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

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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?”

Beth

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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Comments:

  1. 21
    Karl R

    san said: (#17)
    “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”

    If you try to change someone, make them do what you want them to do, you will create a control and power  struggle every single time.

    Think about it. I show up when I damn well please also. Usually that’s 5 to 15 minutes early. The control issues began because you wanted her to show up when you damn well pleased.

    Steve (#18) gave several excellent ways to take the power and control struggle out of the situation. My girlfriend and I show up to dance class seperately. I get there early so I can warm up and practice. She gets there at the time it’s scheduled to start or  a few minutes later. We both get there when we want to.

    If  your  girlfriend (or boyfriend)  gets upset because you didn’t put your life on hold for her, then she’s a diva personality, and you’re doing well to be rid of her.

    Steve said: (#18)
    “She didn’t think her time was more valuable than anyone else’s.  […] Thinking like you only made me angry.”

    Every serious girlfriend of mine has been habitually late. One of them was always 20-30 minutes late (and always  sincerely sorry that she was late). After the first time, I always had something to do while I waited (read, watch TV, play computer games).

    I can either insist that my punctuality is the right way to be, or I can have serious relationships with women. Would you rather be right or happy?

    Denise said: (#16)
    “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.”

    This is a very good point. If you absolutely can’t tolerate your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s habits (for the next several decades), then it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. What matters is that you won’t be happy.

  2. 22
    Joe

    Non-notification of tardiness aside, perhaps he thinks your constant texts/pictures are just frivolous and annoying–basically spam. Do you respond to every frivolous e-mail you get?

  3. 23
    Helen

    Beth is overanalyzing. The more she does it, the more annoying she is likely to become to her boyfriend.
      
    Who wants to receive random photos of beaches and other people’s children? I sure don’t – and I’m a mom!   They are boring and take up too much electronic space; I not only wouldn’t appreciate them, I wouldn’t WANT them. (Probably the bf is wondering how he can politely get her to stop sending unnecessary and unwanted things like this.)
      
    As for the examples of lateness, it seems to be more an issue of personality differences rather than neglect or bad intentions. Some people are chronically late. Others are always on time. Evan was right about categorizing this as being a dealbreaker only if she chooses to make it one.
      
    My overall advice to her would be to stop obsessing about the bf, and occupy her waiting time with enjoyable activities rather than worrying about his arrival or sending him frou-frou.
      

  4. 24
    Selena

    I’m not interested in random photos of beaches and particularly other people’s children either and wouldn’t feel inclined to respond to that kind of thing. But does HE send her random photos of stuff that catches his eye he thinks she would enjoy? Does she do it because he does?

  5. 25
    Beth

    Hi all –
    Thanks for contributing your comments.   They’re great.   Just to close the loop on this, I ended up breaking up with this man about a month ago.   I thought about it very carefully and I’m still very happy with my decision.   It was difficult, thought, because he was a nice guy and I know that he was not intentionally trying to make me unhappy.   He was very upset when I broke it off, so I think he was interested in me.   We just have different styles of communication.   It turns out that his particular “quirk” is not something that I can overlook (there are plenty of other types of “quirks” that I can live with).

    Let me also say, that we were not frequent/constant texters.   When I asked him a question by text, it wasn’t so much “How’s your day going?”, they were like “I’m buying the movie tickets.   Do you want to go to the 6:00 or 8:00 show?”   Those are the types of questions I never received answers to and I spent a considerable amount of time unclear about things.

    The straw that broke the camel’s back for me were back-to-back incidents.   The first was that he went away on business and was gone for three days.   I never heard from him in any form during that time.   He was in a new job and I didn’t know his schedule, so I was hesitant to call or text him because he was meeting new clients and I didn’t want to interrupt.   He also had frequent dinner meetings.   I brought this up in a casual way and he basically said that it didn’t even occur to him to get in touch.

    The second thing was that we had plans for a Saturday morning.   He called to say that he wouldn’t be able to get to my house in time because he had his son the night before and when his ex-wife showed up, she had a flat tire and he needed to wait for AAA.   No, problem – I appreciated him letting me know.   We left it that I would go to the event, do my errands, and call him when I got home and he would come over later in the day.   I got home at 3:30, called him and left a message “I’m home, come on over anytime.”   I heard nothing.   It’s now 6:30 and I call again.   I get put to voicemail after the second ring.   I hear nothing Sunday morning.   I send a text around noon on Sunday saying “I hope you’re alright.   I thought we were getting together last night.   Please call me.”   I get a text at 7:30 on Sunday night saying that he is “suffering through a massive hangover.   Can he call me?”

    Was I angry he went out with the guys because he thought that we left it that we weren’t getting together Saturday night?   No.   I was angry because he heard my message at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon saying I’m home and come down and he chose to ignore it.   In my opinion, he should have called me and said “Hey, I misunderstood our plans.   I thought we weren’t getting together so I made plans with the guys.”   Instead he ignored my 2nd call and put me to voicemail.  

    I was fully aware that communication is not his strong suit.   I saw him do similar things with family and friends (he didn’t call his mother back for 2 weeks).   He doesn’t like to talk on the phone.   Conversation on the phone,  and sometimes in person, was difficult.   We were very compatible in a lot of ways and I did enjoy my time with him.   However, because I  knew the way he communicated would never change and I didn’t feel like the rest of the relationship was great enough to be willing to deal with that quirk, I ended it.

    I’ve been  laying low for about a month now, and hope to get back out there soon.    Thanks again to everyone for his/her comments!  

    1. 25.1
      Reese

      beth,
      i know a man who behaves just like your ex bf.   totally nonsensical and non communicative.   Other times normal, sweet and caring.   I discovered he is an INTJ personality (very insensitive and clueless) and a social avoidant.   Lied a lot because has social anxiety.   sad.   I know your pain.

      1. 25.1.1
        Laurie

        I’m in the same situation,   says he loves me, but runs hot and cold with the contact, it’s a rollercoaster. I do think a person who loves you has 30 seconds in their day to say, hey, hope you’ve had a good day, ttyl… And should want to!   I’m sick of it. If I don’t hear from him, he isn’t going to hear from me either, and I’m busy when he decides, at the last minute he wants to see me. Doesn’t bode well for a relationship, but I don’t feel wanted if I have to contact him for us to be together…I got the hint, finally, and even After discussing it….

    2. 25.2
      Lisa

      I am glad to hear this. I dated this guy too or his personality twin. It was tough because as I can see your guy too was just clueless, he was not doing this on purpose. But he will not change. I left too.

      1. 25.2.1
        Laurie

        Exactly! Me too. Mines just clueless, but that doesn’t make me feel like a prioity, and makes me feel unimportant. Plus, I have ended up spending important times alone….

  6. 26
    Beth

    I do also want to say that I can see where it seems like I was frequently texting him pictures of random/frivolous things.   That’s my bad for writing it out that way.   He sent me a picture now and then of something random, so I was “mirroring” his behavior and doing the same.   I would say he and I texted things like that back and forth maybe a dozen times times over a 5 month period.   On the whole, we weren’t texters, and we didn’t even talk to eachother everyday.

    I also get the whole “being late” thing.   Ten, 15, 20  minutes is fine with me, but, for me anything over 30 minutes and I just think it’s common courtesy to tell people you’re running late.

    1. 26.1
      ann

      beth, I commend you for your strength and courage, and discernment.

      (and I must also acknowledge your good command of grammar when you thank everyone for   his or her input as opposed to saying for ‘their’ input)

      wishing you lots of luck and good things, as we are indeed all fellow sisters in this same journey.

      smiles,

      ann

    2. 26.2
      Laurie

      You are absolutely right. Same thing I’ve been dealing with, they’re clueless doofuses, but, bottom line, (I believe)..if you matter and are a priority, they’d be calling and not pass up a chance to be with you!   Especially, when you are a chick who is confident, has friends in her life, and isn’t insecure or demanding.

  7. 27
    Christie Hartman, PhD

    Beth, thanks for the addendum. I definitely underestimated the scope of this guy’s ways! Clearly you were dealing not only with someone who communicates differently, but who is, quite honestly, a total flake. This isn’t a quirk; it’s a character flaw. Glad you dumped him.

  8. 28
    Selena

    Hey Beth. Thanks for letting us know the denoument – enquiring minds and all that.   Sorry it didn’t work out for you with him, but it sounds like you are better off truly. 🙂

  9. 29
    Denise

    Beth, can’t say I’m surprised….the incident described in the original question about him not responding to plans you had with him on Saturday and him wanting to sleep in didn’t sound good, either him being totally clueless in regard to basic manners and consideration or he was not to into the relationship (regardless of him being upset at the breakup).

    Yes, this man could have communication issues in regard to following up, especially with the example of not calling his mother (although with a son who is 18, that’s not a big stretch!) or a character flaw.   Or he could have just not wanted to be in a relationship and this was his way of exiting (saying he didn’t think about calling the woman he’s dating while he’s gone on a business trip?)–sounds like common behavior, and it’s not just  men that do this.

    Thanks for the ‘closure’ on this, we would have been going crazy here wondering what happened!   🙂   Good luck, Venus is back in motion–onward and upward!

  10. 30
    Sara

    Hi Beth,

    Just wanted to say that I think you made the right decision for you and I don’t think you overreacted at all. That behaviour would have really annoyed me too ! You sound like you behaved in a really reasonable way towards him. I’m sure you will meet a man who is more thoughtful in the future.
    Good luck!

  11. 31
    Luxe

    Hey Beth,
      
    I’m glad you made the best choice for you. I was thinking about this thread today, and to some of the people here who are patient enough to wait for someone for more then 20 minutes.. that is pretty damn good. After 30 minutes without a phone call or text I’d probably be irritated. I’d consider what Steve does and just take off and do my own thing without them. And if this was a constant behavior, I think it would bring out the worst in me. If I were in your shoes, I would have done the same thing.

  12. 32
    hunter

    I used to be the way “beth” describes her boyfriend, I wasn’t really into my girlfriend.    
    Needless to say she is gone….

  13. 33
    Emma

    In my opinion, overanalyzing is never good!!

  14. 34
    Steve

    I’ll write it again, this issue HAD ( Beth, dumped the guy ) nothing to do with over-analyzing.
      
    Setting dates with people, showing up on time ( within 5 min most of the time ),   calling them as soon as you know you will be late, calling them sooner if you have to cancel and answering their messages in a timely manner are basic adult life skills.     These things are also common courtesy.
      
    Being turned off for being repeatedly on the dirty end of this narcissistic, childish dirty stick is not over-analyzing.

  15. 35
    Steve

    @Beth
      
    When you broke up with him, did you tell him why?     What did he have to say about it?       I’m guessing since his relatives complain about his behavior it isn’t likely to change.

  16. 36
    TraciT

    Hi Everyone (especially Evan)!

    I’ve been reading this blog for a while now and this is the first time I’ve ever been prompted to write so please bear with me, haha. This post spoke to me because I see myself as having been in the position of her boyfriend. I feel that this is a letter that my ex could have easily written about me.

    To the Original Poster, I believe that Evan is giving some seriously sound advice, along with a lot of the responders (personally, KarlR is a favorite of mine. Karl, I’m always looking for you in the posts…stalker-ish, I know. lol). Anyway, I think the best point that sums it up was when Evan stated:
    “If you make something a dealbreaker, it’s a dealbreaker.
    If you put up with it, it’s a quirk.”

    Like some others have said, it basically comes down to personal preference and what you think you can put up with and what you can’t. But think and choose wisely, because things that could be looked at as minor in the long run, could cost you a great love if you blow them out of proportion by thinking short-sightedly. No one can tell you what that is though, only you can know that for yourself. Probably the best way to approach it is to look at the big picture; that if this man makes you happy and you acheive a certain amount of fulfillment with him despite everything else then that’s probably all that counts. You may have “quirks” that he may also have to “put up with” and he does so because he cares about you and is happy. I guess it’s safe to assume that if the two of you are still involved. I think you can only learn which things are quirks or genuine flaws that should come to question, through time and discernment. Listen to your gut. Right now it sounds like your gut may be telling you that you might be acting too sensitive about his habits, since you say that despite his type of inconsideration(s) that you still think he’s great and you are happy with him. Would you honestly stop at just the things you mentioned, or is any habit he has that irks you going to come into question? Sounds like the things you mentioned might be things that you just have to accept about the guy…or you may risk pushing him away by being critical about something he may not see as a big deal in relation to the longevity of your relationship. Really, all you can do is try to talk to him about how it makes you feel (what he says may or may not help change your perspective, but hear him out). Understand that he might honestly try his best to accomodate you, but if it’s just the way he is then the “change” he might attempt may be marginal at best. In that kind of situation there are no guarantees. If he’s able to turn it all around for you, then great! If not, then what are you going to do? So in the end it will still come down to a decision YOU will have to make anyway…accept him the way he is, or see if you can find someone else (who will also have trade-offs, possibly worse ones). Are you really prepared to take that risk at this point? You can only control what you do and how you can react in a given situation. So it’s probably not realistic to expect him to change for you. People only really change when THEY believe they should make the change. Think about all the close friends you love and accept despite their obvious quirks or flaws. If you really love and are happy with your man, then why should the expectation be different for him?

    Trust me, I’ve been on the receiving end of what I perceived was petty criticism and passive/aggressive actions to try to get me to change in my last relationship (lasted 2.5 years). He was holding these “flaws” over my head as the reasons why he didn’t feel comfortable marrying me, but in the same breath kept telling me that he was happy with me and wanted a life with me. I told him that I would try to make the changes (even though I didn’t think that I needed to change at all), but that it would probably take a lot of time for me to show consistency and recognize those opportunities to exhibit the changes in habit – even saying that did not satisfy him. Honestly, I thought that by the 2.5 year mark he should’ve already made that decision to accept me and be happy or not accept me and move on to someone that fit all of his expectations/criteria. He chose to stand his ground in thinking that it was MY responsibilty to make changes for him when and how he wanted me to make them. So, what ended up happening was I chose to cut HIM loose. (and I don’t think you want to lose a great guy because you were upset about some unanswered picture messages or for being leisurely with his time. I think we all know and love people who seem to be on a different clock or set of manners than us) It hurt me badly to break up with him because I loved him deeply and wanted to marry him, but honestly who wants to be with someone who can’t be understanding or fully accept them? So like I said, just talk to the guy and see how the conversation goes. But expect that things may not change when or how you want them to. All you can expect is the guy to love you and contribute to the relationship the best way that he can. And if at the end of the day you’re happy and can say that you have a quality man, then what more could you want? I wish you both the best of luck!

    P.S. I hope all of that made sense, lol. I know I went on a tangent about myself but I just wanted to illustrate a point. I hope I’m able to help someone through my experience. 🙂

  17. 37
    TraciT

    Um, wow. I JUST read that Beth broke up with dude. I’m so slow. lol, Well Beth, it sounds like you made the best decision for yourself in this situation and I’m so glad for you! Sorry I just spilled my guts, haha. But like I said, hopefully it’ll be of help to SOMEone! Good luck with the next guy, Beth! 😉

  18. 38
    Karl R

    Steve said: (#34)
    “Setting dates with people, showing up on time ( within 5 min most of the time ),   calling them as soon as you know you will be late, calling them sooner if you have to cancel and answering their messages in a timely manner are basic adult life skills.     These things are also common courtesy.”

    Are you familiar with Latin American culture? This “common courtesy” that you speak of is completely alien to them.

    I once gave a choral performance at a mission church for migrant farm workers. (The church was in Kansas; most of the migrant workers were Mexican or Central American.) The minister who ran the church told us:

    “The service is scheduled for seven pm, so show up at seven. You can warm up, then I’ll give you a tour of the facilities. We’ll start when we have enough people. It might be 30 minutes or 2 hours before we start. The service will run for about an hour, and people will continue to come in througout the service.”

    We showed up at seven. The service started at eight. People were still arriving after the service had ended. What you call “the dirty end of  this narcissistic, childish dirty stick” is the way that 539 million people live their lives.

    You and I live our lives punctually, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to live, or that it’s the right way, or that it’s even the best way. It’s a choice that we make.

    If you don’t want to live with someone who runs on  a different  kind of schedule, it’s perfectly understandable. If you’re going to insist that they’re deliberately doing it to jerk you around, you’ll end up sounding incredibly narrow-minded.

  19. 39
    Selena

    @Karl #38

    So people were still arriving after the service had ended? I guess then they really didn’t care about missing the service. It wasn’t that important to them. And so it goes with relationships as well.

  20. 40
    san

    Karl#38
    Yes, different cultures have different ways of looking at time but, in this case he was an American. As an American adult he knew what was expected of him when it comes to time.

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