Before You Text Your Boyfriend, Read This

how to avoid texting mistakesHere are a few things I have learned about texting as a relationship coach.

1.You should not make decisions or write those decisions in a text message when you are upset.

2.You should be VERY slow to respond to text messages when you are angry.

3.Your own mood will determine how you imagine the other person’s tone of voice as you read their text.

I can recall countless episodes of sitting in my office with a client who insisted I read a series of back and forth text messages between her and her boyfriend.

In most of these situations they were not asking me for advice. Instead, they were looking for validation. Validation of the intense feelings of frustration with a boyfriend who was in a full fledged emotional blame game with them.

In many of these situations, a quick read of the first few text messages revealed the problem.

I’m talking about the snowball effect of misinterpretation. Just one misunderstanding early in the text-conversation causes a splintering of perspectives. Almost like you and your boyfriend enter parallel dimensions, or alternate universes.

The context of a statement is misunderstood, but neither person realizes the misunderstanding has occurred. As a result, both parties continue the conversation under differing sets of assumptions about the other person’s thoughts and motivations.

The Text Message Land-Mine

That creates a land mine just waiting for one of you to step on. Because neither of you remembers having set a land mine, you both launch into a blame game fueled by frustration.

It’s amazing how often people overlook the possibility that simple miscommunication has occurred. And it’s because emotions (both positive and negative) can severely skew the way we interpret written messages.

The lack of vocal intonation, facial expression, and other nonverbal clues creates a much larger range of possible interpretations for written words compared with in-person communication.

There is a solution to this common problem. But first, let’s look at a real-life example of the problem as it unfolds.

Here’s a non-relationship example that happened to me personally two weeks ago. I got a bad muscle spasm in my neck from bad posture at the computer. I scheduled an appointment to see a massage therapist who has been very helpful for me in the past.

She had to cancel the appointment a few hours before we were scheduled to meet. She said it was because she was not feeling well emotionally. She texted me a long explanation, noting it was the one-year anniversary of her father’s death and she did not feel she would be able to give anyone a good massage that day.

I texted her back very quickly, because I was in the middle of a long one-on-one interaction with someone. I just wanted to let the massage therapist know that I was fine with her canceling. I didn’t want to wait for two hours to text her back because I didn’t want her to think I was irritated with her for canceling.

So here’s the text message I replied with: “Okay. I’m sorry to hear that.”

Later I discovered she interpreted my short reply in a way I had not intended. Her interpretation of my message was basically this, “I’m sorry to hear you have to cancel my appointment. I have nothing to say about your father. I’m irritated you canceled on me at the last minute.”

In my haste to reply, I had not considered this alternative meaning she could draw from my short response. It would have been better if I had waited for two hours and then taken the time to text her with a longer message that more carefully expressed my condolences.

The message I meant to convey was, “It’s okay that you canceled the appointment. I’m sorry to hear that today you are grieving the loss of someone you cared about.” Haste makes waste, as they say.

Because she knows me to be a friendly person, she casually brought up the issue a few days later and we easily resolved the miscommunication within two minutes of talking on the phone. However, things can go far worse when it comes to the more sensitive emotions shared by lovers.

Many of my clients find themselves in frustrating emotional battles for days or weeks after small misunderstandings in text messages that gradually turn into a series of angry texts covering every hurt feeling and angry thoughts either partner has had during the entire relationship.

All it takes is one wrong turn to unleash anger. Once anger starts to run the show, I often see a torrent of negative emotion that hijacks the relationship for days or weeks.

Here’s the solution to this common problem:

how to avoid texting mistakesWhenever you start to feel frustrated or upset during a texting conversation, stop texting for five minutes, slow down your racing thoughts, and go back to the first few messages in the conversation to reread them in search of ambiguity.

If you find something that could be interpreted in more ways than one, you may have discovered the reason why your otherwise wonderful boyfriend suddenly became so annoying. He may have misunderstood something you said, or you may have misunderstood something he said. Usually, it’s the emotional undertone that is missed. People assume you understand the mental framework from which they are speaking.

The misunderstanding is often near the beginning of a text conversation. After that, emotions take over and no more misunderstandings are needed to continue fueling the fire of argument or hurt feelings. Get in the habit of searching for misunderstanding and multiple possible meanings when reading and writing your text messages.

I hope this post saves you from a few arguments or hurt feelings. Have a wonderful day!


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43 thoughts on “Before You Text Your Boyfriend, Read This

  1. Debra said:

    I liked your interpretation of text messaging but I think you’re putting to much into it. I feel it’s an instantaious way of communicating and to get int analyzing every word I believe you’re over thinking. Or is it the old addadge think before you speak??

    • James Bauer said:

      There’s truth in what you say, Debra. It is a quick medium usually meant for nothing more than a short-message to update someone. Unfortunately, I see my clients trying to use texting to work through anger on complicated relationship issues. That’s the target of this post. Thanks for sharing your perspective on this tricky issue.

  2. Ebonnie said:

    This article is so on point. Im already a naturally sensitive person (lol) so I do try and re-read a text to get a good feel for the other persons message and understand the context that they are sending especially if its from a guy.

  3. Massy said:

    This was well said and also well received in my part. I have made the mistake of sending sharp and hurtful words over text and email when i should have waited a few hours or even a day to cool down.
    Thank you again for you wise advise as always.

    • James Bauer said:

      I appreciate you encouraging words.

  4. Lara Satoo said:

    Dear James,

    Thank you for your post. It does really helpful. I was at the same problem when I got this e-mail. (still having this problem now)
    Do you mind if I ask a little advice from you?

    I just started a long distance relation ship 3 months ago. And I think I made a really really bad mistake by sent him a wrong text just because I got annoyed by his ignorant behavior as a workaholic. He doesnt seems care for what I text and most of the time he replied 2 days after.

    And this time he went silence. How can I fix this problem?

    Best regard ,

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Lara. Honestly, based on what limited information you shared I would have to question your reasons for pursuing him. I think you deserve better. If he loves work, and not you, why would you want a relationship with him? If there are really good reasons why you click with him, I would encourage you to send him a note, mentioning some of those things. If he responds without agreeing or adding things he enjoys about the relationship, I would leave that long-distance relationship behind and use some of the advice I offer for generating new leads on quality guys.

      • Terri said:

        Yes, please lead me to these quality guys that you know of…. Thank you!

  5. Phil Heys said:

    Dear James
    Your article is insightful & full of wisdom, I appreciate it very much thankyou.
    I realise how often I need to be reminded about the simple rules of good effective communication that leads to satisfactory intimacy – funny how I once automatically assumed I was fully prepared, and already knew how to communicate well, when in fact, I had & do have, much to learn & that its a life time of practicing, to make more perfect – oh the trials & joys of loving people.
    Cheers Phil
    New Zealand

    • Esther Lindberg/lifestar37...EstherLouise5 said:

      So true!!

  6. susan said:

    Really enjoy your messages. I have a problem. I am recently divorced after a 24 yr bad marriage and 7 yr separation. I reconnected with the brother of my best friend of 42 yrs about 3 years ago and we have been texting and calling. Very platonic and friendly, until this past Fall. We have always had a connection, when he left for college he would send me cards and letters and I reciprocated. He recently told me he saved them. He was always my favorite brother (she has 3) and we were both so glad to reconnect. I am 59, he is 53 so we have known each other for 43 years. I could tell he was lonely and I guess he could tell the same. Some minor flirting that I did not take seriously, he was my best friend’s little brother, right? I remember sleepovers and seeing him in his underwear, fixing him and his brothers pancakes on Saturday morning, etc. This past summer he said he was so glad we were talking again after not seeing each other for about 15 years with the exception of family events and wanted to know if he could take me to dinner. I was caring for my mom after surgery and really wanted a treat and we had a basis so I said yes. We he drove 2 hours and we talked for 4 at dinner. After that we flirted a little bit and both commented that it was all in fun…until after about 3 dinner meetings. Then he sent a text to me at school (teacher) and it was pretty obvious that the next time we met it would not be platonic. I told him that this was not me, I did not do things like this. We had talked a little about his marriage (I had known he was unhappy) I was at his wedding 16 years ago where he finally went through with it after leaving her at the alter once before. I remember then him being so upset about it being a mistake, his Dad saying he had to do it and his mom crying because she did not want him too. Needless to say they have never been happy. I told him if he had done that to me, I would not have married him. Anyway, our texting is explicit most of the time, and we have met three times since. We have stopped, both talked about how wrong it is, and come full circle again. I have been through hell in my marriage and have pulled myself up to a functioning human being, seeing my daughter graduate college, starting a new career and life. Why did he come back now? He has left his wife about 4 times in their marriage and usually spends 2 or 3 nights at home, the rest with his mom. I know I was not the cause of his unhappy marriage but it still bothers me. Is he the right person and wrong time? Wrong all the way around? I am mending, he is broken with me as a bandaid, nothing is fixed. I can’t seem to stop. But that is ridiculous…of course I just don’t want to bad enough. Help.

    • James Bauer said:

      Life is complicated, is it not? Especially when our emotions tug one way and our logic tugs us in the opposite direction. Susan, I believe relationships occur within a social framework for a reason. There is a reason for marriage and there is a reason for divorce. There is a reason for verbalizing commitments and a reason for setting boundaries. Unfortunately, your heart longs for his companionship and doesn’t really care about the fact that he is married.

      Remember this. Actions speak louder than words. His actions say he is committed to staying in his marriage even though it is unhappy. Please do not allow him to hold your heart while living with another woman. There are thousands upon thousands of single men out there (in their 50’s) who would LOVE to have the chance to share life with you and bond with you. Find one of those men! It will help your heart to heal as you let go of your old friend.

      • vivi said:

        thank you james for this answer… you help me even more to open my eyes and to let my heart keep healing for my best

  7. Nancy said:

    I have texted my man while angry, for he walks away and never discusses concerns. When I text him on how I am feeling about the situation he never replies either but I can see he has read it and well understood it by his action when comes home. So nothing has to be sent back in a text with him but I see his response in the body action and how he is treating me when he comes home.

    He is a man not with many words not unless he has a concern. lol

  8. Marie said:

    Wow! I love this format in the email I’ve received! It’s wonderful to read about others, their questions, concerns, and experiences! Thank you so much! It makes my mind open up to so many more possibilities. Not that I over analise or anything. Fortunately my relationship is wonderful. I always look for ways to keep it that way! Thanks Again!

  9. Innocent said:

    you are absolutely right. I now have the confidence to use the text more effectively.

  10. Ami said:

    Thank you James…in my case, I learnt this the hard way…I am in a long distance relationship…and i do a lot of texting….i have made a few mistakes in the past few months that have injured my relationship….mainly through texting….and trust me…we no longer connect that much….some how…my hopes are getting less by the day…i don’t wanna bother him any more…i don’t wanna text lest i make a mistake….he calls when he fills like…which is a lot more rare now. But atleast i can control by emotions a lot more.

  11. Eileen Hladky said:

    James just had a chance to read your e-mail. I learned the hard way about text messages being misinterpreted. I had sent someone I was dating a text meaning it to be a joke. Well, he totally took it the wrong way. Even though I put an LOL at the end. When I saw him a few days later he told me I was mean and insensitive. I was like WHOA what are you talking about? He had thought I was serious in my text. Yikes. I’ll never assume again that the person receiving my text understands my meaning. I have also discovered that you can’t assume that your text or voice mail was received. I’ve had both get lost in cyber space.

    • James Bauer said:

      Very true. Disappearing texts are a big problem. I’m glad you brought that up.

  12. Ann said:

    James, I really like your comments and what you say in this group. I have decided that long distance is just not a relationship for me. No face to face whether it is Skype or real face to face just doesn’t work for me. I will not make that mistake again! I need to hear and see the expressions, tone, etc to be able to know the “real” meaning of what a person is saying. Had I heard the words in person, I think I would have taken it differently. However, I am very courteous with people about telling them one way or not if I am going to be able to meet with them so I was already upset that he didn’t email me before the weekend was over and say he wasn’t going to be able to make the trip. Go Figure! Maybe that is an issue today…things seem to have really changed in the past 15 years on the way people communicate and date.

  13. Ann said:

    I just read your article on first, second, third person viewing. Now, I know what happened in my last relationship and will try to remember your article next time. Thanks James.

  14. Ann said:

    James, can you delete my long msg on this subject. I see now that it wasn’t appropriate to voice it here. After re reading your article several times, I see where my mistake was and will learn from this mistake. Thanks again,

    • James Bauer said:

      No problem, Ann. Thanks for understanding the limits of what I can offer on the public blog comments. I removed your comments in case you did not want that much personal info out there on the web.

  15. Maria said:

    Dear James,
    Greetings. I hope that you are well.
    I expect that this may be the wrong place to ask this, but I cannot find better. So I ask: how do I become a relationship/life coach such as yourself? I love speaking with people, being active in various careers, having more then one life path… but life is full of intriguing paths. I certainly think that this could be one of them. So, how could I do it?
    I would be beyond grateful, if you took the time to reply.
    Warmest wishes.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Maria. That is an interesting question with an answer that is unique as each person’s life story. If you have already developed a significant set of skills in this area of knowledge, you could take the next step by looking into Brendon Burchard’s “experts academy”

  16. debbie said:

    How do I ask you for some advice on my current situation?

  17. Donna said:

    Everyone has an answer, but why in the world would a man keep saying text me and then never return the text, call me and never return the call, is he just trying to tell himself that a woman is into him. Why keep encouraging so he can dump. are they sick? I mean mentally sick? Isn’t it just wasting their time and that of any woman?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Donna. I hate it when men do this. It is a cowardly form of disrespect in my opinion. They want you to think of them highly and flirt with them so it makes them look good, but they are “too busy” for you in real life. I would not waste time on guys that do this repeatedly.

  18. dea said:

    “People assume you understand the mental framework from which they are speaking”—I just love this sentence.

  19. Missy said:

    I love u…..!!!!!!!!

  20. Paolin said:

    Do you have any advice on how to move from a texting relationship to a face to face relationship? I am finding that I will meet someone, we enjoy each others company, we text, then text, then text, and I make suggestions to do something only to be ignored. So, I moved on to another date which seems to be starting the same way. We talked about texting only relationships and we both decided we enjoy face to face relationships but for the past three days its been texting, texting, texting. Even though he says daily “I want to see you!!” he makes no effort to “see” me. What can I say in this situation to get what I want out of it?

    • James Bauer said:

      It’s a bit of a gamble, but you might try this. Stop texting.
      If he likes you he will go out of his way to get in contact with you for real. Rather than ignoring his texts completely, ignore two of them and reply to the third with “I’d like to build a real relationship first and let texting be a way of staying connected rather than a way of getting to know eachother. If you agree, give me a call. :)” You could soften it a bit if you want, but with a guy you have already discussed this with, I think it’s ok to be direct and remind him of what you both want.


      • Paolin said:

        I don’t know what happened to my last post but I must say thank you for your advice on this subject. I ended this relationship two days ago using some of your techniques and advice he turned around and declared his feelings for me and called me immediately! WoW, I was shocked! I sat here for two days in pain and misery at the loss of this relationship when in fact it has brought us closer together!

  21. Sally Sunday said:

    Thank you for this message, James (very thoughtful and meaningful). Reading the “already sent to you responses” is very interesting and since many people do communicate with each other by text and email, it is a wonder that anyone has a relationship (and when it is working how wonderful they are).

  22. Deborah said:

    I just need help, I’m talking to this one guy I think is real cool but I don’t know what to say when it gets awkward and neither of us know what to say

  23. Kul said:

    Hi James, I’m in love with a guy at work. Problem is that he’s real busy. Although he takes out the time to talk to me, it’s getting more infrequent by the day. When I try to mention this to him, he points out that he is doing his best. He makes me feel good but of late, I’m missing the romance. I love him so much and not being able to understand what he wants is frustrating, more so because he doesn’t reply to texts and emails saying he’s busy. What should I do, James, to communicate to him that I want him to open up and understand me? I’m desperate.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hey, Kul. I recently released a short report that targets strategies for dealing with this kind of problem. It’s available here.

  24. sha said:

    Dear James,

    I am an emotional texter. I am always told to not text after an argument because I tend to pour out the pain that way. I know how to chase a guy away by texting. I’m a pro and not proud. I’ve realized its impossible trying to get a guy to understand how he’s hurt you unless he wants to understand. Men are stubborn and they do a lot of projecting upon us women. Why are men never wrong?..I’ve also used my emotions for good ? one article stated men want our respect and emotions. I’ve seen that worked. Especially when they clam up.oh and I did test a guy that liked me he failed miserably. I told him I have a single friend for his brother.. Or him and he asked me to charge my phone that off so he can see the picture. Then he lusted after the picture and had the nerve to ask for the number. He then tried to act like he was joking but I know he was serious. We didn’t text each other for two weeks cold turkey then I messsaged him on what’s app he read my messages but wouldn’t respond until I said I love him but he would never feel the same for me. This is the first time I’ve revealed to him how I felt besides our regular I like you exchanges. Am I manipulative or too much for men? Lol because I am always told I am . and I like to create conflict. Why are men so evasive. Clearly he knew what he was doing

  25. sha said:

    James can you talk about men who have baby mamas.I just turned 30. Most of the guys I tend to come in contact with have a child. I love kids and love hearing them talk about their kids but I find these guys to be emotionally unavailable. One guy was living with his brother ,in school, worked at night and was not on child support.he wasn’t ready to be in a relationship because he couldn’t handle emotional stuff. He had his daughter on the weekend so I just saw him weekdays. And we did just about nothing. Was in a relationship with another who was abusive . And the other pretty distant but still wanted to do relationship type stuff when he felt like it.

  26. Robin said:

    I was in a relationship that was completely derailed by text messaging. We would say ugly, nasty, mean spirited things that we would never say if we were actually speaking on the phone or talking face to face. I now make it a rule with my boyfriend — no texting, except if it’s a very brief message. On my way! See you in a few. Love you! Any real conversation, we talk on the phone. That way nothing gets misconstrued. And if it does, it can be cleared up right away.

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