If Your Partner Never Texts Back, This Is Why It's So Frustrating

True story: At the beginning of my relationship, my partner would sometimes forget to text me when he got home safely (he promised to do so whenever driving home late at night). What did I do? Naturally, I became irrationally concerned and began checking the local police logs for some horrendous accident. This, in turn, made me irritated AF. When your partner never texts back, it can be pretty darn frustrating. You wonder: Are they ignoring me on purpose? Are they playing games? Did something catastrophic happen? You honestly can’t think of a valid excuse for their non-response. (Side note — apparently I'm not the only one who thinks this morbidly: Kate Stewart, psychotherapist and dating coach at Modern Therapy Seattle, told me that she used to joke if someone was 20 minutes late she probably already had their eulogy written.)

The truth is, we’ve all gotten pretty used to being at each other’s beck and call 24/7. Texting allows us to be in constant contact with those we love, and since most of us spend a ridiculous number of hours on our phones, we’re not very tolerant or patient when it comes to someone not responding to us. We assume that they will get back to us immediately, and when they don’t, we feel anxious and hurt. This is especially true where our SOs are concerned. We expect our partners to do their best to meet our needs, and communication plays a big part in any relationship. Still, there are a number of reasons why someone might not text you back. So, why does it seem to trigger so much angst when we’re left on read?

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According to experts, there are several explanations for this response.

Stewart says that insecurity plays a major role in how well you handle your partner not responding to your text.

“If you are an insecure person in general, or are feeling insecure in the relationship, there will always be a doubt in the back of your mind of ‘what is he doing right now?’ or ‘why won't she text me back? What's keeping her?’” she explained.

Stewart also noted that your reaction to their failure to respond to a text may depend on the stage of your relationship. “In general, the newer the relationship, the more anxiety-provoking the silence can be," she added. "If you have been married for 20 years and you know your partner loses their phone every 20 minutes, you wouldn't worry as much."

According to Nicole Richardson, licensed marriage and family therapist, what often makes this lack of a response feel even worse is that we tend to jump to negative conclusions in our minds.

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“When we feel ignored, it is easy for us to allow our anxiety and our imaginations to run wild and invent all the things that could be going wrong,” she says. “Brene Brown calls this 'story telling.' In the absence of information, we often make assumptions and more often than not, those assumptions are hurtful and negative. When our partner does not respond to us, it is easy for us to succumb to anxiety and hurt and start to story tell. This storytelling often does more harm both to us as well as to our relationship.”

Then there’s the practicality factor. How are you supposed to choose a dinner spot or figure out when to pick up your SO from work if they won’t respond? “From a more reasonable, day to day standpoint, your partner not texting you back may mean that you can't make plans, or don't know where you will be going or what you will be doing,” says Stewart. Obviously, this can cause some frustration because it’s affecting your life.

So, what should you do if bae is being unresponsive over text? If you need an answer from them, Stewart recommends trying to call — your SO may not have even seen the text, and this way, you can get the response you need more quickly. However, if this becomes an ongoing issue, you may need to bring it up with your partner.

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“Discuss it with them without forcing them to defend themselves,” advises Richardson. “Get curious and ask what responsive means or looks like to them. Some put their phones away when they are engaged in an activity or spending time with other people. If your partner is working at a job that does not allow them to be on their phone keep that in mind.”

You and your partner may very well have different texting habits, too. One 2018 study conducted by psychologists at Pace University in New York found that people who reported having texting habits that mirror their partners reported greater overall relationship satisfaction. It didn’t matter how often they were texting, how long their texts were, or what tone they texted in — it simply mattered that both partners were in sync in their texting behaviors. So if you find that you and your significant other aren’t really on the same page with texting and it’s causing you a lot of frustration, then you may want to express this to your SO. Richardson recommends telling your partner how good it would make you feel if you had the ability to check in with each other during the day.

“People are typically more motivated to give us what we want when we focus on what they can do to make us happy instead of focusing on what they are doing wrong,” she explains.

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Of course, if you suspect that your partner is intentionally not responding to your texts, that’s a whole other issue.

“If your partner is avoiding your for some reason, that is really irritating, but also points to a bigger problem in the relationship,” says Stewart. “Sometimes this is a game-playing tactic or a control maneuver. Generally, it's a bad sign. If you think this is what is happening, try to ask your partner about it, but focus on asking from a curious, not an accusational place.”

Next time bae doesn’t text you back, don’t freak out. Remember that there are some legitimate reasons why they may not have texted you back yet, and they aren’t necessarily playing a mind game or ignoring you. They could simply be busy at work. They could have seen your text and then gotten distracted by a phone call, or countless other obligations. However, if the unresponsiveness has become an ongoing problem, it’s definitely worth bringing up in a conversation with your SO. The best way to encourage them to change their behavior is to explain how much it would mean to you or how happy it would make you (rather than focusing on how their current behavior is frustrating AF). If your partner knows how important it is to you that they get back to you in a timely manner, they’ll hopefully make it a priority. In the end of the day, there's not much a little verbal communication can't overcome.

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