It’s hard to read other people and know exactly what they mean via text. It’s even worse when the person you’re texting with is inconsistent with their behavior. It’s no wonder you end up obsessed and feeling like you’ve gone crazy.
We’ve all been there and it’s maddening. If you’ve dated in the past decade, you’ve likely experienced someone texting you inconsistently. Maybe they ghosted you completely or perhaps they hit you up a lot some days and then went AWOL for a few days without explanation. It’s a universal experience because there are a lot of people who play games or are generally emotionally unavailable.
It starts with the other person’s texting becoming unpredictable. Maybe you’ve been texting this sweet new person from a dating app for a few days now. The conversation has been flowing and good. Then, all of a sudden, they stop texting in the same way. Their patterns change slightly; they text you less or their texts lack emotion. This could mean a variety of things. One could be that they’re just busy, but it could also mean they’re just not that into you.
You had big expectations. You thought you liked the person you were texting with a lot and felt like you two were really hitting it off. You projected and planned a future for both of you already. You imagined them as your partner, maybe even your spouse with kids. Your imagination got carried away and you got a bit too excited for something that’s just in its early stages.
You begin to panic and obsession takes over. You concoct all sorts of ideas about why the other person isn’t texting you back. The top assumptions are that they hate you and they’re going to abandon you. Panic sinks in and you have a hard time playing it cool. Instead, you’re totally obsessing about all that could possibly go wrong. This ruins your ability to even enjoy what’s going on between you two in the moment.
Intermittent reinforcement is the game. This is basically when rewards are inconsistently handed out. In this case, that means texts that aren’t consistent. The process toys with your head, making you want more and more. It’s sort of like gambling—you keep coming back because of the rush from the inconsistency. If you got what you wanted every time, it wouldn’t be fun anymore.
This pattern is more likely when there’s a childhood history of inconsistency. People are more prone to experiencing intermittent reinforcement when they have this lived experience in childhood. They felt their parents being inconsistent so now they choose lovers who don’t give them what they need all of the time, they settle for just some of the time. It’s like a roller coaster ride of emotions, leaving you always exhausted at the end.
Hope keeps you trying. You think that because this person is giving you the attention you want some of the time that maybe, just maybe, they’ll give it to you all the time. You have this deep well of hope that keeps you coming back for more, no matter how run down and hurt you feel. It’s your persistent hope to be in a loving relationship that drives you to put up with inconsistency.
You’re stuck in a pattern. This isn’t the first time someone has been inconsistent with you. You probably have had a string of relationships where others treat you like this, leaving you hanging. Instead of being in a healthy relationship you keep finding yourself in ones such as this. You don’t know why exactly you’re stuck in this pattern but it’s painful and not getting you where you want to be.
You’re likely not being honest about your feelings. When the other person has a day or two where they’re acting weird, do you mention anything? Do you tell them that you’re feeling uncomfortable about their actions (or inaction)? I get it, it’s totally vulnerable to open up and let another person know how you feel, especially when you’re hurting. Next time give it a try so you can gauge whether the other person is worth your time by their reaction.
You’ve likely not talked to the other person about your preferences. Have you told them when you like to text? What about how much? Have you two had a conversation about what both of your preferences are and how to meet in the middle? Without this, you’re going to be silently suffering.
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