Love in the time of texting 2: Does your partner initiate text?

We've entered the age of text message power struggles. Is it really that surprising? This is a viable method of communication and it's not going away. So what are we complaining about, really? What goes through our minds when texters neglect to respond, and why do we feel this way?

The reality is that we are always technologically connected. Our cell phones make us immediately accessible. This means that if we disallow someone access—whether we mean to or not—we are making a statement.

Think of it this way: you are essentially standing in a room with someone, but not interacting with them. In some cases, this may be acceptable—perhaps you don’t know that person very well, or only interface with them on a professional level. These people will probably understand if you don’t initiate text. But what if your lover is standing in the room, and s/he’s talking to you, and you’re not answering? Or if s/he’s standing there, waiting for you to notice, and you don’t?

This idea has been germinating since God first planted cell phones in our social soil, and it has been supported in recent years by books like Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo’s 2007 He’s Just Not That Into You. Take the opening of Chapter 2:

Oh sure, they say they’re busy. They say that they didn’t have even a moment in their insanely busy day to pick up the phone. It was just that crazy. Bullshit. With the advent of cell phones and speed dialing it is almost impossible not to call you.

Call you…text you…whatever. It’s the same damn thing. Actually, no. It’s not. Texting is easier. Which is why we take it so personally. We assume our lover is avoiding us, or hiding something from us. We begin to wonder if it’s us, if we did something wrong. We question our attractiveness, our intelligence, even our performance in bed. We wonder:

“Why is this so easy for her, but so hard for me?”

“Why doesn’t she want to talk to me?”

“Is she seeing someone else?”

And considering the ease with which we clickety-click away on our hand held devices these days, none of the above questions are, I would argue, unreasonable.

With that said, I don’t think we should automatically assume our partner’s a-textuality is an admission of guilt. While some of us are right smack-dab on the crest of the new wave, others are still climbing the face. So what is the answer?

The answer is always communication. You might ask: how am I supposed to communicate with her if she won’t even answer my texts? My response is twofold. First, let’s not forget that texting is only one method of communication. If she won’t answer your texts, try calling her. If she won’t answer the phone, send her an email. Doesn’t answer the email, try a postcard. If that still doesn’t work, you might want to reconsider the relationship altogether.

And therein lies the second issue. If your relationship lacks communication, you might want to reassess how you’re communicating. Texting is not always the answer. In fact, it's often the problem. Consider this text, which I received earlier today:

“Not tonight baking”

What does this person mean? There’s no punctuation, no syntax, no grammatical structure. Does s/he mean:

(1) s/he doesn’t want to bake tonight, or

(2) that s/he can’t get involved with anything else, because s/he is scheduled to bake?

The first answer is, surprisingly, the correct one. See how easily misunderstandings come into play when we’re texting?

So maybe, if our partners aren’t key-stroking us as much as we’d like, we should be a little thankful. Texting is not the clearest form of communicate and not the best way for us to express our feelings. Even though we too-often find ourselves floating around in a digital world, we are still bodies that can talk to each other. Besides, wouldn’t you prefer a hand-stroke to a key-stroke, anyway?

My guy friend is having serious girl trouble. His lady friend doesn’t want to have…text.

“It makes me feel needy,” he moans, “and I’m not a needy person. It’s just that she doesn’t initiate texting.”

Laugh all you want, but this is a real problem. He complains of feeling inadequate, undesirable, unimportant, marginalized.

“I feel like she has the power because she knows that if she doesn’t text me, I’ll text her.”

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