Texters, Daters, and the Challenges of Modern Love
I just read an interesting article in the New York Times Magazine by Lindsey Goldstein, entitled, To Text, or Not to Text: A Dating Conundrum.
In her article, Ms. Goldstein describes meeting a man, having a great first date, and then receiving a flurry of texts from him over the next several weeks without ever getting an invitation for a second date. In fact, he’d often inquire about her weekend plans, but just didn’t ask her to go out with him again.
He even disappeared for two weeks – it turns out he’d been traveling, and hadn’t thought to mention it to her, beforehand- and when he returned, he resumed his habit of texting her.
When she finally let him know that she’d enjoyed the texting, but didn’t need another pen pal, and wished him the best of luck, he responded by expressing confusion, wondering what was wrong, and then asking her over to dinner that night. She agreed, and two years later, she reports, they were married.
When I said that the article was interesting, what I really meant was that it was irritating, as it didn’t ring true and appeared to be encouraging self-destructive behaviour on the part of women. As a psychiatrist in private psychotherapy practice, I speak with a lot of women who are dating and trying to start a relationship.
I’ve heard several stories similar to the one Ms. Goldstein describes, except that in every single case that I heard about, the outcome was different than Ms.Goldstein’s. In the case of my patients, none of the “relationships” with men who only texted ever turned into a real, in-person relationship. Not a single one.
It strikes me that Ms. Goldstein’s story must be an exceedingly rare example of a situation in which someone who clearly doesn’t want a face-to-face relationship suddenly, and for no apparent reason, transforms into someone who does.
In my world, that kind of transformation doesn’t happen. The men who continually text without setting up dates aren’t the type who suddenly become keen to go out on dates.
In speaking with numerous women over the past several years, I’ve heard all sorts of dating stories, and it seems that there are two types of men, these days: men who want to meet in person and men who don’t: the daters and the texters.
Those who want to meet in person- the daters- make plans, and then actually have dates. Those who don’t want to meet- the texters- well, they text.
The daters are men who want personal contact; whether with the intention to form a relationship, to have some fun, or even just to hook up. These men want to go out, spend time with women, and make other dates.
The texters are much more averse to contact. They’d rather conduct their “relationship” via text. They don’t even talk on the phone – most likely it’s too personal, or perhaps they just couldn’t be bothered.
These men may be keeping the woman “on hold” while they’re going out with someone else; they might be married and semi-cheating, or perhaps, they have intimacy issues.
In the case of my patients, no-one has had the patience -or low self-esteem- to stick around long enough to see if one of these chronic texters was able to turn into an actual dater.
Ms. Goldstein’s story strikes me as somewhat suspect. She never explains why her guy spent all that time texting her without asking her out, and she gives no reason for his sudden about-face.
Psychologically speaking, it doesn’t follow that someone who repeatedly avoids in-person contact can just switch into a person who wants to meet face-to-face. As a young woman of my acquaintance so eloquently put it, “That doesn’t happen.”
There’s no value in spending days or weeks just texting with someone. In my world, 99.99% of men who are looking for a relationship will make a second date, sooner, rather than later. If they text, it will be to say “hi,” in-between meetings, to firm up plans, or to confirm the location of the next date. They’ll also spend time having actual phone conversations, because this is more intimate.
It feels to me like Ms. Goldstein is misrepresenting what should be expected from a man who chronically texts, and she seems to be promoting a behaviour that would be hurtful to most women; that of engaging in lengthy bouts of texting with a man.
In my experience, anyone who starts texting so soon after initial contact is someone who only wants to text. Waiting for them to finally make a date is a colossal waste of time and will result in anger, frustration and disappointment.
To paraphrase the great Taylor Swift, daters want to date, date, date, date, date and texters want to text, text, text, text, text. You do the math.
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