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. 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.

  2. 82
    starthrower

    @ 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
      Cat

      #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.

  3. 83
    starthrower68

    @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
      Cat

      #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.

  4. 84
    starthrower68

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

  5. 85
    Denise

    #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.  

  6. 86
    starthrower68

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

  7. 87
    Clare

    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.

  8. 88
    Clare

    (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.

  9. 89
    Jessica

    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!

  10. 90
    Jacqueline

    #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.    

  11. 91
    Megan

    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

  12. 92
    Olivia

    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.  

  13. 93
    Lisa

    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.

  14. 94
    Michelle

    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.

     

  15. 95
    jennifer

    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.

  16. 96
    Frustrated

    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…..no 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

  17. 97
    Cas

    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 apology.  On 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.

  18. 98
    Aiko

    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?

  19. 99
    Acey

    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.

  20. 100
    Kiri

    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. 🙂

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