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. 91

    Thank you all so much for the comments and the original post. This has helped me a lot to have an new out look on my situation that is similar to Beth’s. My boyfriend and I have been dating for 10 months and 3 days, and he randomly stops responding to texts and sometimes goes days with out texting me, or calling. He sometimes tries to change plans last minute, but when I get upset at his trying to change it, he lets it go and goes along with the original plan. We have talked on many occasions about his lack of communication, and in fact we talked about it on this past Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday being our 10 month. Every time we talk about it, he apologizes and  say’s he’ll change, but doesn’t. He still randomly stops talking to me after a few hours of talking he will just disappear. He started working again today, but before that he was talking to me, and suddenly stopped talking, and that was at 11:45 today. He started work at 5 and will finish at 10 tonight. We are suppose to Skype tonight, because he promised I hope it comes through or I know I’ll be devastated if it doesn’t. I came on looking for advice to stop over anaylizing  his silence, because ever since his best friend joked about him dating other girls at the same time as me, I’ve had that sense of doubt. Kristian would never do that, but it’s still there. Thank you for all the advice I found from this site, it has helped me greatly.  I know his silence means he is with either with others, or he is busy, he has this thing where he doesn’t like being on his phone when he is with other people. he wants them to feel important, so he doesn’t do it. But still, is it so hard that he can’t simply say he won’t be able to talk for a while? Anyway. I will take this advice to heart, and take his reasons and silences for what the truly are, and will confront him again about this topic. Thank you all. 🙂
    ~Megan Beacham

  2. 92

    hahahaha people here are so delusional
    I don’t deal with flakey people period. OF COURSE IT WOULD BE A DEALBREAKER. It should be for ANYONE. If you put up with people telling you they’re on the same page and going to meet you at a certain time and then they decide they don’t feel like it, by all means tell that person what an asshole they are and cut them out of your life. After enough people do this to them maybe they’ll finally get it. Why accept something like that? That IS something that people need to change, whether they’re in a relationship or not. 

  3. 93

    I have dated a more extreme version of this guy. He is consistently a half an hour late, sometimes forgets plans entirely, and frequently does not answer texts for hours. I am the type of person that is always 15 minutes early. In the beginning I did what Evan suggested I dealt with the lateness as his quirk and stopped complaining. However, the cancelling or totally forgetting plans espescially on the weekends really got to the point that I could not handle it at all. Here’s the thing, it just depends on what you are willing to tolerate. Personally, I would be willing to tolerate other quirks that many people would not, messiness, leaving the toliet seat up, going out with friends instead of me, not being overly affectionate, etc. But lateness and forgetting plans well that I just cannot do. So yes Evan is right everyone has their quirks you just have to decide which ones you can deal with, and if his are not dealable it is perfectly okay to move on.

  4. 94

    I’ve been dating a guy who has been doing the same thing for 8 months.  Don’t phone when he said he would.  Tell me he will come around to my place after having a quick drink in my area, and never show up (ignore my message and phone call).  Sometimes not respond to some of my messages at all.  Small things like not commenting on a joke I sent him.  Eventually this evolved into telling me he is not available the weekend, and then I would see on Facebook that he went out.

    After a really terrible breakup, he acknowledged that he was too scared that he might change his mind about the relationship, that he didn’t want it to happen.  And he still wants me back! Probably to keep stringing me along.

    In my case these small things were symptoms of a much larger problem in the end.  I generally don’t get worked up about peoples’ communication styles, but with this guy something really bothered me and I think on a subconscious level I knew he weren’t really interested.


  5. 95

    There is no reason why a grown adult man (not a 20 year old) should forget plans that you make together, I’m sure he isn’t so irresponsible with his job and his child. You made the right decision to break off the relationship.

  6. 96

    Hi Evan….I have had the exact scenario as Beth only my boyfriend started doing this about a couple of weeks into our relationship after wooing me back from a a three month break to tell me he had made so many mistakes the first time and he wanted me back. So everything was great in our relationship until he stopped calling me whenever his son who is four would be down for his visit for the weekend. We had plans coming up in two days and I had given him the money to book the Inn which came at an awesome price but we had to book it on by the next day or we would loose the special rate. Everything was great and we were so excited. He had been doing fine shooting me a text here and there while he was with his son and then all of a sudden …Nothing… communication…no nothing. I decided to respect that and wait and send him a quick text a little later which i did…. I waited for seven hours for anything…by then it was midnight and I shot him a text . His reply was that he was just so busy with his son that he couldn’t

  7. 97

    My boyfriend will make plans to come over, and then the day of, he literally disappears! I get no response from him until the next afternoon, and there’s normally no explanation or apologyOn a normal basis, I have to send multiple texts, and wait several hours, to get him to respond. He refuses to recognize that I am infinitely less upset and hurt by these things, if he just tells me what’s up. Yet, despite telling him multiple times, he still doesn’t communicate! Even, when we’re together, this lapse in communication will come through.

    I don’t know if I necessarily agree with your advice, Evan. It’s only a deal breaker if I make it one? I think anyone in my situation, would consider it a deal breaker. Of course, I love him, and we have good times together. We just passed our 1 year, so maybe there is some truth in what you say. I don’t know. It’s just gotten so much worse lately, and I’m at a loss for what to do.

  8. 98

    Hi Beth,

    I’m glad a Google search for what was bugging me today yielded your story. Although it sucks that other ladies have to deal with this, it helps to know that I’m not alone. My boyfriend, who’s always been a bit of a flake when it comes to texting, calling, and certain things requiring preparation, did something similar to me: last night he said he’d come be with me this morning and made a point of asking me “for sure?” because he would need to take a sick day. (This was to make up for the fact that his car died on Sunday, when he was supposed to pick me up for dinner.) I confirmed that he could come over an hour and a half before the time I normally wake up because he wanted us to spend as much time together as possible (he lives a bit of a drive away). I got up early and got ready, but then I didn’t hear from him. A half hour after the time he was supposed to come over, I finally called to ask where he was. He replied that he was still waiting for his friend to deliver the part to fix his car–as if nothing was wrong! I told him how inconsiderate he was being, especially in light of the fact that I, by no means a morning person, had gotten up early just for him; he attempted to laugh it off at first, even claiming that he hadn’t made a firm time commitment, but finally admitted that perhaps he had been disrespectful of my time. I’m thinking he still doesn’t totally get it, as it took so much borderline-crying on my part for him to admit that he was in the wrong, but we did talk on the phone for almost four hours, during which time he repeatedly assured me he still wanted to be in a relationship. It’s still hard for me to believe that someone who really cares could treat me that way, but judging from the outcome of your story, Beth, it does happen… I really like him, but I realize it’s likely he will disappoint me in this way again. I guess if I want to be with him, I just have to accept that that’s who he is?

  9. 99

    Sure, it’s important to overlook your partner’s quirks, but when it comes to the communication of plans, your boyfriend’s lack of concern and his unwillingness to plan ahead is not a quirk, it is inconsiderate. For example, the time you spent in limbo wondering when he would be ready meant that your morning was compromised. Could you have been getting some much needed chores done? Could you have spent that time connecting with family or friends? I would kindly explain this to your boyfriend and ask that he try planning ahead out of consideration. If he doesn’t agree with you and you find yourself waiting around for him yet again, make other plans. If he in turn has to wait for you while you fulfill those plans, perhaps he will understand.

  10. 100

    After beeing single all my life (I’m 33 and travelled a lot, so a boyfriend would have been in the way) I met finally a great guy and it klicked the same day for both of us.

    He is a traveller and adveturous person like me and we have nearly everything in common, which is an awesome experience.

    Yet he is terrible in communicate or planning, because his phone is dead most of the time anyway. But I actually admire that a lot because he also ignores his phone nearly completely when he is staying with me for up to 3 weeks in a row. So all his attention is on me in that time.

    Afterwards he will take some time for himself to travel and roam and often won’t contact me at all. Not even to tell me, when he might be back. He will appear and very random times, like 2am. Of he does tell me, when he most likely will be back, I can be sure he won’t, because he forgot the time while petting cats or sniffing flowers. But how awesome is that. It might be childish and appear as respectless, but I accepted this flaw on him, because apart from that he is the most amazing, interesting, joyful and contend person I ever know and I would never want those qualities to fade in favor of that. Wouldn’t be worth it.

    Accept your guy as he is for you want to be accepted, too. 🙂

  11. 101

    I could do 40 minutes late. I am REGULARLY left wondering WTF is happening 5 hours after he is supposed to get home, kids in bed, scouring the internet for comfort. I would be happy just to get a phone call!

    1. 101.1

      Yep. I completely get it!! If he needs to play chess for 5 hours with his son,  I get it. Just text and tell me you’re running late,  to which he responds, I didn’t tell you an exact time…. ummm midnight is a booty call.

      He claims he is busy w kids or his farm…. yet is on Facebook. I don’t buy it.

      Says he is bad at texting, yet he can text other girls that are “friends”  all about priorities. Which is fine,  just don’t leave me hanging

  12. 102

    Blows off plans?…dump the creep and DO NOT settle for further dumbass narcissism.  Such self-absorbed behavior will far exceed blowing off plans and the disappointed but hopeful will perhaps blow off life waiting for the childish hot and cold stuff.  It’s best to consider hot and cold as icky because it suggests low to no character, alright?

  13. 103

    I’ve got the same thing going on. It’s been a year of me saying,  “it would really Mean a lot to me if you would text when you’re late” to which he responds with excuses and points the finger at me, making me feel I need to change or fix me. Which we both need to work on it, but it feels one sided.

    However when I’m late, he gets upset. So i make a point to be on time. He prides and brags about himself  being reliable and on time, which he isn’t either of those.  he complains of problems “other people” have… when he does the same things.

    The last thing that happened is we were at a concert bar and he disappeared. Didn’t answer my calls or texts, yet he was active on Facebook.  Turns out he was next door eating. Why couldn’t he just tell me? I don’t mind that he is busy and has a life or is hungry. It’s just the lack of respect when he disappears without saying a thing. How long do I give him the benefit of the doubt and call it a “quirk”?

    In my mind, he isn’t trying. I’ve put up with it for so long that he sees no need to try.

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