How’s Your Love Life? Check Your Texts

Does this sound familiar?  You’re online dating, clicking around and find a match you actually find attractive. Like, really attractive. You send a message. And the message you get back causes you to second-guess your attraction.

Maybe they use a lot of lols or make too many misspellings, or they end every sentence in a period so it’s hard to tell whether they actually like you. Maybe they didn’t get any of your witty opening jokes, or it took forever for them to reply.

Texts pbs rewire
Source: Harrison, Bealing and Salley

So it’s probably no surprise to you that digital communication styles can actually predict relationship satisfaction.

More important than you think

Did you know texting is the most common way people keep in touch with their other halves? Texts are such a huge part of dating life now that studies have shown 35 percent of teens expect communication every few hours from their romantic partners.

Ninety-eight percent of young adults have cellphones, and 42 percent of them have texted to tell someone they wanted to have sex with them. Overall, communicating affection is what young adults do on their phones 75 percent of the time.

Another sign that texts have become a huge deal: Not being on the same page about it can mean less satisfaction in a relationship. A new study of how young people in relationships text each other suggested that people ages 18 to 29 are less happy in love when their styles of texts don’t mesh.

Relationship satisfaction depends on it

By collecting survey responses of more than 200 young adults in relationships, researchers Jonathan Ohadi, Brandon Brown, Lora Trub and Lisa Rosenthal found that texting similarity between the two people in a couple can predict relationship satisfaction. Researchers asked questions about how often the couples texted and what they talked about via text, like saying “I love you” or diving into serious topics that are difficult to talk about in person.

Texts pbs rewire
Source: Coyne et al.

The most satisfied folks said their partners texted at the same frequency—not significantly more or less—, initiated conversations just as often and texted just to say hello at the same rate. What might seem like a little thing you do in a relationship might be bigger than you think.

This is a modern update to past research evidence “that similarity of values or attitudes about communication plays an important role in attraction and relationship satisfaction,” the researchers wrote. “Individuals are found to be more attracted to peers who possess similar communication skills to them.”

Time to talk IRL

Not everyone feels the same way about texting, though. In another study, 30 percent of smartphone users said the device feels like a “leash” rather than offering “freedom,” and 28 percent called them “distracting” rather than “connecting.”

Because their findings show the importance of similarities in digital communication styles, the researchers suggested couples talk about their texting upfront. A relationship is deeper than the device you keep in your pocket, but if one person in a couple sees a cellphone as a “leash” and the other is expecting constant contact, real-life conflict can come from it.

Katie Moritz

Katie Moritz is Rewire’s senior editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.