3 Ways To Turn A 'Textationship' Into A Real Relationship
Amidst all of the liking and swiping, many of us are falling into the trap of a pseudo-relationship.
By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | May 2, 2023
Many people come to therapy after the honeymoon phase of their online dating life wears off. Confused about what is happening and where they stand with a romantic interest, they say things like:
- "My partner and I have been texting for a very long time but we have hardly ever engaged in a serious conversation."
- "Ever since we've known each other, we've only been catching up on calls with no plans of in-person meet-ups."
If you find yourself relating to these statements, it may be because you are in a 'textationship.'
While texting is now a go-to mode of communication for our generation, it has resulted in the emergence of a new dating standard. As convenient as it may seem, a relationship that is based on texting with little to no face-to-face interaction can be noxious.
According to a 2019 study published in Communication Studies, face-to-face relationships result in better relationship quality than primarily text-based relationships.
Textationships can be addictive in their own right, enabling you to fantasize about a 'mystery' person without knowing much about them. The boost of excitement kicks in when you receive their text notification and your imagination fills in the blanks.
Undoubtedly, such an approach to a relationship can help you forge a new connection or test the waters with a new date you found on a dating app. But when this rosy feeling wears off it might leave you feeling dissatisfied and baffled about what is going on.
Here, I'll talk about three ways to escape from a dead-ended textationship.
#1. Broaden the scope by scheduling calls
While phone calls have become somewhat obsolete in the era of texting, when it comes to making important life decisions such as deciding on a romantic partner, phone calls and in-person contact are essential.
Interactions over the phone and in-person meetings provide you with a window into someone's personality and can help you decide if the chemistry is right. By helping you pick up on verbal and non-verbal signals, it also ensures that misunderstandings are kept at bay.
One study found that subtle non-verbal cues – such as facial expressions, vocal cues, and kinesic (movement) cues – often lead to turning points in relationships. For instance, touch (being one of the major non-verbal cues) led to more positive turning points in people's relationships than other forms of communication.
#2. Re-evaluate your needs and express them clearly
Texting someone 24/7 or as regularly as you do may make it feel like you're both on the same page. However, it's crucial that you do not confuse textationships with well-established relationships, at least not until you've actually had a talk about expectations. Simply hopping into a relationship based on the assumption that your texting partner is ready for a bigger commitment can poison your existing dynamic.
Here's what you can do. Check in with yourself and the other person regularly to make sure both of your intentions are clearly known.
For instance, if you're completely fine with the way things are over text, share that with them. If, on the other hand, you wish to meet the other person, make those wishes known. Planning an in-person date can help you gain clarity about whether this person aligns with the idea of who they are in your head.
#3. Set your own deadline
If you're worried about getting too complacent with being in a 'textationship' as opposed to a real relationship, consider setting boundaries.
For one, you can set a timeline of expectations in your mind. For example, you could set a clear expectation of having an in-person date within a span of a month. If your partner doesn't initiate an in-person meet-up or make himself/herself available, this proves that your expectations are not aligned – and could be a good basis for you to decide whether you want to further your relationship with this person behind the screens or cut him/her off entirely for a fresh start.
If all of your attempts to turn a textationship into a legitimate relationship fail, you may have to start distancing yourself from the person by reducing the frequency of your texts. The perceived lack of interest/effort on your end will make the person aware of your dealbreakers, and will force them to make a decision on whether to advance or retreat.