You haven't heard from him in a while. One minute things were hot and heavy, the next super cold. You're not sure where things went wrong. So you open up your phone and scroll back through your texts to where it all began, looking for clues, any indication at all, as to where you caused some epic split in the foundation of your relationship. The thing is, you won't find what you're looking for in your text history. Or your e-mail. Or your gchats. It's not there.
Text messages are great for quick flirting, sometimes naughty invitations, and making plans. That's it. It is not good, nor should you use it, for long meaningful talks—people often get into trouble interpreting tone or meaning from texts, when the implied wasn't even considered. Let's pretend you're drunk. You text your paramour but they don't get back to you in a timely way and you get annoyed so you say something like, "You always disappear when I'm hanging out with [insert friend's name here]. You hate ALL my friends. Admit it." When he finally does get back to you, the two of you engage in a nasty back-and-forth until, half hour later, you realize that a text-based conversation simply isn't working.
The reasons you fall in love with someone or break up with them will never be found in your text history. You might see early indicators: such as when you both started making blanket statements using words like "always" as expressed above. However, the real reason your relationship went south is due to whatever he said to you face-to-face. If someone breaks up with you, in my experience, they want to steer things in the general direction of honesty but not brutality. A guy might say that yes, he doesn't like all of your friends, but it's more about how you party too much when you go out with them and he wants more stability, someone to stay in with on weekends. If that's what's said, you should look at that and see if there's any truth to it. Maybe you're not compatible. But something as nuanced as that is likely not going to come from him via text.
So why save your text history? Are you planning on referring to it long after you've stopped seeing each other so you can reminisce about a relationship that no longer exists?
All of this advice comes, admittedly, from a guy who on his two-year anniversary with a woman gave her the text history from their early months together. I gave her other things in addition, I swear—I'm a big gift guy. But I wanted her to have those early months printed out nicely so that she would have those initial weeks of flirting and uncertainty and falling for one another. At one point she looked at it and asked, "Did you edit this?" I had inadvertently, from my own phone, deleted some texts from when we had fought a month or so into dating. I hadn't even remembered that I had done it because I had done it at that time, years before. I had edited our dating history in the only way I knew how: I chopped up our texts.
I mention that story because all too often we want to shape how we remember our relationships, be they current or long-over, and look to solidify only the good times in text or email form. Your ex won't live on in text. You won't find meaningful answers about how things went sour in those conversations. You want meaning? Look to what occurred in-person and delete your text message history.
Lodro Rinzler is the author of 'Walk Like a Buddha: Even if Your Boss Sucks, Your Ex is Torturing You, and You're Hungover Again' and the founder of the Institute for Compassionate Leadership
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