Understanding the Dynamics of Texting in Relationships

texting in relationships

Verywell / Ellen Lindner 

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We've all heard the saying, "a watched clock never moves." But, a more accurate statement might be, "a watched smartphone never pings." There are few things more anxiety-provoking than being "left on read" when you text someone—unless maybe it's seeing the text bubble that someone is typing and then never actually getting a response.

In fact, countless studies have shown that texting can create a great deal of anxiety. Research also suggests that texting has the power to both help and hinder your relationships.

Whether you use texting to keep in touch or you use it to avoid difficult situations, texting is both a good thing and a bad thing. In other words, texting has the power to bring people closer together or to create distance depending on the underlying motivations of the people doing the texting.


When it comes to relationships, researchers have discovered that it's not how often people text one another that matters, but how "text compatible" they are.

Scientists also have discovered that aside from being a functional way to communicate, texting allows people to escape their present situation. People text because they are bored or because they feel it's a better way to express themselves rather than talking on the phone or in person.

But, there's a risk that texting could become a crutch too. And, when this happens it becomes a barrier to creating meaningful relationships with other people. Additionally, texting frequently can come from a place of loneliness, which only exacerbates the issue by further alienating and isolating the texter.

How Texting Impacts Relationships

As mentioned previously, texting has the power to be a good thing. But, issues crop up when it becomes your main mode of communication. Too many times there is a lot of miscommunication that takes place. When this happens, it can alter the entire course of the relationship. Here are some ways in which texting impacts relationships.

Texting Nice Things

Texting a compliment, a funny meme, or a positive comment, will make the person on the other end feel closer to you and more satisfied with the relationship. Likewise, checking in on someone or just letting them know that you're thinking of them can strengthen the relationship too.

Consequently, be sure you're regularly sending encouraging notes to your partner and limiting texts about picking up milk and other mundane tasks.

Hyperactive Sexting

While you might think that sending sexy messages, nude photos, or sexts in a relationship helps spice it up and keep things interesting, research has shown that relationships involving excessive sexting usually experience more conflict.

Partners also were more likely to be ambivalent about the relationship's long-term potential and report lower levels of commitment and attachment. A sexy picture or note every now and then is totally fine if it's consensually sent and received; but avoid sending these types of messages in excess. In-person intimacy is always a better option.

Excessive Texting

Anytime one partner texts the other excessively, this is a warning sign. For instance, texting non-stop could indicate that one partner is clingy and needy and feeling insecure in the relationship.

While this is usually only harmful to the person doing the excessive texting, it can be smothering to the person on the receiving end. Additionally, you want to link yourself with someone who is secure and doesn't need you to give them worth or meaning.

Other times, excessive texting is an early warning sign of digital dating abuse.

Excessive texting—especially when it involves demanding to know where someone is, who they are with, and what they are doing—is controlling and abusive. If you're in a relationship with someone who texts excessively or aggressively, you may want to distance yourself from them.

Common Texting Mistakes

People are constantly sizing up one another's behavior, and texting is a primary way in which people begin making evaluations about the relationship early on. When you just start seeing someone, their texting habits can be both intriguing and baffling at the same time. Here are some common mistakes people make when texting in relationships.

Using It to Deal With Conflict

If there's a problem in the relationship, you should never try to resolve it through text messaging. Texting is not a conflict resolution tool. Instead, arrange a time to talk to one another in person.

By doing so, you'll have a much more meaningful conversation because you can see each other's expressions and hear each other's tone of voice. These things are vital parts of healthy communication.

When using text messages to communicate about sensitive issues, it's risky that things will be misinterpreted.

Asking Too Many Questions

One or two questions shows that you have interest in a person. But asking too many questions can start to feel like an interrogation. And when this happens, the person on the receiving end can start to feel defensive.

Limit your questions to just one or two. There will be plenty of time to ask questions in person as the relationship progresses.

Sending Long Conversations

Generally speaking, your texts shouldn't be too long. Ideally, you want to keep their length to about that of a tweet. Sending long texts can be annoying to the people on the receiving end, especially if they're busy at work or trying to complete a project.

That being said, there are circumstances in which more in-depth conversations can be had over text. Just make sure you aren't relying on text messaging as your primary form of communication.

Arguing by Text

Not texting when you're angry should go without saying. Yet, many people still make this mistake. If you're angry or you just had a disagreement, put your phone down. Not only will you probably regret what you type, but there's also no way your text is going to be interpreted the way you want it to be.

So, take some time to cool off and then speak to one another in person to resolve the issue.

Waking the Other Person Up

When it comes to texting friends and partners, it's important to be respectful of their schedules. Refrain from sending text messages super early in the morning or late at night.

While many people keep their phones on silent while they sleep, it's more considerate to wait until regular hours to send someone a text. If you do happen to send a text late at night or early in the morning by mistake, make sure you take a moment to apologize.

How to Determine Text Compatibility

Researchers have discovered that it isn't specifically what you text or how you text your partner that creates satisfaction in the relationship. It's your "texting compatibility" that actually predicts relationship satisfaction. In other words, when both partners approach texting in the same way, they make for a happier couple.

Not surprisingly, text messages from someone who texts at the same rate and pace you do will be welcomed in your inbox. But if you're partnered with someone who texts too much, or even too little, you'll eventually become annoyed. Here are three telltale signs that you and your partner are text compatible.

Texting the Same Amount

It doesn't matter whether you type long paragraphs to one another or you type a few short sentences, as long as they are roughly the same, you are compatible. Meanwhile, there's nothing worse than pouring your heart out in text and only getting a one or two-word reply in response. Likewise, if you prefer short text messages, receiving a long text can be annoying.

Initiating Texts Equally

In the beginning stages of a relationship, couples are hyper-aware of who initiates each text. So, as the relationship progresses, if one person initiates all the contact it signals that there's some texting incompatibility present.

Ideally, both partners are initiating contact with equal frequency. It's when they are unbalanced that there's a problem.

Texting Just to Chat

This type of texting is equivalent to small talk. You text each other just to say hello or to check-in. Or, maybe you text one another funny memes or links to interesting articles. When this type of texting occurs in a relationship, it's actually a positive sign and a good indicator of overall relationship satisfaction.

A Word From Verywell

If you're frequently disappointed in the way your partner responds to you via text, then take some time to talk about it. Although discussing your concerns won't necessarily bring about changes, you'll at least gain a better understanding of where your partner is coming from. This way, the next time you get a text that irritates you, you'll understand the motivation behind it and not take it too personally.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert. She's also the former editor of Columbus Parent and has countless years of experience writing and researching health and social issues.