A Linguist Explains How To Text Without Giving Your Partner Anxiety

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When I’m dating people, one of the first things I consider is whether our communication styles are compatible. And I’m not just talking about face-to-face conversations — I’m also focused on whether we’re a good match over text. The truth is, everyone’s preferred style and frequency of texting is different, and in order to be a better texter in your relationship, you need to understand how your partner communicates. Texting compatibility (understanding and respecting each other’s digital communication styles) is way more important than you might think.

It’s so important, in fact, that I’d argue it needs its own term. What do you call it when you and your partner get along great IRL, but you aren’t meshing over text? According to linguist and researcher Michelle McSweeney, who studies the way we communicate digitally, this means you aren’t “textpatible” as a couple. McSweeney and I cohost a dating podcast called Subtext, and in our May 2 episode, we delved into this very concept — what it means when you send more emojis than someone else, or when one partner is generally more communicative during the day than the other. McSweeney coined the term “textpatibillity” to describe the problem. For some people, it’s a no-brainer to be texting back and forth all day long, but for others, it feels like too much to be constantly texting… which can cause their partner major anxiety while they wait patiently for a response.

If you get the sense that your partner is an anxious texter, or they've straight-up told you they get nervous about texting, how do you help them feel more secure? I asked McSweeney to share her best tips with Elite Daily. Ultimately, it comes down to open and honest communication about the way you both text. Try one (or more!) of these suggestions to help calm your boo’s fears and assure them that you want them to feel comfortable.

Set clear expectations about how often you'll text each day.

Do you frequently take hours to text back during the workday, but your partner always wants a response from you within 10 minutes? McSweeney suggests setting boundaries about how much you plan to text each other. “Talk to them (face-to-face or on the phone, not via text) about how much texting you can reasonably do,” she says. Oftentimes, you can allay your partner’s anxiety simply by telling them you’ll be unavailable during a certain time — that way, they won’t feel like you’re ignoring or avoiding them.

McSweeney suggests bringing up the issue gently. Here’s her template: “I'm really enjoying spending time together, but I can't really text during the day because [my job requires my full attention, my boss watches my screen, I try to get into a state of flow during the day], but I really enjoy getting your messages after work and hope you like getting mine, too.” Assure them that you love talking to them, but you need space during the day in order to give them your full attention once work or class is over.

Address your different texting styles and what they mean.

Let’s say you’re dating someone who always sends paragraphs over text message, and your responses are shorter and more to the point. Or maybe your messages are filled with emojis while they constantly use the word "haha." If you don’t talk to each other about this, one partner might think the other isn’t as invested in the relationship, or you might both start feeling like your texts are being misinterpreted.

“If you notice that you have radically different texting styles, bring it up,” McSweeney suggests. Try phrasing it in a factual, nonjudgmental way, like: "Hey, I’ve noticed you never use emojis when you text. You’ve probably noticed that I always do!” This can help start a conversation about your texting styles, without placing blame on one another from the start. “Maybe you've been dying to use the dancing woman emoji, but have hesitated, not knowing how it would be perceived,” McSweeney says. “Now's your chance to bring it up and start using her, knowing the other person has a little more context to ‘get’ you.”

Save the weighty subjects for IRL conversations.

Maybe things are great in person, and yet somehow you always find yourself arguing with your partner over text. It’s getting so bad that it’s putting a real strain on your relationship. In this case, McSweeney suggests that you limit your texting communication to light, easy conversation, and save the serious stuff for your face-to-face interactions. Here’s how she says you might bring it up: “‘Hey, I noticed that we completely misunderstand each other when we text. Can we agree to just text to say ‘hi’ and make plans, and save the real conversation for when we're together?’”

Plan ahead to send sweet texts to your boo.

If you’ve tried to set clear texting boundaries, but your partner still really wants to hear from you often, plan ahead to shoot them sweet texts throughout the day. “These can be short, just a ‘thinking of you’ or ‘hope you're having a great day,’” McSweeney says. Or, send a reference to something you’ve done together, or a detail about your upcoming plans. “There is tons of research to show that these small notes throughout the day help couples develop intimacy and feel safer in each other's company,” McSweeney explains. Even just receiving one quick text from you can make your partner's day.

No matter what your texting issue is, it can usually be solved with communication and a willingness to discuss your differences with each other. “Texting styles are as diverse as people themselves,” McSweeney explains. “Talking about your texting may just be the thing to help save a relationship.” Sometimes a good, old-fashioned face-to-face conversation is all you need to restore your partner’s trust and confidence in your bond.

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