The past year has tested our reliance on technology. First dates went virtual, group chats became social lifelines, and Zoom sessions replaced office small talk. In turn, we re-learned how to set boundaries, both at work and within our relationships. So this summer, while slowly returning to in-person dating, we’ll have to negotiate texting protocol in this new landscape: How often should couples text now? Is texting during work hours off-limits, even if someone’s “office” is a studio apartment?
According to psychotherapist Gin Lalli, who spoke to the Guardian last summer, successful relationships are all about adapting. Couples who stayed together through the pandemic “tend[ed] to have good communication and an understanding of each other, and their vision of their future together is more aligned,” she said. It echoes previous findings, like in 2018, when Pace University’s Leora Trub found that couples with similar texting habits reported greater relationship satisfaction.
In honor of Hot Vax Summer, we asked seven relationship experts about texting protocol today. The general consensus? "Sending texts is a good way to let your partner know you are thinking of them," says Shamyra Howard-Blackburn, a social worker who specializes in sex and relationship therapy. But ultimately, it’s all about balance. "As a relationship coach, I'm not a huge fan of texting as a form of communication between couples, particularly if it's used as the main avenue for communication between them,” says Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of Why Good People Can't Leave Bad Relationships.
So if you're confused about how often you should text your partner, ask them, relationship coach Melinda Carver tells Bustle. "This is a great opportunity to discuss your communication needs and styles.” Below, the experts weigh in on texting volume, sexting, and workplace decorum.
Here’s Exactly How Often You Should Text
If you’re married, live together, or see each other regularly, don’t go overboard with texting, says Rob Alex, the co-creator of Sexy Challenges and Mission Date Night. "Three times is plenty." Psychologist Nikki Martinez agrees, saying 3–5 texts per day is perfect. "More if there is something specific you need, such as picking something up, directions, or are having a discussion about something," she says.
Ultimately, the best way to find a happy medium is to discuss it. "How often a couple should text depends on the situation,” says psychotherapist Tina Tessina. “Is texting too much at work intrusive? Does one of you like to text more often than the other?"
"Some couples can text each other all day long about numerous subjects," Carver says. "Others just touch base with 2–5 texts a day."
The Benefits Of A Good Morning Text
"When you’re apart, it’s best to touch base in the morning and evening,” Carter says. “It lets your partner know you’re thinking of them and that they’re important to you." Alex agrees, adding, “For example, when my wife or I am away, it’s always nice to get that 'Goodnight, I love you' text, or that 'Good morning, have a great day' text." It might feel perfunctory, but can help ease time apart.
Remember Their Work Schedule
Keep your partner's work schedule in mind, Carver says. "If they cannot text during work hours, do not send them nonstop texts, [and] keep the subject matter lighthearted or encouraging during the day." Adds Alex, "Don't get hung up on getting an answer, [and] be patient for a response.”
And remember, not everyone is adept at texting. "Some people are better at expressing themselves in writing. Some are not," Tessina says.
Keep The Banter Light
"Texting is supposed to be short and to the point," Alex says. "Long text messages are difficult to read and respond to. My feeling is that a text should never be longer than one or two sentences at the most." Sansone-Braff agrees: "If you have something loving, kind, important, supportive or funny to say, then text away,” she says. “If it's a serious topic, that discussion is best reserved for face-to-face, or at least FaceTime interactions.”
As for fighting over text? Avoid it. "If it's a fight you're about to have, stop texting and make plans to meet as soon as possible," Sansone-Braff says. "It can destroy a relationship, as the two of you send texts back and forth like hand grenades. This can result in what I call 'textual abuse,' particularly if the person is texting obsessively. Like any kind of abuse, this can ruin a relationship."
Texts To Make Them Smile
If you're early in the relationship, texting something like "I hope you are having a good day" can go a long way, Martinez says. "Long[er] into the relationship, I have couples make a habit of texting one thing a day that they appreciate about each other. They love this exercise and keep it up long after we stop working with it."
Other experts differ based on their personalities. Alex appreciates creative texts. “Nothing makes me feel more loved than when I get texts that make me smile,” he says. And Sansone-Braff values thoughtful messages. "Funny, sexy, warm messages are always appreciated. Just a quick text saying 'I love you' can go a long way in keeping your relationship sizzling."
Should You Send Links To Your Partner?
The short answer: Not all the time. "During work hours, sending texts and links may feel like one more thing to do," Carver says. Martinez agrees, saying, "Cute and funny links are OK, but don't inundate them with it. [But] if you come across something that is an inside joke, or that you know they will really like, send it along."
What About Selfies?
Alex and Martinez recommend using them sparingly. "Selfies should be reserved for special circumstances," Alex says. Adds Martinez, "Only under a circumstance in which you are in a unique situation — not often, and not for no reason. If there is a purpose, or something funny about it, then go for it. But not just gratuitous pictures of yourself. It could come off as self-absorbed."
Ultimately, you know your partner and your relationship best. "Selfies can be good if you’re separated," Tessina says. "It can keep partners informed about what’s happening and the surroundings."
Sexting: Yea Or Nay?
"Sexting, like sex, depends on who likes what," says Tessina. "Talk about it before and after, and see what works."
"Sexting builds anticipation," says Brooke Christian, founder of Flirty Girl. "And anticipation is the magic sauce that can make sex go from ho-hum to holy-moly." In other words, yes to sexts. "I advise clients to sext, and sext often, especially before impending things like vacations, date nights, or just when you know you’re going to get some time together," she says.
Howard-Blackburn agrees: "There is a seductive mystery about receiving a naughty text from your partner in the middle of the day, or right around the 2 p.m. crash time. Sexting can also be used as a form of foreplay."
But don't throw caution to the wind. "You have to be careful when sexting, because you never know where your partner will be receiving it," Alex says. "They could be in a meeting or have their phone sitting somewhere anyone could see it. My rule of thumb for sexting is that I only do it when I know where my partner is and that it will be safe for them to receive that message. … One of my favorite ways to sext my partner is when we are in different rooms of the house. That way I know it will be safe, and if the sext sparks something, the action can start right away."
And The Role Of Actual Phone Calls
Texting is all well and good, but when it comes to an actual conversation with your partner, pick up the phone. "In-depth subjects should be verbalized to avoid miscommunication of feelings," Howard-Blackburn says. Tessina agrees. "It’s lovely to send a few sweet thoughts in the morning and evening, but be careful that it doesn’t take the place of phone calls," she says. "Hearing each other’s voices is more intimate than texting."
Cindi Sansone-Braff, relationship coach and psychic medium
Shamyra Howard-Blackburn, LCSW, social worker
Melinda Carver, relationship coach
Rob Alex, M.Msc. co-creator of Sexy Challenges and Mission Date Night
Nicole Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC, psychologist and life coach
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., marriage and family therapist
Brooke Christian, founder of Flirty Girl
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