Ah, texting and dating. The two things are as intertwined as the hands of people who actually like each other. Early on in a relationship, texts are usually sweet and full of hearts—it's not uncommon to wish each other a good morning and say, "I miss you!" regularly. As the bond progresses, the texts eventually become more comfortable and, dare we say it, average: A screen lights up with "Do we have milk in the fridge?" or "Did you remember to pay that bill?" Texting underscores all relationships, from its earliest sparks to its later comforts, so it's easy for texting to get complicated whenever that partnership hits a snag.
"Texting in romantic relationships has its pros and cons," says Kelly Campbell, professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino. "It is a very convenient way to communicate and may provide a way for partners to stay in touch when other means of communicating are not possible. However, it is important that when misunderstandings occur, partners seek clarification in person."
Meet the Expert
Kelly Campbell an associate professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino, where her research and teachings center around intimate relationships.
As easy as it is to zing off a text whenever you want to get in touch with your partner, there are clear reasons texting may not always be a straightforward way of communication. Most people have had numerous experiences with texting's challenges, from small miscommunications to larger fights.
We asked Campbell to help decode the strengths and weaknesses associated with dating and texting, especially if you're considering using this form of communication to end a relationship. Read on to get her insights.
Understand That Texting Isn't the Only Way to Communicate
While it may be gratifying to have a full conversation with your partner as you get work done or otherwise go about your day, know that a healthy relationship has plenty of in-person or vocal conversations, too. If you're relying on texting too heavily at the beginning of a relationship, you may be missing out on getting to know the nuances of your partner's personality, Campbell says.
"Many communication cues are missing through text, such as intonation, facial expressions, and gestures," she says. "This can cause misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and even the end of a relationship before it has the chance to get started. These additional communication cues are important because they help us interpret the words that have been said, relay moods, and convey the 'real' message—such as sarcasm."
If you're relying on texting too heavily at the beginning of a relationship, you may be missing out on getting to know the nuances of your partner's personality.
Instead of using texting as a main means of communication, consider using it for logistics only: what time you get off work, when the movie starts, and if you're running late. That way, you can rely on hearing your partner's voice or seeing their face for words of affection or topics of concern.
"Factors such as touch, eye contact, and the amount of physical distance between two people relay the degree of intimacy in a relationship," Campbell says. "Texting removes all this information."
Know Your Partner's Texting Style From the Start
Campbell recommends that daters check in early with their partners to see what their texting style is like: how often they like to text, how long their responses usually are, and if they prefer emojis. It sounds strange to do so, but it can help decipher texts that may otherwise lead to miscommunications. For instance, if you like to text hourly, but your partner waits until the end of the day to check their phone, it's good to know that upfront.
"Everyone is different, and just because you love texting and sending emojis all day does not mean your partner feels the same way. Differences should be understood and respected," Campbell continues.
Once you know your partner's texting style, use this form of communication as a way to highlight—not define—your relationship. As mentioned, a healthy relationship needs physical interactions to form a bond.
"Intimacy is cultivated through sharing information with each other, demonstrating that you care about your partner, and fulfilling each other's important needs, which includes physical affection," she says. "Each of these intimacy components is more difficult to establish and sustain if texting is used more than in-person communications."
Don't Break Up with Someone Through Text
This seems obvious, but still, we understand: Texting provides the opportunity to avoid the hurt face or the shaking voice that would otherwise come from ending a relationship. Nevertheless, do your best to avoid this interaction through texting because it will only reflect poorly on you.
"Normally, when you are in a relationship with a person, you've spent a lot of time investing in each other, and it does not convey respect if after sharing so much, the person is not even worth a personalized breakup," Campbell says.
"The other disadvantage to breaking up via text is that feelings and intentions cannot be elaborated upon," she continues. "Texting will not only insult a partner but will also limit the extent to which information—including feelings and intentions—can be conveyed and cleared up. Even if you don't feel like taking the time to break up in person or by phone, you will have a clearer conscience in the long run."
How You Tell Someone to Stop Texting You
Let's say that you and your partner's texting has gone from cute to practical to poor, and you've done the responsible thing of ending the relationship in person or by phone. But for whatever reason, this partner continues to text you. How should you get them to stop? Well, for starters, keep your cool.
"The best way to get someone to stop texting if you aren't interested is to be honest and clear," Campbell says. "Say something like, 'I'm sorry to relay this news, but I would prefer that you stop texting me because I am not (or no longer) interested in you.' Clear and direct is important so that there is little room for misunderstanding. If they want to know why and you are willing to answer, again let them know in a clear, direct manner. Usually, answering their questions in a clear, direct manner should give them the clarity they need to stop texting and move on."
"However, if you don't feel you owe an explanation because the relationship never really got started, again be clear and direct: 'I understand you want to know why I'm not interested, but I don't have much more to say, I'm sorry. Please respect my decision and stop texting,'" she continues.
Campbell says that if the behavior persists, a second clear and concise statement is fine. But after that, you could warn that law enforcement can get involved. "A person might also want to block the person's number or change their own number, but I'm someone who doesn't believe the victimized should have to alter their life due to the actions of an aggressor," she says. "But if safety concerns are present, then by all means, do whatever it takes to stay safe."
The most important thing to remember is that texting may be a casual way to communicate, but its implications should be taken seriously. Don't text something you know should be said in person, and if you must create space from someone through text, do so as directly as possible.