Q: I’m dating again now and annoyed by how texting’s become the way you get to know somebody you might want to go out with. I type all day at work. I’ll talk on the phone, but the last thing I want to do when I’m off is type text messages.—Contrary Millennial Woman
A: Back in, say, 539 B.C. in Sumer, if you wanted to tell somebody you were “laughing out loud,” you’d have to dispatch your eunuch across town with the message on a cuneiform tablet. OK, so the “tablets” are way more tricked out these days, but oh, how far we haven’t come.
Texting can be a great way to get to know somebody—somebody who can’t talk on the phone because they’re hiding in a closet from kidnappers in a Liam Neeson movie. However, assuming that neither of you is in immediate danger of being sold into sex slavery by the standard swarthy Hollywood terrorists, you should hold off on any text-athons until after you put in some solid face-to-face time.
Sure, in texting, it seems like all sorts of information is getting “bloop!”ed back and forth. However, you end up missing some vital elements—tone of voice, emotion, body language—that you’d have in person or even FaceTiming on your phone.
People shrug that off: “No biggie … I’ll just see all that stuff when we meet.” Well, there’s a problem with that. “Nature,” it’s said, “abhors a vacuum,” and it seems that the human brain isn’t so hot on it, either. Research by neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga suggests that when people lack information, their brain helps them by making up a narrative that seems to make sense. So there’s a good chance your brain is going to be your helpful little servant and fill in the missing bits—with ideas about a person that may not correspond all that closely with reality.
In other words, you’re accidentally onto something with your dislike of text-athons. That said, the telephone isn’t the best way to get to know somebody, either—not even via FaceTime, which only gives you a partial picture. That’s why I think you and anyone you’re considering dating should communicate minimally online or by phone and get together in person ASAP. Ideally, your first date should be three things: Cheap, short and local—making it low-cost in time, money and, on some occasions, “Lemme outta here, you sick pumpkin latte-slurping degenerate!”
Tell guys your preference, and don’t be swayed by texting aficionados who insist that you simply MUST engage in marathon text sessions before meeting somebody … because … because safety! The reality is, texting somebody till your fingers bleed is not the equivalent of an FBI report on their trustworthiness—though it will leave you well-prepared to testify at The Hague on their war crimes against the apostrophe.
Q: My wife and I have our differences in bed. Let’s say that I like A and she likes B. So we alternate—A one time and B the next—meaning we’re each only satisfied half the time. Is this a smart compromise?—Curious
A: Relationships do take compromise—especially when one of you’s in the mood for foreplay with whipped cream and strawberries and then a glance at the calendar reveals, “Oh, crap. It’s Medieval Torture Device Monday.”
As for whether your sex compromise is “smart,” it depends. Research by social psychologist Shelly Gable finds that in a relationship, you can do the exact same activity on your partner’s behalf—say, picking up their thumbscrews from the welder—and have it be good or bad for the relationship, depending on your motivation.
Couples in Gable’s studies were happiest when partners’ efforts for each other were driven by “approach” rather than “avoidance” goals. “Approach” involves moving in a positive direction, making an effort for positive reasons—such as barking like a gibbon in bed because you love your partner and want them to be happy. “Avoidance” involves doing it to prevent rejection or conflict (like being exiled to the couch for three days).
An “approach” approach to sex, especially, appears to pay off. Social psychologist Amy Muise found that partners who took pleasure in giving their partner sexual pleasure “felt more satisfied and committed both at the … time and three weeks later.” The message in all of this? A smart sex compromise runs on enthusiasm for rocking each other’s world in bed—even if the thing your partner’s into plays for you like, “How ’bout we sneak out to my car for a quick endoscopy?”