In the age of instant everything, waiting for a response from someone you're dating can feel like it takes ages. It's natural to wonder what it means when your partner takes hours to text back. You might even wonder, “If if he takes hours to text back, should I do the same?” Knowing how to navigate this issue depends on how long you two have been together and how much it bothers you to be left on read, but if you feel like your girlfriend or boyfriend takes hours to text back every time, then it might be worth having a conversation about your texting styles.
According to NYC relationship expert Susan Winter, it’s probably not the best idea to leave your SO hanging, even if she or he takes hours to reply. "If you're prompt in returning text messages, your partner may learn to follow in your footsteps,” she says. “You've set a protocol for responding that encourages them to do the same. The precedent you set will be the precedent that remains.” But if they don’t follow your example, then here are some reasons why they consistently leave your texts on read, whether they mean to or not.
The Relationship Is New
It’s possible your boo doesn’t just understand how you like to communicate, especially if you're in a newer relationship. If timely responses are important to you, then it's OK to talk to them about it, especially if they’re consistently taking hours to reply. "In the early days of courting, we're continually looking any red flags that signal a 'break in the pattern,’” Winter explains. “This is the time when delays in text messages make us worry. What are they thinking? Are they pulling away? But when in doubt, ask. New daters are nervous daters. If you like them, it's worth an honest conversation."
They Don’t Feel Any Urgency
If you've been seeing your partner for a while and have developed a strong sense of comfort, a delay in response may be nothing to worry about. "When couples are comfortable with each other they don't feel as much of a sense of urgency," Winter says. "If your relationship is secure and you know that your partner is committed to you, a delay may simply mean they don't feel your text message requires an urgent response." And if you see each other frequently, then your partner may be waiting to speak with you in person about whatever you texted about.
Of course, if you're feeling like you want to establish some texting boundaries, it's OK to talk to your boo about texting regardless of how secure you relationship is. "Set a list of priorities and rank them according to value and urgency: You could have a code to begin your text that means 'this is urgent and I need your full attention and quick response.' The dog is really sick, my father is in the hospital, I've been injured, etc." Winter says.
They’re Busy Or Overwhelmed
Taking a while to respond to your texts could also mean your SO is busy with work or school. "Delays in returning your text message may mean nothing. Your partner could be with a client, driving a car, or tied up in an important meeting," Winter says. If you know your partner gets totally stressed at work or if Wednesday is the night they get dinner with their dad, it may keep you stress free to text them less when you know they're busy. And while it’s fair to speak up if the delay “makes you feel unimportant and devalued,” as Winters says, be careful before making any accusations.
As online dating coach Eric Resnick previously told Elite Daily, avoid the temptation to accuse your partner of blowing you off or disrespecting you before you know the circumstances. “It's possible that they may be too busy during the work day to get back to you immediately. It may also be that they feel overwhelmed by the number of texts that you send during the day,” he said. “Be open with your feelings and be open to theirs. If you do that, you will be able to find a way to communicate better in the future.”
They Forgot To Reply
It’s easy to open up a text and then forget all about it until hours later. It’s also easy to accidentally leave your phone at home, or let your phone battery die, or fall asleep before replying to a text, or claim you “didn’t see their message.” As online dating expert Julie Spira previously pointed out, when this becomes a frequent occurrence, then forgetfulness isn’t the issue. “If the excuse of not seeing your text message becomes a repeated theme, it’s because you’re low on the totem pole,” she said.
According to licensed marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson, if this is the case, then it’s important is discuss your texting wants and needs. “Let you partner know what it means to you and how it feels to know that you can connect with them during the day," Richardson says. "You are far more likely to get your needs met if you help your partner understand how you feel instead of just telling them what they are doing wrong." After making your needs clear, you should hope your SO stops letting your texts fall through the cracks.
They Don’t Consider You A Priority
No matter what excuses there may be, one fact usually remains true: The longer the lag, the less that person likely values the conversation. “Even if unintentional, lag time shows that you're not a priority and therefore they needn't bother to respond in a timely fashion,” Winter previously told Elite Daily. However, rather than accusing your partner of not caring about you or intentionally not replying on time, Winter says stating how cared for you feel when they reach out can make them feel appreciated and seen in your relationship.
When navigating phone etiquette with your partner, it's important to remember the role of texting in a relationship. "Don't expect texting to to build or foster your intimacy. Texting should be primarily for logistics and flirting, not big important conversations," Richardson says. Being mindful to use texting as a short tool to check in during the day, rather than as a primary source of communication, can knock texting stress before it builds.
Of course, if your partner's delays in response upset you, then go ahead and let them know. You deserve to feel supported in your relationship, IRL and on the phone.
Susan Winter, NYC relationship expert
Eric Resnick, online dating coach
Julie Spira, online dating expert
Nicole Richardson, licensed marriage and family therapist
Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.
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