Ask Ava

Ask Ava, Episode 176: "Why is it harmful to expect my partner to always answer texts?"

August 24, 2023 Safe+Sound Somerset Season 1 Episode 176
Ask Ava
Ask Ava, Episode 176: "Why is it harmful to expect my partner to always answer texts?"
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 176: "Why is it harmful to expect my partner to always answer texts?"

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You’re listening to the Ask Ava Podcast, where we give real answers to real questions from teens and young adults about relationships, consent, dating violence, and more.

My name is Jessica Skultety. I’m an Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey’s lead organization for domestic and sexual violence services and prevention, and we have free services for children, teens, and adults who witness or experience violence.

So, today’s question is: Dear Ava, “Why is it harmful to expect my partner to always answer texts?”

So when two people are partners, or dating, or they’re together, they’re still two separate people. Sometimes we get questions like this when one person hasn’t been treated well in the past, and they want to know where their partner is, or who they’re with, or what they’re doing. Maybe they need constant validation or reassurance. Or in general, sometimes people expect constant communication. You know, if you text your partner, “Hey, how are you,” some people expect an immediate answer.

No matter what the situation is, expecting that your partner is always be available can be harmful and hurt the relationship and your partner. And here’s why.

In a relationship, both people should be able to make choices for themselves, set boundaries, and give or take away consent or permission. So that would lead to something that looks like a healthy, safe, equal  relationship. If both people can do all these things, then they have equal power and they have control, and they will likely feel safe and supported by their partner. They’ll also be feeling safe to be their own person, and that’s really important in a relationship or in a partnership.

We need to understand that romantic relationships and even friendships are just one part of our lives. We all have other relationships, right? that are important to us. We have school, we have work - coworkers, we have hobbies, we have activities, we have teams, and families. Those things also important. So we have to understand that our other partner or friend is going to have parts of their life also separate from us, and it’s not a bad thing.

Just because they can’t answer or don’t answer doesn’t automatically mean that someone is betraying their partner, or that they’re cheating, which is something we hear about a lot, that people are concerned about that.

Sometimes life comes up, and we can’t be on our phone texting or talking to our partner. So expecting someone to always be available to answer immediately puts a lot of pressure on them. Over time, it might even make them feel anxious, and it’s going to give them less power in the relationship and control. Because then, they can no longer make choices for themselves, because you’ve already made the choice for them – they have to be available, ready to talk, ready to text, ready to hang out with you all the time. 

They also might not then feel able to talk to you about this, if you’re insisting on that or being overbearing. Or they love you and don’t want to upset you, so they’re not going to say anything and it builds up. That can be really hard on somebody. We call this textual harassment, when one person won’t let up, even if they use excuses like, “Oh, I’m worried about you” or “I love you so much.” We have to think about the impact on our partners as well.

So, here’s another way to think about this – imagine you’re taking a test at school, and you keep getting interrupted, and maybe it’s a text message from your partner. And you have to keep rereading the same question on your test over and over again. Think about how that feels – are you going to really be thinking about the question, or are you going to be thinking about the constant texts you’re getting? 

Most likely, you’re not going to be able to focus on the test. So this is what happens sometimes when we get constant calls or notifications on our phones – our attention gets split, and we can’t focus when there’s something else going on. So remember, your partner has a life to live too, so expecting them to always be available isn’t really fair to them. It makes them feel over time, especially, it can make someone feel like their life isn’t respected and that maybe they’re not that happy or safe around you.

To speak with an expert about relationship or sexual violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning. In the United States, you can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673.