"Are you mad at me?" I ask my husband this more often than I care to admit. The answer is almost always no, but I am so attuned to my partner's expressions and mannerisms — especially when it comes to his texting style — that any change has me on high alert. That may sound a little neurotic, but there are actually certain texting signals your significant other is mad at you, and watching out for these can tell you that your SO is upset without you having to ask the classic "Are you mad at me?" question.
Not all changes in behavior indicate that your SO is angry — or, at least, angry with you. But if you do notice a difference in the way that your partner is texting, it's worth asking what's up. Elite Daily spoke to Michelle McSweeney, a researcher and linguist who studies the way we communicate digitally, and she tells us that texting changes matter. "More than anything," she reveals, "you can tell when your partner is mad when there’s a distinct change in their text messaging that you didn’t see before." If you suspect that your SO might be PO'd, then look out for these telltale texting signs.
They Aren't Using Any Exclamation Points
Not everyone is like me and ends nearly every sentence in a text with an exclamation point. (Seriously — I usually have to go through and delete two out of every three exclamation marks after constructing a lengthy text message.) But if your partner is also a fan of enthusiastic punctuation and their texts suddenly contain none, that could be cause for concern.
"We write our emotions into our text messages in ways that we often don’t even realize," McSweeney says. If your partner who usually responds to plans with, "Sounds good!!!" is suddenly saying, "Sounds good," their lack of exclamation marks could indicate a lack of enthusiasm, which means that something is holding them back — that something perhaps being irritation with you.
They're Using A Lot More Punctuation Than Usual
Similarly, a person who usually doesn't use punctuation at the end of their sentences is likelier to end every sentence with a period if they're upset. Periods have a finality and terseness that punctuation-free staccato sentences do not, and the frequent use of them suggests that your partner may be feeling short with you.
According to McSweeney, "More formal forms indicate social distance, something that we typically feel when we feel angry or upset." Rather than saying, "OK sounds cool I'll see you then," a partner who's upset might instead say, "OK. Sounds cool. I'll see you then." That might not seem like a big difference, but in text (which is usually informal), a full stop has the power to indicate anything from irony to insincerity to anger.
They're Writing Really Long Messages Instead Of Many Short Ones
You might think that someone who is angry with you would keep their messages brief, but sometimes, the opposite can happen. If your partner usually treats texting like instant messaging, sending you short, informal texts (and sometimes more than one in a row), this might change if they are feeling irritated.
As McSweeney explains, if your SO "suddenly writes really long messages when they usually write many short ones," this might indicate that they're trying to cut a conversation short by saying everything that they need to in one text. For example, rather than saying in three separate texts, "I'm running late," then, "I'll be there as soon as I can," then, "I'll text you when I'm close," an irritated partner might say this all in one message in an attempt to limit the number of messages they're sending to you.
They Aren't Using Emojis
Not everyone feels the need to sprinkle smileys and hearts into their messages. Emojis are oftentimes used to lighten the mood or soften a blow, and they may even add clarity, since a partner can't read your tone through your texts alone. If an emoticon lover is suddenly no longer including emojis in their texts, then they might just be feeling, well... 😠.
"If your partner is an emoji user and you notice that they don’t use any emojis in one or a couple of messages, then you can probably suspect that something is up," McSweeney says. A person who's upset doesn't care to lighten the mood, after all (though some extra clarity probably would be helpful for you in that moment).
They Aren't Referencing Your Shared Abbreviations Or Inside Jokes
Just like with punctuation, a partner who usually uses shorthand in texts might switch to formalities to make a point. A change as small as saying "I'll talk to you later" rather than "ttyl" suggests that the feeling of familiarity they usually feel with you is currently lacking.
"There may be greater meaning in word choice and the use of fully-formed words rather than abbreviations," McSweeney suggests. "Abbreviations and colloquial or playful texts generally indicate a feeling of social closeness or positivity." If a partner starts texting you more like they're sending an email to a professor than a text to a close friend, something might just be up.
A change in texting behavior doesn't necessarily indicate anger. "For example," says McSweeney, "if you're generally a happy and exuberant person but are just feeling grumpy that day, your texting will likely show that in ways you may not even realize." Even so, if you notice any of these changes in your partner's texting habits, it's worth having a conversation, if only to find out if there's something on your SO's mind.