skitched-20110118-183958.jpgA couple of years ago, I spoke with a reader that was struggling to get over a six month ‘relationship’ where it had become apparent that he had a limited interest and was seeing other women. She wanted some feedback on an email she intended to send to him expressing her discontent, which immediately had me curious. All became clear when I asked about how often they communicated and there had only been two phonecalls in six months. Everything else was texts and email. That wasn’t a ‘relationship’ – it was like being a sexual pen pal.

When it all boiled down to it, most of the lazy communication via text and email served 4 purposes:

To arrange to get together (read: hook up)

To get a quick ego stroke

To quickly water her ‘attention garden’ so that she would continue to dangle on the hook.

To keep her (and anyone else) he was seeing at a distance

I have come across many people, mostly women, that are in this situation and the truth is this:

From the perspective of the ‘offender’, it’s obvious that this isn’t a relationship because they, for example in this case, have only called twice in six months and in their eyes, it’s a casual arrangement where they get a shag, an ego stroke, and a shoulder to lean on.

Let’s be real – If you only called someone you had sex or ‘romantic involvement’ with occasionally, would you really think that you were 1) that interested in them and that 2) they’re a priority?

Unfortunately we seem to have dropped our standards of what a relationship or someone being interested constitutes.

In ‘olden times’ (read: pre text, email, IM, Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc), if someone wasn’t calling you and arranging to see you regularly, plus the relationship wasn’t growing, you knew they weren’t making an effort and that they had limited interest.

In ‘modern times’, we think that when someone isn’t calling us and possibly not even seeing us that often, but they are using the written word in these modern ways, and enjoying the ‘trappings’ of being a couple such as sex, that they are interested although we may realise on some level that it’s not as much as we would like.

For those of us that live in Lala Land and would rather have a semblance of a ‘relationship’ on some terms rather than no terms, all this tippy-tapping of messages convinces us that they’re interested; it’s just that some obstacle is preventing them from getting in touch via traditional means or they’re ‘shy’ or ‘busy’ or that it’s the ‘new’ way of doing relationships.

New way of doing things? Genuine interaction, courtesy, respect, care, trust, intimacy – these things are not dead or old. Yes we may have some extra communication options, but people only claim it’s the new way of doing things to legitimize crappy behavior. Don’t participate.

In our minds, surely someone who isn’t really interested in us, wouldn’t continue to text, email, instant message and give the impression of being interested while sleeping with us, maybe expecting us to listen to their problems and give them an ego stroke? Believe it.

We want to be understanding. We don’t want to be too needy. To put the pressure on. To…oooh…have expectations and standards. We want to be easy going and the last thing we want to do is scare them off by attempting to clarify where we stand.

Here’s the thing: If you expecting bare basics such as being called and to be able to call on a regular basis, is going to scare them off, you 1) have to recognise that the relationship is doomed and that 2) you could stand to raise your standards somewhat.

The fact that someone would ever put you in the position of not knowing when you might hear from them next, or having your calls avoided, or them disappearing and then texting trying to pick up where they left off, or any other completely shady behavior, is indicative of an interaction without basic respect.

The reality is this: Relationships require effort, connection, and intimacy as well as love, care, trust, and respect, and so the way of ‘olden times’ is actually exactly as it is now.

If they’re not calling and making genuine, human efforts that involve voice and sight to grow your relationship, and instead are relying on lazy forms of communication, you’re in a lazy ‘arrangement’ with a limited connection that is fostering false intimacy and building sandcastles in the sky.

If they’re not calling you regularly or at all, and instead are opting for distanced means of communication, they are not that interested in you – they’re stoking your fire for when they next want your company.

It doesn’t matter if it’s not what you want or you didn’t ‘verbally’ agree to it – by participating and acting like it’s a full on relationship, they end up getting more for less.

Just because sex is involved and they’re nice when they do eventually speak to or see you, it doesn’t make it a relationship.

If they’re not calling you regularly, they’re not that interested in you.

If they’re not seeing you regularly, they’re not that interested in you.

If they predominantly want to communicate via text, email etc, they’re passing time with you and keeping you on the fringes of their life, not the ‘inner circle’. As they say in ‘Meet The Parents’ – you’re not in the “circle of trust”.

If the communication pretty much centres around or leads to making an arrangement that will lead to sex and any other fringe benefits that say ‘relationship without the relationship’, it’s a hook up (read: booty call) and hanging out.

If you don’t know when you’re next going to hear from, you’re not in a relationship and if you genuinely believe you are, you’re in one where you’re being disrespected.

If they started out calling you all the time and they’ve faded out to emailing, texting, IM’ng etc, they’ve gone off the boil. The novelty has worn off and they’re managing down your expectations. Let the alarm bells start ringing when you start out with decent, if not somewhat intense communication and it fades out to a dribble.

If they’re way of telling you they miss you, checking in on you, or even saying they want to get back together with you is via text, email etc and they’re not picking up the phone or coming to see you, they’re incredibly lazy.

If they’re reluctant to move away from texts and emails into regular phone calls and seeing one another, they’re hedging their bets, checking out other options, or reluctant to give you the impression that you’re a priority or that you’re in a relationship.

If they’re calling everyone else, making contact with everyone else, but you don’t hear a peep, or are last in line, they’re not interested.

People who are actually in a relationship or even dating one another, can pick up the phone to one another. If you can’t, or you fear what will happen if you will, you’ve got problems. If you’re afraid to broach the subject of seeing them and you’ve been dating for several weeks or months and you’re feeling committed to them, this is a red flag that needs to be addressed.

One of the key components that distinguishes a bonafide, mutually fulfilling, healthy, loving relationship from being a casual/booty call/passing time situation or even a friendship is intimacy and not only do the likes of text messaging erode intimacy but the reliance on lazy means of communication is the mainstay of the emotionally unavailable that fear intimacy.

You want to get to know someone? You want to grow on all levels from dating into a relationship? You want to ensure that you’re not Dial-A-Lay, or Dial-An-Ego Stroke or Dial-An-Emotional-Airbag? Keep lazy forms of communication to the minimum in your interactions.

I’m not saying don’t use them, but they are to supplement being face to face and getting on the phone, not substitute, particularly with text messages which are ridiculously prevalent in too many barely there relationships. Not only are these lazy means open to miscommunication of tone, they’re open to miscommunication of intent and interest.

Actions still speak louder than words and that includes the written word.

And you have to hold up your end of the bargain. The amount of emails I read from readers who do the following is scary:

Sending a text/email to express discontent, to raise an issue for the first time including, and I kid you not, confronting a current partner about cheating.

Using Facebook pages to force the other person to get in touch by posting TMI (too much information) messages

Sending emails complaining about the relationship and listing their shortcomings, what the problems are on a regular basis – I call this People Who Write Too Much. They don’t want to ‘fix’; they want to vent.

Breaking up via email and text, and one of the most frequent occurrences, breaking No Contact via text and email.

We engage in lazy communication because it’s low risk and ‘safe’. Yeah we’ll still get hurt, but it’s not what we imagine it would be if we really put ourselves out there. And truth be told, some us engage in these means of communication because we get to be far more aggressive than we would be if we were face to face or on the phone. This is not conducive to a healthy relationship.

If you use lazy communication modes to manage the pace and temperature of the relationship, to create false intimacy, to express feelings that you wouldn’t express face to face, to confront others, to avoid ‘scary’ face-to-face conflict and to dodge and minimise opportunities for rejection, you are guilty of lazy communication and you are fostering lazy relationships.

Don’t allow someone to control the relationship and don’t sell yourself down the river for some trickles of attention. You deserve more – stop selling yourself short.

Keep your investment proportionate. If they’re not making proper efforts to interact via phone and face-to-face on a regular basis and keep protesting about how busy they are and yada yada yada, you need to roll back your level of investment.

Don’t project dodgy excuses for why they’re not making an effort.

It’s not because they’re shy.

It’s not because they’re The Busiest Person on Earth.

It’s not because they’re better at sending texts than talking.

It’s not because they want to make the most of their 500 free texts a month.

It’s not because they’re from another country.

It’s not because they can be more uninhibited (read: say sexual stuff).

It’s not because they’re saving up everything for when they see you.

It’s time to be honest and ask: What means more to you – Having a semblance of a ‘something’ on any terms rather than no terms? Or having an actual relationship?

Whichever it is, own that choice and recognise that if you genuinely want to be in a loving relationship, letting someone string you along with lazy communication is not the way to it no more than raising issues via these means is. But letting go of someone who strings you along and setting basic standards of communication from the outset will quickly weed out the shady and the lazy and ensure that you get to put your whole self in.

We can’t, much as we may want to, have it all ways. It’s the whole ‘shortcut’ issue where we want to set low standards by having little or no boundaries and accepting dubious behaviour and still get the relationship we claim to want.

We want to turn a pigs ear into a silk purse and we get frustrated when, surprise, surprise, that’s impossible to do. These types of situation are not destined to become ‘great’ relationships.

Think of it this way – if you were dating someone and they had the option of calling you and the option of seeing you, but they chose to instead send you an occasional ‘note’ or preferred to send you letters but not really move things along, or left you messages on your voicemail but in reality only spoke with you infrequently, or only contacted you when they wanted to get together, what would you think?

Remember: Lazy communication = lazy relationship.

You deserve more than that. Don’t sell yourself short.

Your thoughts?

Check out my ebooks the No Contact Rule and Mr Unavailable & The Fallback Girl and more in my bookshop.

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