Texting your significant other should be easy. But sometimes, all it takes is one stray “K” or a message “read” without a reply to start an argument, said Christine Wilke, a marriage therapist in Easton, Pennsylvania
“Some people don’t realize that while texting may be a quick and convenient way to communicate, it can’t convey the emotional tone that your voice can,” she said. “When it’s your S.O. you’re texting, it’s even more critical to add those extra few words to make sure your message is clear and not taken the wrong way.”
Below, Wilke and other therapists share six things you should never say to your spouse via text. Unfortunately, it’s common sense texting etiquette that’s surprisingly uncommon.
1. A snarky text that becomes a big, overblown fight.
You air a complaint via text. Then, your spouse fires back with an equally petty criticism of you. Before you know it, you’re locked into a written-word war you know you’re going to regret later. Next time, have a verbal convo, advised Becky Whetstone, a marriage and family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Absolutely do not fight over text,” she said. “What I tell my clients is, if you are going to have any sort of serious conversations with your significant other, face-to-face is the only adult way to do it.”
2. Dismissive texts such as “K,” “Whatever” or “NVM”
Is there a greater texting sin than responding to a message with a simple yet obnoxious “K”? Avoid sending “K” texts ― and while you’re at it, avoid any emoji that could potentially be read as dismissive, too, said Leslie Petruk, a marriage and family therapist in Charlotte, North Carolina. (We’re looking at you, thumbs up emoji.)
“Texts like this will led to your partner to making up their own story about what you’re thinking or feeling and the intention behind the text and let me tell you, the story usually isn’t positive,” she said. “It’s OK to be brief, but using more words assures your S.O. that you aren’t blowing them off.”
3. “What? You’re acting crazy.”
When you gaslight someone, you attempt to manipulate a person psychologically by questioning their sanity. It’s not a good practice when you’re face-to-face, and it’s no less patronizing when you do it over text, said Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling men.
“Stay constructive when texting,” he said. “While something like ‘You’re cray cray’ could be texted with the intent of being funny or as a defensive reaction to something your spouse said, the message is probably not going to be received well.”
4. A long, rambling block of text about something that upset you.
Don’t make your partner stare down a long chunk of text while they’re at work or otherwise busy. If the message requires more than a few sentences and it’s a sensitive subject, just wait until you’re both home to talk, said Marni Feuerman, a marriage and family therapist in Boca Raton, Florida.
“An unproductive text is any text that is too long and involves emotion-laden content, she said. “In a mature relationship, you know when you need to have a direct conversation. At the very least, communicate with a phone call.”
5. “Not now.”
If you’re busy, you’re busy. But brusquely sending a text saying “not now” or something similar could hurt your partner’s feelings more than you realize, Wilke said.
“If you’re not able to talk, why not add, ‘Let’s catch up later?’” she said. “Or you can add a cute little emoji heart to soften it a bit. Those extra few seconds of effort could possible save hours of misunderstanding.”
6. Reading the text and not replying.
OK, we’re cheating a little with this one, since it’s technically the absence of a text. That said, the only thing worse than sending any of the above is sending nothing at all. The little “read” notification ― or the implication that you skimmed your partner’s text, then ignored it― is sure to cause some tension in the short term, said Laura Heck, a marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“Ignoring or denying a returned response to your partner’s text is a big no-no,” she said. “In therapy-speak we call this ‘turning away’ from your partner’s bid for connection. It doesn’t matter if this bid is a request for groceries on your way home or a complaint about how disgusting you left the bathroom sink, your partner always deserves a response.”