Love in the digital age: Life lessons from a texting relationship survivor


Kae Takazawa | Special to Warrior Life


Can distance make the heart grow fonder? Yes, but to what extent is it harmful?

It’s practically the law when a relationship dies to chalk it up to something like “we were on different paths” or “our star signs aren’t aligned.” Blurring the line between what actually happened and the relationship’s potential makes us more inclined to generously sprinkle our vague recollections (delusions) as charitable insight on friends and family.

This insight can range from something like “play hard to get, they like that” to “you can change him, you just watch.” People will thank us for our wisdom.

OK, not always. It’s not a foolproof method.

If I’m being honest, do I really want to sign up for another problematic relationship?

Will I allow another ineffectual relationship under the guise of “the experience”?

The ongoing youthful chatter launched the early church conference Saturday, four years ago in July.

I’d be lying if I said I was a fan of large gatherings, but another day of silence in one’s room isn’t tempting to anyone who’d spent their first two weeks of summer break confined in their home (fine, willingly, for the most part).

At the start of the conference, we were tasked with an icebreaker, introducing ourselves to three other people. Names were exchanged. I met an Asian guy named Juan.

I met an Asian guy named Juan?

Our grades came up when it was my turn to share. He’s a year younger, a freshman. Yeah, that works. Hold on, does that make me a cougar?

His single proud and unflinching gaze from across the hall was all it took to jump-start what became a relationship set up on a direct message. Turns out his name wasn’t even Juan. Who would’ve thought, right?

Those DMs became text messages. Text messages became phone calls and the occasional FaceTime call between Los Angeles and San Diego he’d beg me to make.

Things got serious fast.

A whole lot of kissy-faced emojis were exchanged. You would think he was an undercover agent with an assignment with the words he used to send a goodnight text. Gorgeous, stunning, breathtaking. Respect though. The boy was on a mission. Short, but good-looking and athletic. It helped. And he’s super into me.

The existing 124 miles from L.A. to San Diego didn’t faze us. It only made us stronger. He told his friends. The outpouring of support was overwhelming.

By August of that year, with me at summer camp and him busy with football, word of our private matters reached our dear friends and nosy strangers in his absence. And people weren’t afraid to talk about it. His need to share our business became our problem.

When questioned, there was little pushback, but equal amounts of accountability. Then again, he is my “mans,” my “Pookie,” my babe. We’ve had our fair share of virtual biking dates and pictures exchanged, and I’ve even gotten a glimpse of his fish photo and his beloved football helmet. Yeah, we’re tight.

A few weeks later in a text he wrote, “I think I can commit.”

The feeling this generates fluctuates from a “let’s meet up” to “I won’t eat the last slice.” It’s usually a sign of empty promises. It was like he was thinking out loud, believing he could commit when deep down, we all knew he couldn’t.

It felt sudden at the time, but who knows? I didn’t have that kind of experience. I wanted to believe he knew what he was doing. I mean, he had this unwavering confidence and enthusiasm about our future that pulled me into his world of white picket fences and biking alongside each other. It was a pleasant escape from reality.

I put my hopes in the constant notion that I was worthy of a love that existed in movies. I lost myself to a fantasy and he did, too.

But who knows what they’re doing at 16 and 15?

Still, here is where you evaluate your stance on love. Showing love by text, though crucial, shouldn’t be where it ends.

When it’s time to part ways, you might get hit with the “sorry, I’m too busy, I don’t deserve you, you’re too good for me” speech and know deep down that a part of you knew it wasn’t real.

Was it those text conversations about the news that turned into late night talks about his friend battling depression? Or stories he’d share from when he and his friends outran the police during his rebellious phase that increased intimacy and solidified our relationship?

In truth, there’s no guarantee a relationship will last even if you text someone 100 times a day. And that’s perfectly fine.

You’ll notice it’s a problem with online communication. It stems from the phenomenon coined by Emily Morse, a sex and relationship specialist called “premature escalation” which is excess communication that may lead to disappointment when you meet up.

Texts can help you create assumed personas, which are used to judge potential partners before meeting them in person, and this can be frustrating when the person you meet isn’t the person you thought they would be.

Although there is a distinction between online and long-distance relationships, it has the same effects on how people can be perceived.

Our initial conversation at the early church conference that Saturday, four years ago in July left a lasting impression on me. It ignited a spark that continues to burn today.

Now, don’t get me wrong, he and I are on good terms now, and fortunately for him, this isn’t the diss track you all hoped for. Considering the events that unraveled, I am satisfied with how things ended because I wouldn’t have been forced to rethink my priorities had the relationship worked.

How can I be responsible for myself when a relationship gets difficult and minimize the harm texting relationships have on me?

Well, here it is.

Sometimes we need to recognize people for who they are instead of making excuses for their behaviors because we believe we know them, especially in texting relationships.

Often, that special someone is fated to fill only a portion of your life or a season. They’re not the only one.

You deserve to regain control of the narrative and not force anything that doesn’t serve you just because the beginning was good.

The ending isn’t always the same.

Don’t confuse texting for love.



Editor’s Note:

  • Illustration was enlarged on Friday, June 16.