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Healthy Texting Habits in a Relationship

texting on smartphone

If you and your partner communicate often via text, then you’re like many couples. But healthy texting habits in a relationship may require more than tapping out quick notes to each other throughout the day.

Text messages can easily be misinterpreted. People rely on nonverbal cues, like facial expressions and tone of voice when communicating. Texts lack those, and they tend to be brief. Taken the wrong way, texts can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

You and your partner can head off problems and strengthen your connection by developing healthy texting habits.

Analyze and improve your texting habits as a couple

Your messaging app likely contains a historical record of text exchanges between you and your partner. Scroll through these together to analyze how you communicate via text. Try to do this in person or through video chat if you’re apart.

  • Read the messages aloud. Talk about how you felt when you sent and read the messages. Knowing your partner’s intent and understanding how they interpret your messages can prevent frustration and anxiety in the future.
  • Discuss your reactions to the texts in a non-confrontational way. Take note of common trends, such as one of you regularly feeling disappointed with the other’s response to texts. This will help you understand both of your texting styles.
  • Ask yourselves:
    • Who typically starts the texting conversations? What time of day?
    • How long are each of your typical texts?
    • When do you both text the most and why? When do you both text the least and why?
    • What topics do you typically discuss over text? Chores and errands? Casual conversations? Do you primarily send memes?
  • Discuss your expectations for each other. How do you feel when your partner doesn’t text back right away? How do you feel when you get a brief response to a long text?

Strengthening your connection through texts

Communication problems are a top relationship challenge and texting is an important mode of communication for most couples. The following tips can help you avoid problems and develop healthy texting habits in a relationship.

  • Switch up your texting topics. Texting only to remind your partner to pick up the dog food or do other errands can quickly help a relationship fall flat. Get in the habit of breaking up your routine texts with sweet or funny notes that let your partner know you’re thinking of them. The free relationship resilience tool, Love Every Day, can help you and your partner develop good communication skills.
  • Steer away from too many intimate texts if your partner doesn’t seem to enjoy them. Experts have shown that relying on text as a way to stay intimate as a couple can actually have the opposite effect. Have a conversation with your partner about whether intimate texts are welcome, and if so, how much may be too much.
  • Be concise. Long, drawn-out texts can be overwhelming and make the recipient feel they have to respond in a similar fashion. Long conversations are best in person, if possible.
  • Be mindful of the tone of your texts. Striking the right tone might require making your texts more personal. For example, “What are you doing?” could come off as aggressive while “Hello! What are you up to?” is clearly friendly. Forgoing punctuation and using abbreviations can also lead to misinterpretations. Simply responding “idk” to a question feels curt and disengaged, while “I’m not sure, let me think about that and get back to you” lets your partner know you care about their question.
  • Avoid overusing emojis. While fun and convenient, emojis can sometimes make the recipient feel like you didn’t take the time to think through a thoughtful response, or that you aren’t taking your conversation seriously.
  • Don’t argue over text. If you disagree, tell your partner you prefer to discuss in person, or, if that’s not possible, by phone or video. Tips for Healthy Conflict Resolution in a Relationship can help you talk calmly about your differences.

Tips for sending and responding to texts

Ideally, you’re pleased when you pick up the phone to find a text from your partner, and vice versa. Here are some tips to help make sure texts from each other are welcome additions to your days.

  • Try not to overload your partner with text messages. Avoid sending follow-up texts if you don’t get a response. Your partner may be busy. Too many texts may become irritating and your partner might feel bad about not being able to get back to you.
  • Talk about response times. Settle on an acceptable response time to a text. But also talk about different scenarios that may keep one another from answering a text right away.
  • Try to text during “normal” hours. Try to keep your texting to daytime when you know your partner is free. Texting during work hours or at night when you’re typically asleep can become annoying and hurt your relationship and your health. If you and your partner are in different time zones or have opposite schedules, agree on times of day when it’s best to communicate by text.

For more ideas on improving your communication, see Tips to Improve Communication in a Relationship. For tips on navigating social media as a couple, check out Social Media and Relationships: Making it Work.

Military OneSource offers information and resources for all aspects of your relationship. For additional support, free and confidential non-medical counseling is available through Military OneSource by live chat or by calling 800-342-9647, or through your installation’s Military and Family Life Counseling program.

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