New Relationship Rules: Texting & IMing

Love, Self

A guide to good communication etiquette. How often to text, call and IM.

Communication is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. At least that's what's been shoved down the throats of the love-hungry for decades. And perhaps it was true 150 years ago, when the best way to communicate over any real distance was to write down your thoughts, hand them to a dirty guy on a horse, and have him take off into the remains of the day.

Now, in a warm and fluid world of cell phones, text messages, and IMs, anyone can reach out and touch you, anytime, anyplace. Significant others, naturally, are hands-on. They "just want to hear your voice"—so it’s a quick call during the day. Or a text message between office and gym.

In the beginning, you reply with the vigor of a porn star on Viagra: "I miss you, too." But soon the "I miss you" turns to "where are you?"—a bill among the love notes. For men, the cell phone becomes a homing beacon. Like Martha Stewart with that pesky ankle bracelet, we can't stretch our legs without getting zapped.

Women find comfort in words, a comfort they deserve. But men are more "reactive" communicators, and thus we use cell phone and "Crack-Berry" to pacify: "Hey, honey, just wanted to let you know I’m going to go get a bikini wax and a new banana hammock."

Or in emergencies, like when you need her to pick up another bottle of Haitian rum, or you just ran over her mom with your car and you need to beg forgiveness while driving to pick up another bottle of Haitian rum. Or to lay down a booty call. In that spirit ...

MEN Answer at least half the calls she makes to you every day. A good rule of thumb is: answer the first one, ignore 2, 3, and 5, and answer 4 and 6. Lob a call of your own over during the day. If you time it right, it will be like sending flowers.
WOMEN It's hard enough for guys to feign interest about "what Linda said to Jill" when we're in your sightline. Stick to the basics. Make half the calls you feel compelled to make; talk for half the time. However, if we're already at a high call volume, don't cut down too much if not hearing from us will make you panicky. If you slow down, we'll slow down. If you stop, we'll stop.

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