Texting, Commitment and the Beginning of the End of Intimacy
This week I am back on my soapbox about texting as a sole or primary form of communication in dating today, which seems to be an ever growing trend.
Recently, I spent three hours traveling in a car with one of my dear friends who is single and had met a man that she liked. She recounted to me a story I have heard more and more frequently in the last decade of dating debacles. The man is a texter…and ONLY a texter.
So here is the question? (Let me know what you think because I am certainly going to give you my opinion!) Almost everyone reading this will have to agree that communication, in all forms and fashions, has changed drastically over the past several years with the introduction of the various electronic options we now use to “speak” with each other. However, the overriding question rearing its ugly head, “Have we as a people changed with it, or are we fundamentally still the same? Have we changed inside our soul where it counts, by being forced to use email, texting, Facebook messenger, Instagram, snap chat and on and on to replace verbalizing with each other?” Let’s explore the facts and fiction.
My friend had one date and then a second with this man she met and she liked. It was all above board, no “one-night-stand” action. She thought the connection between them was mutual, and the beginning of something promising. They live in separate cities, but she is in Dallas a lot on business. The problem is that the guy only texts her and never calls her on the phone to have a proper conversation. Now in the realm of texting superstardom he wins the prize, as he is “pinging” her every few minutes according to my count over the last few days. Her phone never quits buzzing with important questions like, “What’s Up?” and notifications on the weather report etc. However, he NEVER calls.
This led me to re-ponder the question. Have we really thought about texting and how it is affecting relationships in today’s technology driven world? Regarding texting and relationships, where and when is it appropriate?
According to my single friend, she feels as though texting is ruining relationships and the opportunity to start and sustain possibly meaningful relationships. I agree with her. In addition, it’s a real intimacy buzzkill! Let’s get real, because apparently a lot of men today don’t want to. If you are going to have a conversation all day long with text, then you might as well have a phone call, which when you think about it, is more “time effective” because you are not taking so much time to text a response. Most men I know are about getting the quickest results in the least amount of time. You can say all of the important things you need to say in a 10 minute phone call if you talk a few times a week. It would be interesting to know the stats on how much time it takes to text a full conversation rather than speak one on the phone. Maybe this would make some of us reconsider our texting in the interest of time management!
When you text there is no such thing as a spontaneous response. Every text is carefully crafted and thought out in advance of being sent. It is like taking a test and NOT orally-no pun intended! When you think about what your response to a text might be, you are able to create the cleverest comeback. Thinking about something for a few minutes causes us to guess and then second guess our responses. This is NOT necessarily a good thing when you are trying to get to know someone and find out what makes them tick.
When you are asked a question on a phone call you have to respond immediately, which forces you to give the most natural response. This instantaneous response is authentic versus calculated, and the person on the other end of the phone is able to receive it as such without mystery or confusion. There is almost NO spontaneity in texting unless one has been drinking and then all are off (see Advice for Women week 5 blog for reference)! The recipient has unlimited amounts of time to form a witty comment in response to a text so that they can make themselves appear a certain way. And they may be getting help from friends or other cohorts in formulating their answers so you may not know who you are talking to!
What does texting nurture? Nothing at all…no commitment, no emotional attachment and no longing for the other person as there would be from the sound of a familiar and comforting voice.
It’s easy to walk away from a relationship when all you do is text. Trust me, I have been there. If all that you have established with another person is a texting relationship and you suddenly stop texting the other person they won’t miss the sound of your voice, and you won’t miss the sound of theirs.
Face it, in a texting relationship you never get used to hearing the sound of your lover’s voice when you are driving home from work or when he or she is happy, sad or laughing out loud. There are no amounts of emoticons available to express when I am sad or happy, angry or hurt. I need words and voice inflections for these emotions, and I also need words and reactions from the other person to know that the communication is received and there is some type of response, whatever that may be. This response may be good or bad, but at least I have a marker to go by, and I know where the relationship stands. A sad emoticon face with a tear just doesn’t cut it! An emoticon can’t be used to create emotional attachment as a phone call would.
Pay attention to this point if you get nothing else from this article, “Women fall in love with our ears! We need to hear your voice and we need you to hear ours!” The days of long awaited love letters by post is gone (my husband still leaves me cute cards with love notes on my vanity and my pillow, but that is for another article). The phone has given us new options and we expect you to use them, but only to enhance communication. When you are texting each other as THE primary form of communication you have no emotional involvement in a relationship with the other person. When developing a new relationship you cannot get to know someone, really know someone through constant texting. Texting makes it very easy to be noncommittal and even easier to walk away from a person.
Texting is a way for people to hide and possibly hide a lot about who they are behind their messages.
You are not truly involved in a persons’ life when you are texting. The day to day activities that you talk to each other about become important parts of the day when you are actually speaking and not texting. The speaking makes you miss the other person when you don’t hear from them.
As my friend recounted, “I don’t think I’ve ever said, Gosh, I sure miss the look of their texts. I have however, thought how much I miss hearing a person’s voice when they are gone or we are no longer talking to each other.” Great way for her to put in into perspective!!
An excellent parallel to texting is reading a book. I am a pretty voracious reader and I love meeting new characters in novels and in non-fiction. However, what normally happens when a book is made into a movie? For me, it goes like this. I have read the book and formulated a picture in my mind of the protagonist, antagonist, scenery, etc. When I go to see the movie, in most cases, but not all, I am disappointed. The person or persons I have imagined in my head are sorely lacking the looks and personality characteristics I have imparted to them from my experience of reading about them. The glamour is gone and the cold reality has set in that this person is not a superhero, a stud or even someone I can relate to anymore. The main character is blond, medium build and is lacking my imagined black curly hair, green eyes and the physique of Adonis. I am crestfallen. I am left with my bubble burst and my imaginary world in question.
When a relationship is based on texting, then the relationship is imaginary. You can make up who you want the other person to be, what his or her characteristics and personality traits are that suit your liking and so on and so on. The person becomes your own personal novel…fiction in the making authored by you! This is what happens with a texting relationship. You have developed a character that does not exist and that you are falling for. Most likely you will also be crestfallen if and when the “true texter” is revealed.
Do I think texting is ruining relationships? Absolutely!
If the only or primary communication you receive from another person is a text, you don’t learn their personality and they don’t learn your personality. You learn their PREMEDITATED personality and that isn’t the true version of them. Texting is the cowardly way of having a relationship. There is no personal commitment to anything when you are only texting. As I said before, you can hide behind your text messages and you can delay a committed meaningful relationship by stringing a person along via text. This is a red flag when a person is afraid of intimacy. Intimacy occurs by being in another person’s presence. You must be present and he or she must be present to establish that bond. This is not negotiable, but necessary.
On another note, I am not bashing texting entirely. Texting is very useful when you have to answer a quick question, give a direction or share a contact etc. There is a time and place for short answers, and texting is very useful for this purpose. It is even useful when you don’t have time for a long conversation to update someone on your status, and let them know you will call at a later time. This is the appropriate use of the text message. I could not live without the swiftness and effectiveness of a quick text message. However, the purpose of this article is not to bash text messaging, it is to point out that a relationship that uses text messaging as the primary form of communication is no relationship at all.
When beginning a relationship, make the time to spend talking on the phone with the person and get to know them by going on actual face to face dates. These are intimacy builders. Show a woman you are interested in her life by calling her, seeing her and making plans with her. Taking the time for a woman in these ways will make her feel special and wanted. I think the same goes for a serious minded male suitor as well. After all, isn’t that what YOU want, someone special in your life? I can promise you will not find a special, long lasting relationship in a sole practitioning textmessager. As my friend so succinctly stated about her texting relationship, “You are not in my life!” Voilá! Text with caution!
*I have to give credit to my friend Kim for assisting me with this article. She had valid points and well thought out information that she contributed to this topic.
D’Andra Simmons is a businesswoman and philanthropist. She is the founder of Hard Night Good Morning Skincare and an active volunteer for the Dallas community serving on the Advisory Board of Booker T. Washington School for the Performing Arts, volunteering with the Junior League of Dallas, AIDS Services of Dallas or Cattle Baron’s Ball for the American Cancer Society.