Forget the ‘rules’ about how to text someone you’re dating – the most important thing, according to new research, is that your texting styles are compatible.
A confession: I hate texting people I fancy. Before I was in a relationship, the ‘texting phase’ – that period in the early stages of dating where, modern etiquette dictates, you and your paramour should be hurling flirtatious missives back and forth 24 hours a day – always filled me with dread. I had no interest in trying to compose an impressively witty and charming message when I was at work, waiting for the bus or out with friends. I found it a stressful, time-consuming distraction from real life. I found it boring.
In my experience, getting sucked into a texting relationship also creates an artificial sense of intimacy. Messaging someone constantly when you first meet can make you feel like you know them profoundly, when in reality you don’t know them at all – not least because so many people are very different IRL to how they seem over text. This gulf between text-person and real-person has left me feeling unsettled and disappointed in the past, to the point that I generally steered clear of getting to know the text-person at all.
As a millennial, I know my antipathy towards texting is relatively unusual: many of my friends love keeping in touch with people they’re dating via text. So it’s lucky that my boyfriend hates texting just as much as me – if not more. After we went on our first date, I told him bluntly that I’d rather catch up in person than send endless messages between meet-ups. He was relieved.
Two years on, we speak on the phone every day that we don’t see each other. But we’ve never, ever engaged in on-screen small talk. If he wanted to text all the time, this might be a problem. But he doesn’t – so it’s not.
According to new research, this compatible approach to texting could be one of the things that makes our relationship work. A study presented at this year’s annual convention of the American Psychological Association shows that couples with similar texting habits tend to be happier and more fulfilled – regardless of the content of the messages they send to one another.
Researchers surveyed 205 adults between the ages of 18 and 29 who were in romantic relationships, asking questions about their texting habits, emotional security and relationship satisfaction.
Results showed that people who described their partner as having a similar texting style to themselves felt more satisfied with their relationship. Whether the messages were adoring love notes or complaints didn’t matter so much, and neither did the frequency of the texts. The most important thing was the similarity in approach.
The findings were presented by Dr Leora Trub, a psychology professor at Pace University in New York. Her research expanded on previous research showing that couples who communicate similarly in any medium are happier in their relationships.
“How couples texted was more important to the satisfaction of the relationship than how frequently they texted,” she said.
In many ways, Dr Trub’s findings aren’t that surprising. A friend of mine once dumped a guy because she found his texts too embarrassing (there were lots of winking emojis and teen-style abbreviations involved).
Similarly, Stylist’s editorial assistant, Moya Lothian-McLean, says her interest in some men has been influenced by whether or not she likes the way they text.
“Similar texting styles are so important because that’s how the majority of communication is done when you’re both leading busy lives,” she says. “I once dated someone whose texting was erratic and monosyllabic, and it made me feel less enthused about the whole thing.
“In contrast, a guy I saw very briefly and only met about four times in real life sticks in my head as a more ‘significant’ relationship – because our text interactions were so fizzy and in tune with one another.”
Reassuringly, given our modern reliance on text communication, it seems that there’s no one way of texting that’s more likely to secure and maintain a successful relationship. According to Dr Trub’s research, it’s finding someone with a similar texting style to you that indicates romantic satisfaction.
But if you’re currently dating someone who texts very differently to you, don’t be put off. Social media editor Sarah Lakos says she and her fiancé have wildly disparate approaches to messaging. She’s a self-professed “staccato-texter” prone to sending 10 stream-of-consciousness messages in a row, while he tends to stick to pragmatic one-liners.
“It doesn’t bother me in the least because while our text-life may be out of whack to some, I know we’re better at communicating in-person – which is the way it’s meant to be, right?” she says. “No one should want to be acing their text-chat 24/7 while having nothing to say in the flesh.
“Plus, the ratio has become an in-joke: it’s better to laugh about it than to unpick something we see as a secondary communication tool.”