If Your Partner Takes Forever To Text You Back, Here's How To Talk To Them About It

I love texting. Wait, let me rephrase that: I am grateful for texting. That's because I remember the barbaric dark ages when you used to have to actually call people. Hideous. So much small talk, so many awkward moments when you would want get off the phone but can't because the other person is refusing to wrap it up. Fortunately for some, those dark days are over and now we can just skip all the chatter. However, even texting is not without its little, ahem, irritating quirks, like being left "on read" or when your partner takes forever to text you back — and don't even get me started on the whole disappearing/reappearing reply bubble. Ugh! But we can save that rant for another day. For now, let's focus on what to do when your partner takes a really long time to reply.

If you feel like your partner leaves your texts hanging regularly, it can be really frustrating. But is this something you can even address? If the two of you are in a healthy relationship, you should be able to talk to them about just about everything, so really the question is: How to do you bring it up with them? To help with that, I reached out to NYC relationship expert Susan Winter, who weighed in on how long is too long to reasonably wait for a response, and what to do if your partner refuses to hear you out. Here is what she had to say.

How long you should reasonably wait for a reply.

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I have to be honest — I am not exactly the most patient person. When I send a text, I really expect to hear back pretty much right away. But I also realize that’s not really fair, so the question is: What is a reasonable amount of time to wait for reply from your partner? Winter says 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 our relationship.” Additionally, she suggest to note when there’s “a break in the pattern. This can often be a red flag.”

For instance, if your partner normally gets back to you pretty quickly but then start 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.”

How to talk to your partner about it.

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Assuming that the delay in response is not just a one-off, or accompanied by a good explanation, Winter says it’s time to talk to your partner, specifically about how their “habitual problem of being tardy with their texts … makes you feel.” She offers some examples of how to initiate the conversation:

“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.”

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.

What to do if nothing changes.

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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 at the cause of why they lagging in getting back to you.

“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.”

The question now is: If your partner isn’t changing their texting behavior, is it a relationship killer? 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,” says Winter. “If this is one of many issues where you find yourself disrespected and marginalized, then do yourself a favor and reevaluate your partnership.”

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One final thing to consider: Is this just an issue of them being a little tardy in answering you? Or is 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 that you’ve been avoiding. But the bottom line is that you deserve to be in a relationship where you feel valued and respected. So, find that person, and you’ll likely find that all the texting stuff falls into place. But seriously though, don't leave me “on read”. You think you’re slick, but I see you!

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