When Sabrina Zohar first started dating her boyfriend whom she refers to as “tech guy” in her popular TikTok videos, she was doubtful about their connection for one striking reason.
He barely texted her.
After matching on Hinge in 2022, they went on several dates and saw each other at least twice a week despite living about 100 miles away from each other. (He lived in San Diego, while she was in Los Angeles at the time.) But Zohar still questioned whether “tech guy” was really into her.
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About a month into dating, Zohar told him that she wanted to communicate more — they usually texted every few days — between their dates so she could feel more connected to him. His response shifted her perspective.
“He set a boundary that I will never forget,” says Zohar, who’s a dating coach and host of the podcast “Do the Work.” “He said, ‘[Texting] is not a sign of my disinterest. I work in tech. I stare at my screen for nine hours a day. I have no interest in having a digital relationship or talking endlessly with someone via text.’” He preferred to spend quality time with her in person.
“That’s when the stars aligned,” she says, “and I was like ‘Holy sh—t! Texting doesn’t mean anything.’ It’s low effort. It’s easy to do. You can be on the toilet texting someone versus having to actually show up for them.” Shortly after their discussion, she began posting videos about her revelation on TikTok where she has more than 620,000 followers.
When it comes to texting in the early dating stage (particularly when you’ve been on five or fewer dates), people have differing and often very passionate opinions on the topic. While some people expect their love interest to text them every day to show their interest, others don’t care to text at all, which can cause dating conflict.
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“I think everybody is different” when it comes to texting, says Traci Terrill, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Highland Park Holistic Therapy, “and I think you should give a little time and space to try to learn the other person’s text communication style.”
Terrill says she doesn’t agree with the belief that if the person you are dating doesn’t text you every day, then they don’t like or care about you.
No matter what, navigating texting and dating isn’t easy. Here’s what you should consider before cutting off the person you’re dating simply because they aren’t texting you as often as you’d like.
Is texting the best way to get to know someone?
Long before cellphones were invented, people had fruitful relationships. However, for the last three decades, mobile texting has been a part of our digital lives, and it has become an integral part of the courtship process throughout the world.
Texting is a generally effective way to chat with your love interest. It’s great for flirting, checking in and setting up dates, but it’s not the best way to fully get to know someone whom you’re interested in, Terrill says. That’s because text messages often lack context, tone and facial expressions, which can lead to miscommunication. (A relationship that exists solely on your phone is known as a “textuationship.”)
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“I get a lot of questions about texts. I even get people who read me their texts,” says Terrill. “I think in this day and age, texting is usually the first point of communication. And there’s a lot of confusion about expectations and how to express what they want [and] how to handle not receiving responses when they think they should.”
Three things to consider: When Terrill’s clients bring their texting concerns to her, she tells them to keep three things in mind.
- Try not to overwhelm your crush by texting too much, especially if they haven’t responded yet.
- Respect yourself and respect them.
- Be authentic.
Why do we care so much about texting anyway?
Deep-rooted fear of rejection or abandonment can take over at various stages in a relationship. Therefore, people might get anxious or disinterested when their crush doesn’t text them regularly, Terrill says.
If you haven’t heard back from that special person, it can lead a person to think: “Are we being rejected right now? Or is that person busy?” Terrill says. “We don’t know. We don’t have any context, so we fill in the blanks ourselves. And it’s just a really difficult way to interact with other humans.”
“We’re always connected. We’re always communicating whether it’s Instagram or TikTok, and that is all very immediate. So we’re not very good — or we’re getting less good — at time apart and sitting with somebody taking time to get back to you.”
— Traci Terrill, a licensed marriage and family therapist
Also, some people think they are entitled to other people’s time despite not knowing them very well. Therefore, Terrill encourages people to reflect on their expectations and why they feel like someone should have to get back to them according to their ideal time frame.
“I do think that we’re always on,” Terrill says. “We’re always connected. We’re always communicating whether it’s Instagram or TikTok, and that is all very immediate. So we’re not very good — or we’re getting less good — at time apart and sitting with somebody taking time to get back to you.”
“It’s kind of like a like on Instagram. It’s like a dopamine hit,” she adds. “‘You got back to me right away.’ It’s harder to kind of be patient and see how it plays out.”
Look for the red flags: Terrill says pay attention to how your crush communicates. If it’s a pattern for your crush to take a full day or even a few days to text you back and they don’t acknowledge the delay by saying “Hey, my bad for the delayed response. I was slammed with work,” then that could be a red flag.
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Everyone’s preferred communication style is different
Some people’s preferred communication style might be texting. Other people may favor phone or FaceTime calls, while others might prefer to hang out in person. No matter the case, the best communication style is subjective and varies from person to person.
Therefore, Matthew Brinkley, a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinician educator at USC, says it’s OK to ask your crush how they like to communicate. That way you can navigate the relationship from an informed space instead of making assumptions about the other person.
“I think that a lot of people aren’t understanding that, yeah, it does take 10 seconds to actually send a text, but that requires bandwidth and it’s never just one text.”
— Sabrina Zohar, a dating coach and host of the podcast “Do the Work”
For example, if you’re really into talking on the phone and your crush isn’t, you can thank them for letting you know. Then you explore ways to find a compromise — that way both of your needs are being met.
Instead of wondering, do this: According to Brinkley, you should ask your crush a couple of questions: “Are there any times when you think that I can call? Is there anything I can do to make it more comfortable for us to talk on the phone because I do want to get to know you beyond a text message?”
Quality over quantity texts
Instead of focusing on how often their love interest is texting, Terrill says people should think about the quality of their text conversations and how those interactions make them feel. Are you texting each other the same amount? Or does it feel one-sided? When they respond, does it feel meaningful? Or do you find yourself feeling insecure or anxious?
“My belief is that it’s OK to touch base as often as it feels comfortable,” she says. “I don’t really put a hard number on days or times of day because every person and every relationship is different. It’s more about [if] the feeling seems mutual. If your crush isn’t reciprocating or responding, it might be a nonverbal cue that they want more space or that they don’t feel the same way.”
When talking to someone face to face, you have verbal cues to lead you on. With texting, you question everything.
Learn this lesson early on: Just because “you are able to be accessible to someone, it doesn’t mean that they owe that to you,” Zohar says. “I think that a lot of people aren’t understanding that, yeah, it does take 10 seconds to actually send a text, but that requires bandwidth and it’s never just one text.”
Consistency is key
Texting shouldn’t be the only indicator of whether someone is into you.
“I care about having dates set,” says Kevin Kasir, an L.A.-based life coach for the LGBTQ+ community. That “means so much more than the constant reassurance that I think some people like [from] the frequent messaging.” In-person dates or ones over Zoom or FaceTime would allow you to catch up on those conversations you didn’t have over text.
In the end, having rigid expectations around how often your love interest texts you might prevent you from having great experiences and meeting new people who might be a great match for you, says Zohar, who recently celebrated her one-year anniversary with “tech guy.” They live together now as well.
The ultimate green flag: “We want to have consistency,” Zohar says. “That doesn’t mean that the person texts you at the same time every day or that they text you every single morning. But it’s that you know that when you speak to this person, they’re the same version of who they are.”