Sometimes you know just what to say and just when to send it. But sometimes texting looks like staring at a blinking cursor trying to remember what words even are. Here’s how to text no matter where you are in your relationship.
When You’re Brand New Matches
Congratulations on your new match! It can feel intimidating to talk to someone new, but there’s a way to make it as easy as possible.
DO: Keep texting to a minimum. Your goal isn’t to make a pen pal, it’s to make a real-life connection. After you establish the most basic compatibility requirements – such as living in your city, having experience with monogamy or polyamory that aligns with yours, and not being bi- or transphobic – ask them out. “Would you like to get a drink or coffee this Friday at 7:30?” is to the point and weeds out anyone who doesn’t want to actually meet. Under quarantine, try “We obviously can’t meet in person now, but would you like to meet up for a drink or coffee over Zoom this Friday at 7:30?” Keep messages brief, direct, and focused on a concrete plan you can act on before too much time passes.
DON’T: Text or message back and forth for months without ever suggesting a date. It can be a huge disappointment to spend weeks or months texting with someone promising, only to finally meet over FaceTime or in-person and mutually realize within seconds that there’s no real attraction. Keeping your investment low can make it easier, to be honest with yourself about any chemistry you feel or don’t feel.
When You’ve Had A Few Dates
After going out a few times, you’ve started to build a rapport but aren’t overly familiar or integrated into each other’s lives, and your texting should reflect that.
DO: Along with talking about plans you’re making together, send texts that include concrete conversation starters on topics that build on your existing rapport. A link to a new song by an artist you both like, a long-form on a topic that came up on a date, or a photo of the takeout you got from that place they recommended with what you liked about your order create a basis for conversation and for getting to know more about each other’s interests.
DON’T: Send open-ended wishy-washy texts like “how’s it going” or “good morning.” These types of texts can lead to frustration on both ends – they might feel like you’re playing games or using them as a distraction, and you might wonder why they’re texting you one-word responses without really engaging.
When You’re Newly Dating
You’ve had a conversation and decided to officially date. You’re sharing more of your lives with each other but still diving deeper, and the dating conversation is an opportunity to check in.
DO: Pick up on their cues about what texting patterns work best, such as that they never respond during work hours or like to text when they’re sitting down to dinner.
DON’T: Be afraid to explicitly check in about the way you communicate – “How do you feel about the way we text?” – to make sure you’re on the same page. You’re smart enough to know that everyone thinks of dating in different ways, so you’ve talked about what saying you’re dating means to each of you. If you’re wondering what they think about the way you text or want to suggest a change, take this opportunity to check in.
When You’re Friends With Benefits
The key to a good friends-with-benefits situation is remembering that friendship IS a benefit. Sex is fun, and it also shouldn’t replace that foundation.
DO: Talk about what you’re doing, what your goals are (a regular Thursday night hookup? A non-romantic quarantine buddy with whom you sometimes have sex?), and what you want that to look like – including communication. “I like to send and receive morning-after texts” or “I don’t like post-session processing, but I feel valued when we text about other things within a few days of having sex” can help you protect your friendship.
DON’T: Deviate too far from your friendship texting patterns. If you have a rich history of talking deeply about philosophy via Mad Men memes, don’t start to only send “u up?” texts at 2 a.m. Similarly, if you only text occasionally and expect contact every day now that you’re sleeping together, you might not be on the same page about what “friends with benefits” means.
When You’re Long-Distance Partners
In long-distance relationships, getting clear on your boundaries, and theirs, around texting and can help your relationship feel more intentional and also help you stay present in your own life.
DO: Set dates to hang out with each other by text. Did they just send you something you want to dive into, but you’re in the middle of a packed afternoon? Try “That looks great! I’d love to hear more about it when I’m out of these meetings.” When you’re out of those meetings, set aside some time to really engage with the conversation.
DON’T: Live through your screen. It’s easy to get caught up in dreaming of the life you’ll have when you can be together; to seek means of escape from the present realities, and to get enthralled in learning everything about someone new. Those things can be special and necessary, but they shouldn’t come at the expense of being present in your own life. You don’t have to be constantly available to someone else, and you shouldn’t expect someone to be constantly available to you.
When You Just Moved In Together
DO: Remember to still text intentionally. Asking about their morning, sharing a photo of yours, or telling them that you saw their selfie and they look really good today – even if you told them so when they were getting dressed – can all reinforce connection and keep texting more romantic than “hey we need eggs.”
DON’T: Make assumptions. One partner might assume that texting doesn’t matter as much now – after all, you’ll now see each other at home this evening. Another might feel disconnected and even ignored by the sudden change. If you notice a shift, or want to lead one yourself, talk about it.
When You’re Long-Term Partners
Often, we can get into habits with long-term partners – but there’s no reason those habits can’t feel intimate and romantic.
DO: Remember to connect intentionally over your interests, the way you spend time together, and how hot you think they are. Sending “I had a great evening with you last night” takes on a different tone when you’ve been together for a few years instead of a few hours, but it is just as special to receive. Let your partner know that you appreciate them, love spending time together, and think they’re the absolute shit.
DON’T: Text only about logistics. “I’ll be home in 35,” “can you grab me a coffee,” or “what do you want to do about dinner?” are all part of the fabric of your relationship, but they should never be all you say to each other. Love is something you’re always building together, and texting can be a foundational part of that creation.