I love texting. Wait, let me rephrase that: I am grateful for texting. That's because I remember the dark ages when you used to have to actually — ugh —
call people. Fortunately for some, those dark days are over, but even texting is not without little, irritating quirks, like when you get left on read or when someone takes forever to text back. (OK, maybe not forever, but it can feel def like it sometimes.) If you feel like you’re regularly left hanging, it can be really frustrating, especially if it’s your partner who’s taking forever to reply.
According to clinical psychologist
Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., you may not have reason to worry, even if it feels like she or he takes 12 hours to reply sometimes. “People text on different cadences depending on a couple of different factors,” he tells Elite Daily, adding that those factors could include what they’re doing and their own personal texting style. “One of the things I caution people is that there very often is a context to why they’re responding quicker or slower that may have nothing to do with you or their interest.” But if their slow response time bothers you regardless, then here’s how you should approach this tricky subject.
How Long Should You Reasonably Wait For A Reply From Your Partner?
Before you decide what to say to your partner, you may first be wondering how long is
too long wait for a reply from them. As NYC relationship expert Susan Winter tells Elite Daily, that all depends on a few factors. For instance, “If you’re in an exclusive relationship where there’s trust and a good sense of communication, a couple of hours would be OK — especially if your partner’s busy at work or traveling.” Winter says to only consider getting worried when you "already suspect something may be amiss in [your] relationship.” She also suggests noting when there’s “a break in the pattern. This can often be a red flag.”
If your partner normally gets back to you pretty quickly and then starts letting hours pass, Winter says it's understandable to get a little nervous. “This is especially the case if there’s no good reason for the delay. At this point it looks like a case of disrespect,” she says. “And anything longer than 12 hours begins to look like something far more problematic — an illness, a crisis, or direct avoidance.” Bottom line: If they take more than 12 hours to respond and don’t offer an explanation, you have reason to feel wary.
What Reasons Might Your Partner Have For Their Texting Behavior?
Before initiating a conversation, you should also consider the reasons why your SO’s texts are consistently delayed. As Winter previously pointed out, if you and your boo have been seeing each other for a while, then
they may not “feel as much of a sense of urgency” when you texts pop up on their screen. It’s also possible they’re busy or overwhelmed at work and don’t have time to reply, or they keep opening up your messages without remembering to reply.
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 told Elite Daily. Your partner is likely not keeping your messages on read to be intentionally cruel, but if constantly being made to wait makes you feel unimportant or devalued, it’s important to speak up.
How Should You Confront Your Partner About Their Texting Behavior?
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Assuming that the delay in response is not just a one-off or isn’t accompanied by a good explanation, it’s reasonable to bring up consistent texting lags with your partner. Klapow advises opening the conversation in a non-accusatory way, with the purpose of seeking information. “I would communicate that you are wondering why there seems to be such a delay,” he says. He suggests asking questions about if there are times your partner just isn’t able to respond, or what they see as an appropriately timely texting response. The overall point, he says, is to understand each others’ communication style and expectations, not make demands.
Winter offers some suggestions on how to initiate a conversation about how your partner’s “habitual problem of being tardy with their texts … makes you feel.” According to Winter, focusing on the effect it has on you — rather than coming at them with an accusatory tone — will help prevent them from going on the defensive and make them more likely to hear you out. She suggests sending a text like one of these to your partner when their response lags:
When you don’t respond to me, I feel like a non-priority. That hurts. When it takes a couple of hours to hear back from you, I feel diminished and unimportant to you. It really makes me happy when you text me back right away. It makes me feel closer to you.
Another important thing to consider is
how you’ve been texting them. If you’re spamming them with texts in a short time, or asking three questions all at once in a four-inch-long block, your partner might not have the ability to respond quickly or with an in-depth text. “Those are the kinds of things that sometimes are hard for people to process,” Klapow says. “And that should be part of your conversation.”
What Should You Do If Your Partner’s Texting Behavior Doesn’t Change?
If nothing changes after you've spoken to your partner about how you feel, Winter says you may want to first try digging a little deeper in order to see if you can get to the root of the issue. “Ask your partner why they don’t bother to respond,” suggests Winter. “Is it that they hate texting? Is there a reason for the conscious neglect of a response?” She adds that it’s important to “explain that you’re not trying to monitor their activity. You’re trying to establish a natural and fluid flow of communication that reflects mutual respect for each other,” adding, “Explain that a timely response acknowledges your text and makes for a happy partnership.”
Klapow agrees, saying, you should “make it about the relationship” instead of something your partner has supposedly done wrong. After all, if someone simply ignored or didn’t reply to a question in person, it would be unacceptable, so it shouldn’t be all that different over text. “This has to do with how you communicate,” Klapow adds. “You wouldn’t just not say anything. You might say, ‘I’m busy, can I answer you in 10 minutes?’ … Texting sort of works the same way.”
The question now is: If your partner isn’t changing their texting behavior, is that reason enough to end a relationship? Winter says it really depends. For example, “if the only place your relationship is suffering is in the ‘text realm,’ you may still be fine. Every relationship has its issues. If you know your partner loves you (yet has this quirk), you may just have to suck it up. Or, suggest they call you.” However, it can also be a symptom of a larger problem in the relationship, one worth taking a deeper look at. “A lapse in communication is only an issue when it’s the tip of the iceberg,” she says. “If this is one of many issues where you find yourself disrespected and marginalized, then do yourself a favor and reevaluate your partnership.”
One final thing to consider: Is this just an issue of them being a little tardy in answering you? Or is it really just another symptom of a more serious problem in the relationship? Really, only you can answer that question, but it may mean facing truths you’ve been avoiding. You deserve to be in a relationship where you feel valued and respected, and if being left on read is messing with that, then it’s time to speak up.
Experts: Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist Susan Winter, NYC relationship expert Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.