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In defence of being a paragraph girlie

Is your Notes app full of drafted messages? Are your texts so long the recipient has to click ‘see more’ to read the whole thing? Congratulations – you’re a paragraph girlie

At the end of last year, I met someone who I didn’t expect to meet. He immediately caught my eye as I reluctantly swiped through a dating app, and given my brutally high standards when it comes to finding a match, I was both surprised and intrigued by him.

In person, he was even better. He possessed a first-class sense of humour and was not only a hypnotic storyteller but also an attuned listener, and ridiculously good-looking too.

Late one night, I saw his name flash up on my phone and instinctively smiled to myself. But it turned out to be a call I wish I hadn’t answered: “I don’t see us working”, he said, without adequately explaining why.

Thankfully, I had my weekly therapy session the next morning. I explained to her what had happened: how it felt torturous to leave things unresolved and that filling in the blanks myself was unearthing self-limiting beliefs I was all too familiar with. Maybe I was too resistant, or not open enough? Was I too sarcastic? Why didn’t I make the cut?

Despite this, I still had things to say to him. Her suggestion was to write a ‘no send’ letter, where you write everything down that you want to say – completely unfiltered – to get it out of your system and release it. Once complete, if I felt like I still needed to say something to him, then that was the green light to send a message.

I liked this idea because, of course, I am a paragraph girlie. What is a paragraph girlie, you ask? Paragraph girlies write paragraphs (obviously), usually for their own benefit. We crave the space to reflect, speak our minds, untangle complicated knots of thoughts. (Well, that and seeing those validating two blue ticks, which mean that our ramblings have an audience.)

But we also don’t need a response. For Annie Lord, Vogue columnist and author of Notes on Heartbreak, the simple act of writing out our feelings can be extremely clarifying. “I don’t really know where I stand on things until I put them into words,” she says.

When it comes to relationships, Lord believes that it’s frustrating how women in particular are socialised to bottle up their feelings and exercise restraint when it comes to showing raw emotion. “It annoys me that we’re taught to seem aloof and sexy even after we’ve broken up,” she says. “If a final statement will help you, why does it matter if by doing that it makes them think you're ‘crazy’ or whatever? Women’s anger is never seen as a priority. We’re told that being attractive or respectful is much more important.”

When a relationship comes to an end, sending a final message can help our healing process: it’s indisputably easier to move forwards without regretting that things were left unsaid, after all. The same goes for friendships too – if you’ve fallen out and need to get things off your chest, a carefully crafted text can be cathartic. Many people find it easier to communicate over text, too, especially when emotions are all over the place and tensions are heightened. If you feel like you can’t talk to the other person face to face or over the phone without crying or shouting (or both), texting can be a means of communicating honestly and calmly without things getting too heated.

“If a final statement will help you, why does it matter if by doing that it makes them think you're ‘crazy’ or whatever? Women's anger is never seen as a priority. We’re told that being attractive or respectful is much more important” – Annie Lord

But we must remember that we can’t always expect the response we want – or any response at all – when sending a paragraph to another person. Roxie Nafousi, self-development coach and author of Manifest, explains that during the breakdown of a romantic connection, you’ll never get closure from the other party. Instead, you have to grant closure to yourself. “Chances are we’ve already pre-empted a narrative, which then leads to expectations of exactly what they would need to say in order for us to feel satisfied with something being over,” she explains.

“In reality, no one is ever going to be able to give you exactly what your mind’s eye has created or expects.” This leaves us at risk of further disappointment. “Closure must come from within,” Nafousi says. “It’s finding acceptance of a chapter closing that’s most important in these situations.”

As a logical person, I like to deal with the facts. I need hard evidence of exactly why something isn’t working out. But in relationships, it’s rarely that straightforward. Jordan Dixon, a relationship psychotherapist at The Thought House Partnership, says it’s very tempting to want to get the ‘truth’ out of people, especially when we have experienced the relationship differently from each other.

“We don’t have to explain ourselves beyond it not working for us, and we don’t have to receive a response,” she says. “If people are struggling to accept the breakup, it’s worth remembering that if it isn’t working for everyone, it isn’t working for anyone.”

To this point, Lord says it’s worth analysing what you want when you send a long paragraph: “Are you okay if they don't reply? Do they deserve your time?”

For me, the answer was yes. It was a connection worth honouring its significance to me. A message sent not to leave a wedge in the door, but a nod of acknowledgement that the time we spent together wasn’t wasted. Besides, there was nothing to lose.

A few months down the line and he and I are friends. We did date again, briefly, which ended in another phone call from him – but not another paragraph from me. Not because I’m no longer a paragraph girlie, but because I didn’t feel I needed to send one this time. I think that’s what my therapist would call ‘progress’. But I’d call it the power of knowing when (and when not) to hit send.