When you first start dating someone new, figuring out texting etiquette can be a bit tricky. You’ve likely experienced that anxious feeling after waiting for what seems like an eternity for them to text you back, and then, when they finally do, you’ve probably asked yourself, "How long should I wait to text him back?,” or, “When's the right time to respond to her message?,” and of course, "Will this ever feel any less stressful?"
According to relationship and etiquette expert April Masini, when it comes to texting, your response time can send its own message. “People definitely keep their eyes on the clock when it comes to texting," Masini previously told Elite Daily. "The text-back rate is used to indicate interest in the relationship. This is especially true when the relationship is new. If someone texts back right away, that text back rate can indicate interest! If someone waits a day or a week to text back, that text back rate can indicate an absence of interest."
When the relationship is new, deciding how long to wait to text back can be tricky, especially if you don’t want to seem too interested. However, plotting how long you're going to wait to respond to a text message — instead of just naturally responding as your schedule permits — is a form of game-playing.
As NYC relationship expert Susan Winter told Elite Daily, game-playing creates tension, which might not be an effective way to establish a genuine connection. “Humans seek resolution and clarity," Winter previously told Elite Daily. "The partner that creates tension sets up a situation where [the other person] won't know where [they] stand. This dating game keeps one's prey on guard and insecure.” Although keeping a date on their toes in this way might be tempting, it’s also a form of manipulation, and before you engage in it, you should ask yourself what exactly you're expecting to achieve by doing this.
If your goal is to maintain power, then this might work for a while, but it’s also probably not sustainable and could make you seem disingenuous. “It creates obsession within people,” dating coach John Keegan tells Elite Daily. “What it tells you about the person that's doing it is that they are manipulative, they are trying to control, and they are trying to have power.”
In the larger scheme of things, how long you wait or don't wait to reply to a text is most likely not going to make a person with a genuine interest in you like or dislike you more. The people who typically respond positively to games are more often than not the people who are in it for the chase. Unfortunately, people who fall into this category are usually showing interest for the wrong reasons. Although some people may seem to be responding "well" (i.e., they are eager to meet up, they're double-texting you, and they overall seem super interested in you) to longer reply times, these kinds of games only work for a little while.
"The problem is when the other person takes equally as long to respond,” dating coach and relationship expert James Preece previously told Elite Daily. “This leads to a very stilted conversation that risks both parties losing interest." So, what is an OK amount of time to wait before responding? Preece and Winter agreed that sending text responses should be natural. This means that — if you’re in meetings all day —there’s nothing wrong with texting back a few hours after you received their message. If you have the day off and get a text while you’re free, then it’s totally fine to respond within a few minutes of receiving it.
However, if you’re still worried about seeming too available, first ask yourself, what kind of texter are they? How do they respond when you text them first? Are there a couple of minutes in between each of their texts? Are there a couple of minutes separating their texts in the beginning of the convo that turn into larger, 20-minute gaps? Do they like to text first, then wait forever to respond to you, if they do at all? Mirroring their texting frequency can be a safe way to mirror their interest level, but again, if the result is that communication is too minimal to propel the relationship forward, then this might not be the most productive method of communicating with someone who you actually like.
If you value keeping busy, consider booking your calendar with fun events that you can look forward to. Go out of your way to comfortably fill your schedule. This way, you’re accomplishing productive things that will actually affect your ability to respond. Been wanting to get focus on your health? Then it's time to start hitting the gym or enroll in a fitness class. And guess what? That's right, you'll be away from your phone for a bit. Planning to hang out with your bestie? Awesome! How about turning off your phone so you can really enjoy their company without distractions? Instead of checking your phone compulsively in class or while at work, put it on silent and check it during your break.
The next time you meet up with them, not only will they be totally impressed with how multi-faceted you are, but you'll actually have transformed yourself into the person that you otherwise were putting effort into seeming more like — someone who's got too much going on to let someone they're dating consume them. Or, better yet, you could say IDGAF to the whole situation and respond to his text or her text whenever you want, despite how it might come off. “In the long run, no healthy relationship can be formed from a polluted foundation,” said Winter. “Game gets game. Real gets real. When you start with 'game,' it's almost impossible to convert to 'real.’”
Anyone who's worth their salt will be super pumped to hear from you exactly when they hear from you.
April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert
Susan Winter, relationship expert
John Keegan, dating coach
James Preece, dating coach and relationship expert
Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.
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