Way back in October 2008, my now husband and I went on our first date. On our one year anniversary, his gift to me was a Word doc of all of our text messages since our first date (what he likes to refer to as #thegiftofdata). This was especially high tech back in the day (given that we both had feature phones) and what I considered to be the most thoughtful gift ever (given that we are both nerds).
To celebrate our six year anniversary, I decided to take his present to the next level. I took a look at all of our text messages from our first year of dating and compared them with our text messages from the past year as an engaged couple and then newlyweds. I started by looking at the words we used in our text messages six years ago versus present day.
First of all, we can clearly see that my husband has an obsession with the word "home." As for me, my early twenties self frequently started conversations with the term "hey," and more recently I seem to have decided to no longer greet my husband, but instead agree with most of the things he texts me.
I then looked at the frequency of specific terms we used in our text messages when we started dating compared to the past year.
Our conversations changed from "hey, what's up?" to "OK, sounds good." We stopped saying each other's names in our text messages. We don't say "love" as much anymore. Several words stayed relatively consistent over the years though, such as "home" and "dinner." I took a look at the actual text messages that contained these words, and found that although the terms stayed the same, the context they were used in actually changed over time.
The main difference is that while we were dating, we didn't see each other every day, so a lot of our communication had to happen via text. We'd often message the other person to see what they were doing or tell them that we were thinking of them. As a married couple, since we're together all the time, we set up date nights and say sweet things to each other in person, so texting is mostly used to confirm logistics or share random thoughts.
Since the content of our text messages changed so much, I decided to look and see if the time of day we'd send text messages to each other changed as well. I focused on the messages we sent each other during the month after our first date, our engagement and our wedding.
While we were dating, we started thinking about each other around 3 p.m. in the afternoon and we'd send each other text messages until 3 a.m. in the morning. As a married couple, our texting schedule has pretty much flipped. We text all through the workday and never at night.
We see the same story here. As a new couple, since we were apart the majority of the time, we had to check in with the other person every now and then, especially during the evening and late at night when we had no idea who they were with! It was also to tell the other person that we were out late doing something cool without them... and wishing they were there, of course.
As a committed couple, the only time of the day that we aren't together is during the workday, so that's when we text. We know exactly where the other person is each evening and if we're doing something cool, it's likely that we're in it together and telling each other about it face to face.
Overall, our text messages started out very flirty and personal. Since we were new in our relationship, we made sure the things we said were interesting and thoughtful. As our relationship progressed, we spent more time together and got more comfortable with each other. Our text messages became more predictable, but only because all of the unpredictable things were said in person. We no longer have to text "I love you" from a distance in the middle of the night. I can now roll over, snuggle with my husband and whisper it into his ear.
To my husband: happy anniversary and I hope you enjoy your 2014 version of #thegiftofdata.
Alice Zhao is a data scientist who writes regularly at adashofdata.com