More and more, dating and messaging apps make it easier to initiate and maintain relationships with people through the hand-held screens of our phones. In a lot of ways, that’s a good thing: Dating apps can be a great way to meet people, and communicating over phones can make long-distance relationships feel closer. Sometimes, though, the virtual gap between two people can cause major problems.
So let’s say you meet someone — on a dating app, at a bar, you name it — and you don’t stop messaging for a whole month and a half. You talk day and night, sometimes until four in the morning. You even miss them when you go some time without chatting. But through it all, you’re left with a big question: When are you actually going to see each other in person? If the connection is really there, wouldn’t they want to go on a date?
If you’re wondering why someone hasn’t initiated seeing you in-person yet or seemingly responds to every advance you make with an excuse, the reality is that you might be headed toward a text-only, go-nowhere virtual relationship. You might not even realize it, or maybe you do realize it and you’re fine with it — and that’s OK — but either way, you need to keep your intentions and expectations in check, according to dating a relationship expert, Cora Boyd.
“The thing about in-text relationships and message relationships is that they kind of exist in a fantasy world, because you're not getting all the information,” Boyd tells Elite Daily. “So it's really, really easy for both people to project onto each other in a way that can lead to a lot of disappointment, because it's not founded in reality.”
If you’re stewing over thoughts along the lines of “he texts me every day but doesn't make plans'' or “she texts but doesn't ask me out,” this might be an indication that it’s time to reevaluate what you want. To help you take stock of what’s going on, here are some expert-backed signs that you're in a text-only relationship that isn't going anywhere IRL.
1. They Don’t Make Plans
Regardless of how often you text someone, if they make no effort or show no enthusiasm for trying to meet you in person, you’re likely entering into something more akin to a situationship, where the only way you’ll ever connect is through messaging.
Boyd advises that if they make zero moves, you should initiate the meetup and take note of how they react. “Make it clear what it is that you want, and do your part to put it in motion to meet up in person,” Boyd says. “If they're weird about it, then you know.”
Especially if you’ve progressed past just lighthearted chatting — maybe you’re sexting but not meeting up — not seeing each other in person will eventually feel odd, or at least it should if you both want an IRL relationship. So, if they are unwilling to make concrete plans to see you, they’re likely just not interested in progressing the relationship to that.
2. They’re Always Busy
There’s no way that everyone is busy all the time. If you find that the girl or guy you’re talking to sounds super down to meet in person, but conveniently always has other plans or something that comes up, they’re likely just playing you. In truth, they probably just don’t want to meet up with you at all.
“When the guy you're dating has time for his friends on the weekend and his colleagues at happy hour during the week, but when you ask how his week's going he says he's slammed and so busy, it's a definite red flag the relationship is going nowhere," Lori Salkin, a matchmaker and dating coach, previously told Elite Daily.
3. They Make Up Excuses
Using excuses other than simply being “busy” should be a pretty clear sign that your relationship will be stuck in text mode forever. If their car is seemingly always breaking down or they have one too many sick relatives needing aid, it probably just means they’re not invested and don’t have the decency to tell you straight up that they’re not interested in anything outside of messaging.
People who actually want a relationship will express genuine interest and desire to see you in person and get to know you more. If “dating” your almost-partner doesn't involve any actual IRL dates, it should be a major red flag that they aren't willing to give any real effort into the relationship, according to Trina Leckie, breakup coach and host of the Breakup BOOST podcast. “When someone cares, they want to take you places, spend quality time making new memories, surprise you from time to time, [and] plan vacations,” Leckie previously told Elite Daily.
4. They Only Want To Talk Over Text
Messaging can only get you so far in any relationship. And while it can be a helpful and fun supplement to other modes of conversation, it just won’t let you get to a certain level of emotional connection.
“Text is a limited mode of communication because it’s very easy to misinterpret and project [someone’s] tone ... with potential for wires to get crossed,” Boyd says. “It's just not the same caliber of communication as in-person or even talking on the phone or FaceTiming.”
If they only want to talk over text and refuse to converse any other way, such as video chat, phone call, or even voice memos (which, really, are the bare minimum), it could be a sign that messaging is as far as they intend to go.
5. They Don’t Want To Do Virtual Dates
There is a chance that the person you’re messaging is just nervous or not ready to meet you in person yet — and that can be OK, as long as they show their interest in you in other ways outside of text boxes.
“Sometimes people are just nervous, so they keep in this weird virtual purgatory stage,” Boyd explains. “There's separation, there's distance, and so sometimes people can feel more comfortable expressing themselves in that context, because it feels safer for now.”
If you’re willing to be patient and invest in virtual dates (let’s face it, Zoom dates are officially mainstream), interacting in other ways, such as watching movies or playing video games together, is an indication that they are interested in moving forward with you. If they also reject these activities, it should be pretty clear that the relationship is going nowhere and they have no intention of meeting up with you.
It’s still possible to salvage a text-only relationship if you’re really interested in progressing beyond this stage. The most important thing to do is to voice your thoughts and desires to the person you’re talking to. If you do that, it’s up to the other person to reassure you that they do want something beyond virtual romance, or not.
“I always encourage people to get into [in-]person [dating] ASAP,” Boyd says. “If you're meeting someone on a dating app, then sure, you might want to text a little bit back and forth to feel it out, build rapport, and figure out if this is a person that you like [and] that there’s potential for a connection with. But really, meeting in person is what you should be aiming for.” Unless, of course, you’re cool with a virtual sexting buddy.
Having a relationship that stays in messages or DMs is totally fine if that is what you and the other person both want. Just be aware that interacting with someone virtually isn’t necessarily representative of the person they are in reality — even if they're not intentionally obfuscating anything about themselves. “It’s just important to be conscious of the fact that in a text-only relationship, it can get distorted,” says Boyd. You’re projecting a version of this person based on only the information you have.
All in all, if you’re interested in someone and stoked to be talking with them, the most important thing is to get your intentions out in the open. If a face-to-face date is what you’re looking for, it might be time to drop the cutie you’ve been texting, because you deserve to have what you truly want when it comes to love.
Cora Boyd, dating and relationship expert
Lori Salkin, matchmaker and dating coach
Trina Leckie, breakup coach and host of the Breakup BOOST podcast
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