If you've interacted with another human this century, you've likely encountered a shitty texter. Maybe it was a friend, someone you wanted to date, your sibling. Maybe it's you. These people aren't always obvious about their sub-par texting behavior. And then one day, you'll text them about brunch plans, and they won't answer for three hours. Meanwhile, they've Liked one of your Instagram posts, checked out your Snapchat story, and retweeted you and a couple friends. That's when you can start to spiral.
Sure, it can be easy to just brush off this, well, brush-off. But if you're texting with someone you're involved with, waiting more than nine minutes for an answer can feel like a lifetime — a lifetime in which you overthink everything you said in that last message. Everything you have ever said. But, it may be possible to tweak the texting frequency of someone who just flat-out sucks at it.
"You have to communicate in order to communicate," says Megan Stubbs, a certified sexologist. What she means is that in order to have the texting relationship you want, you have to have a frank conversation about it (in person). The shitty texter who holds your heart may just not realize that your communication styles don't jive. "They may be someone who uses text messages more for brief plan-making than full-blown conversations," says Kat Van Kirk, PhD, a licensed marriage and sex therapist. "So it could just be a matter of meeting in the middle."
The way you bring up this conversation is important, however. "Don't be passive aggressive," Stubbs says. "The wrong way to do it is to say something like, 'Oh so you liked my Instagram but I can't get a text back?' You want to be mature about it." Stubbs suggests speaking in "I" phrases. For example, you could say something like, "When I don't hear from you for half the day, I start to feel a little rejected." Make it about you and your feelings instead of what you see as your partner's shortcomings. "You could also just let your partner know that texting is your main form of communicating, and let them know that that's how you typically keep in contact with people," Dr. Van Kirk says. "Hearing that might make them more responsive."
It's also important to remember that there are certain cases in which you likely won't hear from your partner — and that's okay. "If you know they're going to be out with their friends, don't expect an immediate answer to your texts," Stubbs says. "You can ask them to text when they get home, but be respectful of their alone time, too."
And while it may seem like getting a text back is the most important thing in the world, especially during the beginning of a relationship, Dr. Van Kirk says it's important to prioritize how your partner behaves and communicates when you're together in person more. "How they communicate when you're face-to-face says more than their texting habits," she says. "They might just not be aware of how to utilize texting properly in a relationship." So if your bad texter is actually a great IRL communicator, that's worth more. After all, you're dating a person — not a phone.