Dear Marriage Minded Mentor,
I've gone out with a woman several times and it seems we are both interested. We are dating long distance and my emotional connection seems to come and go. In person I'm connected, but when we're apart I don't feel the bond. One thing that especially frustrates me when we're apart is that she texts all the time and I feel obligated to respond. I see texting more as a useful tool to set up dates and maybe say hi here and there. She uses text as a form of conversation. I would much prefer to have a meaningful conversation over the phone, even if I have to wait until that evening. So I guess my question is, to text or not to text?
Dear Generation teXt,
Texting can both help and hinder your connection. Because you are dating long distance, you can use texting to bridge the gap between visits. However, if you haven't yet developed a really solid connection, texting can interfere with the normal development of your relationship.
But what I hear you asking is, "If we want to connect, why can't we just wait until we can speak rather than texting all day?" Great question, and I applaud you for making the effort to make a real connection rather than substitute a quick, "how r u" text. Both phone conversations and text messages will keep you in touch while you are physically apart. But some people don't just enjoy constant contact, they need it. Our society has bred us to be dependent on instant replies.
Did you know that 30-40% of daters use a mobile device to schedule a date? And more and more people prefer texting to talking. Why? Texting is often a safe and non-threatening form of communication. The question is, are you sharing a real connection, something which brings two people together, or is texting creating unemotional connections? For many, texting has become a habitual and compulsive means of communication - and therefore often leaves us less connected than we think. In addition, I imagine you are probably spending more time thinking about your obligation to respond than daydreaming about her. It would be better for both of you if you were the other way around. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Let's for a moment assume we agree that fewer texts and more personal attention is more beneficial for your potential relationship. How are you going to communicate your need for less texting and more real time, without offending your date? Communication is key. You aren't saying, "I want to text less." You are saying, "I am enjoying getting to know you. I want to give our relationship a good opportunity for growth. Would you mind if we developed our relationship over the phone and in person and hold off on texting?"
This message clearly shows your interest. In addition, you've articulated what does work for you. This may not be an easy conversation for you to have (and it definitely isn't one you can send in a text message!). Speaking over the phone, or even better, in person, about technology and etiquette will tell you if you and your potential partner are on the same page. If you two can't agree about texting while dating, I wonder what else you may not agree on.
Jewish wisdom teaches us that with the effort comes the reward. Make the effort to first figure out your own boundaries and comfort levels in regard to texting. Next, speak with your date about their preferences. See where your preferences and values align and differ. Then, set a standard for your relationship. Your investment in setting healthy boundaries now will set the tone and pace of the relationship. Empowering yourself to know and do what you're comfortable with will benefit you. Whether in this relationship or another, you'll be one step closer to chuppah.
May the right person blossom into a beautiful relationship and may you feel connected always and in all ways.
Your Marriage Minded Mentor,
Originally published here, at Aish.com.