Texting. It’s become the cornerstone of the 21st-century relationship. It’s the initiation, the spark. The modern love note.
Then marriage happens, and suddenly your modern love notes turn into refrigerator notes, to-do lists that come with an ominous chime.
I certainly can’t speak for all married or long-term couples, but reminiscing about the epic texts from the early budding relationship with my man makes my heart go aflutter and then a little bluesy and nostalgic. Texting used to be our jam. Using that tiny impractical keyboard is how we first felt each other out; it’s where we reminded each other that we were there; it’s where we could get little impromptu bursts of humor or sympathy. It was a ritual.
Now, our texts will shock you with our lameness (seplling adn gramer two).
Him: Did you pcik up brock lee?
Me: NO. BUSY. [INSERT BABY PICTURE.]
On the one (optimistic) hand, these lame texts are a sign that we rely on each other. That our relationship has passed the point of butterflies, graduating to real intimacy. We’re comfortable. Plus, we spend a helluva lot more time together than we did when we first started dating—so what’s the big deal if texting dies along the way?
On the other (less optimistic) hand, I can’t help but think that this kind of transactional texting is an omen for the relationship itself. We may rely on each other, but will we still be into each other? Can texting help us sustain the old magic?
So I spoke with Anita Chlipala, LMFT, and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide to Lasting Love, and she helped me brainstorm some solid text ideas that can get that spark working again. Then, I tried it and had a group of women try it with me. Here’s what we did:
Day One: The Memory Jogger
Want to go forward? Let’s first go back. Bring up something funny or meaningful to you. Something only the two of you know. “I’m a big fan of couples reminiscing,” Chlipala says. “Recalling positive memories has so many benefits, including increasing positivity into the relationship and about your partner, increasing feelings of attachment, and creating opportunities for inside jokes.”
“Remember that time when . . .”
“I saw this, and it reminded me of . . .”
“Sending this particular text felt strange only in that I was conscious to not text about [my kids] since that is often a large part of what I text him about during the day,” Kathleen shares. He didn’t respond with much. Just with “crazy,” but later that night, Kathleen shares that they were able to have a real conversation about this memory.
Day Two: The Imagination Sparker
Planning gives us something to look forward to. Pick something that’s easy but also a little off the beaten path. It doesn’t necessarily have to be “new”—just “not normal.”
“What if we went . . .”
“What if we tried . . .”
“I suggested a ‘cheesy date’—dinner and a movie,” Katie explains. “He immediately replied with, ‘Yeah! Let’s do it! My treat!’ which is more than the typical thumbs up emoji text I usually get back.”
Day Three: The Praise
“Men want to feel desired, like the woman in his life wants him and approves of him as he is. Men don’t want to feel like a project to be fixed,” Chlipala says. “So any message that shows him your appreciation for who he is will always be a winner.”
“There’s no one like you when it comes to . . .”
“I appreciated when you . . .”
“The one thing I admire the most about you is . . .”
“I sent my boyfriend several admiring texts, describing how intelligent/handsome/awesome/funny/adorable I think he is, and he responded in kind all day," Jess says. “In fact, this last one he sent, he said, ‘I’m running out of ways to tell you how amazing you are!’ Ha, he was probably like, stop texting me already! But I think he appreciated it.”
Day Four: The Thanks
“I tell my clients to go beyond just a regular thank you and find moments to acknowledge a characteristic or trait of their partner that they appreciate and are grateful for,” Chlipala says. This is more than a compliment; this is an appreciation for an action.
“Thanks for putting the kids to bed last night. I appreciated your thoughtfulness at helping me out after the long and stressful day I had.”
“I appreciated your decisiveness and taking charge, knowing how tough it was for me to make a decision.”
“He was cleaning our new home, so I heaped tons of praise on him for being such a kind, hardworking, and thoughtful guy,” Katie shares. “His response was pretty great: ‘That’s my job.’ So when I continued with, ‘But I really love that you’re going above and beyond,’ he replied, ‘Thanks for saying that. Cleaning toilets is worth it if it makes my wife happy.’ [Then he said] ‘I love you.’ Now, he says that all the time, but I knew that in this context, he was appreciative of my appreciation, just like he had a sense of pride when I praised him.”
So, how’d it go?
Of course, you can’t overhaul relationship habits in merely four days. But, for all the women involved, this was an eye-opening experience, as many of the women expressed that they didn’t realize how “businesslike” their texts had become. As one woman shares: “This gave a bit of the ‘juju’ back into the communication, and it was a really nice way of ensuring I was a little more connected to home when I was traveling.”
However, I had to laugh as one man’s response was literally the same as my husband’s: “Did you read an article about relationships or something?” (No, dear. I’m writing one.)
The guys have a point. Surprise is one of the most crucial elements in keeping romance fresh—so start organically; ease into it. Space your days, if necessary, and integrate these conversations into those businesslike conversations that may already be happening.
(And, maybe let’s keep this article our little secret.)
Photo Credit: AJ Fernando