“I’m a big texter. I like to share my thoughts on news, vent about work and just have a little light banter. It helps me get through the day. But my long-term boyfriend is not a texter and literally goes hours without texting me back. He was a lot better early in our relationship, but it’s been a few years, and he’s no longer as communicative. It bothers me a lot, but I can’t tell what a reasonable amount of communication is. He insists what we had was too much. What’s the answer?”
This is actually a very common problem in relationships. Why? Probably because our standards for communication are often set in the dating phase when things are new and exciting and you have a lot to learn about each other. For lots of folks, once you settle into a relationship, get into a routine and even move in together, there’s less urgency.
When communication in a relationship evolves and our expectations don’t, there’s a dissonance, and to resolve it, we need to check in with ourselves and our partner. But before you get to that, here’s a general guideline for how communication tends to ebb and flow throughout a relationship. Read on, and try to point to where you might land.
Early on, in a crowded dating field, conveying interest matters a lot. Part of doing that, in modern dating, is keeping the momentum going when you are not physically together. Texting (and probably the occasional phone call) is the answer, with one or two dates per week sprinkled in.
You can expect to send and receive a lot more texts early in dating; it’s extremely common (if mildly irresponsible!) to text all day with someone you really like, and we’ve all had one of those electric text-banter relationships we just enjoyed to pieces. Another important note: If the person isn’t texting a lot in these early days, it’s likely to decline with time. Usually, you’re putting your most interested, obvious effort forward in early dating.
Once you’re serious with someone and it’s clear the commitment is solid, you probably have less to learn about them—and less incentive to keep conveying strong interest all the time. The person knows you like (or love) them, right? You convey that when you see them, right? You’re choosing to be with them, right?! Right. So in this case, it’s really common (and probably healthy for your work life) to see a dip in communication during the day.
Honestly, once you’re living together or married, you may find very little need to communicate during the day because you have actual face time that bookmarks the day. In a lot of ways, having more IRL chats than text exchanges is more potent. I mean, how many fights have you gotten into because you took a text the wrong way? Probably more than you’d care to admit.
Addressing the Issue
No matter where you fall on my handy little guideline, if you’re feeling a void, you absolutely need to address it. Is there more face-to-face time now even though there’s less texting throughout the day? Maybe just pinpointing and naming the change will make you feel better.
Or, if you would still like to see a little more communication, tell your partner that you miss the level of emotional connection you had during the early days of dating. While it may not be possible to get back to the way things were, your partner can probably meet you somewhere in the middle—because, c’mon, sending a text here and there isn’t too hard. There should always be room for compromise.
Just to play devil’s advocate, it’s reasonable to want to have a couple of workday check-ins, but it’s also completely fine to be radio silent. Absolutely nothing is “normal.” Some couples text a million times a day, while others save it for pillow talk. Sometimes, on super busy workdays, there might be no communication at all. And that’s totally fine. Try to figure out your limits so you can draw up the communication blueprint for your relationship.
Jenna Birch is a journalist and author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, a relationship-building guide for modern women, as well as a dating coach (accepting new clients for 2020). To ask her a question, which she may answer in a forthcoming PureWow column, email her at email@example.com.