What Textual Compatibility Means in a Relationship

What to do if you and your partner(s) have different texting styles

person texting on their bed

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What Is Textual Compatibility?

While you’ve probably heard of dating criteria like physical attraction, emotional compatibility, and sexual chemistry, here’s a new one that has gained importance in today’s day and age of mobile phones, digital apps, and internet dating: textual compatibility.

Imagine meeting someone you hit it off with and spending hours talking to them over dinner and drinks. You have a wonderful time, plan your next date together, go home, and send them a text message, only to be left on read. 

The next day, while you’re scrolling through your social media feed, you see a meme that reminds you of something they said, so you share it with them, only to receive a weak “Haha” in response several hours later.

You go on your next date with them and everything goes well. There are no red flags and the conversation flows smoothly without any embarrassing incidents or awkward pauses. You realize that the two of you have great chemistry in person, but you’re not "textually compatible."

Textual Compatibility

Being textually compatible with someone means having the same expectations around texting and ascribing the same meaning to text messages as the other person, says Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University, who specializes in issues related to relationships.

While couples who are just getting to know each other may struggle with textual compatibility, even longstanding couples may not necessarily be textually compatible.

This article explores different texting styles and suggests some strategies to improve your textual compatibility with your partner.

Role of Textual Communication in Relationships

According to Dr. Romanoff, these are some of the purposes textual communication can serve in relationships:

  • Checking in 
  • Getting to know one another
  • Building a deeper connection
  • Making plans together
  • Managing logistics
  • Flirting
  • Sexting 
  • Staying connected while apart
  • Sharing relevant information

Gauging Textual Compatibility

So, are you and your partner textually compatible? According to Dr. Romanoff, there are many ways to gauge textual compatibility. For instance, she recommends asking yourself:

  • Who tends to initiate text conversations?
  • What is the function or purpose of the texts you send versus the ones your partner sends?
  • How long do you and your partner take to respond to each other's texts?
  • Are their texts similar to yours in length, tone, and style?
  • Have you and your partner misinterpreted each other’s texts before? 
  • Have you and your partner argued about each other’s texting habits?
  • Do their texts make you feel happy or anxious and confused?

Having similar texting habits and expectations as your partner means you’re textually compatible. However, having vastly different attitudes toward texting could mean you and your partner have different attachment styles and are textually incompatible.

According to a 2021 study, couples in long distance relationships who made it a point to text each other regularly and respond promptly to each other’s texts reported greater levels of relationship satisfaction.

How Attachment Styles Influence Texting Habits

A person’s attachment style can play a major role in determining their texting habits in a relationship. Below, Dr. Romanoff explains how having an anxious or avoidant attachment style can affect your texting habits and your textual compatibility with your partner.

Anxious Attachment Style

People with anxious attachment styles tend to use texting as a way to feel connected or secure in the relationship.

They might use texting as a means to create a more secure attachment by sending out bids for connection via text message constantly throughout the day. For them, texting serves as a way to collect evidence that their relationship is secure and in good standing. It offers them tangible proof that they are a priority to their partner.

These people may feel rejected or wonder where their relationship stands if their partner doesn’t respond to their texts. They may believe they are being ignored or wonder whether their partner is upset with them. Not receiving a timely response from their partner can be stressful and nerve-racking for them.

Avoidant Attachment Style

People with an avoidant attachment style tend to have a higher preference for differentiation, meaning they value their independence. They don't want to be constantly in touch with their partner and prefer to maintain their own separate life, identity, and relationships outside of the romantic relationship with their partner.

These people might feel inundated or overwhelmed by someone who texts them constantly throughout the day. They may interpret the other person’s actions as clingy and feel suffocated by them.

Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

Textual compatibility really comes down to the amount of fusion or differentiation partners are seeking in their relationship.

— Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

How to Improve Textual Compatibility 

Being textually compatible with your partner can reduce stress, anxiety, and friction around communication, making it more seamless. However, if you and your partner have different texting styles, Dr. Romanoff suggests some steps that can help you improve your textual compatibility.

Communicate Your Preferences

If you and your partner approach texting differently, it's helpful to communicate and explain your preferences around it.

Partners who don’t openly communicate about their incompatible communication styles usually fall into the distancer-pursuer cycle, where one partner initiates and pursues the other through more and more frequent texting, and the other withdraws and puts less effort forth. 

The withdrawer usually holds back because they feel controlled and condemned, and communicating more might make them feel manipulated. Whereas, the partner who wants more frequent communication might resort to criticism or anger when their partner isn’t available to them, which causes them to be more demanding, further perpetuating the vicious cycle. 

It’s important for partners to communicate their needs around texting—which are often incompatible—and then meet each other in the middle. This conversation is best had in person, to avoid any misunderstandings.

Respect Boundaries

Make an effort to respect your partner’s preferences and boundaries around texting. For instance, if your partner has expressed that they are not open to casual texting while they are at work, avoid texting them during that time.

Don’t Have Difficult Conversations Over Text

Don’t use text messaging as a medium to discuss issues, argue with your partner, or avoid difficult topics.

If you need to have an important conversation with your partner, do it face to face, when both of you are giving it your full attention and can perceive each other’s tone and body language. There is a higher probability of your messages being misinterpreted over text.

A Word From Verywell

Textual compatibility is a measure of how compatible you and your partner are over text. Being with a partner who texts too often can be off-putting whereas being with someone who texts too little can be nerve-wracking. However, discussing your textual preferences can help you and your partner communicate more smoothly.

2 Sources
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.
  1. Holtzman S, Kushlev K, Wozny A, Godard R. Long-distance texting: Text messaging is linked with higher relationship satisfaction in long-distance relationships. J Soc Pers Relat. 2021;38(12):3543-3565. doi:10.1177/02654075211043296

  2. Weisskirch RS. Women’s adult romantic attachment style and communication by cell phone with romantic partners. Psychol Rep. 2012;111(1):281-288. doi:10.2466/21.02.20.PR0.111.4.281-288

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.