No matter where you are in your relationship, communication is always a challenge. Whether you’ve just started dating or you’ve been married for years, you never stop having to put the effort into making sure you understand one another.

With almost all of us preferring to tap away on our keyboards to stay in touch, the odds of misunderstandings have increased over time. From website to text to email to app messaging, there’s an expectation that people will respond to you as soon as possible, and this generates huge potential for confusion about what each message means for your relationship.

To help you navigate the complex world of dating communication, here’s five common pitfalls and how to dodge them.

1. They don’t message you back as quickly

You know they read your message as soon as it came through, but it’s been more than three hours, and they’ve still not replied! We’ve all been there. Nobody likes to be kept waiting, but it’s particularly hard when you’re in the early stages of a relationship and you don’t know if silence is a bad sign.

But it could mean lots of things.

Not everybody has the same relationship with their phone. Some people like to be connected to their devices 24/7, while others like to take a break once in a while (recommended). They might mute their apps for work, leave their phone upstairs whilst they eat, or turn the internet off altogether from time to time.

The point is, you can’t expect everybody to use their phone in the same way. So if you’re with somebody who doesn’t communicate at the same rate as you, talk to them about it. And do it in person. It’s easier to work these things out by having a real conversation.

2. They’re not affectionate over text

It’s amazing how much can be inferred from the presence or absence of a few Xs at the end of a message.

Some people are very generous with kisses in text messages and emails, some don’t bother at all, and others pick and choose when to throw them in. And there are those of us who will see the lack of an X as a notable omission, and others who simply won’t notice they’re not there.

If such things are bothering you, just have a quick chat about it. It can feel silly to worry about small things, but it’s better to deal with any issue that upsets or confuses you head on, rather than letting it escalate.

3. You see pictures of them out with other people on social media

It’s inevitable when you start dating somebody that there’ll be people your date’s life that you don’t know. When you see pictures of them together on social media, arms round each other, having a great time, it can be easy to jump to conclusions about what it means or to feel left out. Relax. It’s probably just an old friend, colleague, cousin or one of the hundreds of other possible candidates.

But it’s important to build your trust in one another so that you don’t feel this way. You also have to remember that social media only ever shows you part of the story. So to find out more about it in a non-confrontational conversation and you’ll soon realise you’ve got nothing to worry about.

4. You can’t tell if you’re ‘exclusive’ or not

It can be one of the hardest parts of a new relationship: establishing whether you’re an ‘official’ couple. Sometimes the conversation comes up naturally because it feels obvious that you just want to be with each other, or it can be a subject you have to bring up.

If you’re not sure about where you stand, you’re going to have to talk about it. And ideally not over text or on the phone, but in person. Because that way you can have an honest and open chat, and give yourselves the best chance of coming away clear about where your relationship is going.

5. You’ve met their friends and family but they don’t yet know yours

It can be frustrating to feel that you’re putting all the effort into getting to know somebody’s friends and family, but they’re not doing the same for you.

So it’s important to have a discussion about it to find out why. Because there could be a good reason. They might be feeling nervous about meeting important people in your life, or they could have had commitments they couldn’t avoid last time your Mum and Dad were in town. Or perhaps they’re completely oblivious and just haven’t realised how this is important to you and need to be told.

The best way to avoid miscommunication is…to just talk about it, face to face! Don’t let frustrations build up inside your head. Nip them in the bud and simply have a frank conversation with your dating partner about whatever is making you feel off and you’ll stop small issues from spiraling out of control.

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