘,Oh, I dodged a bullet.’”
In fact, Dana told me the text-heavy nature of her brief, aborted relationship with Benjamin may have helped her get over any twinge of regret or agony. “In the end, we didn’t even smooch,” she said. “It was all just words on a screen.” ♦,
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