Jenny Block examines: The good and the bad of relationship texting
Texting can be a sticky wicket. It can serve as a tremendous way to communicate with your partner, especially if you’re long-distance dating. But it can also cause all sorts of misunderstandings. In fact, what makes texting so good is sometimes precisely what can make it go so badly.
Good: It can keep you in near-constant contact. These days, it doesn’t matter where you live or what kind of work you do, you can still keep in contact with your love throughout the day. Although it can be hard to take a phone call midday for many folks, nearly everyone can take a few moments to write a text without worrying about privacy since you don’t have to say a word out loud.
Bad: It can keep you in near-constant contact. Since you are likely available all the time, your partner may want you to be available all the time. Text-lag caused by one partner can send the other spiraling into a panic about the reason for the delay. And constantly talking all day long can lead to communicating about nothing, as well taking away the fun of seeing each other after you’ve been apart — even if you’ve only been apart for a few hours!
Good: It can help you to get flirty, and maybe even a little dirty. If you’re a little shy, especially when it comes to all things sexual, texting can offer you a super-safe way to play. You can let your inner freak flag and do it with a little distance to help you feel safe enough to do it.
Bad: It can help you to get flirty, and maybe even a little dirty. It can be a little too easy to go a little too far a little too fast and a little too soon. Flirt away and dare to step onto the wild side … just don’t forget the person you’re talking to. Know her sensibilities. And keep in mind that texts can be copied, photographed, and otherwise shared. You share it, it could be shared. That’s a rule live by.
Good: It can give you plenty of time to think about just what to say and how to say it. It can be hard to instantly say just what you’re thinking — or at least what you think you’re thinking. Having a little time to digest what is being said to you and to think about just exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it can be very helpful whether you’re talking about what’s for dinner or where you want to go for the holidays.
Bad: It can give you plenty of time to think about just what to say and how to say it. Conversations can go terribly wrong when you think and think and think to the point of thinking yourself over and out of what you wanted — and maybe even needed — to say. Overthinking what has been texted to you, reading and rereading and rereading texts, dwelling on every word and semi-colon can lead you down a path of no return. Don’t go down it!
In order to do your text best, there are a few things you can do. First, use punctuation wisely and consistently. If you always use an exclamation mark, don’t suddenly leave your sentence naked as a jaybird. It’s nearly impossible for your recipient to not read into that sort of omission.
Second, use emojis and emoticons judiciously. Things can go downhill fast if you’re using those silly faces to lighten the mood and the person on the other end of the text conversation thinks what’s being discussed is anything but a joke. One girl’s silly face is another girl’s stab to the heart.
Third, don’t text anything that is life or death. This means both literally and figuratively. If someone passes away; if your relationship is not going particularly well; if you’re upset or you’re angry … you get the idea. The biggest problem with texting is that you don’t have the benefit of the person’s intonation, body language, eye contact, etc. That’s no big deal when you’re discussing what you need to pick up at the hardware store that weekend. But it can be a monumental mess maker if you’re discussing having your feelings hurt or wanting to see other people.
And, perhaps most importantly of all, be more clear than you can even imagine could ever be necessary. It’s better to be understood and thought to be a little over the top when it comes to language than to give your textee the wrong idea … or even room to have to try to figure out what idea you were hoping to express.
Texting can be a fun way to keep in touch with someone you care about even if time or distance doesn’t allow you to be with one another as much as you would like. You simply have to be smart about how you use it. It can help to think about how you might take a certain thought expressed in a certain way as long as you also keep in mind how the person you’re talking to thinks.
If your partner is a sensitive soul, keep the teasing to a minimum. If she tends to be super literal, steer clear of anything that might sting if taken to the letter. If the receiver of your message never remembers a convo that was text only, then don’t share important details using that method. You get the idea.
Texting does not, cannot, should not replace face-to-face, or even telephonic, conversations. In other words, think of it as an extra, an add-on, a bonus track when it comes to communication and you’ll be just fine.
Block is the author of the The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex by Jenny Block, foreword by Betty Dodson.
Have a question about sex you want Jenny to address? Email it to [email protected].
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2016.