What to Do When They Don’t Text Back

06 Oct

One of the most infuriating things about dating is when people don’t respond to your text messages, especially if you can see that they have read your well crafted text. Why does this happen and what can you do about it? 

Man waiting for text messages

There are of course a number of reasons why people appear to ignore your text messages, and if you can figure out what it is, you are in a better position to do something about it. Generally, if you are at the receiving end of ‘non-replies’, you are either experiencing benching, fading, ghosting, or suffering from overthinking, anxious prediction and a heightened sense of rejection. Let’s understand these elements a bit more.

Benching

Benching happens when someone is not yet sure about you, possibly because their attention is elsewhere (usually another dating prospect); think team sports where some players are kept on the bench but may be called up to play at any moment. You are on the bench when you are not a priority in dating. People who bench you, sporadically reply to your text messages or take their time because they are not too worried about your relationship. They are hedging their bets by responding to you and giving you a sense of hope that there is a connection between you. How can you tell whether you are being benched? Listen to the actions. Over time there will be a pattern, where when you pull back and don’t message as much, they will respond or get in touch, keeping you warm as it were.

Fading

Fading is the opposite of benching. Here, as the name implies, is a gradual departure from the relationship. Fading is when someone no longer wants to be in touch with you but doesn’t want to tell you either. The hope being that you won’t notice them leaving your life. A way to do this, is to not reply to messages and maybe only respond when pushed. For example, you might ask them if everything is ok or want to know what’s going on, and you’ll get a bland ‘Sorry, I’ve been busy’ sort of reply, without a meaningful explanation to the nature of the busyness. Their response will also be void of initiative to engage in your relationship. It will feel like you are doing all the work in trying to make things happen, you may even feel like you are being needy.

Ghosting

Ghosting as you probably know is the cold turkey of non-responses. It’s as if you are being stonewalled, rejected and ignored all in one go. It is especially hard hitting if you have had a long period of time with frequent contact, because your body will have become accustomed to their interaction and experience this as a mini dopamine hit. Ghosting can literally trigger withdrawal symptoms. Usually if you have not met in person, even if you have been messaging and talking for months (perhaps especially if you haven’t met for months and you are in relative proximity to each other; red flag!) ghosting shouldn’t come as a shock. You simply don’t know what is going on in that person’s life. You need to physically be in it, meet friends and family and have passed by their workplace, to fully know what a person is up to. Over text messages and chat, people can say all sorts of things. Ghosting usually occurs for two reasons. One, the person never intended to have you in their life and for whatever reason decide to move, they never had any regard for you in the first place. It’s not personal, it’s something almost pre decided. The other reason is, someone has tried to break it off with you and you won’t accept a no and keep badgering them (for sex, attention, to continue the relationship or some such), in which case ghosting you is their way for them to move on.

Then there is the ghosting from a relationship, in that you have been an exclusive couple, perhaps even living together, and your partner ups and leaves without warning. It’s usually got something to do with them, something is going on and they have been unable to tell you. This experience is perhaps the most shocking to the system, and quite rare. Thankfully. This blog is not about these examples.

Non-Responses

Sometimes non-responses, are not non-responses at all, but simply someone who is either truly busy or genuinely doesn’t like communicating via text messages. There are two types of busy; temporary or chronically. For someone who is temporarily busy, they are busy in the moment, a day or week, there’s a looming work deadline or they have to arrange something for the family for example. And  those who are chronically busy, will have a busy lifestyle, they never seem to have enough time. The first busy lot will apologise, tell you spontaneously what happened, give a reasonable explanation and it will be a one-off event. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is useful here, so you don’t have to unnecessarily elicit dramatic conversations about the status of the relationship. For the chronically busy, well, a pattern will emerge, they may come across as scatter-brained in their messaging, always seeming to be on the go. A behavioural pattern will emerge and you will learn that they may be married to their work. The question becomes, do you want to date someone who doesn’t prioritize the relationship. For anti-texters, it can be more tricky to decipher. You will usually experience them as being present and warm when you meet in person, but distant and cold in between dates. So you will need to meet your date in person to figure out whether they are ‘anti-texters’. To change this you will need to have a conversation about how important text messages communication is for you and see if they can overcome their detest for chat. Non-responses from busy people or anti-texters are not necessarily a reflection of them no longer liking you.

Perception

In the final category are anxious predictions and heightened sense of rejection. This is about perception. You may think that not receiving a message within the minute of it being read is a sign of rejection, certainly if you are the type of person who responds the minute you receive a message. Who is to say that not getting a reply within the hour of a message being sent is a reasonable or unreasonable request. For some people not getting responses form their text messages within a tight frame triggers the assertion that it is a non-response. For example, if I don’t receive a reply from my partner the moment he/she reads it or waits a whole day to respond, I deem it a non-response and my anxieties are triggered. Anxious predictions such as ‘he/she no longer fancies me’ get triggered. If this is the case, take note of the pattern that emerges, does your date respond within the day? Are they consistently showing up? Do they take initiative to see you? Are they otherwise making an effort to get to know you?

If you have been on the receiving end of ‘non-replies’ in your dating life and think you need that extra support to navigate any of these scenarios, get in touch today and book in a complimentary consultation with me.

by Dr Madeleine Mason Roantree

Psychologist

Madeleine has over 15 years of experience in psychology, where she is trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Applied Positive Psychology. She is currently undertaking a PhD in Counselling Psychology, and is member of the British Psychological Society, the International Positive Psychology Association & Dating Industry Professionals Network.More by this author

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