When you are in a new relationship, texting plays a big part in determining the kind of communication you will share with the other person. However, it is important to know a few do’s and don’ts of texting in a new relationship so that it doesn’t take a turn for the worse.
If you’ve just met someone and think there might be chemistry, you may feel the urge to build momentum by sending a thoughtful text. But what if you don’t receive a text back quickly? Does it leave you feeling exposed, anxious, and vulnerable? Or sometimes, when they do text back, but their text doesn’t match your expectations for how they should have responded, it can leave you feeling deflated and exposed.
If you had hopes or expectations that you would get a thoughtful, affirming response quickly, it’s easy to get stuck ruminating on why they haven’t responded, or what their brief response means. In this situation, whether it was their intention or not, you experience their actions as a rejection.
Putting the weight of expectation on a text to someone you barely know can compel you to read too much into their response as if you could actually get important information about their interest. Sending that one text can open a Pandora’s Box of fear that you are somehow being rejected because now their response is the only information you are using to assess the potential for establishing a real connection.
The problem is that if you don’t know the person well in real life, it’s all too easy to assign a whole story about why they haven’t returned your text, or why their text doesn’t match your expectations.
Keep in mind that the story of rejection you’re already weaving may have more to do with your feelings about yourself than it does with the other person’s real feelings about you. No matter how often you’ve been warned that the way you receive a text may not be even close to the way it was intended, it’s extremely easy to apply your own tone, expectations, and personal interpretations.
Most importantly, remember that if you do receive a text back that you experience as invalidating or disinterested, you are reading that text through your own lens without taking into account the fact that they may use texting to communicate differently and for different reasons than you do. The result may be that you inaccurately impose a tone onto their texts that reflect how you feel, leading you to misinterpret the sentiment behind the text.
With this in mind, Benn Grodin, LCSW and I have established the following do’s and don’ts for texting in a new relationship:
1. If you are a prolific texter or put a lot of energy into how you worded the first text you sent, start with the assumption that they may not be as comfortable as you are with texting as a form of communication.
Try to stay open to the possibility that the other person does not view texting as a primary method of communication or does not find it suitable for discussing serious or emotional issues. Rather, in the beginning, try to use texting practically, as a way to communicate logistics if need be.
Managing your expectations about how the other person uses texts to communicate will decrease the possibility that you will feel rejected or disappointed.
2. Operate under the assumption that even if you are very expressive via text, the other person may not be.
Receiving just a few words from them should be seen not as a reflection of their feelings, but rather as an acknowledgment of your text (and perhaps a reminder that you may have developed an agenda).