What is a Textationship? Are Text-Only Relationships Legitimate?

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Textationship is the latest portmanteau on the scene and describes a relationship that is text only. Are these still legitimate relationships? What about when you're dating? What are the pros and cons of a textationship?

The Sugar Doctor and Craig Hamilton chat all things textationships

[Full Transcript Below]

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Episode Transcript:

Craig Hamilton: 

All we do is text!

Have you heard your friends say this about relationships? They have, maybe it starts with online dating and the banter is good, but it never goes anywhere. You may not even have a phone call or a face-to-face chat. Welcome to a textationship.  Let's hear more about them. Tara Thomas is a Relationship Coach with The Sugar Doctor and joins me now. Hello again, how are you, Tara?

Tara Thomas: 

I'm well, Craig, how are you?

Craig Hamilton: 

I'm very well. Now, how do you define a text relationship

Tara Thomas: 
A textationship, it's tricky huh!

Craig Hamilton:
A textationship... I've never even heard of a textationship!

Tara Thomas:
Right? Look, there are these fantastic words that come up from time to time, that Kia and I often enjoy talking about...

It's a text relationship, so it's a friendly or romantic or a sexual or intimate relationship....It doesn't matter if it's brief or long-term between two people... where text messaging is your primary form of communication.

So, you know, that can happen. As you said in your intro, early in the relationship, if you're dating online and you're sort of just starting to get to know someone, but it also often happens in a friendship over time. You know, the, the natural ebbs and flows of, um, of time and availability and energy.

There are times when you only really hear from someone via text and you don't see them. And sometimes people choose that kind of relationship as a preference.

How Can You Have an Intimate or Sexual Relationship if it's Only Text?

Craig Hamilton: 
Well, I think, and I'm not judge being judgemental here, but I think a lot of people listening this morning might go a text relationship, right?

This is the only communication we have is via text. Yet you can have a sexual relationship via text or I romantic relationship via text that to me, just doesn't make any sense.

Can you please, can you please explain?

Tara Thomas: 
Well, I mean, that's ... that's at it's heart, Craig, a whole different topic, isn't it? [laughs] The sexting part of things?

but, , I guess it's not necessarily an exclusive text relationship, but you mostly are texting with each other. So where it's a sexual or intimate relationship, generally there's times when you do see each other face to face. Um, but also, you know, it can be a clue that, that your relationship is not going to progress any more than that. So in that dating context or that intimate context, often the textationship is kind of a prelude to, um, to the relationship fading out or fizzling.

Craig Hamilton: 
So it could be highly charged, um, I suppose, uh, sexual texting, but an intimate texting, which never goes any further than that.

Tara Thomas: 
That's right. Maybe you never end up seeing anyone. If, you know, you think that the banter is really good, you think your chemistry is really good, but for some reason or other, you never end up meeting someone and taking that relationship further.

And again, it does happen in friendships where you know, that, that period of time when you're busy and you don't get to see someone for a long period of time. And the only communication you really have with them is text

Do You Ever Give Advice on Texts?

Craig Hamilton: 
In, in your role as a relationship coach, have you ever had somebody speak to you about a textationship they're having and asking for advice on that?

Tara Thomas: 
Oh my gosh. Not just clients- friends, colleagues, people will often bring to me their phone with a text on it and say, what does this mean?

You know, because that's one of the limitations of this text communication, as it's really easy to make our own meaning from what someone else is saying, and to misunderstand things without the social and contextual cues of seeing someone and hearing their voice.

So a lot of times people really want it, want me to interpret for them what someone wants from a relationship or where it's going or what the text means. Um, and I'll give you a hot tip. I have no idea. I mean, I'm just, I'm doing the same thing as anyone else, which is trying to read between the lines or texts and that never, um, never really helps.

Why Do People Have Textationships?

Craig Hamilton: 
Tara, why do people find themselves in a textationship like this?

Tara Thomas: 

You know, I, I think it can be sometimes weirdly easier to talk to someone about intimate things and private things when you're not face-to-face, um, you can feel more comfortable, maybe you're in a, you know, your bedroom or in your lounge room and you feel relaxed and comfortable at home when you don't need to respond to someone in real time, you can have a chance to think about what you want to say, and then, you know, maybe have a few goes at typing it out and saying it the way you'd like. So sometimes people feel that sense of safety around that.

It's also a really common way of staying in touch for a lot of people who don't see their friends very often, but particularly for people who are what we call Spoonies. So someone who, you know, might not have a lot of physical or mental energy, maybe they're if they have a disability or chronic illness.

And it's a nice way to kind of stay in touch with someone without needing to invest more energy than you have available.

So, you know, there are a lot of, a lot of really, really nice benefits to choosing this kind of relationship. You can have a broader support network than just your immediate geography. Um, and, and yeah, like I said before, it also helps you maintain a relationship through those natural ebbs and flows of contact, especially in these COVID times, Craig, well, we don't always get to see people we know and care about face-to-face. So it kind of maintains that, that relationship. Yes.

Craig Hamilton: 
I can certainly understand that. And the, the rise in, uh, the potential rise in these type of relationships during COVID with lockdown. There's no question about that.

What are the Challenges of Textationships?

Craig Hamilton: 

It is 12 to 10 you're with Craig Hamilton in for Kia Handley today. And we're talking to Tara Thomas, Relationship Coach with The Sugar Doctor.

Now, question: where can things go a little wrong or how can, how can things be more difficult at times?

Tara Thomas: 
Well, again, with the opportunity to create meaning... we're, as humans, we're really meaning-making machines.

We want to read between the lines and we want to understand what someone's really saying. And that can lead to some pretty significant misunderstandings when you presume that you know what someone is saying, or you think that they're being rude or unreasonable.

And so it's really easy to, to read into a message and misunderstand it when you're only communicating by text, because you have none of those cues of facial expressions or vocal expression. And that also means it's much easier to get conned or catfished.

You know, you really, it, it, depending on the context, if you're dating for example, and you've never met that person, you really don't know anything about them. Other than what they're telling you. And texting can create a lot of anxiety too, when you're ruminating and percolating and stuck on trying to work out, what did that mean? People can get quite anxious about a text exchange...

Craig Hamilton: 
Like the text message that's sent, and then the reply doesn't come through 24 hours or 48 hours after...

Tara Thomas: 
But you can see those three little dots there as though they're a bit as though they're halfway through writing...  Yeah. Well, you know, you're texting someone and you're having a conversation then suddenly, suddenly they disappear, right. You know, what's happening so people can make that mean an awful lot of things. And that can really be damaging. I think for, for that relationship.

What to Do if You Want to Meet Someone IRL

Craig Hamilton: 
What's the best way to approach the "Are we going to meet?" situation? What would your advice be there?

Tara Thomas:

Be really clear and say something along the lines of "Hey, I'd really like to meet you"

You know, it doesn't need to be super complicated, just ask! Say "I'm really enjoying our text conversations. And I think I'd like to meet you face to face" It can be that simple.

In a longer term relationship with friends, you can send notes. I really miss you. I'd love to catch up. It's been a long time since we've seen each other. Um, and you can sort of have a bit more of a combination of, um, the, the texting part of your relationship, as well as maybe you do like a voice message or speak on the phone together, or,  do FaceTime or, or a zoom call as well. So you kind of mixing up the different types of contact.

How Does a Phonecall Help a Textationship?

Craig Hamilton: 
How do you think a phone call could even change the dynamic of a text relationship,

Tara Thomas: 

Uh, massively you have, you have all of these additional pieces of information.

When you're talking to someone on the phone, you can hear their tonality, you can hear the rhythm of this speech. You hear someone laughing, you know, you can hear someone smiling in their voice tone. I'm sure you have a lot more words around, around this Craig in your business, you know, understanding how to communicate emotion and meaning only via voice, but that can make a really, really big difference.

And you have the opportunity as well to, uh, to check in with someone,"Can you tell me a bit more about that?", "What do you mean when you say that?", "I'm feeling a little bit this way", so you have a bit more of  back-and-forth in real time.

I think without the, the lag of time between texts, where you can fall into those pits of despair, as you're trying to interpret someone's intentions.

Craig Hamilton: (10:02)
Okay. Now this is where it gets a bit murky. Okay. Um, how do you, what's the base way to be aware or identify if the person you are talking to via text is who they claim to be? What, how do you get through that hurdle?

Tara Thomas: (10:22)
Yeah, I think this is so tricky and there's not really any way to do that with any certainty, um, other than meeting them face-to-face. And, and even beyond that, you know, I, I don't like saying this, but even beyond that, you still see cases where people are, um, conned in a long-term relationship face to face. So there's sort of no definitive answer to that question where you can know for sure that someone is who they say they are, but, you know, looking for a broad, I think base of evidence support that someone is who they say they are. So you might want to meet their friends. You might want to meet their family. You might want to, you know, go to their workplace, not in a stalky creepy bait. Um, but when someone brings you into the broader context of their life and you see all of these different points of information, I suppose, that support that they are, who they say they are. Um, then you can be a little bit more comfortable about that.

Craig Hamilton: (11:18)
Sandra has sent a text through to say, maybe they're having a text relationship because they're already in a real relationship. Exclamation mark exclamation, mark.

Tara Thomas: (11:31)
Yeah. I mean, that's absolutely possible. There are people. And I guess now it's also part of the online dating scene where the expectation is that, you know, people are talking to more than one person at a time that's quite common. So again, having being clear about your own expectations and, and articulating that to someone else is really important, you know, are you comfortable with them being in multiple relationships or are you not, um, do you want to just have this exclusive, um, Tex relationship or face-to-face relationships? So those are some of the negotiations and conversations that you need to be having with someone.

Craig Hamilton: (12:09)
Uh, why is it not okay in your view to just stop talking to someone you've been talking to via text to ghost?

Tara Thomas: (12:17)
I just think it's so distressing. It's so distressing for someone to not, to not be able to get the closure and to not be able to get the feedback from, from the person that they were having in this tech station ship with. It is tricky to say, isn't it, it's impossible for someone to get feedback. And that can be quite distressing psychologically, uh, where, you know, uh, a really quick text saying, look, I don't think, you know, I'm not interested in continuing this relationship might feel in that moment. Like it's really uncomfortable and it's a really hard thing to do. But in the longer term, I think it's a much more respectful way to let someone know, um, where, where things are up to, and then they can go through that process of, of closure and moving on with their own life, rather than kind of hanging and wondering what happened.

Craig Hamilton: (13:04)
The other thing that occurred to me and I'm like this, the final question, just talking to you this morning. The thing that intrigues me a bit, if, if two people who've never met, okay. I having a text relationship at some stage, they've both got to have their FA the other person's phone number. How do they get their phone numbers? If they're having a relationship, a text relationship with someone they've never met,

Tara Thomas: (13:30)
This is the technical part of it. Um, I guess, well, I guess this is what happens when it's mostly happening, happens in a dating context or perhaps, you know, you and I last time you were on, um, on relationships in the morning, we spoke as well about, um, more online friendships where people might meet someone on a forum or in a, in a social group, um, in an online context. So you might be chatting to someone on a particular online platform, whether it's on Twitter or it's on a dating website, or, you know, whatever it might be. And then you might realize that you feel like you have some sort of synergy with that person or chemistry with that person. And you want to then take that relationship off that platform. At that point, you might exchange an email address or a, um, or a phone number.

Craig Hamilton: (14:13)
Okay. Mike saints, Tara, always good to talk some great insights. Thanks for joining us today. This Tara Thomas, the relationship coach with the sugar doctor, joining us on a regular segment on Mondays.

For full transparency you should know: This transcript has been lightly edited for flow, and to optimise the SEO on my website. That means that I have substituted some words or phrases so that the article is more likely to appear in a google search. In this article "textationship" has been optimised. I only do that in a context where the meaning will remain the same, for example instead of "...Welcome to a text relationship." I have said "...Welcome to a textationship."

This is a decision which I've made because SEO is one of the key factors in determining whether people do, or do not, read my blogs & articles, visit my website, and work with me.