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For Your Marriage

Marriage Today covers current trends and research pertaining to marriage and family life in today's world.

How Texting Changes When You Get Married

How do text messages change when a dating couple becomes a married couple? Data scientist and blogger Alice Zhao recently analyzed texts between she and her husband of six years to see.

For the couple’s one year dating anniversary in 2008, Zhao’s then-boyfriend gave her a Word document with all of the text messages they had exchanged. She used this document, as well as a record of texts sent while engaged and then as newlyweds, for the analysis.

“The main difference is that while we were dating, we didn’t see each other every day, so a lot of our communication had to happen via text,” wrote Zhao. “We’d often message the other person to see what they were doing or tell them that we were thinking of them. As a married couple, since we’re together all the time, we set up date nights and say sweet things to each other in person, so texting is mostly used to confirm logistics or share random thoughts.”

In a column for the Chicago Tribune about Zhao’s analysis, Heidi Stevens explains, “The phrases that fell away most dramatically from the dating year to the married years are ‘love,’ ‘hey’ and each other’s names. Words that appeared more frequently in the married years include ‘OK’ and ‘dinner.’”

Zhao also looked at the time of day when texts were sent. During the dating years, the couple exchanged the majority of their texts between 3 pm and 3 am. After “I do” things have changed. Zhao writes, “As a committed couple, the only time of the day that we aren’t together is during the workday, so that’s when we text. We know exactly where the other person is each evening and if we’re doing something cool, it’s likely that we’re in it together and telling each other about it face to face.”

In her column, Stevens said she took note of text messages she exchanges with her husband, which reveal “some similar patterns, particularly the increase in dinner talk. My married texts also show a marked uptick in the words ‘Walgreens,’ as in ‘Can you stop at…,’ and ‘Starbucks,’ as in ‘Do you want something from….’”

In listening to local radio hosts discuss Zhao’s analysis, Stevens said they were struck by the decrease in Zhao and her husband using each other’s first names in text messages. Stevens quotes authors Maggie Arana and Julienne Davis, who told the Today Show in 2010, “We’ve met many couples in our research for this book that haven’t called each other by their real names in years. Many women we talked to said they couldn’t even remember the last time their partner said their name to them, and when they did, they usually said something like, ‘Yeah, now that I think of it, I really miss him calling me by my name at home.’”

Regardless of whether they use first names in their texts, Zhao sees the content of their texts a sign of the progression of their in-person relationship. She wrote, “Overall, our text messages started out very flirty and personal. Since we were new in our relationship, we made sure the things we said were interesting and thoughtful. As our relationship progressed, we spent more time together and got more comfortable with each other. Our text messages became more predictable, but only because all of the unpredictable things were said in person. We no longer have to text ‘I love you’ from a distance in the middle of the night. I can now roll over, snuggle with my husband and whisper it into his ear.”

About the author
Emily Macke serves as Theology of the Body Education Coordinator at Ruah Woods in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received her Master’s in Theological Studies at the John Paul II Institute in Washington, DC, and her undergraduate degree in Theology and Journalism at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Emily shares the good news of the Catholic faith through writing, media appearances and speaking opportunities, which she has done on three continents. She and her husband Brad live in southeast Indiana.