I never intended to write this article. Really.
I just wanted an answer to why the guy I like was only texting me once a week. Texts like, “My dog is so cute right now," or “How's your new apartment?"
So me, being a typical breathing human, Google'd the question. I landed on an article in the Huffington Post about “e-maintenance," or yet another way young American singles are manipulating their dating pool (albeit digitally).
So here's really why he's only texting you once a week: e-maintenance.
What Is It?
According to the article, being e-maintained is the art of sending shallow texts to potential partners they're somewhat interested in on a regular basis, in hopes to maintain the relationship for a pay-off in the future.
I cringed at the definition, mostly because I could relate. I always preferred the term of keeping guys "on the back burner" to describe this behavior, but apparently e-maintenance has replaced that anachronism; Facebook messaging, SnapChat and texting now rule the casual relationship sector, even if he's only texting you once a week.
John, 24, (names have been changed) explains e-maintenance as a game of odds. “It's like planting a garden. You gotta plant the seeds and water them. If you don't water them they will never grow, bloom or deflower."
Why Does It Work?
E-maintaining relies heavily on giving the other person what they want. “Girls like attention, and when you give it to them they will treat you better," says John.
Elizabeth, 24, has been e-maintained, and confirms that the high success rate for e-maintenance is directly tied to the way a text can result in an ego boost. “As women, we thrive off of the excitement of the text or Facebook chat, or whatever it may be. It feels good to get attention, regardless if that attention is healthy or not."
Attention-Seeking: A Double-Edged Sword
It's not surprising that men and women disagree on whether e-maintenance is inherently bad, but the reason they disagree is slightly disturbing: women tend to think of e-maintenance as harmful more than men do because of the reasons they e-maintain.
The women polled initiate these digitally-driven relationships to receive attention and instant gratification, and not because they're actually interested in pursuing a relationship with these men. However, if the man is e-maintaining them, there is greater interest.
“Generally, these are guys that I have a little interest in because they give me attention, to be honest," says Elizabeth. “I feel like I could scroll through my phone, and there would be plenty of men I e-maintain."
In turn, women also see the act of being e-maintained in a negative light. “I think the biggest thing with e-maintenance is that this guy will keep you around because he's about 50-65% interested in you. He's not interested enough to make solid and continuous plans, but doesn't want to miss out on the opportunity to do so," says Elizabeth.
Not surprisingly, this perception doesn't align with what men polled said. “I do plan on going out with the girls I e-maintain, it's just a matter of which one is the best at that point in time. It's always good to have more options than less," John said.
Jesse, 25, agrees with John. “Just because a guy isn't organizing hanging out times doesn't necessarily mean he isn't into her. There are many unknown variables that complicate this situation; distance, physical availability and emotional availability being the main ones."
Getting Off The Maintenance List
Many women, after becoming aware of being e-maintained, opt-out of returning text messages from those pushing this agenda. But undoubtedly, signing off isn't always easy. “I'll stop talking to them," says Elizabeth. “And if they text me a few months later, I'll ignore. But it's hard. We're curious."
In retrospect, I suppose my personal experience with e-maintenance would be considered as close to a happy ending as possible. I e-maintained a relationship with a guy for seven years. It wasn't until we randomly decided to get drinks one evening that we realized we liked each other in real life. We ended up dating for a year before going our separate ways, but I still consider him my coolest ex-boyfriend.
That being the case, there's something to be said about being able to e-maintain relationships via text. Typically, if you're able to string along a relationship with that sparse of communication there's actually some common ground in shared interests, hinting at the likelihood of a successful relationship. That is, if it ever moves beyond the digital realm.