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. 61

    I might not expect a person who is habitually very late (30 minutes +), to begin showing up everywhere 10 min. early. But I might expect that person to at least try to show up earlier, say 15 min. late. I might expect them to try to call more often, and I’d hope to see some attempt at improvement. A person who doesn’t even try to change might be perceived as lazy or uncaring.  
    Nanvy #
    Has it occurred to you that many quality people don’t want to date someone seriously who is still married and going through a divorce?

  2. 62

    That’s Nancy #59

  3. 63

    The “lack of communication”, showing up late and “forgetting” about dates that the OP spoke of sounds like the guy she thought she was in a relationship with didn’t make her a priority.

    If men are interested in women…they will let it be known by their actions.  Going days without communicating, “forgetting” about dates/plans and being habitually late sound as though this man was not making the OP a priority.

    My motto is not to make someone a priority that makes you an option.  Hence, i agree with the OP that breaking up in this scenario.

    And…at Nancy #59…I don’t do internet dating but men only get away with acting like “jerks” if you allow them to. 

  4. 64

    Ruby- That could have been phrased a little less sarcastically and yes I understand that may be the case, but everyone’s divorce is different and should be judged on an individual basis.
    Kaitlyn- I think you mean anyone can make you feel badly if you allow them to, but acting like a jerk can happen with or without allowance. First sign of jerkiness and I say “buh-bye!”

  5. 65

    #64 Ruby

    Don’t want to get too much off topic here, however, I think divorce is pretty much the same for everyone.  The individual details and circumstances are different for everyone. However, I believe the process of ‘finding’ oneself again. finding a single life again and grieving (hopefully learning a ton from the experience too!) is pretty universal.  I also believe separation is much different from actually being divorced.  How people react to all this IS also unique and personal. 

    After having been through all this, I will not date anyone who is separated or newly divorced.  I got burnt once big time with that, so I learned my lesson!  (And he is an awesome man/person!)

    Just my thoughts since I’ve been through it and have seen how different I am from when we physically separated to now being divorced 2 years. 

  6. 66

    Nancy #64 
    Sorry, no sarcasm intended, just an observation.

  7. 67

    I hate to be the voice of logic, but one percent (who got away) of 50 men is half a man…

  8. 68

    @ Joe #67
    I am sure that for the purpose of stating/understanding her point, it would not be unreasonable for us to round up to the nearest whole man.

  9. 69

    He was half a man

  10. 70

    I think I struggle with the same sort of things as the OP; there are obviously, glaring deal breakers, then there are the little ones that aren’t glaring, but make you wonder if it’s a HJNTIY situation.  That’s what I find frustrating.  I think cindym7878 in response #1 nailed it.  I don’t want to be made a fool of or strung along if he’s not interested.  I’m inclined to believe guys know pretty quickly if you’re ms. right or just ms. right now. 

  11. 71
    Katarina Phang

    Oh dear, my new man is quite like this too.  When we’re together it’s great all over and he’s very affectionate and attentive (in fact he emails/texts/calls me more when I’m visiting him -like when he’s at work and I’m at is home-…isn’t it nuts?), when we’re apart he doesn’t seem to feel the need to be in touch.  He’s lousy about calling (he admitted he wasn’t good talking on the phone), he answers text messages when he gets down to it, gets interrupted/bothered/irritated when I try to chat him up so a lot of times he would just simply ignore me or sign out, especially if he’s busy or not in the mood to chat (which is like most of the time).
    Apparently this is a guy thing, I’ve heard it so much women complain about it.  They’re just so different that they’re enjoying their single life too without care in the world while we women want to make sure that things are still okay.  For them no news is good news.  Small chats bore them and serve no purpose.
    I take it as a quirk.  As long as he gives me what I need in other ways I guess I could adjust myself to that.  It would be nice though if he likes to check in with me every now and then without me having to initiate it.  He’s better in answering emails though in which he can be overly sweet and reassuring.  So just find means that works better with him.

  12. 72

    I sometimes get the impression – and I admit I could be wrong – that no matter what women ask for, it’s too much. 

    1. 72.1

      #72 yes because for men it’s a constant power struggle for them to remain in the non-expressive state, while women are trying to get them to be more expressive and communicative… idk blame it on their shitty parents who made them feel like they should never express their feelings

  13. 73

    #72 Perhaps because women ARE asking too much–they often ask men to be like women :). Since that is impossible, it sets the guy up for failure and the woman up for a lot of frustration.  Men in general do not do this – they are much better at accepting women and ther personality for for who they are.

    I believe the key to ALL of this is to be able to accept the other person for EXACTLY who they are.  Men and women have instinctual traits that are not going to be changed any time soon since they have been around for millions of years.  Then there’s the personality traits and character of the other person.

    Yes, there can be negotiations on nuances and things that may not be working for us, like “I feel frustrated when you don’t call when you’re going to be late for dinner”.  But if someone is trying to change the other person in a huge way, that’s not going to work.  It’s just NOT a match and the person has to recognize that early.

    I think the OP eventually did realize that the way this man was treating her was not conducive to her feeling good or being happy–and the reason really is irrelevant.  Bottom line, this was NOT a match and it was time move on to someone who is (at least she didn’t waste years!)

  14. 74

    I keeping reminding myself that Evan says the reason women are always told that we’re the ones who have to change is because we’re the ones asking the questions.  i hope Evan archives his teleclass because the thing I wrestle with is, since I don’t feel I can have any hopes or ask for anything, the tendency is to be distant and a bit aloof.  I know that’s not the best strategy, and I’m sure I’ll be reminded of it more than once.  But there are times when you feel like you can’t win for loosing.

  15. 75

    @ Denise #73
    Great response, and I agree whole-heartedly. This was what I was trying to say but you nailed it much better (and quicker, lol) than I did.

  16. 76

    #75 TraciT


    #74 starthrower

    I understand what you’re saying, and have felt the same way, damned if you do and damned if you don’t.  However, there is a change in overall thinking and attitude that can help.

    May I suggest that at the beginning of any relationship, everything should be fun and flirty.  No serious talks, no asking for anything.  If you need to talk to him about something early on that’s really bugging you, he is NOT the right man.

    Finally, in order to be successful, the best way is to be AUTHENTIC.  To relax and 100% be yourself.  A way to do that is to look at EACH interaction with a man NOT as a potential mate, but as another human being who has interesting stories and that you’d like to get to know a little better–takes the pressure right off.  Be FRIENDLY and smile with everyone, men and women  That includes the married guy at the grocery store behind you in line, the single guy you meet at a club or a female co-worker you pass in the hallway.

    If you read on line dating profiles written by men, one of the things you will see over and over is they want women to be themselves, to be present (not in their head or three steps ahead) and to be open (vulnerable).   I believe that makes him feel that his imperfections won’t be held against him and that he can FEEL warm being with you.

  17. 77


    I agree with your approach overall and do my best to do just what you suggest.  It works very well with a guy that I would not be really attracted to but because he seems nice and harmless, then I give him a chance.  It’s the ones that you really feel that spark with immediately where it becomes a problem.  All the common sense and reason in the world doesn’t help if that’s going on.  This would suggest to me that the guy in which I might be intensely attracted to is someone I should avoid.  And of course I just met one with whom I felt that attraction and it’s an hjntiy situation so I’ve walked away and am moving on. 

  18. 78

    #77 starthrower68

    Too funny, I was thinking about this last night.  How easy it is to apply what we know in situations where there’s not a lot at stake. When we do meet someone we like though, the butterflies are going and we don’t want to ‘blow’ it.

    I was in this situation in the early part of 2009, the first time in my life really.  Although I had butterflies around him, I FORCED myself to be authentic.  Especially at the beginning when I wasn’t in love with him and there wasn’t a lot at stake at that point.

    When I was in a position to negotiate something that bothered me (and it was MINOR), I applied the communication skills I learned and it all worked out well.  What I found is if it’s potentially (or really!) Mr. Right, then any minor screw ups or mistakes don’t really matter – on either side.  I found that both people were forgiving.  I do believe, probably mostly from my side, was that it was because we accepted each other for exactly who we were. 

    What is hjntiy?

  19. 79

    HJNTINY is the acronym for He’s Just Not That Into You.  I applied Evan’s criteria.  This guy asked me if I needed constant reassurance, which I do not.  However, it was going to be me having to constantly remind him that I exist, and I don’t care how much I like a guy, I’m not doing that.  And since I’ve heard nothing from him after dropping him as a contact anywhere, I can be certain my assessment was correct. 

  20. 80

    #79 starthrower68

    Thanks for the acronym explanation, I love the HJNTINY concept.  HOWEVER, I do believe that is more appropriate when dating someone as opposed to the first date.  Not to say a man/women is just not into the other person on the first date.  However, when dating someone, there are common behaviors that tend to point to this happening.   The problem is women (and MEN by the way) often ignore these behaviors or agonize over reasons and excuses why the man is doing that–hence HJNTINY.

    I really like that you have a good boundary in regard to what behavior/treatment you will accept or not accept, and what you are willing to do and not do.

    This guy asked me if I needed constant reassurance, which I do not. 

    Hmmmm…Of course I wasn’t there, and I don’t know you, but if this is what he said, then I think you might want to look at how you are coming off on the first date.  I’m not saying you were doing this, however, NO ONE wants to be interrogated and pushed in what their intentions are in regard to the other person.  For example, I want to know if you are ‘into me’ so I don’t waste my time, and this is what I expect from the man I date–maybe you’re not coming right out and saying those words, but this is the way the other person might be hearing.  (Communication is not about what we’re saying, but more about how it’s being perceived/heard.)  Evan’s email today talked about this and it was perfectly said – I LOVE how he presents concepts.

    If this is the impression this man received on the first date, it is not a surprise that he didn’t call back.  This cannot be put on HIM though.

    The early time period of dating needs to be fun and flirty–NO expectations on either side (since we owe another person nothing and all relationships are voluntary).

    My impression from the tone of your posts is that there is some frustration in regard to men and dating.  Even some hostility and exasperation.  Totally understandable since dating can involve all these negative emotions.   These types of emotions and holding back can push men (and people in general) away, as people want to be around other people who are positive and happy.  This may or not apply, just my thoughts!

  21. 81
    Katarina Phang

    I must add, since I barely show too much neediness to talk, my man has been more chatty now.  He’s been expressing his feelings a lot more through emails.  And he initiated the chat today (and talking direct with yahoo voice as well) and told me how much he wanted me bad and needed me.  He said it all: I want you, I need you, I miss you, I love you (not quite in a row but he expressed all the things I needed to hear).
    The best thing a woman can do is to trust him, back off and let him lead.  It’s hard to do when you get paranoid and live in your head.

  22. 82

    @ Denise #80,

    I am frustrated, mostly because I don’t really know what to do or not do.  I kind of just went off the grid because all of the actions of the fellow in question – based on what I’ve learned by reading EMK’s blog – says, “I’m just not that into you”.  But then a couple of days later he called wanting to know where I was, if I was ok, and the concern in his voice was genuine.  I said that I was just laying low because it seemed this was a “he’s just not that into you” situation.  He said it was not, explained that he’d been busy with family business etc.  Ok, fair enough no problem.  Except we’re back to where we were.  Very limited contact, no plans to go see each other, etc.  IF I happen to chat with him on Skype, he always closes with “big dating game kiss”.  There is no dating, let alone relationship.  Its a casual acquaintance and nothing more.  I see no reason to pursue this, because I already know I can’t change anything.  So I guess I’ll flirt with him but I’ll date or look for a relationship elsewhere. 

    1. 82.1

      #82, Starthrower, You’re probably frustrated because you know from reading this blog that it doesn’t matter what the guy tells you, it matters what he does. Definitely look elsewhere! And to remind you, check out this post.

  23. 83

    @Cat, #82, believe me, I’ve heard those words in my head constantly.  It’s like a mantra.  He’s just not that into you…..he’s just not that into you….he’s just not that into……

    1. 83.1

      #84, starthrower68, That shouldn’t be your mantra. It should be “I’m not into him! I’m only into guys who make me feel good, who ask me out and then follow through, who don’t leave me wondering how they feel.” That may not meet the standard definition of a “mantra” 🙂 but doesn’t it feel better than focusing so much on what he wants? Turn off the Skype. That shouldn’t be your only form of communication with a guy. And don’t flirt with anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself! Give that time to some other guy who appreciates you. The time you wasted with him on Skype, you could have been meeting someone new.

  24. 84

    @ Cat #85, I know you’re correct.  I guess I’m just not going to be available. 

  25. 85

    #82 starthrower

    I get what you’re saying and I get that from your posts.  I know how you feel, You do X, you don’t get what you want; you do Y, you don’t get what you what.  What the heck?!  I have been where you are, I think many of us have. 

    There is a different way though.  I would just ask that you consider there’s a different way and be open to it.  Give yourself over for X amount of time to DOING things different and see how it goes.  Maybe put dating on the back burner right now and work on being the best self you can be.

    Where things can be improved is by thinking totally differently.  You can ONLY control yourself, NO ONE else.  It sounds like you’re giving this man power over you.  You’re feeling frustrated with this man because you’re trying to ‘figure’ him out, and ultimately, trying to CONTROL him (you telling him HE’S not into you is a way of trying to control him to get him to react and treat you differently–passive/aggressive).

    (By the way, I was the queen of passive/aggressive behavior, I can see if from a mile away 🙂

    Right in line with what Cat is saying, if this man is not giving you the attention you want, then don’t expend any more energy on him.  Don’t DO anything (DOING by the way is masculine energy), don’t contact him first. If he contacts you, be pleasant and friendly.  If he asks where you’ve been, you’ve been busy taking care of family things.  Don’t spend a lot of time on line with him, like Cat says, that’s wasted time and energy.  “It was nice chatting with you tonight, I have to go.  Have a great rest of the night!” — and MEAN it of course. If he doesn’t want to step up to interview to be an employee in YOUR company, that’s fine–there are plenty of other candidates.

    I see no reason to pursue this, because I already know I can’t change anything.  So I guess I’ll flirt with him but I’ll date or look for a relationship elsewhere.

    This is contradictory, can you see that?  If you feel like he’s not stepping up to the plate, then why flirt with him?  Why expend that energy on him?  I’m not saying to be mean or nasty, but rather friendly and INDIFFERENT.

    If you flirt with him, but then give him comments about him not being into you, that’s passive/aggressive behavior. 

    The key is to Absolutely look for a MAN who is capable and willing to do relationship.  This is opposite of looking for a relationship.

    What does it really matter where this man is in his life, whether he’s capable of a relationship and why or why not, if he’s into you or not?  The bottom line is he’s not DOING the actions he needs to make you feel feminine and wanted.  

    I’ve heard those words in my head constantly.  It’s like a mantra.  He’s just not that into you…..he’s just not that into you….he’s just not that into……

    YOU can change your thinking, it’s up to you to decide if you want to do that or not.  It does take focus and energy, eventually though, it becomes part of who you are. 

    How I’ve done this for myself, is not matter what is going on, instead of going negative, I FORCE myself to put something in a positive light.  Instead of “I like that guy and he’s not calling me.  There must be something wrong with me -OR- there’s something ‘wrong’ with him”, I would turn that around IMMEDIATELY in my head to, “Bummer that he’s not calling me, but I enjoyed the time we did spend together.  We had a fun date and I had a fun time, I’m glad I met  him.  Not everyone is going to be into me.  I think I’ll go take a bath and then watch that romantic comedy I’ve wanted to see and enjoy a glass of wine.”    🙂

    I do that with EVERYTHING in life, so much so that people have said to me that I always put a positive spin on things. 

  26. 86

    Denise, Although it’s very unpleasant to confront, you are correct.

  27. 87

    Brilliant advice, Evan! And I smiled wryly to myself as I read this because her boyfriend’s flaws are my boyfriend’s flaws. Wonderful man. He skypes me every day but he rarely phones, and sometimes there are lapses which are frustrating. But he is like that with everyone, not just me.

    It frustrated me a lot more in the beginning than it does now, and I made the decision that the good FAR outweighs the bad. And given that our lines of communication are more or less always open, and have been for two years, I am not going to make this a deal breaker. As Evan says, the next guy could have flaws which are as annoying or more so, and you alone know if it’s something you can live with. Instinctively, I think we want to jump on our partners flaws, but the reality is that we can learn to live with a lot if the relationship is basically a supportive, loving one.

  28. 88

    (Sorry for the second consecutive post, Evan.) Beth, I’ve just read your follow-up comments, and I wholeheartedly think you did the right thing to end it. My boyfriend’s lapses in communication are not anywhere near like that; I think what your guy did veers out of the personality quirk category and over into thoughtless and inconsiderate.

    As Ronnie Ann said above, the big decider is how it makes you feel. If it is just a minor annoyance, that one can learn to live with. If it impacts your self-esteem that signals something very much needs to change.

  29. 89

    I wasted a lot of time with guys who bailed and didn’t answer text messages. Beth, be with a REAL man who will do the things you like. Waiting after someone who ends up being your past sucks and you obviously deserve a man who knows what he wants. I talk by experience, and I am finally with a guy who wants the same things as me and who dedicates himself to me and CREATES time for me. He’s got his quirks, but they don’t affect my relationship with him.
    Flush this fish down the toilet!

  30. 90

    #45 Helen:
    Beth, reading what you added in your comments: It seems that you two were in different stages of your life, and thus were incompatible, so you did the right thing by cutting him loose. He is in a transitional and busy stage: periods when he has to be the sole parent (parenting is extremely difficult, time-consuming work!), juggling duties with his ex-wife, starting a new job… You, on the other hand, seem to be in a relatively more stable position with fewer demands on your time. If you do not want to be with someone who has that many demands and hence is more unreliable when it comes to relationships, it’s something to keep in mind when you enter your next relationship.
    It sounds as though you want to be someone’s first priority, and he cannot, at this stage in life, make you his first priority. It doesn’t mean he’s a bad person. But his may not be the type you want.
    Thanks Helen.  You hit the nail on the head for me.  You’ve just described my situation.  My guy – 5 months dating a single dad, spends a lot of time with work, has the most beautiful giving heart. But his commitment right now is to his work, providing for his kids and being a dad.  I’m not a priority, though I know in my heart of hearts without any doubt, he loves me.  He has made it clear that he cannot give up what he is currently doing in his life.  So our timing may be just off.  As you described, yes I want that relationship, and the priority and the mutual nurturing that it takes.  It’s hard because I know we have love, but we don’t really have much of a relationship due to our different circumstances.
    #60 Ronnie
    But it helps to know what your deal breakers are. For some, not communicating is acceptable. For others, it’s a major assault. I always tell my dating coaching clients that if your date’s behavior impacts your self esteem, its a deal breaker. So now you’ll need to decide on a scale of 1-10, just how annoying and frequent his lack of communication and consideration are and if that is a deal breaker
    Thanks to you Ronnie as well. I was trying to find some experience tht I could learn from and your comment hit the spot.  My guy is a wonderful person with such a good heart, it frustrates me how he doesn’t return my texts or calls, much like the OP.  He’s never stood me up or will call if he is on his way and rarely late, his communication is really something to be desired. And as people have said, this is just the way he is, because his family and friends have apparently complained about his behaviour as well.  Before I met this man, one of the things I’m looking for in my relationship is communication and it’s really important to me.  I, too wasn’t sure whether I’m just thinking too much.  But communication isn’t the only thing.  As I’ve eluded to above, he just has very little room in his life for me and a relationship at the moment.  He says he wants it, but my gut says he doesn’t want it enough…at least not now.  In my case I don’t see this affecting my self-esteem, so much as I am not feeling that he gives me or the relationship the respect we deserve, in the context of a relationship. 
    I havent made a decision yet, simply because I wasn’t sure if I was overthinking things, and because when there’s love, it’s not easy to just walk away from that.  I think I may just try to be CALM for a little while and just let things BE and not overthink… Let me absorb things and let things play out.  I am hoping if I do that, then the answer will come to me, things might be more clear, and I’d be in a better place to make a choice at that time.  

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