Welcome To The Textationship – The Ultimate Time Wasting Dating Trend

"I was taken aback at how almost 365 days of talking everyday, building up my hopes and making me believe something might happen could just come to an abrupt halt."
Young woman receiving notifications and commenting on social media posts with smart phone. People networking with technology. Social media addiction concept.
Oscar Wong via Getty Images
Young woman receiving notifications and commenting on social media posts with smart phone. People networking with technology. Social media addiction concept.

We’ve all heard of the dreaded situationship - you know, where you’re ‘seeing each other’ but refuse to label anything or let emotions get in the way.

However, in recent weeks and months, you might have heard of the new dating phenomenon - the textationship (or textuationship).

All over Instagram reels and TikTok, this not-so-new dating trend leaves millennials and Gen-Z confused and asking the dreaded question of “what are we?”, and usually feeling frustrated with the person they’re talking to because they’re probably flakey, noncommittal and never want to make plans to take things to the next level.

According to Jessica Alderson, relationship expert and founder of So Synced, a textationship is a term used to describe a connection between two people that has primarily developed through text messaging.

She says: “Textationships involve communication and emotional connection without any, or very little, physical intimacy or face-to-face contact. This type of relationship can be seen as a form of virtual romance, in which partners rarely meet in person.

And with that being said, you could say we’ve all been in some kind textationship before. You know, that back and forth messaging on Tinder, WhatsApp or in your DMs, with questions about your favourite colour and past relationships getting thrown around.

Usually, after a week or so of texting, you’ll then meet up or it’ll fizzle out before you even get to see one another.

But a long-term textationship could potentially go on for months, if not years without meeting up or even chatting on the phone. But does that mean it’s “not that deep”?

Well, not necessarily.

I, a chronically single 25-year-old, was in a textationship for 11 months up until recently. I knew him from real life, but hadn’t seen him in years and barely spoke to him when I did.

Sliding into my Instagram DMs last spring, I didn’t think much of it when he said he was “shooting his shot” until one month passed, and then another, and then feelings started to develop and then before I knew it, it was autumn.

Winter rolled around with snow, and Christmas arrived before I could blink, which then meant that the texting had continued through all four seasons and I was well and truly falling for a guy I hadn’t even met up with.

Talking on the phone and planning to meet up, I thought things were getting somewhat serious – as if all of the other failed meet-ups didn’t fall through and the red flags I ignored were actually green, and somehow this time was different – and then, unsurprisingly, these plans failed too.

See, the thing is, whenever we discussed meeting up “in a few weeks” or “next month when we’ve both got a weekend off”, he disappeared for a bit. It’s like he just didn’t want to see me, but I continued to hold out hope and then fall hopelessly back into his inbox when he reappeared a week or so down the line.

Meeting up is a very important part to take things to the next level, and relationship expert Jessica agrees. “You don’t have to be physically close all the time—long-distance relationships can work—but you generally need to meet in person at some point in order for the relationship to reach its potential,” she tells HuffPost UK.

After fobbing me off again and with his texts fading away, our textationship ended earlier this year, just shy of our 12 month ‘textiversary.’

Telling me he didn’t like me “in that way” anymore, I was taken aback at how almost 365 days of talking everyday, building up my hopes and making me believe something might happen could just come to an abrupt halt. Thinking I was being a bit over the top with how hurt I felt, I did a bit of digging and thankfully found out that I’m not the only person to have experienced a textationship - and a failed one at that.

Speaking other millennial and Gen-Z women, it was clear to see that the textationship is a huge and unavoidable dating trend - even if the name or label of it isn’t apparent at first. One girl I spoke to, Ellie, 25, from Kent, told me that she’s had around 50 textationships and has barely met up with any of them.

While Kelly*, 27, had one for five months, developed feelings and made plans to meet him but said that “he always had excuses” – which honestly seems like a bit of a pattern.

One person we spoke to, Gemma*, 32, from London, had a story that really resonated. Having had two serious textationships that both ended in different ways, Gemma urged that they “meant just as much to me as IRL ones [relationships],” adding, “in some bizarre ways, they were more intimate than others I’ve experienced as it allowed me to open up in ways I never have before.”

Gemma told us that one with Alex* lasted for nine months, while the other with Simon* lasted for four years. Gemma met Alex in real life after three months of texting and falling for him hard, “I don’t know what it was, but our messages became far more personal and far more intimate than anything I’d had in a really long time […] I found myself quite quickly looking forward to his messages every day. They’d often be the first things I’d wake up to, and what I would do before I fell asleep.”

But after moving out of the texting phase, meeting regularly and sleeping together, Alex moved abroad, stopped texting Gemma and then told her that he had slept with somebody else. Messaging him again when he was back in the UK, Gemma found out that he had a girlfriend, which led to her blocking and deleting his number and never looking back.

On the other hand, Gemma’s four-year textationship with Simon didn’t end with them meeting up. Although it took her longer to fall for Simon initially, Gemma did: “Simon took longer. We jumped straight into sexting quite quickly and that formed the major foundation of our chats.”

With sexting as the basis of their relationship, meeting up proved tricky.

“With Simon, we tried a few times but nothing ever seemed to work. Eventually we’d stop trying. Periodically I’d push him on it, but there was always a reason for it not to work out.”

After four years of texting back and forth, Gemma got fed up because she wanted to meet him: “I still believe we would’ve been a good match, and one day I got him while he was drunk at a wedding and asked him outright if he ever intended to meet up with me. He said ‘probably not, no’, and with that, I deleted and blocked his number so I wouldn’t go back there again.”

She told of how they had gone through the same conversation before but now she finally had a straight answer and could get closure: “I deserve better than that, and I was tired of hanging on to the ‘one day, maybe’ he’d allowed me to hold on to for so long. With complete erasure, it was a completely clean break.”

Although Gemma thinks that textationships are “absolutely not” the way to date in 2023, she added: “I often feel a little embarrassed to consider them actual relationships, as they were so virtual, but - at least on my side - the feelings were real. And I will reflect and mourn those relationships as such. If anyone’s going through the same thing, I suggest they do the same.”

Relationship expert Jessica agrees with Gemma’s comments of “mourning” the breakup, and I for one am relieved to know that my emotions were valid when my 11-month-textationship ended. Jessica told HuffPost UK: “With textationship breakups, don’t tell yourself that your pain isn’t warranted because you didn’t meet in real life. All emotions and relationships are valid, regardless of the medium through which they occur and allowing yourself to grieve is an important part of the healing process.”