Disclaimer: I text my partner a lot. I just didn’t realize it until I my partner and I barely texted. I decided to try an experiment — for an entire week, we'd limit ourselves to sending just one text each. How hard could it be? In true Scorpio fashion, I like being on my own. I cherish my personal space and time and I often wonder if I’ll die blissfully alone in a Shrek-like, swamp-cottage utopia after I’ve scared everyone in my life away. The times in my life when I’ve lived alone have been some of my happiest, most fulfilling years. So long story short, I thought this experiment was going to be a walk in the park — an activity I thoroughly enjoy alone, duh.
I’ve done dating experiments in the past, mostly using apps like Tinder to test out different dating theories, but this would be my first time experimenting one-on-one with a partner.
Before we got started, I figured it would be helpful to outline the rules. The first was that if we were going to limit texts, then we would have to limit direct messages, too. Functionally, a DM is a lot like a text so in this experiment we would count them as such; if one person sends a DM, that would be their one text for that day and they wouldn’t be allowed to switch platforms in search of a loophole. I imagine that for most couples, this might be the rule they haggle over the most but my partner didn’t care for one major reason: he has no idea what a DM is because he’s not on Twitter or Instagram and neither of us uses Facebook. I guess you could say this became our first rule by default.
One app we do use to communicate, though, is Snapchat, which is why we got into a heated debate about whether or not we would also limit snaps. I argued that the text function is definitely out for the same reason DMs are out, but my partner pointed out that either of us could type over a photo or video, thus mimicking a conversation. Truthfully, I was a little concerned that if we outlawed Snapchat, we’d literally never speak. In the end, we couldn’t really come to a clear decision about how we would use the app, so we banned that, too.
With our list of rules vaguely established, we charged on — me with blind enthusiasm and my partner with a full cell phone battery’s worth of hesitation.
My partner kicked the conversation off shortly before 9 a.m. It was his usual morning greeting, plus an update about traffic. It was short, sweet, and surprisingly helpful since I ended up putting off a few errands until later that day when traffic wasn’t such a nightmare. My reply was just as short, although a bit more encouraging. I told him I hoped his day got better from that point onward. As the morning progressed, I realized that I had so much more to say. It was nothing urgent, really. In fact, I don’t think any of it was even remotely important.
I thought about texting him an update on this very article and then about snapping him a photo of the avocado toast I had for breakfast. I wanted to quickly go over the details of our upcoming trip to Curaçao and forward him an Instagram link to a photo of the resort we’d be staying at. I wanted to ask if this was as difficult for him as it was for me. I wanted to know if he’d thoughtlessly picked up his phone as often as I did to type a quick text before remembering about the experiment. Eventually, I decided I would type my intended texts in the Notes app, which, admittedly, helped me put them out into the universe if not obnoxiously in my partner’s face. Turns out, they were such fleeting thoughts that I forgot to even bring them up during our phone call that night.
We had so much to say on the phone. My partner had a lot of thoughts about our experiment. Before we began, I’d asked him to give me his honest feedback throughout the week and boy, did he. Without my prompting, he volunteered, “I would rather you do a thousand more Tinder experiments than continue this one.” He went on, “The only good that’s come of this is that I don’t have to charge my phone four times a day. I hated everything about it, not just that I couldn’t update you sporadically about my day or send a link to an article. I missed getting your updates, too. Plus, it feels like work. Like tonight, you called and I was showering but I couldn’t just hit an auto reply or send a quick text, so I had to take the call to explain my not taking the call even though we barely spoke all day and schedule a later call and ahhhhh!”
Um, wow. Anyway, we were both pretty over the experiment by the first day. Six more to go.
On Day 2, I was eager to text my partner about an intense dream that I'd had so I wouldn't forget it. (Note to self: get a dream journal, you weirdo.)
With the dream now carefully documented via iMessage, I kind of forgot about the experiment by the time afternoon rolled around. I had fleeting thoughts I wanted to text but none worth remembering now or even noting on my phone at the time. What I did do more of, though, was snack. All afternoon, I kept reaching for small snacks to tide me over and yes, this is strange for me. I was so confused that I checked my period app to see if I’d mixed my dates up. Nope. Still 11 days away. Not to go all Carrie Bradshaw here but… I couldn’t help but wonder, was I filling the void this experiment had created in my life with chocolate-covered almonds? It was impossible to know for sure.
My little experiment created another unexpected problem later that evening when my best friend mentioned he would be in town for one night only. I desperately wanted to introduce him to my partner but I didn’t have much time to coordinate plans. During any other week, I would easily shoot my partner a quick text to update him on the situation and come up with an after-work plan that works well for both of us. Instead, I had to call only a few minutes before he would be wrapping up his work day — his busiest time of day — and speed-invite him to get drinks straight from work with my longtime BFF.
I know my millennial is showing when I say that coordinating this over text would have been much easier but it’s true and you know it. For one, I felt like my phone call was definitely more invasive than a text, which my partner could have easily glanced at and responded to with a thumbs-up.
On the upside, this change of plans meant that we would be seeing each other, automatically lessening the significance of text messages and phone calls for the rest of the night.
Our texts the next day were regular good morning texts, each of us noting that we’d had a fun time out the night before. My partner opted to send his using the invisible ink feature on iMessage, which I didn’t know existed until now. I give this feature two out of five stars because it’s disorienting and a little annoying. I just don’t understand what I would ever use it for. Maybe he thought this would spice things up? I don’t know. I’d say the experiment was just about breaking us at this point.
On Day 3, my partner was invited to a team-building event with his coworkers that upcoming Saturday, two days away. It would be a night out with drinks and loud music, the latter of which is important because supposedly, it has a lot to do with why he declined. Laughing, he explained to me via FaceTime that loud music means no phone calls and since he wouldn’t be able to text me to tell me how bad of a time he’s having, he’d rather not go. Yeah, OK, sure. I don’t think he would have gone if this experiment wasn’t in effect anyway since he’s kind of a homebody like I am. But hey, at least the experiment is good for something — a convenient excuse to get out of plans.
Speaking of excuses, my partner had a few questions for me, given that I was the one who signed us up for this. I didn’t ask if he’d been keeping a list of these, but he fired them at me with ease and fluidity that suggested he most definitely had. “Can I stockpile my texts throughout the week? Do they roll over? If it’s after midnight, does that count as a new day or does it only count if I went to sleep and got up?” I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of him brainstorming loopholes all day at work.
I asked if he thought the experiment had been successful so far and he had this to say: “Not sure. I’ve read your articles so I know that the experiments never really go right or wrong. It’s more of an observation or conclusion, like in a lab experiment. Hey, remember in high school when you would do experiments and you had to include a hypothesis? Well, hypothetically speaking, this is bullsh*t.” Got it.
On Day 4, my partner texted first at around 6:30 a.m., but I managed to save my text until just a few minutes before midnight. By now, I’d gotten used to our new routine and I almost forgot to send any messages at all. I was beginning to feel the way I predicted I would initially. I could tell I was more present in other areas of my life — like when I spent time with friends and family or even when I sat alone watching Netflix — and more intentional about my cell phone usage. Restricting my text messages with one important person in my life meant I glanced at my phone less frequently in anticipation of his texts but also just in general, too.
Despite his hilarious protests, my partner was coming around. He admitted that he noticed a difference in our nighttime FaceTime calls since both of us felt like we had to catch each other up. “I think we genuinely are just talking about our days,” he said, before ruining it with, “But this still seems like a high price to pay.”
He was right, though. During our FaceTime call that night, I found out details about his job and about his daily responsibilities I hadn’t known before.
My partner and I have very different ways of starting our weekends, which made for a quiet morning on both of our parts. I usually get a super early start to give my dog a bath, work out, and get breakfast while my partner prefers to sleep in. By the time I heard from him, I had already had a full day and was reading by the pool. We made plans to get takeout later that afternoon and watch random vlogs on YouTube because sometimes after a long week, all you want to do is watch other people live their lives from the comfort of your couch.
Saturday was also the day of the dreaded office night out. My partner decided to join in after all and I opted for a face mask and an early night. Neither of us used our daily text until we were off to bed.
It was clear now that what I missed most about not being able to text my partner whenever I wanted wasn’t major things, like talking about our careers. We could do that over the phone. It wasn’t even the socially significant things, like good morning texts. It was the little things like sharing a funny meme or a relatable tweet. Because my partner isn’t on Instagram or Twitter and I can’t tag him in these, I usually send them along in a text. TBH, since we’ve ended the experiment, I’ve noticed that this sort of communication makes up the bulk of our text messages. It may not be an important life update but it says, “Hey, I saw this and thought of you,” or, “Hey, I laughed at this and thought you’d get a laugh, too.” And that’s important to me.
Almost there! More so than on Day 5, I definitely thought we would make it through this day without texting at all. I was super caught up coordinating travel plans for my parents and my partner typically spends his Sunday doing laundry and battling the Sunday Scaries. In addition to planning my upcoming travel, I met up with a friend for coffee, went to a late lunch with my mom, and sat through a Marvel movie marathon with my brother.
The one text I did send to my partner was around 3 p.m. and it didn’t include any words. Instead, it was a photo of a handwritten note a friend of mine had left me in his copy of The Alchemist, which I’d picked up over coffee. Nearing the end of a week spent monitoring my texts, this sweet note felt perfectly poetic and timely. I was beginning to realize just how frivolous texts can be, how much time they occupy, and how little they say sometimes.
I’m not going to lie to you. Day 7 was a bad day — not because of the experiment exactly, but because experiments like these rarely exist in a vacuum. Life happens and on Day 7, I was feeling particularly down about life in general. My partner started the day with his usual good morning text, but I didn’t reply because I’d gotten in the habit of sending my text later on in the day. As the day progressed, though, my mood worsened and when my partner called during his lunch break, our conversation was curt. My first text that day came shortly after when I apologized for snapping at him and explained that I was having a rough day.
He brought up an interesting point that night about the experiment. Although I’d initially been saving my text for no particular reason, at some point during the day, I became frustrated and he could tell from our phone call. After that, it was impossible for him to discern if my absent text was because I was saving it for later on, I was mad at him, or I wanted to be left alone entirely. He needed clarification if he was going to help.
I guess it’s true what they say. Communication is key in any good, functioning relationship. It doesn’t matter whether you communicate via texts, phone calls, FaceTime, or memes. Although, I’d like to think you provide some context for the memes from time to time.
It’s been a few days since we ended the experiment. Today, my only cohesive text was about how much I enjoy cleaning. All of the others were screenshots of random things each of us found funny throughout the day. Texts aren’t essential to our relationship but we send them anyway because sometimes, it’s nice to know there’s someone on the other end to get them and to get you.
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