You luddite up my life
My boyfriend will text if he’s running late but says texting “isn’t real communication.” He says that if I need to talk, I should call him. I get that anything serious should be discussed via phone. However, we live separately, and sometimes I just want to reach out in a small way with a funny photo or a word or two and get a word or two back. When he doesn’t respond or grudgingly responds a day later, I get more and more hurt and angry and want to break up with him. I know he cares about me. Am I being unreasonable?
We get it: You spend an entire day making a small but very accurate Voodoo doll of him and then have to dispose of it when he finally texts back.
There are many who share your boyfriend’s techno-snobbery, claiming that texting isn’t “real communication” (perhaps because it doesn’t require Socratic oratory or chasing a goose to pluck a quill). But say one person texts “i love u” and the other texts back, “k.” That communicates plenty. And say you and your boyfriend were in the same room and you held up a tiny fern in a pot: “Look! A plant that has yet to commit suicide on me!” It would be pretty cold — and surely he’d think so — if he just kept silently clipping his toenails or whittling his corncob pipe or whatever.
It’s one thing if you’re sending him iTunes user agreement-length texts and expecting him to text back in kind. But this sort of texted “yoo-hoo!” you’re sending him is one of the seemingly unimportant reach-outs that relationships researcher John Gottman calls “bids for connection.” These “bids” are attempts — often made in small and mundane ways — to get your partner’s attention, affection, humor or support.
Gottman observes that these are effectively little “trust tests” leading to “a tiny turning point — an opportunity or a lost opportunity, for connection.” In a study by Gottman and cognitive psychologist Janice Driver, the newlyweds who remained married to their partners six years later were the responsive ones — those who had “turned toward” their partner’s bids, on average, 86 percent of the time. Those who’d responded only 33 percent of the time were divorced by the six-year mark.
Explain the “bid for connection” thing so your boyfriend can understand why it’s so important that he come through for you — or, rather, 4 u. But also keep in mind, as I write in Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck, that “technology makes a nearly instant response possible; it doesn’t mandate it.”
Let him know that you aren’t looking to start some relationship reign of terror — like if he doesn’t text you back in 60 seconds, his phone and/or the relationship will explode. It’s just that seeing him making an effort would mean a lot to you (and keep you from Googling genital death spells). It’s also the sort of thing that keeps romance alive. As Gottman points out, you do that not with Gone With the Wind embraces or a bunch of loot on Valentine’s Day but with little daily shows of love. In this case, it’s those three little … uh, letters — LOL — after you text him a cat with a gunslinger mustache or a dachshund in a lobster suit.
I’ve been texting a lot with this guy for a few weeks, but he never calls me. We’ve been on a few dates that were really nice. My girlfriends tell me that if he really liked me, he’d call me. But one of my friends is about to get married, and their whole courtship was basically conducted via text. How important is the whole calling versus texting thing?
Spoken-word telephone conversation does have its merits, like how you’re unlikely to find yourself asking your grandma to send you a better photo of her penis.
There’s an assumption many women make that if a guy’s only texting you and not calling you, he’s not that into you. But context matters. Like whether “whassup gorjuss?” comes in at 1:17 a.m. or at 9:30 a.m. as you’re riding the elevator up to work. And content especially matters — in a guy’s texts and when you’re together. For example, on dates, is he looking into your eyes as you two talk for hours or looking into his phone as you stare into your napkin? In short, the medium is not the message. The message is the message — like if someone’s on the phone with you and simultaneously organizing his sock drawer, pondering a zit in the mirror, and bidding on a vintage beer sign on eBay: “Sorry, what was that about your childhood trauma?”
© 2015, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon. Order Amy Alkon’s new book, “Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck” (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).