How Do I Stop Over-Analyzing How My Boyfriend Communicates?


Hi Evan – I’m a 35-year-old divorced professional that stumbled across your blog when searching for something, anything that would help me gain perspective on relationships. For all my confidence in the professional world, I’m lost when it comes to personal relationships! I’m unsure of what I want, or what would be good for me. I analyze everything (I’m an engineer) and have a hard time letting go and enjoying myself. That said, I have come a long way lately, and much of it is due to what I have learned through you (I loved “Why He Disappeared” and have read it twice!!)

I’m hoping you might be able to offer some guidance on my current situation. I met a man online who I’ve been dating for about 5 months. He’s divorced, has a good job, one child (I haven’t met yet, which is OK), we’re very compatible, have similar life goals and views on life in general. I have a great time when I’m with him and feel very comfortable and able to be myself. He didn’t rock my world when we first met, but I’ve learned that sometimes you have to give it a little time. But….(there had to be one) I get frustrated by his communication style (or lack thereof.)

We talk fairly regularly and, for the most part, he’s reliable and consistent. However, there have been more than a few instances of lapses that leave me feeling frustrated, confused, and disrespected. And that’s what I don’t know how to evaluate. Are these instances dealbreakers? Are they examples of a guy that really doesn’t care? I just don’t know. We had planned to do a day trip on a Saturday. He texted me on Friday to ask if we’re still on. I replied that, yes, we were, and then I never heard back from him. I called him at 8:30 that night and left a message. I woke up on Saturday and got myself ready and still hadn’t heard from him by 10:30 that morning. I texted him to ask if plans had changed, and he immediately called me back (from bed) and said that he was exhausted and just wanted to sleep in a bit. I calmly told him how it bothered me that he never communicated what the plan was. I told him I needed more communication than that. We still ended up going and had a great time.

Another example? He was 40 minutes late getting to my house the other day and never called to let me know he was going to be late. Sometimes I’ll text him a question and never hear back. I might take a picture of something (the beach I’m sitting on, my friends’ children) that I know he’d enjoy, and I never get an acknowledgement. They’re just little things, but I find them inconsiderate. I know that I can tend to make a big deal about little things, and I don’t want to do that now. I know that he’s really a great guy, that he’s not seeing anyone else, that he cares about me. He’s considerate, attentive and tries constantly to please me when we’re together. You have described over and over what a good guy does for a women he wants to be with. I honestly can’t tell if this guy is coming up short or not. I’ve lost my perspective! I’m 5 months in. Do I fish or cut bait? When do you say “when?”


Dear Beth,

If I were to talk with your boyfriend, what annoying qualities would he tell me that you had?

If I were to talk with your boyfriend, what annoying qualities would he tell me that you had?

My wife would tell you pretty much what you can already figure out on your own: I’m a know-it-all. I can be sarcastic and short-tempered. I don’t suffer fools gladly. I can’t fix a single thing around the house. I don’t always listen carefully. I can be overly critical.

There’s more, but a man’s gotta have a little mystery.

As for my wife, she has only two flaws:

She has never thrown out anything ever. We have shoes from 1989, dresses from 1995, and saltines from 2003. I kid you not.

She is perpetually 15 minutes late. I don’t understand people like this. Just start 15 minutes earlier! But her family warned me about “Bridget Time” when we first met. Shockingly, it hasn’t changed in the time we’ve known each other.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t bring up her 2 bad habits all the time (MY flaw – critical,)  but rather that asking her to change is like her asking me to stop being a know-it-all.

Not gonna happen.

We both have flaws. We both have to grin and bear it. And we both feel that the strengths of the relationship far outweigh the fact that I have to bring reading material wherever I go because of her slow pace, and she always has to listen to me rant about Republicans, customer service, and money. (I know: I’m a charmer!)

Anyway, I know I’ve hijacked your question to talk about myself once again, but I think it bears great relevance on your situation with your quality boyfriend.

I’m not going to defend the lapses in his behavior whatsoever. It IS inconsiderate to not call to confirm plans. It IS inconsiderate not to let you know he’s running late.

But unless you want to scrap your entire relationship for these occasionally frustrating incidents, all you can do is ask him to be more considerate with such matters in the future.

If you make something a dealbreaker, it’s a dealbreaker.

If you put up with it, it’s just a quirk.

If he loves you, he will do his best to honor your request.

And then he’ll forget, because that’s who he is.

And you’ll put up with it and make jokes about it and live a very happy life together.

Of course, you could “cut bait,” but your future boyfriend would have some intolerable characteristics as well.

If you make something a dealbreaker, it’s a dealbreaker.

If you put up with it, it’s a quirk.

Your call, my friend.

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  1. 1

    Ironic how these blogs coincide with issues I have with the men I currently date!   I could not wait to read your response Evan because I am dealing with the same issue with my new man!   We haven’t been dating as long and I guess it makes me wonder if he is as interested as I am.   I’ve brought it up once how it’s inconciderate to not just let me know you will be busy for the evening, etc and he agreed and apologized.   But it only happens again and again.   But when we are together, it’s great!!!   I think for me, it’s I don’t want to be made a fool of.   Don’t string me along if you aren’t truly interested.   I agree, there will be some quirks to deal with, but in the beginning of a relationship, it’s difficult to know if these are honest quirks or signs of no interest.

    1. 1.1

      Cindy, I’d love to know what happened with the relationship? I feel the exact same way right now with a man I met ( through a mutual friend) we had a good date  and even ended up having relations  the first time.    Of course after that I am over analyzing every little thing. The fact that sometimes he’ll respond to my messages and sometimes he won’t where as before our date he’d always respond! It’s driving me crazy and I’m beginning to think he was only interested in sex. 🙁

  2. 2

    Your problem has nothing do with analyzing or over-analyzing.       Your problem is that your BF is bad with keeping dates.     He was 40 minutes late for one set of plans with you.     He slept in the day he was supposed to get up earlier to meet you somewhere.
    There isn’t enough information in your email to say one way or another, but it may not have anything to do with his feelings for you at all.    It may just be   a personal failing he has.
    A few years ago I made friends with a woman who later became romantically crazy about me.       All of her friends complained about her being consistently late for every single date and appointment, regardless of circumstances.     She was significantly late ( more than 20 minutes ) every single time we got together.   Yet, she was **NUTS** about me.

  3. 3

    Beth, I agree with Evan’s response, this is an individual thing.

    For me personally, the not responding to texts is not a big thing.   Totally blowing off plans we had the morning of the Plans would be unacceptable to me–but that’s just me.   Being contistently significantly late, i.e.  40 minutes, is another thing that I show as a sign of his character (I’m okay with up to 15 minutes if there’s no call to say he will be late, or anyone for that matter)–that’s just how I look at it.

    I dated a man like this for 6 months, there were other issues, but he was an   hour late for anything we did.   I found it very disrespectful.

    I like that you told him how it made you feel when you called on Sunday morning to find him still in bed instead of meeting you for your date.   I’m with Evan, if he won’t or can’t change that aspect about him, whatever the reason and the reason doesn’t really even matter, then it’s not up to you to get him to change–either you accept it or not.  

    I hope it works out in   your favor since it sounds like you like him and he appears to like spending time with you too!

  4. 4

    #1 Cindym

    Not sure how long you’ve been dating this man, but if you have not discussed being in an exclusive relationship, and it sounds like this is all relatively new, I don’t think he owes you an explanation on when he will be available or not, or why he was not available.   If I was a man, I would run from a woman doing that!

    (Actually, no one owes anyone anything, but that’s another discussion.)

    Remember that in the first months of dating, everything should be fun and flirty–nothing serious.  

    Perhaps it might be good to turn this around and just focus on your life and going about your plans and what you want to do, without regard for him.   If he calls and wants to do something, and you’re available, GREAT!   If he doesn’t call, then who cares because you’re off doing your own thing, perhaps going out on a date with someone else or YOURSELF.   Doing this is a big difference in outlook and thinking, but I guarantee if you can make this shift, you will be much happier and so will the men you end up dating.   Be different from most of the women out there.

    I’ll be interested to hear what others think, especially the men on the forum.

    1. 4.1

      She says they have been dating for five months. Whether they are exclusive or not, he still owes her enough respect to show up on time, remember plans and respond when they do have plans. I would not even treat a friend like this?

    2. 4.2

      Controlling, analyzing,   and bringing up the past is a sure bet he will be gone and not heard from again.   Why is it women want to change men? I don’t understand why in the beginning its so wonderful, but as soon as he starts feeling comfortable ,women want to change you. If you don’t like what you see in the beginning, move the heck on.    Men just want to be loved and not cringing of the thought of coming over to a “so where were you today and who with.”    If he’s inconsiderate, most likely he will remain that way.

      But if you try and change him and control his actions,   speech and thoughts… You know his identity. Then you will be alone the rest of your life or two people living in misery.

      And why don’t women play hard to get anymore?   Men our the aggressors. Don’t you want to be pursued? It’s part of the game.


  5. 5


    Good advice!   We have only been dating for about two and a half months.   We have agreed to be exclusive, but take things slow.   We have talked every day since we started our relationship and it’s only happened a few times where he would say I’ll talk to you tomorrow, and then I don’t hear from him.   It just happened again yesterday and that is why I’m being more sensitive to this post.   I guess I look at relationships in a way that if someone is interested in you, you will know it, you won’t have to wonder.   And I sorta feel like I have to wonder more than not, with this guy.   He is shy and has admitted to not having a lot of dating experience since his divorce.   Where I have dated a lot and feel very comfortable with men.   I have been told many times to just go out and have fun, and stop trying so hard to find “husband” material!!!  

  6. 6
    Christie Hartman, PhD

    This issue boils down to a difference in communication style. Everyone has a different way of communicating, and men, on average, communicate differently than women.
    I would not toss this guy out. I’d chalk this up to a difference between you that you can work on as a couple. Talk to him in a non-judgmental way: ask him his point of view (e.g. find out why he doesn’t respond to your texts. Maybe he hates texting, or enjoys them but doesn’t feel the need to respond). Tell him how it makes you feel, and then ask for what you want. The difference may not go away, but at least you’ll learn to understand each other.

    1. 6.1

      Yes, I totally agree with Christie’s.comment. This is the mist productive in my experience. Web women get emotional, men freak out. Bus ask them calmly and they are normally more than willing to share their point of view.  

  7. 7

    I had a similar issue with someone I’d also been seeing for five months – things were amazing when we were together, he was warm, affectionate and introduced me to all his friends. But in between those dates I would get a text every other day or so, but that was about it. I told him it made me upset, that it made me feel like things were on and off all time time – we talked about it a few times and then he went away for a week and wasn’t in touch the whole time he was away.

    When he came back, I raised the issue again and asked him to work with me to work it out – to make us work. Instead, he said he didn’t think it was going to work. So I left.

    I’m not sure what the experience has taught me, because I didn’t feel like I put pressure on him or anything, but after five months, you want to feel like things are developing in that direction I think.

    Anyway, sorry for hijacking the post – I don’t think this necessarily applies in your situation, but just wanted to show the other side of the coin. Sometimes yep maybe they’re just not as into it as you are. Hurts – but I have hope there’s someone better suited to me out there.

  8. 8

    I don’t  see this as a difference in communication “style.”  Yes, I agree men and women communicate differently, but that doesn’t mean that consideration of the other person’s feelings and their time are a non-issue.  And I don’t see it as a gender issue, either, because both men and women can be poor communicators.  She’s  already told him how it makes her  feel and how she’d  prefer they  communicate.  Hopefully, he can  likewise tell her what he prefers, and they can reach some  kind of middleground and be happy together.  I don’t think it’s as much about  hanging loose or being “flirty-fun” as it is about  simply having the wherewithal to  realize that if you want to be in a relationship, you  need to be willing to get outside of what works solely for you.  I see it as a matter of  social skills,  maturity, and just plain getting along with others.  But let’s be real —  there’s far too much technology available to us now for anyone to realistically have any excuse for not calling or texting or twittering, or whatever, to let someone know what’s up……unless you’ve been hit by a bus, of course, or abducted by aliens.

    1. 8.1

      This is perfectly stated!

  9. 9

    I could write a book about the things that annoy me about Jake, and I KNOW he could do the same about me.   But that doesn’t mean we’re not meant for each other.   I don’t know anyone who is completely free of annoying habits!

  10. 10

    @Zann #8
    I completely agree.     Showing up on time is common courtesy and a basic adult skill,   other people’s forgiveness notwithstanding.

  11. 11

    Emma #7:
    we talked about it a few times and then he went away for a week and wasn’t in touch the whole time he was away.
    When he came back, I raised the issue again and asked him to work with me to work it out — to make us work. Instead, he said he didn’t think it was going to work. So I left.
    This comedy skit by the Harvard Sailing Team sort of shows what the desire of some women for frequent communication looks like to men.

    1. 11.1

      That skit was hilarious!!! LOL Hilarious

  12. 12

    I think the all the little things add up to someone who sees the relationship more casually than you do Beth, not different styles of communication. Why doesn’t he text you back if you ask him a question? Do you have a habit of texting him frivolous questions that don’t require an answer? If it’s something important why don’t you phone him?

    You may have a boyfriend who’s simply inconsiderate in ways you will be able to overlook, (if you want to try)  , but I think you may have the kind of guy Emma #7 had – enjoys your company when he’s with you, but isn’t as into it as you might think (hope) he is.

  13. 13
    Karl R

    Zann said: (#8)
    “I don’t think it’s as much about  hanging loose or being ‘flirty-fun’ as it is about  simply having the wherewithal to  realize that if you want to be in a relationship, you  need to be willing to get outside of what works solely for you.”

    That applies equally to Beth and her boyfriend.

    However, I can choose to “get outside” of my normal behavior  and preferences in order to get along with my girlfriend. I can’t choose to make her get outside of her normal behavior and preferences.

    And the older people become, the more firmly established our habits become. I’m in my 40s; my girlfriend is in her 50s. We’re quite set in our ways. It’s a lot easier for us to accept each other as we are, rather than change ourselves to the other person’s liking.

    Zann said: (#8)
    “there’s far too much technology available to us now for anyone to realistically have any excuse for not calling or texting or twittering, or whatever, to let someone know what’s up”

    I don’t feel like spending that much of my time calling, texting, emailing or whatever to let everyone know what’s up in my life. I let people know what’s up if they need to know it.

    And if someone is always late, it’s not going to occur to them that this is something they need to tell you. (My girlfriend is one of those people.)

    Don’t let the lack of communication derail your life. Last week I texted my girlfriend know that I was on the rail home. After getting no response to two texts and two  voice mails  (her phone was muted), I just shrugged and started walking the 3.8 miles from the rail station to her house. It was nice weather and I needed the exercise.

    Do you really think I should have gotten upset with her just because she forgot to unmute her phone?

    Beth said: (original post)
    “Sometimes I’ll text him a question and never hear back.”

    If I get one of these while I’m at work, the first thought that runs through my mind is: “Does this require an immediate answer, or can it wait until the next time I see her?” If your boyfriend is as busy as I am, he’s prioritizing based on urgency.

    Beth said: (original post)
    “I might take a picture of something (the beach I’m sitting on, my friends’ children) that I know he’d enjoy, and I never get an acknowledgement.”


    This sounds incredibly insecure. If you send a message that requires no response to someone who is busy, that’s exactly what you’re going to get.

    1. 13.1

      Karl R, I always appreciate your comments on these blogs! My boyfriend and I are also both 40, and as you say, set in our ways. We’ve got very separate lives and he is definitely very busy, and not as communicative when we’re not together as I would ideally like. It took me a couple of years (?!) to realize that it’s just his style, and although he’d alter it for a while when I’d ask, it’s just who he is. So my compromise was to not take it personally when he didn’t respond, etc. 🙂 His compromise is that he’s aware of it and does make an effort to be more responsive (when he thinks of it). Neither of us is perfect, and I still stress sometimes when he doesn’t write back for a couple of days…but overall, it just works. 🙂

      1. 13.1.1

        Well said!   Same w/ my bf & I… &it does “just work”

      2. 13.1.2

        Petitlapin – Its awesome to hear you didn’t give up on him! I think women like us are few and far between, from what I’ve seen anyway. We need our space too though. We’ll have plenty of time to be with each other later (I will still need my space though haha).

    2. 13.2

      This sounds incredibly insecure. If you send a message that requires  no response  to someone who is busy, that’s exactly what you’re going to get.

      I don’t agree. Acknowledgment is important. He can just   acknowledge  the photo, send a smiley, something, not doing it is inconsiderate.  If he’s busy he can  acknowledge  it later but to leave it without any response is rude.  

      1. 13.2.1
        Karmic Equation

        You really have to understand how most guys view texting, especially to a woman. It’s a PITA (Pain In The A**)

        Women use texting to stay connected to a man, particularly if the relationship is new. She’s still insecure about her status and uses text as a way to nudge him into acknowledging her existence/importance in his life.

        Whereas, HE’s like, “cute picture. cool. nice of her to think of me.” And then he goes back to what he was doing.

        TBH, sending unsolicited pictures, texts, etc., for no reason can come across as insecure to a guy. And instead of making him like you more, he may actually like you less.

        My rule of thumb is that you limit texts to communicating logistics, e.g., “What time did you want to meet?” “What do you feel like having for dinner?” — Don’t send open-ended texts like, “How’s your day going?” — But you can send SPECIFIC texts like, “How did your meeting with your boss this morning go?”

        Anything else that’s not time dependent, wait until you see him to show him or tell him.

        Men don’t use texts to “build connections”. Men use texts to make plans.

        So if you start texting that way too, you’ll get more responses and less frustrated.

        Save the other stuff for in-person communication.

        1. Madgal

          Well said! I appreciate looking at it from this aspect of looking at it.


        2. Avary

          I agree! I’m dating an engineer who primarily   communicates when necessary (making plans) but he makes me feel like I’m the most important person when we’re together! It drove me nuts for a while in the beginning, the lack of communication, but I figure the reward will be great if I’m patient. I was married to an engineer once so I know they are always “busy” in one way or another and I mean, what else am I doing?? Haha.

          You must be an engineer yourself 🙂

    3. 13.3

      Karl – Thank you. I’m sort of going through the same with an engineer I’ve been seeing for a couple of months. We haven’t made it exclusive but he’s been with me every weekend for the last 2 months and I’m pretty sure he’s not seeing anyone else.   I usually only hear from him once a week when he texts to determine what time he should come over or what time we’re going out that first night. I don’t think I’ve ever initiated a text to him though and I think he’s grateful for this! His ex-wife used to text him constantly and make him send pictures of where he was when he wasn’t at home!! I would never do that. I never did it to my husband who would sometimes stay out during a night of partying because he was too drunk to drive home or even let me know   he wasn’t coming! He knew he didn’t have to check in though too; I trusted him and he never breached that trust. I wouldn’t have been with him if I didn’t trust him.

      As I mentioned my new guy’s an engineer as was my husband (Im addicted) so I know its a demanding career and their brains just don’t function like other people’s 🙂 When he’s not “relaxing” (wink wink) with me, I know his mind is in work mode even when he’s not at work! He’s got tons of projects outside of work (I totally admire him for this) and I’d rather wait for him to get in touch with me when it’s convenient for him. If that’s never, then so be it! I don’t have the energy nor desire to chase anyone and there’s plenty of fish in the sea if he doesn’t want more from me!

      I have felt a bit anxious from time to time, wondering if I would hear from him, but I tell myself “Be patient, guys like this are not easy to find and what’s the rush anyway? I’m looking for a long-term thing so we have plenty of time, and I’m busy too!”

      I work out at the gym, have a demanding management job, and hike from 3:30 a.m. until around 8:30 p.m. myself so I’m pooped when I get home 🙂

      Karl, you’re the first and only person I’ve ever seen be so candid and on point on this matter. Kudos to you!! I freaking love your last sentence!! Haha


      Oh and he and I are 41 and 42. I think that matters as well.


  14. 14

    Well stated Zann.  

  15. 15

    Hi Beth,

    I know exactly how you feel.   I’m also clueless when it comes to dating, specially since I spent most of my 20’s on long relationships which led to nowhere.   These guys called me everyday, sometimes 2-3 times, only to fall back and become cold the moment we were in a relationship.

    My advice is to stay calm and observe his actions, as Evan states.   No one is perfect.   We all have things in which we have to compromise.   As an example, I just started going out with someone that I’ve known since the beginning of the year.   We’ve gone out  three times in this month.   I’m not in   love with him, and I’m sure he isn’t either, but the times we’ve been together I’ve had a good time, and I’m sure he has too.   He always thanks me at the end of the evening: I do the same.     I also get a little anxious because  he doesn’t call everyday, one thing I would love him to do, but  I keep reminding myself  that he’s not my boyfriend, only someone who I just  started seeing.     I don’t know what the future holds.   Like you, I want quick answers, but I’ve also read what Evan says in his book and I’m trying to follow his advice.   I mirror his efforts.   If he calls, I answer the phone.   If he texts, I text him back.   Do the same and let things follow their pace.  

  16. 16

    It’s funny that folks are commenting on the texting habits, that to me is the least of it and the easiest to address….some people are texters and others are not, texts catch someone at that immediate moment, maybe they are involved in something else (and I also find men can usually prefer to focus on one thing at at time–note I didn’t say they can only focus on one thing at a time :).  

    To me, it’s the ‘we had a date all planned, and then I just blew it off without a phone call’ that is more of an issue.   Part of a successful, strong relationship is a true friendship–is that being a friend to someone?  

    I’d like to hear others thoughts on that aspect of the post rather than the picky things.

    I have been in Beth’s situation where I was beating myself up about being too picky about things, was I over reacting, was I analyzing too much–eventually I came to the realization that even if it was me, the things that were being done were big and weren’t making me feel good.

  17. 17

    Well stated Zann. If a person makes plans he should keep them OR if he changes them, let you know about it. If he is perpetually more than 15 minutes late he is telling you HIS time is more important than YOUR time. I had a friend who was always late. After a time it became more of a control and power situation. Basically she was stating she would show up when she damn well pleased and “who made you the queen of time” as she once eloquently stated. Some things in personalities are “quirks.” Other things are just very inconsiderate.

  18. 18

    @san #17
    Those are the thoughts I thought when I had a friend who would show up very late for EVERYTHING.     It wasn’t the truth.     She didn’t think her time was more valuable than anyone else’s.     She had bad & compulsive habits she just would not get up steam enough to break.       Thinking like you only made me angry.     Deciding that the only person I could control was myself and that my time was important to me I just stopped tolerating it.     I told her that if she was more than 15 min late I would go ahead with my plans and alternate plans without her.     I would go ahead, order and eat a restaurant.   I would go take my seat at a movie theater.   I would start my car and decide she didn’t want to come.
    After missing out on a few things, she was still habitually late, but only by about 5 – 10 min.

  19. 19

    It doesn’t sound like this guy is generally inconsiderate. However, it would bother me if my date showed up 40 minutes late without calling, or if I didn’t hear back about a planned day trip. I would definitely let him know, in a calm way (as Beth days she did), that it isn’t acceptable not to call. Texting someone a question, and repeatedly not hearing back, would bug me too. In that case, I would simply STOP texting questions and sending the cute photos.  
    Hard to say if it means he’s just not that into Beth, or if he’s just a bit inconsiderate or lazy. All she can do is express her feelings, and see how he responds. If it becomes a pattern, she may need to reassess the relationship.

  20. 20

    Ew  Beth needs to lighten up. If I’m texting my boyfriend random things throughout the day I do it because it’s fun to share things with him that make me happy; it’s not a test to see if he responds and get mad if he doesn’t.
    My boyfriend likes to turn up a good 1 hour late to pick me up..but really what would I have been doing anyway? I’d  planned that time  to be  used  unproductively and happily with my boyfriend anyway  🙂 If it makes me upset, it’s not his  fault that  I don’t have anything else going on to occupy myself with in the meantime. And if it’s too late to do what we planned, then we’ll  do something else..big deal.
    I can’t believe anyone would end a great  compatible  relationship over punctuality or lack of replies to pointless texts.
    My best friend and I don’t reply to each other’s texts all the time (mostly because we can’t be bothered). We don’t need  to always confirm plans..if she wants to lie in late, that’s her right on a Saturday. When someone is comfortable enough to be lazy  (i.e. themselves)  around me  I take it as a compliment. Expecting best behaviour all the time is not how relationships last.
    I have my boss, my doctor, my car service man and  my teachers to get pissed about late appointments. My bf is the person who  lets me be late and lazy  and doesn’t get mad about it. And I return the favour 😉

    1. 20.1

      Gemma – OMG you are awesome! I agree 100% lol. You said what I’ve been trying to say ; ) Thank you!!

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