#1014: “My partner wants my permission to ditch plans with me for other plans.”

Hi there,

This is maybe oddly specific and I imagine fairly low-stakes, but I genuinely have no idea how to handle it. My boyfriend and I are both busy people, and planning time together can take some doing. We live together, so while we do see one another a bunch in passing, it’s rare to have a genuine night in or a date. He is also a lot more spontaneous than I am; I’m a planner, mostly because I work a lot more hours than he does and also in part because having a rough sketch of what my next week looks like helps me manage my diagnosed anxiety.

Here’s the issue – oftentimes, I’ll really be looking forward to spending some time with him (may be structured or unstructured) but he will, at the last minute, essentially ask to cancel. Oftentimes it’s stuff that I’m invited to, too, but here are some examples:

1. At the last minute, his sister called and could we go have dinner with his family that night? Bonus points if I’ve already started cooking dinner for us (“can you just freeze it or use it tomorrow?”)
2. He got a text from the softball team he subs for, and they urgently need one more tonight or they need to forfeit.
3. His friend is in town for the weekend unexpectedly and he wants to hang out – since we’re just chilling at home/the corner bar is it cool if he and his girlfriend tag along?
4. His coworker ended up with an extra ticket to [sport/concert] and he just has one but it’s tonight only.

Like I said, in all but the last example he does invite me to tag along, but it really throws me. I’m not exactly introverted, and I do like to socialize in groups, but it really changes the character of our plans and can be a major re-adjustment of the dynamic – group vs. solo, going out vs. staying in, getting a chance to talk to him vs. spending most of the night watching him play a sport. Sometimes I feel like the third wheel to my own date night. I also feel like it’s a lot of extra effort to re-arrange things at the last minute and I usually shoulder that.

To be clear, it’s not a double standard. He is really laid-back and rolls with the punches, and any time I do have to change plans for my own reasons he takes it totally in stride. Also, it’s super apparent through our years of relationship that this is the way he was raised. His family seldom plan anything more than a day in advance, usually less. 

Here’s the issue:

1. His position is that, since we live together, we can *always* reschedule or easily spend time together whereas the things that come up are usually time-sensitive or urgent (friend is in town just one night! team is in danger of forfeiting!). My position is that this happens often enough that I feel like I’m constantly being moved down the priority list and taken for granted. Also, I don’t have time to make a back-up plan for myself so if I beg off because the new plan doesn’t sound especially fun I’m effectively ditched.

2. His additional position is that, well, he is just asking and I have ultimate veto power. If I say no, he won’t do it. My position is that, by putting out there that he has this unique and time-sensitive opportunity and asking to do that instead, he’s putting me in the position of having to tell him “no, don’t do this thing you’d rather do – hang out with me, which you can do anytime.” It’s uncomfortable, and I’d rather not have the weight of his experience on my shoulders.

The (very!) few times I have said I’d rather we stuck to our original plan, to his credit he hasn’t complained or sulked or made me the bad guy to his friends. He’s taken it pretty much in stride.

But I still don’t like it, and I’m having a hard time finding words for why this feels unfair and crummy. He’s right that he’s just asking, and he’s also right that we see a lot of each other albeit incidentally. But what I’d like to see if occasionally for him to just say, “hey, sorry – we have plans already” to his friends without putting it on me. I’d like him to feel like our time together is an important enough commitment that it’s not on the same tier as “free time” in his calendar.

But it’s not getting through, and I often end up sounding like I want him to read my mind (“how was I supposed to know you wouldn’t want to without asking you?”). How do I articulate this in a way that still leaves room for who he is as a person (to be clear, sometimes I love his spontaneity!)? How do I manage this without being too high maintenance? To be fair, I can see how sometimes I say yes when I mean no and then end up resentfully picking a fight, which isn’t especially cool of me. 

Thank you for reading my letter. She/her pronouns, please.

Hello!

It’s easy in a long-term relationship where you live together to fall into the pattern of “Why should we gotta make the plans when I can see you any old time?

It’s also easy to fall into the idea that Group Social Time counts as Together Time if he is there and you are there, and I know I’ve personally had to make it clear that “Hey being invited to be a spectator at your band practice is not the same thing as a date, hard pass btw, call me when you’re actually free.” Go in peace, hot-yet-oblivious-bass-playing-almost-boyfriend-of-1997!

My first suggestion is I think you should start taking your dude at his word and saying “I’d prefer we just continue with our solo evening, is that cool?” when you don’t want to change plans. At least sometimes! Like, family dinners are great, and family dinners can also come with 24 hours notice or else he might have to miss one because he has other plans (plans with you). If his claim is that he’d be cool if you said no is true, then see if he’s actually cool when you say no. You say he usually is, and if he continues to be, that’s good information. If he starts “resentfully picking a fight” when you say no that’s also good information.

My second suggestion is to ask him to clarify his question when he asks. “Are you asking me if I’d like hang out with your friend who is in town or telling me that you really want to hang out with your friend who is in town?” Get him to own the fact that it’s not just a simple question. Depending on how he responds, you can respond with what works best for you, like, “Can you and I have dinner together, just the two of us, and then you can peel off afterward and meet them?” or “Hey, I’m out, but go and have fun!” or “Sure, the more the merrier!

I think the thing that’s bugging you is that he’s checking in with you to ask you what you think when it’s clear that he wants to go do the other thing. He says it’s a real “ask” situation but you don’t feel like it is, and right now, “Love, is it cool if my friends join us for drinks tonight?” = “My friends will be joining us for drinks tonight.” It would be more honest if he said “Babe, I can’t make dinner tonight, I gotta go play softball or we’ll forfeit” rather than going through the rigamarole of asking you thereby putting you in the role of Chief Timecop and Funkiller.

You say sometimes you feel like a third wheel to your own date night and you sometimes get resentful and pick fights. My third suggestion is, when date-plans turn into group plans, don’t go. You know you don’t like it except on rare occasions, so, turn “Sure, it would be cool if we all went together…I guess” into “Not for me, but you go and have fun!” and then stay home and do something else.

Fourth suggestion: If you do say yes to changing plans, can you add a request to reschedule right then? You say that you’re doing a lot of work of re-accommodating things, so, can you explicitly place that work on him? “Okay, cool, have fun. When you get home tonight, can we put something else on the calendar for just you and me?” His logic is that you can always reschedule something with each other, and yours is for that to happen on the actual space-time continuum it needs to be scheduled.

Fifth suggestion: Your letter is crying out for a regular, sacred Date Night, something where you both agree that On Tuesdays We Hang Out Together Come What May, and you both agree to say “that sounds great but I have plans” about any other plans that come up during that time window unless it’s a true emergency (involving a hospital) or a fun emergency (“I know we said dinner at home but I have Hamilton tickets, meet me at 7“).

The script for asking for a reset is “I am happier when I know that I will get at least one evening/week where it’s just you and me at home together and when I can put it on my calendar in advance as a done deal to look forward to. And it does bug me when we carve this out and then you want to bail. I feel like the bad guy who is holding you back from a fun thing if I say no, but I get annoyed if I say yes and now my evening that I looked forward to and carved out of my schedule to spend with you is shot. I want to make room to be flexible and spontaneous, but it would mean a lot to me if you would treat x, y, z as pre-existing plans that we have together that can’t be ditched so easily.”

And then ask him what he thinks would fix it. “Do you have any ideas for how this can work better?” “In a perfect world, how could we fix this so there is some room to be spontaneous but we also make sure that we put each other first?

Sixth, I know I say this a lot, but make sure you are getting some time for yourself and that you have time & room to nurture your other social relationships. If you institute Date Night Taco Tuesdays over time you can also institute Go Have Fun & Give Me The House To Myself Fridays or Saturday Morning Best Friend Pancakes. It sounds like you’re busy and as a result a lot of your social units are couple social units. Make sure there’s something in there just for you.

Seventh, do what you can to delete the idea that having needs and desires inside a relationship makes you “high-maintenance.” What can survive without maintenance? “Boyfriend, I feel like I work hard to set time aside in my schedule for you, and when you keep rescheduling me or telling me that we can always hang out later, it hurts my feelings, can we figure this out together” is not the utterance of some witch-harpy-fury-gorgon-insert the scary mythological being of your choice*- hybrid, ok? These are normal human feelings and they are important because they are yours and they are real. ❤

*Friend-of-Blog Jess Zimmerman is writing an awesome series about female monsters at Catapult these days. Collect them all!

 

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301 comments
  1. Temperance said:

    LW, I have navigated a similar situation in my relationship. I have dxed depression and anxiety (and likely OCD, but I’m not ready to go there yet). I’m a huge planner, for the same reasons you are.

    My husband is a huge extrovert, and one of those people who is always like “oh, we’re going to be at Comic Con all day, so let’s reach out to Bob and Jim to have a late dinner after we spent 12 hours in panels and on the shop floor! I mean, after all, we’ll be in the city!”, whereas I’m like OH HEY, I DID A THING, NOW I HAVE A DATE WITH THESE COMIC BOOKS. Booth is also from a family where it was so common to just drop non-family plans because FAMMMMMMMILY COMES FIRST. It’s kind of cultural and endemic to where we grew up. So, that was a thing.

    My husband also has kind of a niche hobby (streaming video games) that takes up a ton of time. We schedule the hell out of it. He has certain days where he streams, and we eat crockpot meals those days, since I get home after him. We have Wednesdays as our scheduled date night, where we have the option to do something together without pressure, because the pressure to make plans on a Wednesday was taking my anxiety level to an 11.

    • Jules said:

      I think holding one night open with Date Night priority sounds like a really good compromise between ‘scheduled’ and ‘spontaneous’. If OP’s bf tells his family ‘don’t ask me to anything on any X night’, that will clear out one big potential conflict, and picking a weeknight will (hopefully) limit other interruptions. Except for the softball thing. During the season, if there’s a chance of calls on Open Night, a second night in the week blocked off may be needed.

    • Kelsi said:

      I love that you’ve made his pseudonym Booth.

    • Shadow said:

      As far as dropping plans because FAMMMMILY goes, one of the things I’ve said and insisted on with my guy is that hey, I’m family too. Having grown up dealing with pushy mothers and younger siblings, it’s kind of easy for both of us to get caught in the trap of “no, I have to go deal with my family”, but having chosen to commit to each other makes us each other’s family too, so if family time is a priority, that means us time is a priority.

  2. thathat said:

    Oh boy, LW, I know that feeling. Or at least part of that feeling. I live with my best friend, so I don’t really have the same kind of “claim” on his time, but our pre-scheduled plans will often get dropped when his social calendar winds up being more full than mine, and it always feels disorienting. I’m…partially a creature of habit, but also just, I really need plans. I hate getting less than 24 hours notice for A Thing To Do, because it stresses me. For me, even staying at home and chilling is a plan and is something that I look forward to, so having it yoiked away just…sucks.

    Shoot, the last guy I went on a date with was a really cute, sweet guy with a lot of similar interests to me and we’re still friends. But after one week I could tell he was the kind of guy who would spontaneously decided to have a party of Go To A Thing tonight, and I knew we just wouldn’t be compatible. I’d always be on edge having no real plans, or I’d always feel like a fun-killer for saying no.

    At any rate, I think this sentence of yours is something worth saying to your BF if you haven’t already:

    “I’d like him to feel like our time together is an important enough commitment that it’s not on the same tier as “free time” in his calendar.”

    That really cuts to the heart of the problem, doesn’t it. Not feeling like you’re a priority is a sucky feeling.

    • Jules said:

      With incompatibilities like this, developing a strong ‘we don’t have to go together’ helps. My husband and I are slightly incompatible – I like schedules, he likes spontaneity, we have a lot of friends – but we are just fine with one or the other going off once a week or so, when an unexpected opportunity comes up.

    • It does. For me, the Date Night helps, because I’m OK so long as I know there’s a decent chunk of time set aside. But the Date Night has to be a priority and not something that’s the same level as “if I’m free/feel like it.”

  3. Allison said:

    It’s normal for things to come up and cause plans to get derailed or pushed aside, and it’s good to make sure both people in a relationship have room for their own hobbies and social lives, but OP, your boyfriend is taking your flexibility for granted. If this happened every now and then, that would be fine, but it sounds like it’s happening all the time, and that sucks. He may not realize it’s happening too often, or maybe he suspects he’s taking advantage and he’s waiting for you to say it’s too much – which is of course emotional labor for you; if you’re not super dooper nice about it, you’ll be the bad guy.

    I second the idea to set aside one day for date night, although I’d be prepared for him still trying to push that aside “just this once” every now and then. If you stand firm, he might be grumpy the whole time, feeling like you forced him to go to dinner when he really wanted to hang with a friend. If you allow him to reschedule, even if you do reschedule for later in the week, he might not take the set “date night” seriously and chip away at that over time.

    “It’s also easy to fall into the idea that Group Social Time counts as Together Time if he is there and you are there”

    This was a huge pitfall I encountered in a brief relationship a couple years ago, we spent a lot of time around his friends and our only “alone time” was in the car, or when we were retiring to his place to sleep (and, well, maybe do some stuff before we went to sleep). I realized, far too late, that this made me feel unimportant. His friends were the priority, and I was an afterthought, who was welcome to tag along but was never important enough to make time for, that definitely made me feel insecure in the relationship and made me question my feelings for me, as well as wonder about his feelings for another woman in the group, because she was important enough to hang out with one on one. So yes, please, even if you live together, make time to do stuff just as a couple, don’t fall into the habit of making all your “dates” group outings.

    • The Bee's Knees said:

      Because her partner asks doesn’t mean he has expectations. In fact she specifically states he’s cool when she says no. That’s not taking her for granted.

      I totally agree with the Captain and she needs to establish a sacred date night.

      • trig said:

        Right, but the fact of his asking puts all the decision-making on her. He doesn’t have to do any emotional labour over whether he should or shouldn’t go, doesn’t have to weigh whether they’ve spent enough time together this week, or think too hard about whether he’d rather hang out with her or them. Even if he legitimately would enjoy staying in, making her decide is more work for her. It would be nice if he shouldered that sometimes.

        I say this as a very indecisive person who would rather someone else make the plans/order the food/pick the movie, and would be happy with whatever they pick. I default to making my partner choose. And he regularly says “no, we already did XYZ today, I’m not up for more social time just now.” or just orders the same pizza as last time… But sometimes he bluntly tells me “you decide”, at which point I realise, dang, I’ve been making him do all the deciding lately, haven’t I? It’s something I’m working on, and sounds like something OP’s boyfriend could work on too.

        • The Bee's Knees said:

          Yes and that’s exactly why communication is important.

          We all have different energy capabilities when it comes to emotional labor. We all have strength and weaknesses and only ourselves can be responsible for self care around that… communication is imperative.

          This is also why partner selection and capability are so important.

          There is no value judgement around ask vs. guess culture and I know I’m incompatible with guess culture people. I will always ask. I have standards that my partners speak their truths instead of project onto me what they think I’m feeling and try to navigate around that.

          That’s what the LW is doing and she’s obviously not happy. That is not his fault or emotional labor to do.

          • I think LW was saying that (she feels as though) her boyfriend doesn’t treat their plans together as fixed, but rather as something he can rearrange if something better comes along.

            What she wants is for her boyfriend to say to his sister and his friends, “Sorry, can’t come to dinner/pitch a softball game/go to a concert. I have plans already.”

            That’s what he isn’t doing.

            I don’t think this is an ask vs guess issue.

          • johann7 said:

            I don’t read this as an ask/guess disparity, though; I’m also very much an ask culture person, and I also don’t appreciate being expected to do all of the administrative/logistical labor to make sure things actually happen while also having that labor taken for granted. The problem here – to my eye, anyway, though LW may feel differently – isn’t the asking itself, the problem is the frequency with which established plans with LW are relegated to a lower priority than a spontaneous opportunity. If they weren’t a lower priority for Boyfriend, or possibly if Boyfriend didn’t totally object to doing any logistical labor, then he would make the “no” call himself without asking, becasue HE considered the existing plans important, even if LW might theoretically be interested in changing them (though, also, we know she’s generally not, and Boyfriend ought to know she’s generally not by now).

            Let’s say I love Person X dearly. I haven’t gotten to spend any significant time with Person X all last week, and ze suggests we have dinner and go dancing Friday night. I’m actively, excitedly looking forward to that, because I love spending time with Person X; if my sister calls me up to ask if I would like to have dinner with her and my dad Friday night, I say “no,” because I am excited to have dinner and go dancing with Person X, so canceling those plans is disappointing to me. Even if I know Person X likes my sister and dad and might like to have dinner with all of us sometimes, the plans and time with Person X, to focus on zir specifically, are a priority for me, so I refuse the spontaneous opportunity.

          • Claire said:

            I for one thought of ask vs. guess culture here because of the bit where she worries she’s asking him to read her mind (which is a common criticism of guess culture).

          • jaynn said:

            Johann, I agree, though I think it’s also about how late these requests are coming in. I can be very amenable to changing plans, probably too much so, but there’s a huge difference between “Hey there’s this thing Thursday” on Tuesday and “there’s this thing tonight” at 5pm. I have standing lunch “plans” with my MIL where she doesn’t tell me she’s coming over until about an hour before because her work schedule changes frequently and it was really hard on me when half the time she didn’t find out she couldn’t come until an hour or two before. On the other hand I had a doctor frequently reschedule me (I think at one point I was averaging about two reschedules an appointment–believe it or not I actually miss her) but it was much less of a deal because it came days in advance so I wasn’t mentally gearing up for it.

            I’m not actually a huge planner, but when I do have plans, not having them go as expected kinda throws me and its work to mentally recalibrate.

          • Guess culture people scare me. I’m afraid if I don’t guess correctly that they will punish me with all kinds of unpleasantness, from icy silence to endless lectures about how I don’t pay enough attention/how unobservant I am, etc. etc. etc.

          • Yeah, having grown up in a Guess culture, being yelled at/scolded/otherwise punished for things I didn’t know were wrong messed me up a bit. It’s one of the reasons I’m afraid to ask questions sometimes.

            Of course, I also have to work to make myself more of an Ask person…

      • Mary said:

        For me, there’s a difference between these two scenarios:

        1. “Hey, we planned X, but Y has come up. Both sound good to me, so I wanted to get your input before I decide.”

        2. “Hey, we planned X, but Y has come up. Is it ok if we change our plans to Y?”

        The second feels like asking permission, and makes it clear that his preference is Y. It makes it feel like the only reason for choosing X would be “prior commitment” rather than active enthusiasm. As an occasional thing that’s cool, but as a regular occurrence it’d piss me off.

        • Shiara said:

          This is interesting, because to me, either one of those regularly would raise my hackles, particularly if X was always “hanging out one on one.” It would still be treating plans made with me as malleable, and putting the onus on me to make the decision about whether tonight was really going to be date time or not. Even if my partner wasn’t explicitly making his preference for Y clear, the fact that he never seemed to actively prefer X would be frustrating.

          • Mary said:

            Yes, I didn’t mean that 1 would be fine no matter how regularly it happened! Just that being required to be permission-giver or killjoy really gets on my nerves after a bit.

        • Claire said:

          I’d prefer to be asked 2, personally. 1 sounds kind of like it’s all about the asker, rather than something that affects both of them. 2 plus a follow-up “how about we do X on Thursday instead?” would be my ideal.

        • 3. “Hey, we’re doing X, but if you think Y would be more fun, [details and deadline for when the Y offer closes].”

          That one assumes the existing plans are the default, but offers the chance for the planner to accept Y, unlike…

          4. “We’re doing X tonight, so I turned down the free Hamilton tickets my co-worker had to get rid of.”

        • Yeah, I feel like I’d be pressured to say “yes” to the second one or come off as the bad guy in that scenario.

        • aebhel said:

          Right. I’m very much an Ask culture person, but this would piss me off if it happened all the time, because ‘Is it okay if I blow off our plans together’, while a nice, direct question, also intrinsically means ‘I want to blow off our plans together.’ Which, yeah, would make me feel unappreciated if it happened all the time. Sure, I can say ‘no’, but what it basically boils down to is feeling like I’m constantly the back-up option if nothing better comes up. That’s shitty.

  4. 5 Leaf Clover said:

    I think advice point #7 might be the most important. It took me the longest time to realize that faking chill about something when I was decidedly Not Chill about it was one of the worst things I could do (and never led down the path to more chillness, but rather extremely unchill outbursts of pent-up upset.)

  5. Mary said:

    My position is that this happens often enough that I feel like I’m constantly being moved down the priority list and taken for granted

    Legit feels! Very legit feels! And your partner should be taking them seriously, even if they are alien to him.

    I was going to suggest something similar to Captain’s Fifth: can you institute two categories of plans with your boyfriend? You can have, “hey, this is a Pencil Plan: we will hang out together, but it’s only a loose arrangement, subject to confirmation on the day, and can be cancelled/rescheduled if Something Comes Up” and “this is a Pen Plan: we are prioritising spending time with each other, we’re both looking forward to it, we’re going to invest in it and maybe go to a new restaurant or cook something a bit more special than usual or get tickets for something. Can only be rescheduled/cancelled if there’s an emergency.”

    You could also talk about deadlines for rescheduling, eg. my hairdresser lets you cancel or reschedule up to 48 hours in advance, but any later than that and you have to pay the full cost. How would you feel about a 24 hour no-fault cancellation policy, but knowing for sure that once you’ve committed to doing stuff tomorrow, you’re definitely doing it? Would that work for you?

    The fundamental thing is that both your prefer-to-schedule and your boyfriend’s prefer-to-be-spontaneous types are real and normal differences, but both of you deserve to feel comfortable and have your preferences catered for at least some of the time. Neither is the default or more rational or better way of being. But if he isn’t willing to acknowledge that you have different styles and that your feelings matter too, that is Not Good.

    • Kitkat said:

      I’m more like the boyfriend in this letter, and the above is what my fiance and I do, basically. We share Google calendars, so anything that either of us wants to be considered an official Plan, we put in our calendars as an event, and it’s taken as seriously as any other commitment. It’s a nonverbal cue for both of us about a plan’s importance. If we talk about watching TV together but don’t put it on the calendar, that evening is still fair game. If we talk about it and he pulls out his phone and makes an event on our calendars, then I know that time is really important to him and it is now a Plan. (Not that he has to be the one to make the calendar invite – I will often do it as well. Usually the person whose idea it was makes the calendar event.)

      Plus, it helps me that it is then visually apparent that that evening is no longer just free time when I’m scheduling stuff with friends!

    • Shiara said:

      I like the pencil plan and pen plan terminology here.

    • Tepid Tea said:

      Stealing the concept of Pencil Plans and Pen Plans. Genius!

    • I love the “Pencil Plan” vs. “Pen Plan” thing. Especially if you work together to establish which plans are which. You might even come up with a third option, “Erasable Pen Plan,” for those “in-between” things that may be rescheduled, but never actually cancelled. The weekly date night, for example.

      Sometimes, weekly plans just have to shift for one-off things that just so happen to occur on THAT date. And that’s fine, so long as the weekly plans don’t fall by the wayside. Rescheduling is a hassle, but it also points to how much the plan is valued. Things you don’t value get canceled, not rescheduled.

      Date night priority is something that varies by individual couple. I’ve known some people who were absolutely rigid about it. Others were so blasé as to leave me wondering if they actually had the “date night” they mentioned. Mostly, it was a firm plan, but with the attitude that the world would not end if they had to reschedule for something else, on occasion.

      The on occasion, however, is vitally important, there. Just how often is LW’s plan being screwed up? She feels like it’s more often than not, and that really sucks.

      • “Things you don’t value get canceled, not rescheduled.” Aaah! The other way around! Things you value get rescheduled, not canceled.

        I think my brain switched tracks in the middle of the sentence.

        This is what happens when I forget to sleep all night.

    • Angel said:

      Oh my God. You may literally have saved my relationship.

      My boyfriend is very spontaneous and I’m very schedule-y. We have great difficulty communicating when things are definitely going to happen and when they just might happen. This came to a boil recently. The Pencil Plan / Pen Plan framework is brilliant, and gives him the words to explain to me how dedicated he is to a plan. And gives me the words to ask about the priority of the plan in my schedule.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • I love this idea so much!

    • monologue said:

      The new person I’m seeing and I seem to be naturally doing this and it works well for me. We have a standing weekly date night where we make an effort to see each other properly, though sometimes it becomes group time if other people want to hang, sometimes we have his kid and sometimes we do skip it if something comes up, like this week he got an offer for a free ride to his hometown, which he told me about in advance. These are kind of pencil plans, but we make an effort to have our weekly night as much as we can.

      on top of this, we seem to also pen plan something pretty fun at least once a month like tickets to something or a very date-y type thing. Trip out of town, dinner somewhere with a pretty view with just us two. We also try to eat breakfast together any time we wake up and neither of us has to leave immediately which is really nice and helps tide me over if date night has been jacked up lately.

  6. crooked bird said:

    YES #5, I was thinking “these people need a Sacred Date Night” the whole time I read the letter.

    The glory of routine, in the good sense (aka “we always always do this at this time”) is that it benefits planners and spontaneous people alike. It’s something firmly in place, giving the planner a sense of security, but the planner *doesn’t have to plan it,* it’s already there. And for a spontaneous person like me it’s surprising the extent to which it grounds you, to have something like that in your week. It’s like a still point around which the rest of your life can spin.

    If it was me I might actually go with: “Any other day I will roll with the punches, but call me about a softball emergency on Date Night and I will give myself permission to be super pissed that you ‘asked.'” That’s just me; probably the LW herself needs more than this. (It does sound pretty disrespectful to me, the way he seems like he’s just squeezing her in when he doesn’t have something else to do.)

    If he does truly and CONSISTENTLY respect Date Night (if she chooses to go with that), that will do an awful lot to rebuild trust between them and a sense of his respect for her and her time.

    • I also think it would be good to make a list of stuff that you WOULD break the sanctity of date night for. For me and my SO, for whom our musical life is a VERY high priority, it would be ‘conductor friend is sick and needs one of us to conduct a rehearsal tonight’ – that’s a fairly strong reason with a bonus in it for us (we like conducting). If it was ‘horn player/pianist is sick and needs a dep tonight’ it would be ‘have they asked friends 1, 2, 3 and 4 first?’

      • This x100. I think setting those clear expectations would go a long way. I’m saying this as someone who had the long-standing date night unilaterally cut short or canceled because “I’m not feeling up to it.” Having that list would make things so much easier.

    • I would also schedule Sacred Date Night on a night that is less likely to be interrupted by other people suddenly wanting to make plans with you or have you play on their sports team.

      • And you know, there’s no reason why Sacred Date Night has to be the same night every week. As long as it is regularly scheduled, in advance, and that schedule is *honored,* it could be any time within a calendar week.

        Some weeks, Fridays are great, and others you may be able to do a Tuesday, and others, the only way to avoid everyone else asking for your time is to do directly after work on Thursday, or what-have-you.

    • > It’s like a still point around which the rest of your life can spin.

      A good friend of mine – a very involved-with-things person – does this with other friends, and he suggested it with me and my wife, for Sunday evenings. It has been so good! We’ve been doing it for 2-ish years now. We have dinner (sometimes we cook, sometimes we order in, sometimes he picks up burgers on the way over) and then play boardgames. Except when Doctor Who is on, and then it’s dinner and the Doctor.

      Advantages: we always know it’s coming. We’ve had to cancel or reschedule a few times but mostly not. Since it’s a worknight, we all have a built-in end-time. It actually does help me remember what day of the week it is on other days. And we’ve actually been *playing* some of our games, and those puppies aren’t cheap! They should get used.

      I also have a regular weekly phone call with my mom on Sunday mornings. It’s really good to have that scheduled, and for a chunk of time. We can spend the whole call talking about fluffy things like knitting and kitties and gardening, or we have enough time to really dive into a more serious topic. (And that also has a built-in end time, because I have knitting group in the early afternoon.)

  7. Thistledown said:

    While I absolutely second all of Captain Awkward’s advice, would it help to have official, concrete “unexpected free-time plans?” Maybe it’s project you never get around to or a book that you keep in reserve. Maybe it’s a tote bag with a bottle of wine, candy, and a DVD you haven’t watched. I think that having an official Plan B activity might help your anxiety around unexpected free-time, whenever it comes up.

    (I just want to make sure this doesn’t sound like “here’s how to make yourself into the cool girl.” I think you have every right to be upset about this and make sure that your relationship is working for you. I’m just thinking that, in general, you are going to end-up with unexpected free-time. Creating an advanced plan for what you do in those situations might help with your anxiety around that.)

    • CommanderBanana said:

      I really love this idea – for me it’s usually getting to one of the books in my massive To Be Read stash or going to a yoga class.

      What I hate is getting screwed out of doing something I wanted to do because my SO either bailed or didn’t let me know until it was too late. This has been a sticking point, because I do a lot of volunteer work, and I hate missing the chance to sign up for a shift because I was keeping a block of time free and they were thinking “video game time!”

    • 5 Leaf Clover said:

      What a wonderful idea! I want this in my life!

    • tequilamockingbird said:

      This might be a misread, but I don’t think the LW wants solo replacement plans, no matter how cozy & delightful those plans might be? Based on the comment about not exactly being introverted & the comment about inadequate time to form new plans & just the overall gist of the letter, I get the sense that having structured / premeditated time w/ people who are dear to her *at the intervals she’s deliberately set up* is important to her, & comments like this & part three of the Captain’s answer kind of miss that? I’m not sure what a good solution would be, tho.

      • Thistledown said:

        You’re right – I read “anxious planner,” did some projecting, and decided the OP must be an introvert like me. I don’t think this is good advice for the OP, or extroverts in general. I think the best advice elsewhere in the thread is to start calling your most spontaneous friends to see if anyone else is free – and of course fixing the root problem. Depending on the situation, this could also be a good time to call old friends/family that live far away and catch-up with them? Do any extroverts on the thread have good advice for unexpected free-time?

        • The magic of the internet and living in a major metropolitan area with a lot of like-minded folks and semi-reasonable transit gave me access to the lbgtq-in-tech “burrito railgun”, which was a loosely standing lunch/dinner date with as many people as felt like showing up on 0.5-2ish hours’ notice. To aim the railgun, pick a venue and time, and announce it in the chat. I only went to a few due to not actually being an extrovert, but the concept is delightful.

        • Emma9 said:

          Meetup.com is great for this (and so many other things). While I love it as a schedule-happy person because you can see what’s going on far in advance, it’s just as possible to look at tonight/tomorrow’s listings for ideas. You can even change the search setting from ‘my groups’ to ‘all groups’, if you’re looking to expand your comfort zone or areas of interest. Some meetups do have an advance RSVP date, but that’s comparatively rare.

    • Kitty said:

      This is a great idea for self care! 🙂

      I came across something similar on an activist’s Twitter recently that I thought was brilliant: a personal Stress Menu. It’s a categorised list of nice things that are soothing for the person, that they can look at and choose from in a time when they’re feeling stressed or anxious and therefore might find it hard to think up a self care option on the spot. It can have things like physical activities like 10 mins of YouTube yoga, or a hot shower, or it can be creative things you enjoy like crafting or drawing, or it can be a list of books or TV shows that you find particularly calming and comforting.

    • Bunny said:

      This sounds like a great self care idea!

      Me and the Mister are both homebodies who have to be actively incentivised into actually Doing A Thing sometimes, but there was definitely a period in our lives where one or the other of us had made new connections and was going out socialising – often at last minute, often resulting in changed plans – a lot more often than usual.

      It helps that we are both fairly introverted most of the time, so we actually crave alone time away from each other once in a while. It also helped that both of us have things we genuinely enjoy doing solo. For me, it’s “hey great, I’ll make myself a dinner you wouldn’t enjoy, put on some cheesy horror movie you’d get bored of and crack out one of my craft projects!”. For him it’s “That’s cool, I’ll get myself a couple of beers, practice that new recipe you taught me for dinner and wrap up some burritos to take to the homeless guys around the corner.”.

      But Yeah, it’s also really important to have some agreed-on rules and fairness around plans and changes to them. I think a weekly date night that is sacred is a great idea, but I’m also wary about the pressure to plan and set up Special Things To Do for date night is a, a lot of pressure to have to deal with too often and b, something that may well end up falling on LW’s shoulders as yet more emotional/relationship labour. Would 2 nights a week be too much to ask for as reserved nights? One could be Sacred Date Night that you explicitly take turns planning fun Just Us activities for. The other could be Sacred Chill Night, where your plans are to have dinner and then curl up on the sofa together with your laptop and watch a couple episodes of Mark Reads Discworld together, and that plan is treated as having the same weight as date night.

      Because just chilling and watching Mark Reads is still something worth treating as important. I know I look forward to it with my other half and I know I wouldn’t want to watch episodes without him, but would feel bad about having to put off something I was looking forward to even if it’s “just” staying in and watching stuff.

  8. GreenDoor said:

    This feels like friendships I’ve had where it’s “sure we’ll make plans…..just as long as nothing “better” comes along but if it does, then I’m going to use the excuse that we see each other all the time as a reason for bailing at the last minute. Oh, but I’ll invite GreenDoor along just so she doesn’t feel bad.” These people are no longer my friends. If I’m a friend, treat me like a friend, not like a back up plan.

    LW, you are making your partner a priority when all you are to him is an option.

    • 5 Leaf Clover said:

      This seems a bit harsh to me – I think this is legitimately a question of preferred style of cohabitation. One of the things I love most about living with my partner is that we can do separate things during the day and still end up together in the same place. To us that is a rich life. And we frequently cancel at-home hangouts and cooking dinner with no hard feelings, because we both feel that the very fact of cohabiting means we DO prioritize each other, hugely. The issue here is not, to me, that one way is wrong and one is right – it’s that these two people are not exactly the same (normal!) and in adjusting to cohabitation are finding that their differences can cause some pain and dischord (normal!) and are trying to navigate that in a way that acknowledges both sets of feelings. Which is to say, it’s not a problem for me when my partner decides at the last minute he’s not coming home for a dinner I cooked, but it IS a problem for the LW, and that preference is legitimate and needs to be worked out, but it doesn’t automatically mean her bf doesn’t care enough about her – especially since it sounds like he is open to listening to her concerns.

      • The Bee's Knees said:

        This! So much this!

      • Viva said:

        Yep. Nailed it.

      • Kitkat said:

        I agree – I do think it’s important that the LW feels like she can express her very valid feelings and doesn’t get caught up in the Cool Girl thing, but this letter read to me like two people who are genuinely doing their best but have completely opposite leisure styles. I’m both a planner, and a social butterfly, and I identified with both people in the letter, but more with the boyfriend. In a healthy relationship, where we are spending a good amount of time together, if my fiance and I have low-key plans that are easily reschedule-able, and something comes up, then why not reschedule so I can do both things? I would feel a little annoyed if he insisted that we have to watch our movie at home as planned WEDNESDAY ONLY even though we’re also free Thursday and my friend will have left town by then. (Not that this is what the LW is doing, just giving an example from the other side.)

        That said, I think I ask to cancel legit Plans once or twice a year, and low-key casual plans for hanging out at home maybe once a month, because I’m also a meticulous planner in my personal life. It sounds like the boyfriend is cancelling pretty frequently, and so instead of just asking LW to become more spontaneous as is his style, he may need to do some more calendaring and saying no to accommodate her style.

        But there’s plenty of room for compromise, and I don’t think this relationship is just doomed!

    • segertsch said:

      I’m sorry people treated you that way. I’ve also been the person who it’s okay to cancel on at the last minute or just not show up for. It’s not fun.

      In college I would sometimes be in the situation of scheduling 3-4 hangouts with friends per week and going to none of them because everyone canceled. (Luckily out in the real world things have gotten a bit better!)

    • Kitty said:

      One of my close friends is a very spontaneous kind of person too, but I appreciate that she makes an effort to plan things with me and then stick with it. And also ask first if she wants to invite other people along (and be fine with me saying no). I also make an effort to be understanding if she needs to cancel because she’s been called into work, because I know her job schedule is varied, and she can’t always turn down extra shifts. 🙂

      She also does try to make the distinction between “I’m not actually committing to this yet we’re just talking about it” and “we are definitely doing this” plans (like the ‘pencil’ and ‘pen’ plans concept Mary mentioned above.

  9. gryphon said:

    If he’d planned dinner with his sister and she was already cooking and you rang to say you spontaneously wanted a date night with him, would he tell his sister that she can “just freeze” dinner and then leave to spend time with you? If he’d agreed to play softball one night and then you suggested your own idea for the evening, would he drop out of the team to go along with your plan?

    You frequently have a situation where he drops or drastically alters plans with you for other people. How often is this situation reversed? If it rarely or never happens, you are 100% correct that this is “unfair and crummy”, because he’s consistently treating plans with you as less important than plans with other people. If it’s about 50-50, then maybe he just treats every plan in his life as “provisional until something better comes along”, which is also pretty crummy.

    • CommanderBanana said:

      THIS.

    • Yeah, I agree that if this is what is actually happening, it is the heart of the problem. And I think that in that situation, it can feel like that’s what’s happening even if it’s not.

      I do suspect in this case, though, that it’s less a conscious thing of canceling plans if something better comes up. I think it may be more that he isn’t thinking of these dinners or nights in as *plans* in the first place. He’s not seeing them as a special, planned event, so it feels fine to cancel them. And if that is what’s happening, I think the established date night will be the saving grace.

    • Viva said:

      Really good point/observation. I’m learning a lot from this thread regarding how to spot communication and ‘life stuff’ patterns.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      x10000000
      LW, if you read only one comment, read one from Gryphon.

    • johann7 said:

      This is a much more succinct/clear expression of my thoughts around this. +1

    • oranges & lemons said:

      I don’t necessarily think he doesn’t see the letter writer as a priority, just that she sees hanging out at home time as more of a fixed commitment than he does. I can see that–where I wouldn’t lightly cancel a plan to go out and do something with my girlfriend, I might not be as concerned if I were just planning to come home and cook dinner.

      I think the crux of the issue is that he seems to be aware that she feels this way, but his way of dealing with it (intentionally or not) puts all of the decision-making on her, which isn’t fair. It sounds to me as though they need to get on the same page about to what degree home togetherness should be considered a set plan, and then he needs to do more of the work deciding whether it’s worth breaking those plans.

    • Yeah, that’s another possibility. The situation needs some data-collection and a proper analysis. We can’t do it for LW, because we don’t have the data.

  10. “I’m a planner, mostly because I work a lot more hours than he does and also in part because having a rough sketch of what my next week looks like helps me manage my diagnosed anxiety.”

    This adds an extra special layer of selfish to the boyfriend’s behavior. Presumably, he knows LW has anxiety, yet he is actively doing things that make it worse. *glares at dude*

    • Amy said:

      To be fair, as another diagnosed-anxiety-haver, I’ve learned that most people have no fucking clue what makes anxiety better or worse. My experience is that we need to explicitly tell them “A gives me panic attacks/makes me severely anxious; please do B instead.” And even then, it sometimes takes them actually witnessing my reaction (like, with me letting the full thing show, not with me dealing with it internally like I usually default to) before they actually get it. It’s not ideal, but based on my experiences, my money is on him Not Getting It, not pure selfishness.

      • twomoogles said:

        Definitely. Hell, sometimes even *I* don’t know what makes my anxiety better or worse! How can I expect others to? There’ve been enough times when I’ve told others and myself “it will be fine” and then it was definitely Not Fine…

        • Yep. I get anxious about the. weirdest. things. And it’s largely unpredictable. I mean, sure, the whole family by now knows that when I’m having one of my “days,” I WILL panic about litter. If I see litter, I will panic until it is picked up and put in the proper receptacle. My family doesn’t understand this anxiety any more than I do, but at least they get it, in the moment. “Oh, she’s panicking about litter again. I’ll find the nearest trash can. It’s over here, Michelle!” In other words, now that they know, they deal. I think it helps that we can all laugh about it, together. I don’t laugh about it, in the moment, but looking back on it, I find it hilarious that I say, “OK. We’re safe!” or “Whew! That was a close one!” after throwing a candy-wrapper away. Especially in public. I look back and laugh. My family laugh at the time. It works for me.

          And since it only happens from time to time, but there is absolutely no predicting if it’s going to be one of those days, dealing is all we can do. Also trucks. Trucks scare me. I don’t know if there’s an official phobia for trucks, but yeah. Whatcha gonna do? Never leave the house? Those things are all over the place? We deal. It’s all we can do. And my friends and family just don’t judge me for it. If they judge me for my psychological things, they’re not my friends.

          It’s possible that the boyfriend just doesn’t get it. If he has any sort of THING about any particular interest of his, or maybe he needs his sock drawer just so, or something about which he just has to have it a certain way, he might be able to get it, if LW compares her thing to his. But right now, I think he just hasn’t made that connection, yet, or else he’s too blessedly laid back to have any psychological “things.”

      • monologue said:

        Yeah anxiety is really personal. I’m learning this a lot lately bc both the person I’m seeing and I have it and it’s about totally different things. It’s actually good bc one of us is pretty much always calm when the other is having a hard time. But we need to notice and remember that the other person is having a hard time bc to the calm person it’s not an anxiety-inducing situation.

    • Temperance said:

      Eh, I have anxiety and depression, and I don’t think this is super fair. I wouldn’t know what triggers someone else’s anxiety unless they say “hey Temperance, X triggers my anxiety”.

      For me, changes in plans are very anxiety inducing, but so is setting up plans too far in advance for what should be a minor thing (like dinner with friends).

    • CommanderBanana said:

      Also, it sounds like the LW has less free time, so her free time is more precious, and she’s allocating more of it to Spending Time Together time than he is, so I think that is also imbalanced. She’s giving up time she could be doing other things with, but he’s not.

    • Cyberwulf said:

      The dinner thing is bizarre. If sister/parents live close enough that he and LW can run over for dinner last minute, surely it’s not that difficult to have dinner with them another night?

      The softball thing I can kind of see – when you join a team you make a commitment to that team. But boyfriend should be telling LW in advance “Softball is on these dates, they might need me and they might not, don’t schedule anything and I’ll let you know.” He should also be telling the softball team, if they’re texting him less than an hour before the first pitch, “sorry lads, it’s too short notice”. Like you don’t actually have to be at people’s beck and call unless it’s part of your job.

      • It’s inexcusable to ditch dinner plans when your partner is literally in the middle of cooking dinner.

        • Mary said:

          It wouldn’t be for me and my partner. Dinner happens every night, so occasionally eating it by myself doesn’t bother me.

          I really think this is a “different styles” thing, not an “objectively wrong” thing.

          • It’s not the dinner plan itself. It’s the fact that the boyfriend is literally ditching her when she is in the middle of cooking dinner that’s the problem.

          • ladybear said:

            The dinner thing leapt out at me. It’s less about the specific activity of cooking and more about him seeing her in the middle of making an effort towards their plan and rejecting it. He’s framing it as asking, but it comes over to me at least as a rejection of the existing plan, because why would he consider an alternative if he *wanted* to do what they had planned? The food is right there being cooked. And if he doesn’t want to let down his sister, he has a ready-made get out, “LW’s started cooking, we can’t do tonight”.

            For me it is also about the cooking specifically. That is stone cold rude to me and I would feel taken for granted and all kinds of rejected and upset. There’s something about cooking being a thing I do for “us” that makes it more significant to me. I appreciate not everyone feels the same, but LW felt it was significant enough to mention in her letter so it’s got to be bugging her even if it is more symbolic than about the practicalities.

        • aebhel said:

          Yeah, that stood out to me. My spouse occasionally gets called into work when I’m in the middle of fixing dinner and it irritates me even though it’s not really anyone’s fault; if he decided that he wanted to ditch our dinner plans for something more ‘fun’ when I was in the middle of fixing dinner, I would be furious. And would not cook dinner again for a good long while.

          • Dude was lucky LW didn’t throw dinner at him.

  11. CommanderBanana said:

    Hoo boy, I have a LOT of feelings about this.

    My boyfriend and I live together, the very first time I’ve ever lived with someone in a romantic relationship, and I am definitely struggling with this. He views “us being in the house at the same time” as “spending time together,” although the vast majority of that time is him playing videogames in his room and me doing something somewhere else. And also “eating dinner together” counts as “together” even though it takes like ten minutes.

    My stance is that I didn’t start dating him/ask him to move in because I didn’t want to spend time with him, and relationships take maintenance! Otherwise we’re just roommates who happen to sleep in the same room. (Also, he’s tried to argue that we spend a lot of time together because we sleep together. If we’re unconscious, it doesn’t count, IMHO. And I do get touchy because I am out of the house a lot, including overnights a few times a month, because of work and volunteering, so it’s not like he doesn’t have time to himself.)

    I think part of this is a mismatch in planning styles (I am a hyperplanner as well!) and part of it is just plain taking me for granted.

    I have had to accept that stuff is just not going to spontaneously happen with the two of us unless it’s planned, which realistically means I’m the one planning it, which kind of sucks the fun out of it for me (I’m an event planner for a living. I don’t want to come home and plan yet another event). However, unless we have Date Night (which I hate, it’s such a cliche) stuff just never happens!

    We’ve had a couple conversations about it and I think we’re going to continue struggling with it, and yes, it’s something I’m willing to end this relationship over.

    LW, the Captain’s advice is awesome and I don’t have anything to add, other than to take your feelings of being taken for granted seriously, because they matter! That kind of stuff eats away at the foundation of a relationship. Right now, and admittedly I think I’m biased, but I do think your boyfriend is being pretty inconsiderate of you. Why are the plans he has with you always the ones that are breakable? I really do not think asking for some time together every week is unreasonable.

    Personally, I think if you’re not willing to put the time into maintaining a relationship, you probably should reconsider being in one (not you, LW, the royal you). I’ve pointed this out to my SO, that if what he really wants is unlimited video game time, we can break up, and he can move out and spend all his waking hours gaming if that’s what he wants.

    • nein09 said:

      “We spend a lot of time together because we sleep together” — an argument that someone makes when they’re trying to win an argument for the sake of winning, not an argument someone makes when they’re trying to have a productive discussion about a relationship

      Good luck to you! That sounds sucky.

    • Thistledown said:

      Does your boyfriend actually want to play video games all day, with a girlfriend somewhere around in the background, and then have somebody to cuddle-up with at night? Maybe it’s worth asking what his ideal relationship would look like? It sounds like you’re incompatible and that you’re sort of building a relationship around him that he’s not really participating in. Perhaps he likes the idea of having a girlfriend, but isn’t really interested in having a relationship with you? (Sorry if that sounds too harsh, but you sound lovely. I think you should be in a relationship where both people are investing time and energy into making it work.)

      • AnonBee said:

        +1. Both my husband and I are people that like to have the other ‘around’ while we do our own thing. I’m also a hyper planner, but that involves only plans for myself e.g. I’ll say “Wednesday after work I plan on taking a walk around the river, going to the mall and then grabbing a bite at Burrito Place…I’d love it if you joined me!” He almost always does but I don’t treat it as a given.

        • CommanderBanana said:

          Yeah, I will usually invite him along on my evening walks/library runs/errands, whatever, but he usually declines because he’s busy gaming.

          It’s getting increasingly more annoying, because he’ll be playing a game so I’ll go do something else, only to get interrupted reading or whatever because he’s reached a stopping point in the game or gotten tired of playing and THEN wants to do something, but at that point I’m already engaged in whatever I’m doing and I don’t want to drop it.

          • casinoLF said:

            I am just reading this and I’m murderkill infuriated. My ex was like this, he’s upstairs gaming so I’m downstairs watching TV and then when he wanted to come down, by then I was watching My Show and I didn’t want company because he thinks it’s a dumb show and I don’t want to hear about it at any point in the future. It’s not what broke us up, but yes, I felt VERY underappreciated and like I was filling a space in his house, not that he wanted ME there.

          • CommanderBanana said:

            @casinoLF because I’ve run out of nesting! Yeah, it is really annoying – I feel like with video games there’s this sort of built-in “you can’t interrupt!” because you don’t know if that person is in the middle of a crucial fight or can’t save or whatever makes them uninterruptible (I don’t play), and they’re also designed by nature to be hard to stop playing.

            He has a habit of wandering into my room or finding me in the house when he’s taking a break and often it’s right in the middle of something I can’t stop, like cooking dinner (hello burned food). Last night I was literally trimming my bangs which requires a lot of concentration when he came into my bathroom and he’s get upset that I won’t stop what I’m doing to pay attention to him.

            My hobbies are things you can interrupt, like listening to podcasts or reading, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.

            I really don’t have a problem with video games per se, I just really don’t like what they’re doing to my relationship. I don’t think I have any hobbies that are comparable in terms of the time that he spends on them and how they make him block out everything else (he’ll literally spend entire weekends playing them, only taking breaks to eat or smoke or whatever).

            IDK, anyone on here who plays video games/has a partner who does have any insight? I’m starting to get more and more annoyed when I come home from work and he’s been home for an hour or whatever and yet nothing is done around the house.

          • Nanani said:

            Out of nesting but @CommanderBanana: It’s not really true that video games are meant to be hard to interrupt. Most games have a pause button. Even ones played online with other players (which may not be pausable) have an understanding that BRB happens.
            It’s not a games problem, it’s a “this gamer is prioritizing his game time over the person he lives with” problem.

            I play games on a near daily basis and I’m self employed living at home. If games were really that hard to pause I’d have lost all my clients by now.

          • pixieish blonde said:

            @commanderbanana

            I have a husband who plays a lot more video games than I do. One thing that helps is to talk to him about the games and discuss how you can tell what you can do at which point in the games.

            Script Questions:
            Is this game turn-based or easy to pause any time? Some games are “I bonk the monsters, then the monsters have a turn to bonk me, then repeat” system, or you can just pause them any time if your spouse needs to inquire where the heck you put the shaving cream this time.
            Are there “safe zones” in this game? Some games have towns or shops or things where you can go and your character will not be killed. If I need to talk to my husband, I will often say something like “Hey, next time you find a safe spot, I need to talk to you about your mother’s upcoming trip.”
            What does it look like on screen when it’s a really bad time to interrupt?
            How long does a game / segment of the game take? I find it helps to know, and also let him know I know. “Oh, I see you’re playing That’ll take about half an hour, right? I’ll check in with you then about ”

            Also it is totally okay for you to request that he check in with you when it is a good time, or ask before he starts another section! My husband will say things like “Do you think I have time for another round, or is going to be ready for a snack?” and that works great, because it lets us talk about what we’re planning and how to figure out how the games fit in, and he doesn’t feel like he can’t play, and I don’t feel like he’s ignoring everything else, because I can say things like ” is probably hungry and I need to fold this wash, why don’t you get her a snack before you start another round?” and that works.

            Talk about it, learn a little about the games he’s playing so that you can figure out how they can fit into your life, and discuss how it’s going to work with your SO.

            Also it’s okay to say “When I have the door closed (or other signal), I don’t want to be interrupted, thanks. Once I get past the thing I don’t want to be interrupted during I will check in with you, just like you can check in with me when you’re done with .” That covers “I am trimming my hair,” “this knitting row is a PITA,” and “I just want to read The Internet by myself” equally well.

          • My partner, who I live with, is a video gamer, and I am effectively not. I’m diagnosed ADD, and they don’t *currently* have a diagnosis (but my armchair opinion is that maybe they should get evaluated for it). We’ve already had some conversations about things taking longer than expected and not getting the quality time together that we intended, and/or not getting important tasks done in time for bed.

            What’s been working for us is:

            I always try to give 10+ minutes of notice about a potential task switch.
            The script goes something like:
            “I want [you to do the thing/to do the thing with you] [within/by some time point]. [Optional explanation of logistical concerns, like, we need to finish dinner by 8 if we want to bang before bed.]
            When do you think [we/you] can do that? / About how long is it going to take you to get to a good stopping point?”

            If it’s going to be longer than 10-15 minutes, I sometimes ask them to set themselves a reminder (they have a history of getting caught up in stuff and not noticing time passing, as do I). Then I find something that will take about that length of time and/or can be interrupted. If it goes more than 5 minutes past the time, I check back in (and have the right to be annoyed).

            Chores-wise, if I have a time expectation (either clock or logistical) I have to make that explicit, or they will spend time on a game or other project until they think it’s time, and then do the chore. So if the chore is dishes, and I need those dishes clean for dinner, I do have to spell that out. They’ve made themselves a chore chart. We use completely different systems for chore tracking, which is interesting but we’re working with it.

            After a few times when “it’s totally a 10 minute project” took an hour plus, I’ve asked that any mission-critical things that don’t actually have a known timing, have at least a two hour completion window before bedtime. (One of the things was repairing the bed. That one went badly.) This does have knock-on scheduling effects, where I have to ask that they put their game on hold to prepare dinner at X time, because dinner prep will take Y minutes and eating will take at least a half hour.

            They’re getting better about making these calculations themselves, and they’re setting calendar reminders appropriately.

            We haven’t really had many problems where they try to interrupt me in the middle of something. They’re very respectful of my time and attention. I am generally able to say either “I have to focus on this; it’ll be about X minutes” or “I can’t brain while I’m doing this.”

          • In my youth, I could happily play video games for hours on end (and oh I did). Now as an adult, school and finances have drastically reduced my gaming habits, but I still have that memory of knowing what it’s like to enjoy a good game. It makes me much more sympathetic toward the time my fiance spends playing games than many of my female friends tend to be.

            HOWEVER. If he was playing so often that he effectively wasn’t interacting with me, if he couldn’t be bothered to make keep plans with me because he was gaming, or if he couldn’t be bothered to contribute to household chores because he was gaming, well then my sympathy would be fresh out. Because again, I’ve been there, and just as I am well aware of how fun a marathon gaming session can be, I am also well aware that it is, in fact, possible to stop for a while and participate in other aspects of life.

            (And honestly, I kind of feel like if a habit is taking up such enormous swaths of time, it’s not only a little inconsiderate but also potentially unhealthy. Like I’d be giving someone the side eye if they spend entire weekends doing almost any one thing, especially if they were allowing it to keep them from interacting with friends and family or keeping up around the house.)

            Sounds to me like you have less of “he really likes his hobby” problem and more of a “he’s not super invested in this relationship” problem.

          • H.Regalis said:

            Most games have a pause button. My boyfriend plays videogames a lot but he doesn’t just wander in on me doing $OtherThing and expect me to drop everything and pay attention to him. Your bf sounds like he’s just being a jerk.

          • Emdashing said:

            @CommanderBanana — Oh, Commander, I have been here. First, I’m sorry–this is not a great feeling and played into all the Cool Girl Neuroses that I had in the worst way. Who wants to be Chief Fun Killer, Hater of Fun Things? I am afraid I don’t have super sunny news to offer. I tried to address this with my ex a couple different ways (talked about it, blocked out non-video game time, talked some more, tried playing video games myself–not for me, etc.). Finally I realized that the problem wasn’t video games. It was that he didn’t care one iota that I was unhappy with how time/togetherness was being allotted. I was unhappy AND putting all this work into trying to “figure it out” and he was doing no work at all. Eventually, I said something along the lines of “well, if you want to do anything with me, here’s when I’m available. See you then, or not. I’m no longer accommodating your schedule.” This worked for a while, until he started law school and then video games got replaced with “studying,” which was morally superior to all other activities and subject to no debate. We broke up.

            I learned a lot from this, specifically that sometimes the “problem” is a disguise for the real issue. There are ways to play video games/ watch sports/ make papier-mâché/whatever without being inconsiderate to your partner.

          • johann7 said:

            I play a lot of video games. I’m also someone who enjoys the comfort of doing something myself like reading a book or watching TV in a room with a partner who is doing their own thing (I like to be together in that way – I consider it “together time” – but I also consider it distinct for the kinds of time I’m spending with someone having a conversation, participating in a shared activity, etc.). I’ve never lived with a romantic partner, so I don’t have that part of the perspective, but when I’ve been dating people who I actually liked, I haven’t found it difficult to prioritize time actively engaged with them over video games.

            That said, there is definitely a class of games where one effectively makes a commitment to the other players to stay in for a half hour or an hour to play a full round/match, and I would feel bad about breaking that spontaneous commitment (I’d also generally know approximately how long that kind of thing takes, and would be able to tell a partner that we could plan to do [whatever] when I’m done, in about X minutes). I would not then expect my partner to drop whatever ze’s doing to pay attention to me once I was finished with my thing (presumably Partner wouldn’t then be in the middle of something that’s going to take zir an hour if we decided to do something together at about that time, so I’d only be waiting a bit – I could read some Captain Awkward on my phone in the same room while Partner finishes up zir thing, for example), and for longer games where one is making a commitment to play as part of a group (e.g. World of Warcraft raids, some larger-scale PvP games), I would schedule those as Plans, becasue they are a fairly major time commitment.

          • T said:

            Ugh, I can add to the chorus of frustration around this. I had an ex who refused to be the one waiting for me, it had to be the other way around. If he wanted my attention and I needed 30 seconds (e.g., finish a quick thought while working/studying), he would immediately run and start an activity and ignore me for 15 minutes. This was really just one of the symptoms of self-centeredness that were going on. He seemed to enjoy the feeling of me waiting around for him, but his ego couldn’t handle waiting on me.

          • Commander Banana, your boyfriend is really annoying me and I don’t know either of you.

            I would be livid if I my lover’s hobbies were sacrosanct and mine were interruptable.

            Feh.

          • Bunny said:

            Me and the Mister are both gamers, but we also both have jobs and lives and housework and needs for communication and together-time, so I feel like I can kind of come at this from both sides re: the interruptions and attention thing.

            Online multiplayer games do not have pause buttons, but unless we’re talking about a clan going on an epic hours-long quest together most multiplayer games are built around short bursts of activity (think a capture-the-flag style game, where after one team has captured the other’s flag X number of times they’ve won, and the game ends and you have the option to stay and play again on another map). And in my experience single-player games that can’t be paused in some fashion are basically nonexistent.

            Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to pause a game. The whole point of playing them is the emotional high and excitement and adrenaline of what you’re doing, and although I *can* technically pause in the middle of a game, it would be very frustrating to have to repeatedly pause in the middle of a frantic boss battle I’m barely surviving to answer individual questions about something minor. Think of it like you’re reading a novel or a long article and you keep having to go back and re-read a sentence every minute or two because someone keeps asking you stuff.

            So the way we do it is:

            If one of us is very obviously in an important point of a game, we don’t interrupt them until that point has passed. Otherwise, we’ll ask each other “hey, do you know how long roughly until you’ll get to a save point/moment where you can pause that? I need to check in with you on some stuff” and we will make an educated guesstimate of timeframes and then – and this is crucial – Follow Through On Pausing The Game Without Further Prompting. It’s also okay for one of us to reply with “is it important? Or can it wait until later?” but again, then the person who wanted to keep gaming makes a specific effort to come find the other of us as soon as they can and check in on what was needed.

            We also balance how much gaming we do, of course, and how much alone-time it results in. Dinner takes a decent amount of time, because we make a point of putting on something to watch together while we eat, so even if the actual meal is over quickly we’ll continue watching the thing together. If we had space for a table, we’d probably eat at least a couple meals a week at the dinner table and talk. Gaming Time does not take priority over both of us doing our fair share around the house. Mostly during the week we’ll play games that are easy to dip in and out of, like city-building games and sims, or little roguealikes and small games like Supermeatboy and such. If one of us wants to really invest a large portion of a day or evening on a particular game, we’ll ask each other “hey, I was hoping to have a bit of binge on Dark Souls tonight, is it okay if I put my headphones in and tune out tonight?” and we then have the opportunity to say “Sure, that’s fine” or “Okay, but can I grab you in a couple hours so we can do X or Y” or “in that case can I check with you now if you want me to schedule a visit with your aunt this weekend?” or whatever.

            It also helps that we both enjoy games. So sometimes social time will be one of us playing a game, and the other watching, and us talking about the game and showing the other what it’s about, and us taking turns cheerleading the other at big epic battle moments. “Hey, can you cheerlead me for a few minutes? I’m about to go fight that really scary boss and I could use some moral support” feels really nice sometimes. We also support each other in our other hobbies. We’re both artists, and will happily spend a few minutes gushing over our partner’s latest sketches and discussing the techniques and styles. I knit, sew, embroider and spin thread, and although my partner doesn’t he’ll still take the time to express interest in and talk about my projects and learn about them. He’s learning to cook, and as I am already an established maker-of-foods he’ll ask me for advice and guidance a lot of the time – often at the moment, his turn cooking dinner involves us both chatting in the kitchen so I’m on hand to help if he can’t remember certain stages of a particular dish, or wants to know if his idea for a different way of doing the dish would work. Enthusiasm about each other’s hobbies, when it is reciprocal and fair, can make them far less isolating.

            BUT. All of this requires the gaming partner/s to actually be willing and committed to prioritising and caring for their partner. We’ve had times in our relationship where one or both of us wasn’t willing or able to do that, because of mental health issues or stress or just not having had to navigate a long-term relationship before and not knowing how to figure this stuff out. Our relationship would not have survived if we hadn’t found this balance.

          • Most games have a pause button, and although some have sections where you literally cannot pause or save, they don’t last long. I think the longest “I can’t pause!” situation I’ve ever encountered was five minutes. Of course, those five minutes were when both my sisters wanted my attention, for two separate things. Fortunately, they both play games and understand the “I can’t pause,” thing, so they walked right out and waited for a few minutes. When I was able to pause, I paused, and we did the things together.

            Mind you, I play solo games. If it’s an online team thing, pausing for more than a minute is considered rude to the people you’re playing with. But then again, ideally, team time should be scheduled time, anyway, and roommates/ housemates/ romantic interests should be aware that X time is scheduled, already, so come back at Y time.

            As for the issue of “he’s been home X amount of time, and stuff has not been done,” may I suggest that you talk with him about deadlines? He may think that these things can wait until C time, but you want them done by A time, and definitely no later than B time, and he doesn’t know that, and so it’s a big thing? But, if he knows the deadline, he’ll be able to plan accordingly.

            Some people are of the variety that they will come home from work, do all the things that need doing, while they still have momentum from work, and then settle down for their hobby (and maybe stay settled until bed time). Others come home, and say, “I NEED A BREAK!” and do their hobby for a while, and then do their chores before bed, or right after dinner, or whatever works for them.

            So, it may be a simple case of conflicting patterns. You may be a directly-after-work person, and he may be a right-before-bed person. You can work with that, IF you know. Knowledge and communication are key.

            Good luck!

          • neverjaunty said:

            IDK, anyone on here who plays video games/has a partner who does have any insight?

            As someone from an entire family full of people who plays video games, I do! My insight is: he’s an entitled, selfish twit and you should nope him on down the road.

            First, on video games: as others have pointed out, it is NOT impossible to take breaks or stop during a game. Yes, it is absolutely true that there are some situations that require long stretches of unbroken time (like going on a raid with friends) or where it is BRIEFLY difficult to pause and chat with someone (like the middle of a long cutscene.) Non-asshole gamers deal with this in a variety of ways:

            — Checking in with one’s partner on scheduling. “Honey, my guild has a big PvP raid going on tomorrow afternoon, it’ll probably be from 2 until around 6 or so.”

            — Setting a timer or an alert so that “I’m only gonna play for an hour and then I have to get ready for our night out” doesn’t turn into “oopsie, did I miss our date? Sorry, I guess I lost track of time.”

            — Not being shocked when real-life people have their own agendas and needs, rather than being sort of like the NPCs in game who have nothing better to do than stand around 24/7 waiting for you to interact with them.

            The thing that really jumps out at me here is that he gets pissy when YOU do not instantly drop what you are doing when HE feels like he wants you to respond. So this isn’t simply a matter of him having [life-absorbing hobby]. It’s a matter of him not believing, on a pretty deep level, that you should prioritize anything at all over what he wants from you Right This Moment.

            (Also, ‘we spend time together because we sleep’? JFC, game dude. As someone else wisely pointed out, this is somebody pulling weak arguments out of his ass because he knows he’s wrong.)

            I am willing to bet that if your dude plays online with other people at all, he shares bro-gripes about how his girlfriend doesn’t like his gaming and is always bugging him to pay more attention to her like some kind of unreasonable person.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Hahah, @thistledown, I would like to believe that I am lovely! Thank you!

        I had a very blunt conversation with him a few days ago about it. I am completely prepared to end the relationship and have him move out (I have the advantage of owning the house where we live, so that’s pretty uncomplicated – his lease is with me and ending it would be easy, because I wrote the lease that way) if we don’t find a way to work it out.

        I think it’s mostly just laziness on his part, honestly. If I plan something or come home and say “we’re doing X” he’ll happily do it. It’s basically the whole, I don’t want to be the one planning/suggesting everything 100% of the time, because left to his own devices, he’ll happily spend every waking hour he’s not at work playing video games.

        Our one-year mark is coming up in the Fall, so I’m pretty much planning to re-evaluate at that time and see if this relationship is something I want to put any more energy into. I’m not staying in a relationship where we have the same argument over and over, or I have to get mad to get his attention, and unfortunately I kind of see it heading that way.

        I don’t have any regrets, I’ve really had fun being with him, but I do think if we didn’t live together it might have fizzled out on its own by now. He moved in with me pretty quickly after meeting me due to a number of circumstances, not really because we were moving towards a particular type of commitment, if that makes sense? He was in a really bad living situation and my roommate had just moved out, and it was spending a lot of time at my house, so it made sense to have him rent from me at the time.

        I mean, it’ll work out or not – I’ll be fine either way. I just don’t want to go chucking good effort after bad if things are just going to revert back to the status quo every few weeks.

        • Ooh, shades of my ex…. definitely contributed to why he’s an ex. I’m sorry.

        • apple said:

          Commander, we’ve never spoken, so I hope this isn’t mega creepy – but I’ve been reading this blog for a long time and I always find your comments really insightful and mature. I respect how well you know yourself and I hope things work out in your favor.

          It super hurts my feelings when I have to literally mandate Spend Time With Me for someone to want to spend time with me. Maybe it’s super Sitcom Wife of me, maybe it’s not, but I feel like “want to spend time with me” isn’t a ridiculous and lofty expectation of a live-in partner. Why are we dating if you don’t enjoy hanging out with me? I don’t wanna be all THEN WHY DON’T YOU MARRY VIDEO GAMES IF YOU LOVE THEM SO MUCH, but like, for real, though lmao. Maybe once, just once, it could have occurred to your boyfriend on his own that you’re great and he should go look at your face for a while. Like how your mom stops getting mad if you do the dishes without her having to tell you? Only hanging out with Commander Banana isn’t a chore, so shouldn’t he WANT to do it??

          I thought about my ex a lot when we were dating. I loved her! I was happy when we were together. I was happy to hear from her. Going grocery shopping with her was a delight. I liked seeing something at school or at work that I wanted to show her, and showing it to her, and seeing what she said about it. One time we were writing a story together that took place in some weird, anachronistic time, and she texted me, apropos of nothing, “Hey, do guns exist?” as in, do they exist in the setting of our story, and I smiled so hard that the cashier at Taste of Philly asked if I was okay. That’s just the way I am when I feel that way about someone. When I love someone, they are my favorite thing. After we broke up, I realized how one-sided all of that behavior was. Sometimes I wouldn’t hear from her for a couple days, and then she’d be like, “Sorry, I got really into Fallout!” And I’d think, “And I got really into Katamari Damacy; so what? I still think about you even when I’m hyperfocusing. Isn’t that what loving someone is like?” It’s been a few years and I still wonder, am I the outlier here? Is it really such a ridiculous request that somebody like me? Like… legitimately like me, as a person and companion?

          Anyway, yadda yadda, my point is, if he doesn’t think about you when you’re not in the room, what’s the point? You can’t, and shouldn’t have to, nag someone into liking you. You deserve better.

          • I just wanted to say that this was such a kindhearted and vulnerable comment that my heart grew three sizes just reading it ❤

          • Oh, God, apple, this comment resonates so much with me that I want to draw gold stars all over it.

          • johann7 said:

            Going grocery shopping with her was a delight.

            You’re not alone; I’m like that too. I recognize that people have different needs and priorities, and people have every right to do that calculus however they wish and pursue relationships that don’t look ideal to me, but the more I read this site and other advice columns, the more baffled I am that so many people seem to be invested in relationships with people they don’t even seem to *like*. Which is fine if that’s what you’re both looking for, as in the case of some sort of NSA sex or casual arrangement, but not a more involved relationship that is a putative priority.

        • the815 said:

          **I’m not staying in a relationship where we have the same argument over and over, or I have to get mad to get his attention**

          Ugh, same with feeling that way and why the guy is now an ex-. I remember venting to friends like, “OMG, WHYYYY is it so difficult to communicate? Am I actually speaking English?”

          It’s not that any one thing he did was So Awful, it was just so frustrating to not be heard and have to put in SO much effort on what should be simple things. Such as – I put in all the effort and $$ on dates by cooking for us. Maybe a small handful of times he’d spring for a restaurant, but it always required me making a big stink about it, he would never step up himself to offer. I said, “Are we doing something for Valentine’s Day?” and he’d say, “Oh, I thought you didn’t care about that stuff.” Right, I don’t care, that’s why I brought it up 10 f***ing times…

          He’d keep saying he’d stop over and visit me on days he had his daughter or call me to meet them at an arcade or something and he kept not doing it. And I get that that’s a big step in a relationship and why you might want to hold off – but in that case, just *don’t* keep making and breaking plans involving your kid and your S.O. because maybe it makes your S.O. feel a bit yanked around. Yes, your kid comes first, but don’t use your kid as an excuse to not communicate with your S.O. (and soooo many guys do that, OMG).

          I guess, in a nutshell, he was just immature and lazy and I felt like the “mom” in the relationship, like he wasn’t a self-sufficient adult on his own without a woman to prop him up (he also asked about moving in really early in the relationship and I said no. You wanna live with me but can’t introduce me to your kid – um, wut??). I’ve definitely dated worse guys, but I was just SO exhausted and resentful of all the emotional labor I did to keep things afloat; didn’t take too long to reach a breaking point.

          • Thistledown said:

            This whole discussion has made me think about The Captain’s rules of reciprocity which she usually applies to getting to know a new person. (For example, things like texts and phone calls should be relatively even. If you send 5 texts for every one they send you, you probably need to back off.) Maybe there’s a good way to think about this in terms of relationships? If you have to suggest a date night, plan the date night, and then cajole your significant other into going, what time/effort/attention is the other person contributing to the relationship? Maybe the other person gets-up early to walk the dog and make coffee every morning while you sleep in and you’re the social planner: that’s fine. But if I spend all of my time thinking about my romantic partner who only seems semi-aware of my existence, that seems bad. We talk a lot about diving household chores more evenly, but maybe it’s even *more* important to divide the emotional labor?

        • neverjaunty said:

          It probably is laziness, in the sense of, you do all the emotional labor and planning and trying to make things work, so he doesn’t feel any pressure to lift a finger or recognize that you have a life outside of trying to spend time with him.

    • Nanani said:

      This.
      Let me preface this by saying I’m a person with zero interest in romantic or sexual relationships, who has had to do a lot of interrogating to reach that conclusion about myself, AND has to navigate a lot of outside questioning about why I’m not following the societal script of “date someone, move in with them, etc”.

      Maybe LW would be happier in a non-cohabiting dating relationship where you actually NEED to schedule dates to see each other at all. You don’t actually have to move in together just because you’re dating/committed/reach a certain age or milestone. At least with this particular BF?
      Maybe BF also needs to do some introspection about what he really wants, needs, and expects, so he and LW can figure out if they actually want the same thing. Bearing in mind that “I want to live like a single person but have cookies and cuddles waiting at home” is a possible answer and might lead to further unpleasantness, I still think it’s better to ask the question than to flow down the River DeFault until you find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      Hey, I’ve read a few of your posts in this thread. This doesn’t sound like a planning incompatibility or a thing with gamers. It sounds like your BF is being really self-centered. It’s one thing if he doesn’t want to be interrupted while he’s playing video games. It’s quite something else when he feels it’s okay to interrupt YOU. If he’s not willing to drop what he’s doing, he needs to respect that you’re engrossed in what you’re doing.

      He’s being hella disrespectful.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Hey Sheelzebub!

        Yeah, it’s been frustrating – that on top of some him-not-pulling-his-weight around the house stuff and some other things is making me seriously re-evaluate this relationship. And, that’s okay – if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, and it’ll suck but I’ll be fine.

        I think part of it is that neither one of us has lived with a partner before, so we’re both still trying to navigate that. It really does change the dynamic and while overall it’s gone better than I thought it would, I’m starting to see some of the sticking points. And I personally really like being single, so I’m not that worried about if this doesn’t work out.

        The good thing is that years of reading CA has made me really good at Using My Words, so at least I know if this doesn’t work out it won’t be because I wasn’t clear about what I needed!

        • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

          The thing that struck me about my current relationship was that suddenly ‘chores’ turned into ‘making our common environment better for both of us’: I’m actively invested in having a pleasant environment and not making extra work for my partner.

          Wish I’d been that nice to myself when I was living on my own.

          As a gamer myself, I understand the ‘getting lost in-‘ but if you’re getting lost in something every day, all day, for weeks and months, it’s time to evaluate your life choices, and your partner sounds as if you’re incidental to their gaming hobby.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      “he’s tried to argue that we spend a lot of time together because we sleep together.”
      That only counts with dogs.

    • I kind of break down time like:

      Unavailable time “together” – sleeping, private bodily functions, tasks in separate areas
      Incidental time together – awake, physically present in the same area, possibly interacting
      Quality time together – awake, physically present, paying attention to each other or possibly the same thing (like watching a movie)

      • ashbet said:

        There’s a toddler stage called “parallel play,” where two young kids will play NEAR, but not WITH, each other.

        In relationships, I distinguish between “parallel play time” (we’re both doing A Thing in the same room, occasionally chatting or reading something aloud), and “focused partner time” (phones on silent, attention on each other or a thing we’re doing together.)

        I tend to attract dedicated gamers, so this has been helpful — but I also have ADHD, so *I* also want no-distraction time, since it’s easy for me to get sucked into reading/etc. and lose track of time.

        My ex and I had a weekly Date Night, which worked well. And shared Google calendars are THE BEST!!

        • Calendar sharing is wonderful!!

          My partner and I have our own calendars (and we’re working out sharing there) plus social calendars that we can freely share with other friends as well as each other. If I’m having a date with my partner, it goes on the social calendar; if I have a doctor’s appointment, the whole block of time (travel as well as appointment, and prep/decompression) goes on the social calendar with a minimum of detail.

          It’s done well to avoid double booking so far.

    • My ex-husband got upset if I spent too much time with friends because he liked having me “around,” “just in case,” but he didn’t actually want to go out or even interact with me most of the time. So I got stuck between the rock of feeling bored and lonely at home and the hard place of making my husband pouty because I wasn’t “prioritizing” him.

      I repeat: ex-husband.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Yep, I broke up with my last serious boyfriend because he basically refused to leave the house ever/do anything, but would get pouty when I did. His was because of an unmanaged anxiety disorder, but I found it truly baffling – I don’t date people because I want to spend LESS time with them! Isn’t part of the fun of being in a relationship in the first place having someone to do fun stuff with??

    • “he’s tried to argue that we spend a lot of time together because we sleep together”

      I am seriously blown away that an adult said that out loud. That is completely ridiculous and you are correct that unconscious time does not count.

      • I mean…I consider it pleasant to go to sleep with my partner, and to wake up with him, and to have pre- and post-sleep cuddles/sex. Those are Major Relationship Perks in my mind. Because we’re awake and enjoying each other’s presence. The actual sleep? Where for all I know he waits until I nod off and then sneaks out to fight crime for six hours? Yeah, no.

    • Pear said:

      take your feelings of being taken for granted seriously, because they matter! That kind of stuff eats away at the foundation of a relationship.

      Yes.

      Honestly I’m a bit 🙃🙃🙃🙃🙃🙃 @ some people on here who have presumably read that the LW feels her presence, time, and flexibility are being taken for granted and are just like ‘nope! nope!! I don’t think that’s what’s happening here!’

      ok then!

      Also I find it very relatable that your partner views “gaming” as “spending time together.” My partner also listens to D&D podcasts while he’s gaming so it is truly fiddly to pause both when I want to talk to him, so it’s less trouble to just… not speak to him for hours in end? I guess????

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Yeah, and I actually really like the adult version of parallel play, where he’ll game while I read in his room or nap, but I don’t consider that quality time because we’re not interacting.

    • Jules said:

      In defense of the ‘sleep together = time together’: I feel a huge emotional impact falling asleep / waking up next to someone. It’s stronger for me than ‘passive entertainment consumption’ (watching movies or tv). I can actually feel the oxytocin kicking in if I pay attention. Please don’t discount your bf’s valuing it even if you don’t feel it.

    • Erin said:

      I did end a relationship for similar reasons (though there was a lot more going on than just this situation). I am a hyper-planner and my ex was decidedly not (though he claimed to be). Sometimes I wouldn’t even have a chance to opt out of a change of plans because we would randomly run into someone he knew and it was just assumed that we would alter our plans to include these other people while we were already out. He was also big into family over everything else and would drop everything for his family. We lived together and had talked about getting married, but looking back, I think I always knew that even if I had a ring on my finger and changed my last name, I would always play second fiddle to his “real” family.

      One of the comments above, I think it was from gryphon, really hit the nail on the head for me. Does the ditching of plans work both ways or is it just LW who he feels is an option? Ditching plans when I’m in the middle of making dinner and then suggesting that I “freeze” it would seriously make me mad if it was for a non-emergency reason.

      I also feel you on the video game thing, CommanderBanana. My ex would hole himself up in his room and play video games all hours of the day, and then after I put my daughter to bed, he would come downstairs and we would watch tv together for an hour or so. That was the extent of the time we would spend together and he never seemed to understand why I did not deem that “quality.” My ex didn’t even have the excuse of us sleeping together as time spent together because I’m a light sleeper and he snored, so we slept in separate rooms. By the end of the relationship, we really were just roommates. It felt like he was only staying with me because rent was cheaper with two incomes and I cooked for him (I literally asked him once why he was with me and his response was “you make me food”).

      Is there a way to try to schedule house work with your boyfriend before he gets too involved in his gaming? My husband is also a gamer, but we have a set schedule for chores and he only sits down to play once everything else is done. For instance, we have every other Sunday morning set aside for deep house cleaning and during the week we make sure dinner is cooked (me) and the dishes are done (him) before we relax and enjoy evening activities (gaming, tv time, etc). Setting a schedule did not work with my ex, but it may be worth a shot with your boyfriend.

  12. Dear LW,

    All the way through your letter I kept thinking “date night”. Lo, and behold, it’s among the Captain’s recommendations.

    So yeah, date night.

    They are a good thing. They also serve as a barometer (or canary in a coal mine) for relationship health. If one or both of you is consistently inviting others to join in, something may be up.

    Anyway, you deserve to be as exciting as any other person.

    Good luck

  13. Clarry said:

    Every one of those time-sensitive use-it-or-lose it examples struck me as not time sensitive at all. If a dinner that you’re cooking can be rescheduled so can one that his sister cooked. Sounds like Sister lives in town, and plans can be made to get together with Sister and her family. Softball games can be forfeited; there will be more softball games. (I believe I am safe in assuming that this is a friendly amateur league and that your boyfriend isn’t a professional ball player with big bucks riding on the World Series.) The friend that’s in town unexpectedly this weekend may be in town unexpectedly another weekend also. Sports events and concerts similarly bill themselves with great hype hoping to make it sound like this is your (and everyone else in the stadium’s) last chance. This is advertising. In reality, there will be more games and more concerts.

    So it sounds like your instincts are right. Boyfriend is getting out of one easily rescheduled event (quality time with you) in favor of another (quality time with other people). No wonder it feels like you’re being blown off with a flimsy excuse.

    • FroederickStringfellow said:

      Really? With all due respect, I think that’s an uncharitable reading. First off, I do fully agree with you on the family dinner front. It does not sound like an infrequent or heavily planned affair. But as for the rest:

      For the softball games, the night of two teams of players rests on whether he (or someone else, to be fair. It’s certainly not only his responsibility) can make it. There will be more, but we also don’t know how frequently they play. This might be their only chance for a week or two, and it’s an event that 18 or so people have been looking forward to.

      The unexpected friend may be in town again soon, but they might just as well not be in town for another five years? It’s one thing if a friend lives a city away, but what if they’re normally multiple states/a country away?

      Concerts, well, as a music person I can rattle off a dozen or so bands that have played my town / the surrounding area once in the last decade. Or bands that I’ve missed a chance to see that have since broken up. This really depends on how major of a city / a standard touring path they live in.

      The letters here have a length requirement, and this one, like most, doesn’t give us enough detail to really definitively say either way for the above examples. But, if my partner wanted to cancel our evening for any of those three reasons, I’d agree they were all time sensitive, which could potentially trump a dinner (in some cases, even a planned, nicer one). Not automatically, certainly, but I wouldn’t begrudge them simply for asking.

      To be clear, I do think the Captain’s right on in most of the suggestions, especially in saying the LW would feel a lot happier if they had a scheduled date night that’s specifically on the calendar / high on the priority list, and getting their partner to own what ‘Are you cool with this?’ is really asking and putting on the LW’s emotional load.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        The thing is, this sounds like common enough occurrence that it’s bothering the LW. I’m pretty easygoing about stuff, but this would start to wear on me. If LW’s partner didn’t make this a common practice, then LW probably would be way more chill with “my friend whom I haven’t seen for 5 years is in town” etc.

        And you know–anyone making a last minute request should assume that it’s inconvenient as hell and will be turned down. Yes, you can fill in for a teammate. But if you had tickets for Hamilton, would you just drop everything for the team? Then why for plans you made with your partner? I mean, again–if this wasn’t a regular thing, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but it sounds like it IS a regular thing. To the point where LW is feeling like they are being taken for granted, and put in decision making mode.

        Why is it such a terrible thing for LW’s partner to make LW a priority and not the final arbiter?

        • “And you know – anyone making a last minute request should assume that it’s inconvenient as hell and will be turned down. ”

          This times a million. They SHOULD know that. But you’d be surprised how often they don’t. I had a coworker friend who started to cry and then proceeded to treat me like shit ever after when my already planned and plane ticket purchased honeymoon trip to Italy meant I couldn’t be at her wedding.

          • Jules said:

            Sounds like a coworker to avoid like the plague.

        • FroederickStringfellow said:

          Frequency is 100% a super relevant factor, and LW’s comments downstream about how limited her free time and evenings are definitely change the calculus a lot. And he absolutely should make LW a priority. No argument on any of that.

          My guess is just that the LW’s partner specifically seizes on the time sensitive nature as justification. I bet if the LW texted him with something like, “Hey, my boss can’t make their reservation at swanky super-exclusive booked-to-next-year restaurant downtown tonight, and wants to know if we’d like to take it,” and he had plans with an in-town friend for drinks, he’d ask that friend to cancel just as quickly. I’m feeling the sense of a lot of Ask v. Guess culture here, especially given that LW says when they do veto things, he doesn’t show any resentment of it.

          I’m certainly not trying to suggest that LW needs to be more okay with having plans rearranged. The motivation behind it just changes what angle will be the most productive conversation for them to have.

          • ellis said:

            I think that’s a lot of it – I have a hard time articulating why something that, he’s right, doesn’t need to be tonight, should win out over something that DOES need to be tonight.

            Because yes, my time is limited and I might not have another opportunity like that again soon, but also – we do see each other at least in passing daily. I try to put myself in the position of being in town only for a limited time and having a friend not be able to meet up because of plans with their live-in SO. I might feel irked.

            But also, sometimes “reschedule” never comes .. and sometimes, I’ve expended a significant amount of work capital into getting a night off and I just can’t do that again for awhile…

          • FroederickStringfellow said:

            @ellis
            “But also, sometimes “reschedule” never comes .. and sometimes, I’ve expended a significant amount of work capital into getting a night off and I just can’t do that again for awhile…”

            And that’s what’s simply non-viable about this situation, that he needs to be the one to fix. If he’s pushing something out, with your agreement, it should be his (relatively) immediate responsibility to reschedule that, and with more certainty that that instance will -not- get pushed out further, and to work completely around your schedule. I don’t know what’s the best way to go about this, but he needs to understand the capital that you have used/will burn to see him, and that it’s not infinite or without cost. You’re putting something tangible into your plans. That should absolutely give them heft. And, there’s a huge difference between spending time with someone, and seeing them ‘at least in passing daily,’ as you say.

            I’ve got my fingers crossed, based on what you’ve written about him outside of this tendency, that he’ll listen to you when you bring up these concerns. There’s a lot of great advice, both in the response to your letter, and the comments. I sincerely hope for the best, for both of you.

            @johann
            “Then Friend didn’t just decide to show up in town five minutes ago, which means Friend could have let Boyfriend know that Friend was going to be in town, and thus plans could have been made and accommodated if Friend was truly invested in seeing Boyfriend.”

            I do understand your point, but that’s not how some of my friends behave. They’ll show up for one day, with no announcement. Yes, it means that they’re not prioritizing that I will definitely see them, but, well, that’s who they are. I know that about them, I don’t like it, but they do still matter enough enough to me that I will try my best to see them, especially if it’s a maybe once a year thing.

            Obviously, we all have our own standards, and my friends are mine and yours are yours for our own reasons. But I balk at the idea that bad / spontaneous planning on someone else’s part makes them or the activity unimportant to me.

      • johann7 said:

        The unexpected friend may be in town again soon, but they might just as well not be in town for another five years? It’s one thing if a friend lives a city away, but what if they’re normally multiple states/a country away?

        Then Friend didn’t just decide to show up in town five minutes ago, which means Friend could have let Boyfriend know that Friend was going to be in town, and thus plans could have been made and accommodated if Friend was truly invested in seeing Boyfriend. This is an example of why planning is important if one actively wants to make sure [thing] actually happens. I mean that “if” sincerely – it’s fine for people to not be especially invested, and in that case, if they really don’t care, saying “no” to the thing about which they don’t actually care is fine. But then the problem that doing the planned thing with LW is a lower priority than something about which Boyfriend doesn’t really care is there. Basically, it’s either important enough to have at least the minimal logistics of mutual locations in spacetime known to all parties, or it’s unimportant enough that Boyfriend should be able to say, “Sorry, I have plans with LW,” without having to ask her. Again, I don’t see this as ask vs. guess, I see it as priorities being demonstrated by actions.

        • Clarry said:

          This can be seen as a matter of what it would take to train the outside friends and family. As it is, Sister calls for last minute dinners, and from the sound of it, Partner nearly always comes to dinner. Out Of Town Friend calls to say he’s in town on short notice, and Partner nearly always says “sure, let’s get together.” Baseball Team says you’re needed for a game, and Partner can be counted to show up. Coworkers must regularly call Partner with extra tickets because they’re rarely turned down. If Partner were to get into the habit of saying “Sorry, can’t make it on such short notice, I have plans with LW,” then I guarantee those invitations would stop coming at the last minute. They might lessen overall, but at least some of them would start coming with an appropriate time/planning buffer built in.

          • Bunny said:

            Okay Yes This.

            I am a Planner, and do not generally enjoy last-minute things. But sometimes a thing I’ve planned may fall through and I still want to do something, and just very rarely I will want to do something and still have it be a Social Thing. In those cases, there’s a couple of specific friends I have who I know are Always Up For Stuff, and I’ll call one of them to see if they’d like to do a low-stakes last minute thing, because I know they don’t mind last-minute events and I know in practice they’ve usually said yes. I genuinely like them, but they have definitely wound up on the “back-up activity” list in my brain.

            I do not ask friends who, like me, are planners. Because I know they’d feel stressed out by it, and I know they’ll more than likely say no.

            LW, your partner says yes a lot. He also gets last-minute asks a lot. Could it be he’s the Back-Up Friend for a lot of people?

            (Also, I side-eye suggestions that last-minute band tickets are worth prioritising because you don’t know when the band will play in that area again. If the band is one LW’s partner was actually meaningfully invested in, they’d already have gotten tickets themselves and planned to go. If the band isn’t one LW’s partner is meaningfully invested in, then missing seeing that specific band playing somewhere is not actually that big of a deal).

        • My uncle used to make frequent surprise trips, cross country. Yep. He’d say to his wife and kids, “Grab your bags! We’re hitting the road!” and off they’d go, lickety split, only to show up, completely unannounced, on some relative’s doorstep.

          Now, when Uncle and family showed up, my Dad (his brother), always decided to reschedule all our plans and host Uncle and family because 1) he loved him, and 2) they had traveled half-way across the country for this visit. Yes, it was rude and inconvenient to show up unannounced, but they CHOSE us, so they must love us, and so we must love them back. OR reasons similar to that.

          But that set up a precedent, and followed precedent, and soon enough, it became standard procedure.

          I loved my uncle, but I have to admit, the unexpected visits really chaffed me, sometimes. Sometimes, we had to give up things we had planned and longed-for, because he just showed up at the wrong time.

  14. Celeste said:

    LW, I’d take it a step further than a Sacred Date Night (which is still a great idea to keep on your list). I think you two need a weekend alone together to reconnect. I think there are a lot of things that tug you both in other directions, and you could both use some time together to remind yourselves why you ARE together. I feel like right now, you are on the brink of not getting what you need from the relationship. That never ends well.

    • Yeah, that would be a really good thing!

  15. Kay said:

    I think other people have firmly scolded the boyfriend enough, so I will say LW, this is why you gotta use your words more often. I definitely get upset and thrown off when plans I’ve looked forward to for a while get changed, and I just own that about myself and make it known to my SO. It’s not to say we can’t ever do it, but he knows now that I’m going to be a grump about it and he might need to be extra nice to me or buy me an iced coffee to bring my mood around.

    The Captain gave stellar advice in this vein, so I hope you use it! No one can read your mind even when you think it’s super obvious and anyone should know why you’re annoyed. From the sounds of it, your boyfriend is super chill about you asserting when you do want him to stay home, so I feel like if you use these tools it’s all going to be fine. And if you feel like he is respecting your preferences more often, maybe you can find some of that chill when he wants to switch around plans?

    • The Bee's Knees said:

      I’m finding as I’m reading these responses that I’m floored at how the responsibility of using communication is just being flat out ignored.

      Not using our words and then blaming others for our feelings is a really toxic pattern and definitely needs addressing.

      I’m getting squicked out by this thread.

      • Temperance said:

        I’m honestly not seeing anyone telling LW that she has no responsibility to express her needs or feelings in order to change this dynamic. I don’t see how that is “squicky”, to be brutally honest.

        While what you cite is a classic manipulation tactic used by terrible people, I haven’t seen anyone here suggest that this is fine.

      • Diaphanous said:

        But they have used their words. It sounds like they’ve talked about it extensively and aren’t making headway. Captain and others are giving LW other ideas for how to negotiate their needs.

        • The Bee's Knees said:

          “His additional position is that, well, he is just asking and I have ultimate veto power. If I say no, he won’t do it. My position is that, by putting out there that he has this unique and time-sensitive opportunity and asking to do that instead, he’s putting me in the position of having to tell him “no, don’t do this thing you’d rather do – hang out with me, which you can do anytime.” It’s uncomfortable, and I’d rather not have the weight of his experience on my shoulders.”

          She says right there she’s not always responsible for what she feels.

          She’s projecting onto him that he’d rather do something else so she goes along. He may not really have a preference and is just giving options/prospects. She admits he’s good when she says no, so her not saying no is something she’s internalized and is responsible for.

          • mercury said:

            Does the boyfriend go to his manager everyday and say ” Can I take the day off.” And the manager excercise their veto power and say “No, now get to work.” That would be unprofessional.

          • ShannyL said:

            This seems really dismissive of the emotional labour constantly saying “no” requires. Yes, LW could say no every single time, and maybe her partner would be absolutely fine with it. But having to be the one to do that gets exhausting. My ex would always say he didn’t mind when I nagged him about things, but that wasn’t the problem – the problem was *I* minded having to do that. I wanted him to take the initiative himself sometimes. And as much as I tried to communicate that, it didn’t change, and it was a contributing factor to our divorce.

            It sounds like LW has tried to communicate to her partner about her feelings, but hasn’t had success and is looking for new scripts to communicate her point more effectively, so acting like she’s not and is just being manipulative is… kind of squicky.

          • johann7 said:

            “He may not really have a preference and is just giving options/prospects.”

            That is exactly the problem – he doesn’t have a preference for planned time with LW, even after all the conversations about how this bothers her. And that’s his right, as it’s hers to decide that not preferring her to [something that wasn’t important enough to him or someone else to do the work needed to make sure it would happen] in unacceptable in a cohabitating romantic partner.

          • aebhel said:

            Why would he ask to change plans if he didn’t want to change plans? I mean, I’m a very direct person, but I don’t ask people for things I don’t actually want. And if he always wants to do something other than spend time with her as they’ve planned, that can be a shitty feeling.

      • ellis said:

        LW here – I agree I need to speak up more! I think the issue is, I don’t know what the *right* words are. In the past, when I’ve pushed back I’ve hit a wall of “well, there’s no harm in me asking, you can always say no,” etc. I’ve had difficulty articulating why that still doesn’t feel great to me (which is why I love the suggestion of “Are you asking me if I want to or are you telling me that you want to?”)

        Until this thread, I didn’t really have the words to explain why I feel like it’s a little bit of a .. loaded request? And why even if he’s cool when I rarely say no, it puts me in the unenviable position of having to make the decision and then deal with any fallout being on me.

        • Kay said:

          This totally makes sense, and I’m really glad this thread has been helpful for that! This is why I think in safe, loving relationships an argument is needed sometimes. You don’t have the perfect words so you just commit to airing out all your negative feelings about the situation but with a goal to have you both feel heard and loved. And maybe they get confused at first or you end up talking around your point until it all finally clicks for both of you, but then you get to that excellent end goal of understanding! Arguing constructively can be such a valuable thing. I hope it all works out for you!

        • CommanderBanana said:

          LW, I think this is really valid! I’ve experienced this and I’ve seen so many friends go through this, where they feel like they’re being cast as the Bad Guy or Fun Killer (one guy I know literally refers to his girlfriend as Funsucker Hername, which I think is really, really shitty).

          In all of these cases, the people framing it as “you know you can say no!” KNOW what they’re doing. They KNOW they’re setting up their significant other to feel like the bad guy! And it definitely is a pattern.

          LW, I believe that you are smart and perceptive enough to pick up on this when it happens. I dated a guy for a long time who would do exactly the same thing. At the time we started dating, I was under 21 and he was over 21, so it meant that often if he was going out to a bar with friends I couldn’t go. So, I would take the train an hour-plus to the city where he lived, only to arrive and have him ask me if he could go out to a bar with so-and-so. If I said no, I was the evil girlfriend who never let him have any fun, and if I said yes, I wasn’t allowed to be upset about it because after all, he’d asked, and I’d said yes! What I wanted was for him to extend me the basic courtesy of spending time with me after I’d made the effort to travel to his city at his request.

          This would be different if your SO was responding to people asking to hang out on nights he has plans with you by telling them he already has plans (because he does!) or offering some sort of alternative, and it only happening once in a while. But he’s not doing that. This sounds like it’s happening a lot – at least, enough for it to seriously be bothering you, which is too often.

          Sometimes life intervenes or two things happen at once and you have to adjust plans, but this should not be happening multiple times a month, and that’s what it sounds like. There are ALWAYS going to be ‘unique and time-sensitive opportunities’ that come along. I think this is more that your boyfriend is prioritizing every unique and time-sensitive opportunity over you, yes?

          • Nanani said:

            “one guy I know literally refers to his girlfriend as Funsucker Hername, which I think is really, really shitty”

            This is the sort of thing that makes me wonder why such people bother being a couple if they just get misery out of it

          • Cyberwulf said:

            It *is* really shitty to refer to your girlfriend as “Funsucker Hername”. It sounds like Funsucker would be a lot better off without HurHur B*tches Hisname. I mean why is it still acceptable for dudes to cast their girlfriends/wives as nagging killjoys just for expecting them to behave like grownups instead of teenage brats? Who ever thought that was funny?

          • @Cyberwulf: I have never, ever understood why people talk that way about their SOs. Not liking your landlord, your boss, or your mom, I get. Not liking your partner but staying with them anyway? WHY?

        • Viva said:

          LW, it seems to me that speaking up more is definitely one issue. But it also seems to me that one of your core needs is to be shown that you’re wanted and that your partner wants to put you first, and one way to show that would be for him to actually make a firm plan about X event on Y date, without emotional labour expended on your part for once.

          Please correct me if I’m wrong? I could be projecting because this is something my SO and I struggle with. He’s very happy to go along with my plans but he never – and I mean never – is the one to say “Hey, how about we plan to do X on Y date?” He knows I’d like/need that from him and the closest he gets is saying “It would be fun to do X sometime” but ultimately if I don’t plan it, it doesn’t happen. I accept this about him as part of the cost of admission and it’s not a dealbreaker because the rest of our relationship is on point – but I admit it rankles. It makes me feel like I’m not worth the effort to him, even though I know that’s not actually the case, the problem is two different styles.

        • I’ve been in your position (with close friends rather than a boyfriend), and the reason it wouldn’t feel great to me is that even if he is completely cool about staying with you instead of changing his plans, you then know/feel that he’s staying with you because you want/asked him to, and not because he prefers to spend that time with you. Even if he secretly has a preference for spending time with you rather than other people, by making you decide he is forcing you to either Play It Cool (which sucks, as you’ve discovered) or to be the one to state explicitly that you want and value your time with him; he isn’t put in the position of making similar statements about how much he values his time with you. When both people in a relationship are telling each other (through words and actions) that they value their time together, that’s awesome! When it’s always the same person asking for time together it can start to feel needy instead.

          I have had some luck in the past telling the other person “this behaviour is making me feel like you don’t actually care whether we get to spend quality one-on-one time together or not. If that’s not the case, then when suggesting cancelling scheduled quality one-on-one time, can you also propose an alternative time to spend quality time together?”.

        • Aurelie said:

          Hi Ellis! I think part of your problem is that he is trying to convince you with logic when your problem is about feelings. Maybe you could reframe that next time you broach the topic? i.e. “The problem is not the rationale of being able to say no or to reschedule, it’s that it’s making me feel crummy.”
          Somebody who loves you will not want you to feel crummy… Maybe that can help him understand what’s happening here?

      • johann7 said:

        The entire second half of the letter references conversations they’ve had about this; it doesn’t sound to me that LW isn’t using her words:
        “His position is that, since we live together, we can *always* reschedule or easily spend time together whereas the things that come up are usually time-sensitive or urgent” – can only know that by talking about it
        “His additional position is that, well, he is just asking and I have ultimate veto power.” – can only know that by talking about it
        “But it’s not getting through” – indicates that it’s been discussed
        “and I often end up sounding like I want him to read my mind” – often, so more than once, a lot more than once
        “How was I supposed to know you wouldn’t want to without asking you?” – maybe from all those conversations you’ve had about it, bro?

        And again, I don’t see this as asking for mind-reading, nor the asking itself being the problem, it’s that the asking in the first place is a demonstration that Boyfriend himself is NOT prioritizing set plans with LW over spontaneous opportunities. It’s absolutely his right to decide he doesn’t want to prioritize time with LW; it’s her right to know that’s the case and decide she doesn’t want to date/live with someone who doesn’t make her a priority.

  16. Amy said:

    It sounds like a big part of the problem here is that he’s viewing home time as ‘free time on my calendar’, and you’re viewing home time as ‘scheduled time for us to spend together, like a date’. So he’s happy to schedule something in that time slot if it comes up, whereas you see that as cancelling your existing plans.

    To me, that says you guys really need to define this time better. He needs to know you’re viewing this time as *actual scheduled plans that you’re carving out in your calendar*, and that when he tries to change to something else, you see it as him ditching you. (Him trying to include you in these new group plans doesn’t change that, since they’re mostly things you don’t enjoy, and they’re also mostly not equivalent to the plan you thought you had.) You probably also need to accept that you can’t view every evening where he doesn’t have something explicitly on the calendar as ‘this is time for us to spend together’; some of it should be that, but since he’s not a planner, some of it will just be time that isn’t scheduled *yet*. Scheduled date nights, like the Captain suggests, are probably a really good idea for you guys. That way, you know which days you can actually count on, and he knows which days are open for spontaneous plans. (I would suggest adding some explicit rules, e.g. “We can reschedule for things like a friend in town as long as we talk about it in advance and both agree; day-of rescheduling isn’t allowed unless someone’s literally in the hospital”. He sounds like he needs you to spell out explicitly what you need, since you guys are starting from very different pages. And of course, if he has things he needs to make this work, listen to that too.)

    I do think it’s a good sign that when you’ve said no, he’s respected it without any griping or nonsense. That makes me think that he genuinely does want to do what you’re OK with, and is just coming from a very, very different place in terms of what’s OK to ask for. Assuming that’s the case, getting you guys explicitly on the same page should go a long way towards helping the situation.

    • CommanderBanana said:

      I think this is a really wise interpretation of what’s happening – it is entirely possible (I’m going to say improbable, but not impossible) that there is no actual ill intent on the part of the boyfriend, maybe just a generalized cluelessness about how the LW is viewing their time together.

      Now, if this continues after the LW has this conversation with him, then, yes, there’s a bigger problem. As a hyper-planner myself, I sometimes have interpreted people flaking on me as inconsiderateness or not valuing me, but really, they were just flaky/viewing plans as not set in stone the way I do, etc.

    • ellis said:

      LW here – I think there’s maybe some of this, but I’ll clarify that in general it is something *planned* and out of the house. Usually a movie or catching a game or grabbing dinner together. If it is a night in, I’m only annoyed if it’s something I made specific arrangements for – like cooking something special for dinner, etc.

      His view is that he and I can go to a movie ANY time, but he only sees [x] every few months, etc.

      • Inspector Spacetime said:

        But then “any time” never arrives because he keeps rescheduling… Hmm, not good. Hopefully it’s a matter of him being clueless instead of outright prioritizing other people over you.

        • johann7 said:

          “Hopefully it’s a matter of him being clueless instead of outright prioritizing other people over you.”

          It’s both. By definition.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Hi LW!

        Thanks for the clarification – wow! That is incredibly rude and inconsiderate, IMHO.

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        oooooh, this makes it worse.
        *You* can’t go to a movie “any” time and if [x] is in town every few months, that can be planned. it would be interesting to see how many times in the last year he’s seen [x] vs. how many times you’ve gone to a movie together.

      • Amy said:

        Ugh, that’s a lot harder for me to accept and be understanding of!!! How frustrating, to have scheduled plans (that are clearly scheduled plans) and have them repeatedly thrown off. No wonder you feel like you’re not a priority. That changes things because you already know he doesn’t respect Date Night.

        If you think he’s doing so because he doesn’t understand that this is a big deal to you, then start by telling him as much. Try something like: “When we have plans together, and you ask to cancel them in favor of something else that’s come up, I feel unwanted and lonely. I know you think we can do things together anytime, but since my schedule is pretty busy, that isn’t actually true–I have to set aside time to spend with you. And that’s fine, because spending one-on-one time together is really important to me. But when I prioritize those plans and then you want to do something else, that makes me feel like you don’t value that time as much as I do, which feels pretty bad. It doesn’t really matter if you’re fine with me saying no–it’s the fact that you want to cancel enough to ask that hurts.”

        Hopefully, he’ll listen and try to understand where you’re coming from, and you guys can work out some guidelines on how often/in what circumstances it’s OK to ask for a last-minute cancellation. (Maybe “X is in town for one day and I haven’t seen them for 3 years” is OK, but softball/local friends/local family need to be lower priority than you. Maybe nothing short of “Y is in the hospital and I need to be there” is enough. Maybe any reason is OK as long as he only asks once a month. Maybe he needs to ask at least 3 days in advance, so you can make other plans. Whatever works for you.)

        If you’ve had that conversation before and it hasn’t worked, or you have that conversation and it doesn’t work, or he generally thinks you need to get over your feelings and let him be the Free Spontaneous Spirit he’s destined to be, or anything like that: You deserve better than that. You deserve a partner that will prioritize your plans as highly as you do, and will prioritize you as highly as other important things in his life. You deserve a partner who listens to you and cares about your needs and feelings, and tries to find compromises that will work for BOTH of you. And there are plenty of people out there who will do those things with you, so seriously consider whether he’s being the kind of person you want to stick with long-term.

        • Private Jane said:

          “It doesn’t really matter if you’re fine with me saying no–it’s the fact that you want to cancel enough to ask that hurts.”

          THIS. 10,000 times this.

      • Ouch.

        Ouch.

        This would really irk me.

      • VA said:

        So maybe in addition to all the Captain’s fantastic advice, one of the ways you reset the “we can X ANY time” is to make that… not as true.

        Let there be some consequences to him blowing off plans with you. If you had planned to see a movie and suddenly unexpected friend is in town, that’s cool, but YOU are going to see the movie anyway. You had plans to make a nice dinner at home and he needs to sub in at softball? That’s fine, but YOU are still making the nice dinner and inviting one of your own spontaneous friends over to eat with you, if there are any leftovers he can find them in the fridge, and open a nice bottle of wine for yourself while you’re at it.

        I don’t mean do these things to punish him, or in a spirit of meanness, or in lieu of honest communication. But if you’re always accommodating and rescheduling and finding a way to make the things happen after he decides to do something else, then he kind of is right: you CAN do those things any time. Let him miss doing some of these fun special things with you, and he might prioritize them differently. (And if he doesn’t, then maybe that tells you something important about his priorities as well.)

        • crooked bird said:

          YES. Let there be consequences. Not vengeful consequences but natural consequences. If my three-year-old doesn’t come to the supper table when he’s called, supper starts without him. (Which he hates.) The more you accommodate for people, the more they will expect you to keep doing that, always, as if it’s your natural duty. But if you’re firm on “this is what I’M going to do no matter what you do,” THEY will learn to work around YOU for freakin once.

          LW, your boyfriend is not respecting you in this. Sometimes people have to be forced to respect you. This isn’t a DTMFA situation, but it is a “don’t let him get away with it” situation.

      • Cyberwulf said:

        Ohh, yikes.

        Until you said he was baling on plans that involve reservations and tickets, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in that certain people feel compelled to leave the house if something is happening somewhere (I’m one of them). But yeah that is hugely inconsiderate. You def need a Date Night or he at least needs to understand that Prior Outside Plans trump Last Minute Outside Plans.

      • apple said:

        This reminds me of that scene from When Harry Met Sally, where Harry and Sally get dinner and she explains why her relationship with Joe ended. She says they talked about how great their childless relationship was because they could go on an impromptu vacation, or they could have sex on the kitchen floor without worrying about the kids walking in. But then she said, “The thing is, we don’t jet off to Rome on a moment’s notice.”

        And Harry said, “And the kitchen floor…?”

        Sally answered, “Never. It was this very cold, hard Mexican ceramic tile.”

        Sure, you and he CAN go to a movie any time; but DO you go to a movie any time? Certainly not if he’s got his options ranked by availability. That’s mean.

      • Zahra said:

        Yeah, I agree that is annoying. I think you need to make it clear that plans can be
        1- Canceled if A, B or C come up.
        2- If D, E or F come up, the answer is “No” and will always be “No” unless it’s a life and death type of emergency.
        3- G, H or I *may* be okay under J, K, L circumstances.

        If he needs to have that written down somewhere on his phone, he needs to do so. If you guys put it in a common calendar or have invites, you could write something like “Special Dinner at home – 24-hour cancellation notice” “Movie X at 9 – if canceled, reschedule immediately”.

        Also, depending on where you are in your relationship (i.e. long-term commitment vs. permanent commitment vs. just moved in together recently), you are now his primary family. So, if family comes first, *you* are actually coming first.

  17. diaphanous said:

    LW, I hear a lot of myself in your letter so I’m probably (definitely) reaching with what I’m about to say. Being treated the same way in a previous relationship made me feel really unloved and led to the absolute worst fights we ever had. Proceed with all appropriate grains of salt.

    Spending quality time with him, just the two of you, is a pretty high relationship priority for you, one that he doesn’t seem to share. I honestly don’t think that makes you right and him wrong; you’re just different in this regard.

    Trying to logic and reason him into feeling the same way you do will always be a losing proposition. Instead aim for shared understanding.
    “Partner, I know we differ on this, but spending time together, one on one, scheduled, [is of critical importance to me/makes me feel loved/is a nonnegotiable need]. I don’t need you to feel the same way, but I do need you to honor it by…”

    The Captain and others have given you a lot of good ideas on how to finish that sentence.

    I think this is solvable. He seems like a good dude who wants to do right, but maybe doesn’t realize just how important this is to you.

  18. “”Hey being invited to be a spectator at your band practice is not the same thing as a date, hard pass btw, call me when you’re actually free.” Go in peace, hot-yet-oblivious-bass-playing-almost-boyfriend-of-1997″

    Heh, I dated him in 2003

    • Temperance said:

      I dated him like 15 times. 😦

      • Bass players, right?

  19. Tea Rocket said:

    One advantage to the Date Night suggestion is that once the pattern has been established and you’re both comfortable with it, you might find that you’re okay with postponing or skipping them every now and then when something else comes up. I have a friend with whom I have a standing Skype date every week. Because we’re both Ph.D. students, these days we end up having to cancel these dates as often as we make them, but I know that once a week, I will hear from him (even if it’s just to say that he can’t make our meeting) and vice versa for him. It is also understood the onus of suggesting an alternative time falls on the person who needs to postpone.

    I would also suggest that during date night (or during the run-up—getting dressed for a fancy restaurant or making dinner), both of your phones are put on silent and set aside and no one is allowed to check their e-mail. The LW’s boyfriend can’t respond to last-minute invitations if he doesn’t see them. This won’t solve the problem of offers that come up before then, but at least in those cases, the LW has a little more time to decide whether she’s okay with changing plans.

    The LW and her boyfriend might also want to do something my husband and I did when we were long distance: almost every day, for half an hour, we would have each other on Skype, full-screen, with our phones on silent, and just talk (then we’d usually go about our messing around on the internet, with each other in a smaller, muted window on Skype). This helped us feel connected and part of each other’s lives, even though we were hundreds of miles apart. We only very rarely skipped doing this (probably only about three or four times a year). Since the LW and her boyfriend are struggling to find time for each other, the in-person version of this might be something to try. At some point before they go to bed each day, they’ll find half an hour (or 15 minutes or whatever feels right to them) to just sit and talk to each other with no distractions (so sitting and watching TV together doesn’t count).

    Date Night is still a good idea, but doing the above might help the LW feel more connected to her boyfriend in general and might help stop her from getting quite so upset when her boyfriend wants to change plans on Date Night. He still shouldn’t do that, but it might hurt less if she feels like she gets to see him regularly the rest of the time as well.

    • crooked bird said:

      Good idea about a daily routine of Actually Talking!

      The Date Night “pattern being established” thing is an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, it’s totally true that once it’s established it’s then OK to break it, but on the other hand its being truly established is so crucial.

      It’s a matter of trust. Sorry if this is an irrelevant share, but this is a thread on relationship negotiations and it connects… My husband was SUPER frustrated about my being late all the time. Used to not matter, but then we had a kid. Our childcare schedule is strict and if 5:30 is hand-over time that really means 5:30. I used to arrive at 5:30 sharp and occasionally (he claimed often) something would Happen, as it does, and I’d arrive at like 5:34. (There was no traffic involved ever or we couldn’t have lived like this. I was mostly writing a novel next door.) I was continually pissed that *he* was so pissed about 2, 3, 4 minutes. Finally I figured it out: it bothered him that at 5:29 he didn’t know where I was and whether I’d be home on time, he stressed about it every time. I started coming home at 5:25.

      I spent a year coming home at 5:25.

      Now I come home at 5:30 sharp. Occasionally I slip up and it’s 5:32 or 3. He’s totally chill about it. He trusts me now. The other day it was 5:40 and he was chill about that too.

      That’s the goal of the consistency. To rebuild trust. AFTER that you’re cool. But it’s important not to skimp on it.

      • crooked bird said:

        And yeah that is probably a really annoying story, sorry, but… I think I realized what I’m trying to say.

        I want to see Boyfriend make an effort like I did.

        I used to be That Person Who Can’t Keep Track of Time. I changed that about myself. I can keep track of time now, because my husband needed that from me.

        Boyfriend could learn to respect schedules and prior commitments and eat that little bit of regret about “but what about this other opportunity?” He could do that. People can do that, people can change.

        • apple said:

          Not annoying at all! My mom has a similar story about my dad. She dated this dude whose idea of a date was picking her up ten minutes late and taking her on a Group Outing with all his friends at a pizza place. She was still actively smarting from it when my dad asked her out. She told him from the getgo that he needed to be on time to hang out with her. And based both on anecdotal evidence from his sisters and my own insight (I am very much my father’s daughter), he was not a punctual man. But the way my mother felt valued was seeing her time valued. And my dad wanted to hang out with her! So he made sure he was there two minutes early every time he wanted to see her, not because punctuality is important to my dad, but because it was important to my mom. When something is important to your partner, you care about it because you care about your partner.

        • Tea Rocket said:

          Definitely not an annoying story and it illustrates the point nicely.

  20. Amtep said:

    I’m just jumping in to say that “can you just freeze it or use it tomorrow?” isn’t chillness, it’s pushback. He asks if it’s okay with you and then argues when you say no. That’s definitely making you the Arbiter Of Fun, which is a stressful role. Also, he’s really taking your cooking for granted there! Are you usually the one who cooks? I know that when I cook, looking forward to having yummy food is a major motivator, and his “can you just” options take that away.

    • Good catch. Yeah, suggestions for how to make the alternate plans be fine is not just rolling with a no. No matter how politely it’s phrased, it makes you feel that much more unreasonable if you still say no, even though saying no is a totally reasonable thing to do.

      • star said:

        “Can we go hang out with Friend instead?”
        “But I just made puttanesca.”
        “Can’t you just eat it tomorrow?”
        “I can. But I don’t want to.”

    • aebhel said:

      “Can you just freeze it or use it tomorrow?”

      “Sure. Or I could make this delicious dinner than I have planned and eat it all myself/with a friend who actually values my time and effort.”

      What a jerk.

  21. Ubergaladababa said:

    OP, I think your phrasing about him treating plans with you on the same level as “free time” is really insightful. Have you framed it that way to your boyfriend?

    I also wonder if you do set up a regular date night if you won’t find that you’re more amenable to last minute changes on other nights. Maybe not, totally fine! But you may find that if he’s prioritizing you on a regular basis, you get less attached to looser plans and be more excited about the group stuff.

  22. CMart said:

    One amazing thing about getting older (“older”, I’m in my early 30’s, ha) is that more and more of my and my husband’s friends are partnering up and cohabitating and suddenly are going through the same angst. By and large, “sorry, Partner and I had plans tonight” is now a 100% understandable and accepted excuse, whereas in the past it was met with “come oooon you guys live together you can do stuff any old time!”

    Before this though, we had similar struggles. My husband sound exactly like the LW’s boyfriend: views “being at home at the same time” as the same thing as quality time, sees “being home on a Tuesday” as a plan-free night instead of scheduled time with me, and really super duper means it as a choice when he asks if I want to do something or am okay with him doing something.

    He never saw it as an issue to be like “Let me check with CMart” and then come back and be like “she says no, catch you later!” even though it made me feel like a Bad Guy/Uncool Girl. The code-phrase I finally made him memorize was “Let me check with CMart to see if there’s any plans I’ve forgotten about.”

    That way he still gets to express his interest in Spontaneous Social Thing, but then he also gets to be the Bad Guy who was a forgetful dummy who didn’t remember Very Important Plans (of eating the dinner I cooked and snuggling me on the couch).

    • “He never saw it as an issue to be like “Let me check with CMart” and then come back and be like “she says no, catch you later!” even though it made me feel like a Bad Guy/Uncool Girl. The code-phrase I finally made him memorize was “Let me check with CMart to see if there’s any plans I’ve forgotten about.””

      This is a great point. It’s not just the having to say no. It’s being presented as the person who said no for arbitrary reasons rather than the person who said, “We already have plans.” It makes a big difference.

    • Tea Rocket said:

      That’s a really nice way of rephrasing it, especially because it forces him to own what he decides to do. Your saying, “No” or, “We already had plans,” isn’t locking him in a tower or dungeon for the evening. He can still go out and do the Spontaneous Social Thing if he really wants to. When he doesn’t, it’s because he is choosing to prioritize time with you. The “CMart says no,” wording was misleading in the first place.

  23. wordnerd28 said:

    Oh LW, it sounds like you’re dating my ex-boyfriend (although your s/o sounds like he is way nicer and more considerate than my ex, so maybe he’s ex’s brother/cousin/not-evil twin?). In my case, ex was playing on two weekly softball teams each summer, plus a food service job with possible evening/weekend hours, plus playing pick up basketball with his friends 2-3 nights a week, plus partying with his friends without me, plus inviting mutual friends to hang out during our designated ‘date’ times, PLUS we didn’t live together (so if it wasn’t planned, we didn’t see each other at all). These reasons, among many others, are why I’m glad he’s my EX boyfriend. I know that you’re not looking to break up with your boyfriend, but I do want to confirm that it’s perfectly natural that it bothers you. Because it’s a super irritating pattern to have in a relationship!

    It’s really painful to always feel like you’re being bumped down the priority list, especially by someone who loves you and should be making you a priority. If it helps, I, a random internet stranger, give you my full permission and blessing to stop being The Cool, Accommodating Girlfriend Who Never Has Any Wants or Needs. Being the Cool Girlfriend can feel really good and it’s a super easy trap to fall into! I know! I’ve been there! But you are a PERSON and you DO have wants and needs, and you SHOULD be able to express them in your dating relationships.

    The Captain’s advice is solid. Your boyfriend sounds like a basically kind person, so hopefully he will be reasonable about this and y’all can spend more stress-free quality time together. Good luck and I hope it works out!

  24. ellis said:

    LW here – One thing I will add re: Date Night that maybe the commenters can help me workshop. I work for a non-profit and there’s just no way that I can reliably have the same night off every week during busy seasons. I’m lucky to have a free night or weekend period because I’m salaried exempt.

    Past attempts at Date Night have been unsuccessful because it just doesn’t have the same heft if it’s always moving around each week (Wednesday this week and Thursday next week and Friday the following week). When it’s something we have to slot in to a spare moment rather than a standing appointment, the amount of labor to keep it up became too much for both of us and it became Just Another Obligation. It turned into, “we’ll try really hard to do something together each week,” which devolved into erratically standing on ceremony to make it happen, even when nothing especially fun was going on that night and we were forcing it. Eventually, we agreed that we’d rather save these nights for when something really fun and amazing came along so I could use my limited Political Capital at work to clear my schedule well in advance, lock it down, and say no to any additional projects.

    I’m fine with this – it’s not so much about frequency or time together for me, although that’s part of it. It’s more about, if I have a night off and planned to spend it with him in a certain way, I likely had to beg, borrow, and steal to make that happen. I probably said no to a number of requests, planned that night of the week off specifically, maybe said no to Happy Hour with Friend on Tuesday because I was spending my limited Time Off Capital on him. It definitely is part of the reason I’m hypersensitive to any changes in that schedule, but it’s hard to articulate because when I tell him how much I did to make it happen, it’s always “Oh, well.. if you don’t want to come then now you can tell Boss you can do it!” (makes me look like a flake) or “Well, why don’t you do Happy Hour with Friend tonight then and we’ll go out next week” (as though Friend is just sitting around waiting for a 4pm text from me wondering if plans are salvageable …)

    So in light of that..

    • JenniferP said:

      1) I hope they pay you A LOT
      2) “Salaried exempt” doesn’t mean “and therefore we own you 24-7”
      3) You are seriously not allowed to say “Thursday nights I have another commitment from now on” and tell your boss to schedule around you then? You are not able to make regular routine commitments in your evenings and on weekends?

      No advice right this sec but think about how long you want this to be your schedule long-term and whether partner (vs. work) is the main source of the anxiety. Like, the advice in the OP stands and I understand why partner’s reactions are stressing you out, but your work schedule suuuuuuucks right now!!! ❤

      • Amtelope said:

        There are some parts of the nonprofit world, especially political nonprofits that follow the campaign cycle, where for a few months every year (or two years, or four years), the schedule is basically 24/7, with the reluctant understanding that employees must eat and sleep. Other non-profits can be the same way around Huge Events. Burnout is definitely an issue, but some people are cool with this schedule on the understanding that the crazy periods are temporary. But if this is one of those jobs, it’s definitely important to be up front with your partner about “you will basically not see me for these four months, and when we do make plans, it is the end of the world if you don’t keep them, because there won’t be another chance any time soon.”

        • JenniferP said:

          I got it. Film is the same. Still, I hope they pay the LW A LOT.

          • NotThatGardner said:

            sadly, being a non-profit, i bet they don’t. this addition to the scenario makes me want AAM’s input on how to work that into the job – getting a dedicated evening as much as possible, except maybe in Xquarter of the year when things are extra-hectic.

      • Stayce said:

        Yeah, I’ve had that schedule (environmental consulting, FYI. I have been literally told that I had to keep my schedule open, for weeks, to be ready on a moment’s notice to travel to a remote location for several days of field work). That does not sound like a great workplace culture! It also sounds like your boyfriend is being pretty insensitive to your crazy schedule and not recognizing all the work you do to make time for him.

        Is part of your frustration here that these scheduled dates are kind of your only ‘active fun time’, like it’s hard for you to do a nice dinner/movie/concert outside of those times? I’m just wondering if it would help to, aside from boyfriend time, work to carve out some time for that stuff regardless of bf so you feel like you have a social life, so you’re not just always feeling deserted and empty-handed. But also, I think your boyfriend needs to recognize that most relationships cannot live on Pajama Time alone and recognize that you deserve to be prioritized at LEAST as highly as a last-minute softball game or dinner with family.

      • tinyorc said:

        Hi LW,

        You say “there’s just no way” you can reliably take the same night off every week. I promise you that there is 110% absolutely a way. Does your job involve tourniqueting an endless supply of mortally wounded baby seals? No? Good. Then you can have one measly night off per week without the world ending.

        I’ve worked in a number of non-profit environments and also in publishing, so I’m well-acquainted with the EVERYTHING IS THE MOST URGENT ALL THE TIME office culture. I had to actively deprogram myself to stop thinking of it as normal. In my last permanent job, going home before 8pm drew comments like “oh, leaving early today?” and I was expected to be instantly accessible via Skype or email 24/7. (On one memorable occasion, my boss sent me an email at 2am, and then called me at 8am to follow-up on it and SEEMED SURPRISED that I hadn’t read it because I’d, you know, BEEN ASLEEP.) I was highly institutionalized and it basically took a mini-intervention from good friends to help me see my schedule (or total lack thereof) was taking a severe toll on my already-shaky mental health. (Hail, fellow anxiety sufferers!)

        Strategy that worked for me: I stopped asking to “leave early” (i.e. at a normal hour). I stopped treating it like it was some big favour my supervisor was granting me every single time (because constantly negotiating for precious non-work time was stressing me out so much that it almost wasn’t worth it). I discovered that as long as I was hitting deadlines and my performance wasn’t suffering, I could survive a few snide “oh, leaving early?” comments from colleagues just fine. (Lo and behold, turns out I was a lot more efficient when I wasn’t actively anticipating a 12-hour work day six days a week. Yes, I was still pulling late evenings from time to time, but only for real emergencies.)

        So here’s your script for establishing a standing weekly commitment:
        “Hello Supervisor, I would like to let you know that I have a standing commitment on Xday evening. From now on, I will be leaving the office at Xpm every Xday and I will not be on my email, so anything urgent needs to be on my desk/in my inbox by lunchtime that day.”

        A reasonable supervisor will agree that this is fine. You then send a polite email to people on your team, copying in your supervisor, reiterating that you will be off the grid on Xday evenings and to factor that in when EVERYTHING IS THE MOST URGENT EVER.

        If your supervisor asks what the standing commitment is (and they shouldn’t – if they do, they’re out of line), you can simply say, “It’s a personal matter” and leave it at that – you don’t need to lie or justify yourself. If they press you harder, they are WAY out of line and you’re well with in your rights to say “As I said it’s a personal matter and it’s not something I’m comfortable discussing at work.”

        If your supervisor is like “We absolutely cannot accommodate that (BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS HECTIC BUSY DEADLINES DEADLINES, WHAT IF SOMETHING COMES UP, WHAT IF WE NEEEEEEEEEEEEEED YOU???)”, your script is:

        “I’m well aware that we are in a busy period and, as you know, I frequently work evenings and weekend to ensure we meet our deadlines. Given that, I’m extremely surprised that you are treating this as an unreasonable request. It’s very disappointing that this (Organization/Team/Department/Whatever) can’t accommodate me for one weekly commitment outside normal working hours.”

        Then you start looking for a new job. Not necessarily because you want to leave your current job, but because I think you’ll find your organization can suddenly be A LOT more flexible about your working hours when you inform them that you have several other offers on the table.

        Most likely scenario: your supervisor and colleagues will be on board in principle, but when Xday afternoon rolls around, they turn up at your desk with IMPORTANT TASK. Script:
        “As you know, I need to be out of the office at Xpm on Xdays, so I can’t deal with this until tomorrow morning.”
        “BUT IT IS LITERALLY THE MOST IMPORTANT TASK IN THE WORLD.”
        “Yes, it’s very unfortunate that it only came up at 4pm on Xday, since I’m not available to work late on Xday evenings. Can Bob or Laura deal with it? If not, I will address it first thing in the morning.”

        I’m aware that securing none of this really negates the issue with your boyfriend, but it might be helpful in hammering home that a) you really need this commitment from him and b) you can’t just reschedule it. (“Babe, I really had to stick my neck at work out to make sure we can have one regular date night a week, so it’s not cool when you blow it off at the last minute. I’ve made this my top priority for Xday nights, so I’d appreciate if you could make it your top priority too.”)

        • Amtelope said:

          It’s possible that the OP in this thread works for an organization where she can do this. It’s also possible, depending on the nature of the seasonal work her organization is doing, that insisting on having the same night off every week through this busy period would be so severely out of line with expectations that it could cost her a reference or her job.

          I also think there’s a difference between jobs that expect everyone to work 11 hour days all the time because they’re poorly staffed (intolerable in the long run, and pushing back is definitely appropriate) and jobs with seasonal “all hands on deck, all the time, unless you are in the hospital” periods. It’s fine to decide that’s you’re not willing to do either one, but there are also reasons why someone might want to tolerate ridiculous hours seven days a week for a limited period of time in order to keep a particular job, and I don’t think “put your foot down and insist on getting the same evening off every week” is great advice for everyone.

          • JenniferP said:

            I get this (again, film production) and yet?

            Much like the conflict with the boyfriend, this is one area where planning & scheduling vs. pretending to be spontaneous would be actually helpful to resolving the situation. “I can’t do Thursday nights this summer, sorry, but I can be on call the other nights” isn’t being a jerk, it’s useful information in the hands of a smart boss. The industry or company culture may preclude this, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth stopping and asking “Wait, why does it have to be this way?” sometimes.

          • ellis said:

            This, I understand. I do think it’s worth challenging my own assumptions of what’s possible, as well as the company culture – to see what maybe I’ve internalized as fact vs. what’s actually real.

            For context, I work in a community-serving non-profit on a team of three. We do intervention work, which clusters heavily in the fall and spring with back-to-school and end-of-year. Oftentimes, my schedule is different from week to week because I’m needed in a specific community and there’s not always a way to know that an issue will arise until it does. I’ve gotten better about asking for a few days’ notice, but sticking to that is hard and it’s not always worth the battle if I’m really in fact available.

            In order for my team to work, I try to say “yes” whenever possible so that when I do have to say “no” and have someone else cover it, there’s no question that I’m pulling my weight. If I can take a less-than-desirable assignment, I try to do that if I’m available so I can bank a favor next time I really, really can’t. The reason Date Night didn’t work is that if I cashed in 4 “no, sorry, can’t”s every month just on that alone, I had absolutely no capital left for other things where it really did matter what night it was. We decided it was better to spend my limited reservoir of “I don’t care what the emergency is, I’m leaving at 6 today” for things like life milestones, concerts, fun trips, sports games, the occasional night in if I’m feeling like I just can’t go anymore, etc.

            Which really, I’m fine with and so was he. But I hate to waste them, and if it turns into something I would have rather not done that for at the last minute, I feel really cheated. Maybe that’s a reason why to DO Date Night because then it really does carry the weight of that but the Opportunity Cost seems wonky. I can also see my team finding a “I no longer work Wednesday evenings!” to be kind of precious.

            I will say this thread definitely illustrates why someone with a traditional 9-to-5 and a union (like Boyfriend) wouldn’t intuitively “get” just how HARD this is and how exhausting and how much goes into it, even though we’ve lived together almost 2 years. I’m sure that on some level he does think I’m a crazy workaholic and just because this is my schedule, all this rigidity, doesn’t mean it needs to be his. Lots to think about.

          • Jessica said:

            It sounds like (and correct me if I’m wrong) the LW is able to get and keep her time off, maybe it isn’t a regular day each week, but she already noted that the standing date night wasn’t really working for them anyway and they schedule and arrange around things they really want to do. But then, when another offer comes along her boyfriend asks if they can cancel??? That feels very dismissive of the effort it takes to, not just plan the activity in her limited free-time, but also to coordinate and arrange with work.

            It’s not even that things come up with his work, it’s these last minute plans that leave her hanging. Like can’t friends who’re going to be in town give you a couple days notice, or it’s “Sorry I missed you while you’re in town. Let me know when you’ll be here next” and canceling *plans* for last-minute invites should be reserved for those really big things (like a friend offering the spare ticket to a really hard-to-get-tickets event). Is it so hard for the boyfriend to say, sorry I can’t make this one, but let’s schedule something for a couple days/weeks out? He’s an adult with the ability to open his calendar and pick a free time to have drinks with friends and dinner with family that isn’t right this minute when you’re about to do your plans you’ve had for two weeks.

          • tinyorc said:

            Thanks for the further context, LW! Your non-profit experience is definitely different to mine (mid-size organizations, largely office based, where we were nearly permanently at panic stations due to funding deadlines etc) so my scripts wouldn’t really work in context. It sounds like your work is your vocation, that your availability it has a direct impact on people’s lives and that your team is so tiny that there is literally no wiggle room.

            That said, I would echo the Captain and ask yourself if, in the mid to long term, you want to continue working in an environment where asking for one fixed night off a week is considered “precious”. Not just for the sake of your relationship, but for the sake of you! Your work sounds very important and worthwhile, but your needs are also important!

            Good luck with everything!

          • Jessica said:

            Wait. What? Your bf has lots of spare time and he isn’t jealously guarding the time you scheduled to do a thing together?

    • Amtelope said:

      Would a general talk about your work situation help? Like, “I know you wish we could spend time together more spontaneously, but while it’s alpaca migration season at work, I can’t be spontaneous. I have to make plans in advance, I can only do it a limited number of times, and so if we schedule something together, I need to know you’re not going to cancel except in dire circumstances. (Maybe define dire circumstances.) Can we agree that if you say yes to plans that involve rescheduling alpaca-related activities, that’s an absolutely firm commitment?”

      He may still flake, but it may help to have established up front that flaking is a Big Deal, and that your distress if he flakes is not something that can be solved by his attempts to rearrange your evening (“well, what if you …”) because the problem is that he made a commitment to you and didn’t keep it.

    • diaphanous said:

      There’s a suggestion upthread of “pencil plans” versus “pen plans” that may be worth trying.

      Also, on those nights that you’ve jumped through hoops to clear, give yourself permission to say no to changed plans, hold firm, and don’t feel even a little bad about it. Easier said than done, I know.

      • Jules said:

        Yeah, I think this update makes pencil / pen the most useful thing. The hard part is how to help BF value the requirement. There are some things that I have said to my husband, ‘I need this’, and after… oh god, almost 20 years… we have built the trust that he doesn’t have to understand *why*, he just goes with it (and I do the same for him).

        Maybe walking your BF through a couple of weeks of your work, so that he understands why your time is limited?

        That doesn’t feel quite right – I think he gets the limits, he just thinks you have enough as a couple and you don’t. It seems to be down to a mismatch in your ‘this is together time’ perceptions. Mismatches like that take a *lot* of emotional labor to understand, which it seems like he’s not doing. And if he’s not doing the work, no amount of clever wordage will solve that.

        Fortunately, he doesn’t have to *understand* something in order to change it. If he respects you and wants to be with you, then you saying ‘Here’s a rule that I need’ and his agreement to abide by it (eg, Pen Plans Cancel Only For Emergencies) is enough. He would then know to pass on the family dinner, concert and softball game, and to ask the friends to meet for a shorter time outside of your Pen Plans.

    • CMart said:

      Do you at least know a couple days in advance if you’ll be free on Thursday this week? Your boyfriend doesn’t seem to mind spontaneity so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work to have a dedicated Date Night of Indeterminate Night. If you know on Tuesday that you will be free Wednesday, then on Tuesday night say “Hey, tomorrow’s my night off. Let’s have Date Night okay?”

      That worked out well for me when I was bartending and never really knew my schedule more than a week in advance (and even then was always wheeling and dealing for shifts)

      “We get one night of quality time a week” should feel pretty hefty, regardless if it’s the same night, I think. Tuesdays might not be sacred, but Date Night itself is.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      That makes it even more imperative that he “feel like our time together is an important enough commitment that it’s not on the same tier as “free time” in his calendar.”
      He knows your free time is precious yet he seems to act like it is Subject to Better Date Offer.
      He might not whine and sulk when you say no, but he’s not as chill about it as he seems. He’s pushing back to put all the emotional labor on you to make it work: freeze dinner, tell your boss you can work after all, etc. That’s not fair and is almost disingenuous, wanting to appear chill, but still pressuring to get his own way.

      I think this advice from the Captain will be very revealing:
      “My second suggestion is to ask him to clarify his question when he asks. “Are you asking me if I’d like hang out with your friend who is in town or telling me that you really want to hang out with your friend who is in town?” Get him to own the fact that it’s not just a simple question.”

      • ellis said:

        Yes, I think that’s a big part of it. The pushback communicates that it’s not really chill if I say no, or that things that are additional less-than-pleasant labor for me (stopping mid-cooking to put everything away and freeze it, letting my boss or friend know I’m free last-minute whether or not that’s helpful information for them by then, figuring out different plans for myself) don’t really matter if they don’t rise to the level of Actually Impossible.

        I love the “are you asking me or are you telling me” suggestion. In my experience, he’d probably answer with “I’m just asking you! You can say no!”

        I have a hard time doubling down on that, though, if he denies it – how to articulate “you may genuinely think you’re just asking but the way you’re acting is making me think you’d rather do Y, in which case I’d rather you just say it.” – to make it clear why it’s not maximally cool of him and why I’d rather he just own it and take on the responsibility for making it right/smoothing over any bumps that result and not putting it on me.

        Does that make sense?

        • Diaphanous said:

          I don’t think you can or should double down. It kind of reads as telling him what he’s thinking or how he’s feeling. Which, don’t do that 🙂

          One way to make it really obvious is to take him 100% at his word every time: always refuse to change plans whenever he asks.

          Him: Hey! Jack and Diane are in town for one night only. Can we go to the bar with them?
          You: We had plans to go see a movie. I want to stick to that.
          Him: But we can see that any time!
          You: Maybe, but I skipped work thing and don’t know when I’ll have another free night, and I want to see it tonight.
          Him: Ok, so now you can go do work thing!
          You: I could, but you gave me a choice. I’m choosing movie.

          I’m not actually sure this is a good plan, or that I would even feel ok doing it myself. It feels passive aggressive to me (you have the unstated goal of pointing out that his ask is sometimes a tell). It’s just an idea. I feel your frustration.

          • Rakket said:

            One way to make it really obvious is to take him 100% at his word every time: always refuse to change plans whenever he asks.

            I’ve done this (although without really getting any pushback) and while I didn’t love doing it, it did work. My partner learned that there were things I’d always say “no” to, so he doesn’t ask anymore, he just schedules them some other time.

          • johann7 said:

            I’d point out after the first attempt at pushback that he was lying about it being a genuine question. Then it’s not passive-aggressive, it’s taking him at his word, and directly noting that his word was false when he shows it to be. It’s a trap – one that he built. I’d also probably dump his ass already, having now read LW’s followup comments, because if we’re at the point of debate judo with someone who supposedly likes one and wants to be with one, that’s not really a good sign overall.

        • VA said:

          What would happen, do you think, if you opted out of making the choice for him? “Well, you’re the one who so you should decide. Let me know what you plan to do.”

          If you did that, how often do you think he would choose Shiny New Plan over his original plan with you? Half the time? Almost always? How much would you be able to live with?

          Right now he’s sort of giving the impression that he wants to have all the benefits of a committed cohabiting partner but still retain total control over his time and be able to make and discard plans according to his spontaneous wishes. I hope that’s not true and it’s just a communications/planning styles mismatch that compromise can solve. But maybe it’s good to see – if you aren’t always the one organizing couple time, how often does he choose you, and is that compatible with what you want in a relationship?

        • BigDogLittleCat said:

          Yes, it makes perfect sense.
          I wonder what he’d say if when he “asked” to bump your plans you said, “what do you honestly think *I* want to do?”

          Which makes me realize that he’s not really asking you want you want to do. He’s asking for permission to bail on your plans.
          I’d say when this happens, you should decide what *you* want to do and then, unless you genuinely want to go along with the “revised plan,” make *him* decide what *he* wants to do.

          That doesn’t address the root problem, which seems to be his attitude about your together time.

        • Yes it makes perfect sense.

        • niepolski said:

          LW – I read this yesterday and am still bothered by the “just freeze dinner” aspect. I just wanted to note that in addition to all the emotional labor, and social capital you use for time off,halting dinner is very disrespectful of all the labor and planning you put into it, from making a grocery list to getting the ingredients out to chop and cook. Making spaghetti and meatballs at home on Wednesday may not seem like a big plan, DINNER IS PLANNED! It may not be a go-out plan, but the groceries are in the kitchen, you’re ready to make (or started making) the meatballs, and he’s asking you to go “oh well!” and drop everything?

          I know that part of my reaction to “just freeze it” is that planning my week – including meals – is a way I cope with ADD/executive functioning issues, so you probably don’t have such a strong reaction. Still, I want to remind you that dinner doesn’t “just happen”. You make it happen!

          • BigDogLittleCat said:

            Plus, great, I went to all this work to make this fabulous meal, just so it can be leftovers in the freezer, said no cook ever under these circumstances.

            I’m *not* a cook and even I get how many kinds of wrong “just freeze dinner” is.

    • Kay said:

      This is a really small thing, but one thing that makes me feel more connected to my partner in Havoc Busy Times is to get into bed just a little bit early? Like even 10 minutes early, and that’s when you curl up and reconnect about your days or just have really casual chat while you’re warm and comfy. It’s not gonna fix the “let’s do an Activity that’s special and nice and just us” thing totally, but I find it can help smooth over busy times.

      Alternatively, as another person suggested, when you make plans it goes on the shared google calendar or iCalendar and while making them you go “Okay, you promise? You’re sure? Cause if I press save right now then it’s a super 100% definite plan and we’re not changing it around! Not even if Susie calls you with a great new bar that just opened for 24 hours only!” Or I guuuuess a more positive take would be to just stress how much you’re looking forward to it ahead of time, how glad you are that you both made time, etc.

      But I do think if your schedule is that crazy where you can’t reliably have a certain day or evening free, you do have to meet him sorta part way here. It’s not all coming from him if you put this huge pressure on every night you’ve squeezed out for him. I think his flexibility is what’s keeping him chill and entertained while you wrangle this awful work schedule, and you can’t be too mad at something that is usually benefiting your relationship. And maybe this is a sign that your work is hurting your relationship just a bit.

      • slfisher said:

        The routine my partner and I have is that we take our shower together every day. It’s good because we don’t always get up or go to bed at the same time.The other advantage of the shower, particularly if we’re staying with his family, is it gives us privacy to talk.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      LW, I get where you’re coming from. Even if it wasn’t a work-related thing, we all have commitments and obligations outside of work. Some of us have family members to take care of, some of us have work obligations, or school projects to do. Some of us have other things (activism, personal projects, other friendships and family relationships). When I make plans with people, I specifically set that time aside to hang out with them. If someone makes it a habit to change plans last minute (when I could have been doing something else) I make it a habit to not make plans with them. I don’t have very much free time at all these days thanks to multiple factors, and I think it’s rude as hell to routinely change plans last minute.

    • Amy said:

      Oh heck no.

      He’s trying to act like you guys can ‘hang out anytime’ when in fact you both know that’s not true, and you cannot just reschedule. That means he KNOWS he’s choosing this other thing over time with you–it’s not an ‘I’ll see you later’, it’s an ‘I know this means I won’t see you and I’m OK with that’. When you explained why this is a problem and how much you do to make it happen, he didn’t accept that–he pushed back and tried to dismiss that work by acting like you aren’t really sacrificing anything.

      Those are not considerate behaviors. Those are the behaviors of someone who wants things their own way and ALSO wants you to do the emotional labor of making sure he doesn’t feel bad about getting his own way. Gross. I don’t think we can workshop that, because it’s literally a problem with his entire attitude, and you can’t just magically implement a change to that. Is he really worth this much effort?

      • I’m starting to come to that question myself. Only LW can know for sure, but the more we find out about the situation, the more I feel like he’s just not being considerate of her time and has no plans to start doing so. That could easily disintegrate into a very miserable relationship, if it hasn’t already.

      • Lizards80 said:

        +1000

        “He’s trying to act like you guys can ‘hang out anytime’ when in fact you both know that’s not true, and you cannot just reschedule. That means he KNOWS he’s choosing this other thing over time with you–it’s not an ‘I’ll see you later’, it’s an ‘I know this means I won’t see you and I’m OK with that’”

        This stuck out to me so much. Plus the LW’s comment that he seems to equate “their time” with “free time”. When I add that to the fact that her free time is so incredibly hard won….I feel a sense of such sadness. It reminds me of trying to win my ex’s attention and desire.

        LW, you aren’t being oversensitive.

      • “Those are not considerate behaviors. Those are the behaviors of someone who wants things their own way and ALSO wants you to do the emotional labor of making sure he doesn’t feel bad about getting his own way.”

        ::points at this over and over:: I’d also like to add that if you press the issue and he dismisses it by saying things like “it’s not about you” or talk about how uncomfortable *your* discomfort is making him, it’s time to consider leaving.

    • Vicki said:

      in light of that, i think you might want to remind your boyfriend that your friends aren’t usually available on short notice when you’ve already turned down an invitation.

      i think this is partly a matter of shared priorities/getting him to recognize that this is a priority for you, and important if you’re going to have a relationship. My girlfriend does mostly-freelance math and science tutoring, which means we can’t lock down “date night is Thursday” for very long. (when she’s working changes at the end of every semester, and when standardized tests are coming up.) So, since i have the more flexible schedule, I will ask her “what night do you want to see me this week?” and we’ll settle on meeting Thursday at 7, or Friday at 5. This works because we agree that we want to have that weekly date night unless there’s a significant reason not (most recently because we were each going away for the weekend.) Once in a while she’ll ask if I can reschedule, but there’s a difference between “is Sunday okay instead of Friday?” and “do you mind skipping a week?” And it is a question without a wrong answer, not a “you don’t mind if we don’t see each other Friday, do you?”

      I would suggest telling him something like “I don’t think you understood when i explained my schedule. I can’t just change things, and when I have set aside the one available evening in three weeks to spend with you and you want to cancel that to play softball, that hurts.”

      If he says he didn’t mean to hurt you, tell him that’s good, here’s how to stop hurting you. If he tries to tell you that you shouldn’t be hurt, I suppose you could tell him that he shouldn’t prefer softball to your company, but you might as well skip to breaking up with him.

    • Temperance said:

      Okay this I can also relate to. Booth and I have a combination standing appointment / flexible schedule with each other. My job also gets randomly busy with travel etc., or late networking obligations. Booth also is one of those extroverts who always wants to hang out with anyone who is around, so until we had the conversation multiple times, he didn’t quite get that hanging out one-on-one was important.

      I think telling your partner that you had planned to do X, just with him, and it’s a Big Deal that you changed your work availability for him, and that you already cancelled on your friend/declined plans with her. He seems to not be understanding that one-on-one time is a priority.

    • T said:

      Is this maybe in part a (conscious or subconscious) reaction from him to slightly resenting that you don’t have much time for him and it’s always on your schedule? I had a similar situation where I was the one in a relationship with a crazy career-related schedule, and my ex was I think a little insecure about being the one with less going on. So when I was busy, he would make sure to pack his schedule with all the fun social things so that he could also feel like his life was full and he wasn’t just waiting around. When I finally had a night off from worrying about work, I would be excited to have quality time with him and make the most of it. But sometimes he would have a reaction of “hmmpf, I shouldn’t necessarily be available now just because you are, so if my buddy down the street that I always hang out with wants to go to the bar, maybe I’ll just go do that.”

      Just to be clear, I’m firmly on your side and I think that what your bf is doing is kinda crappy. But getting to the heart of exactly why he is doing this might make the conversation more productive. It could be that he feels a little weird that you’re always the busy one with the demanding job, and he wants to make everything in his life a huge priority to feel like he’s “equaling the playing field.”

      • johann7 said:

        Nice insight. A passive-aggressive response to not getting enough time wouldn’t be ideal, but would be more managable/salvagable than unrepentant selfishness.

    • Anon, Goodnight said:

      So, your partner’s response to “I moved a mountain in order to have this time off to spend with you” is, “Oh, well, you can do it again in a week or two”? That’s…really shitty.

    • star said:

      LW! The fact that your free time is so rare and fought for makes his refusal to prioritize it at least 115% MORE FRUSTRATING! You fight tooth and nail to get a night to hang out with him, he decides at the last second he’d rather hang out with somebody else, you explain how hard you worked to get this night off to hang out with him, and he goes, “Oh! In that case, we can just completely delegitimize the struggle you LITERALLY JUST described!” How can he not care about this? This is so hurtful. Your boyfriend is increasingly sounding like a big jerk.

  25. Amtelope said:

    I suggest:

    1) scheduled date nights, only breakable in true emergencies (softball is not an emergency)

    2) the agreement that he needs to let you know if he’s going to his sister’s house for dinner by mid-afternoon, and that he’ll say no if the two of you have something other than dinner at home planned

    3) a discussion about what being needed to sub for softball should take precedence over — maybe hanging out, but not events out in the world for which you have tickets? Also, can he tell you which nights he might be needed to play softball, so you don’t plan joint dinner that night and you can make backup solo plans in case he disappears?

    4) unexpected weekend hangouts or sports/concert tickets do not preempt date night, date night is sacred. At other times, say “that sounds great, have fun,” but don’t tag along unless it is something you really want to do too.

    If you still feel like you’re constantly getting bumped to the bottom of the list, I’d talk with him some more about it at that point — maybe add a second date night, even if that’s “we lie on the couch together all evening” night. Maybe add some regularly scheduled time when you don’t make any plans together so that boyfriend knows he’s always free to do whatever he feels like. Maybe he can reach out to some of these friends who keep blowing through town unexpectedly and schedule some stuff with them in advance. Maybe it would make you both saner for him to plan to attend all of his team’s softball games, whether he plays or not, so that you knew that wasn’t going to be an available evening to hang with him.

    This is the kind of thing that can totally work out, you just need to spend some time figuring out some ground rules that work for you both. Good luck!

    • Nanani said:

      About softball – I don’t actually know enough about it to say whether this applies, but in the sport I play, there is one position that is critical to the game, AND has fewer people willing and able to play it (largely because the equipment is more expensive so fewer people try it so fewer people stick with it and there is less gear available second-hand etc).
      If you play that position,our rec league will not only bend over backwards to make it easier for you to play – like waiving certain rules and fees – but they will also be in a huge pickle if you can’t make a game. Someone able and willing to play that position is going to get asked to show up in a pinch when others can’t. A lot of the people who play it commit more time to the rec league than other members, because they want the rest of us to be able to play the game (and to grow the game for women specifically, but that’s not relevant to BF).

      Point is, this isn’t “The Internet Says Sports Matter Less than LW”
      It’s that LW and BF need to get on the same page, and BF definitely needs to start prioritizing LW over at least some of the other things he could be doing. Maybe they agree softball IS a good enough reason for last minute cancels, as long as they actually decide that and BF doesn’t get to just make it all about SPONTANEITY MAAAAAN

      Which I think is basically what you (Amtelope) is saying anyway?
      Just without judging entire catergories of activity, and instead focusing on the “LW and BF need to discuss” bit

      • ellis said:

        Nanani, can I pick your brain a little about this? I don’t play a team sport, but — what would you consider reasonable vs. unreasonable around showing up?

        I usually would prefer the team not forfeit! He gets a lot out of it and I know his teammates and I don’t want them to be disappointed. But publishing this letter is timely! Because just this week, we had tickets to a sports game and – because of rain-outs, etc. – his softball schedule is running about a month behind. It was SUPER unlikely when we bought them that he wouldn’t be free that night, but it just so happens that he isn’t, now, and I’m having to sell/exchange the tickets and find something else to do because it’s his playoffs.

        We’ve even come back from a planned trip to see my family a whole entire day early because, you guessed it, rain-out and now he has a game he otherwise wouldn’t have had on Sunday.

        Would it diminish his value as a teammate if he said no there? Genuinely asking because I don’t have your perspective. I’m guessing maybe it would, but I also don’t know that. Do you have any additional insight of how you balance this?

        • JenniferP said:

          You came home from your vacation early because of a softball game = unreasonable, in my opinion.

        • Thistledown said:

          Why are *you* selling the tickets? At a bare minimum, if he’s changing the plans, he should be doing the leg-work around that. It really sounds like you are doing so much more of the labor in this relationship. Does he actually put time and energy into making things work with you? It sounds like he just shows-up and expects you to make everything else happen.

        • Nanani said:

          Well, every sport and every league is different, and I don’t think I (or anyone!) can say “this is the OBJECTIVE GOLD STANDARD of important sport things”. It’s OK for you to decide you never want to come second to softball, if that’s how you feel. I do not want to steamroll you with sportsfullness here!

          But since you asked!
          Playing in a team is a commitment to the teammates and/or associated league in a way that a pickup game isn’t. Probably financially (equipment, facility time, paying the refs) as well as giving your word to the team. Even in a rec league.

          If I understand your letter and later comments correctly, it sounds like your BF has:
          A- Regular softball games
          B- Sometimes extra games where he subs in for someone else
          C- right now, rescheduled playoff games.

          For A, bailing would definitely get some side eye, and people would not be happy if it happened often Even if he was the best ballsofter that ever softballed. It SUCKS not to get your game time because not enough people made it, for 2x the amount of people on the team because it’s your team + the opposing team that now doesn’t have your team to play against. This should be regularly scheduled though?

          For B, which is what my comment was mostly about, if your BF plays a key position then yeah, someone of that position not being there does mean a lot of other people can’t play. Buuuut that’s not really on him to solve alone, at least not every time it comes up.
          At some point, he must have signed up, possibly informally, to be a sub guy they can call. It would not be unreasonable to say “as of next season, I can’t be on the sub list” or “when this happens, can you try Alex, Bob, and Dave first?”.
          Maybe you guys live really close to the field or there’s some other reason why he gets called up a lot, yet there is probably something he can do or say to cut down the number of times it happens. Maybe talk to him about that? The league cannot be relying on him alone to play every time someone else has bailed, or if they do, they have bigger problems.
          If subbing is the only way he gets to play, then I would suggest getting a regular team and bringing softball into his schedule instead of having it always be last minute.

          And C, PLAYOFFS! Playoffs are special. You aren’t guaranteed to even be in them every year since participation is dependent on how well your team did in the regular season (that is, the non-playoff bit). They’re a tournament that probably has stakes attached, which could be anything from a victory party to an actual cash or stuff prize from a sponsor. I totally get putting THE PLAYOFFS above things that might beat out the sport in notplayoff time. Nobody wants to forfeit a playoff game, and people don’t want to win because the other side had to forfeit.
          Like, my family would totally understand if I cut a planned trip short because of my sport’s playoffs. (But that still doesn’t mean you have to!)

          TL;DR – saying no to B shouldn’t be held against him by his team, saying no to A and C probably would.

          • Anon, Goodnight said:

            My guess is that BF is the first sub called because he rarely says no, even when he should. He’s trained them to call him first because he prioritizes them so highly.

          • Jules said:

            There’s also A1 – Regular games that have been rescheduled, in this case extensively. I really hope that having to saying no to that (on vacation!) would not be held against him.

        • Cyberwulf said:

          I don’t play a team sport but IMO if you have prior plans that far in advance then BF needs to tell his team that he’s sorry, he has a prior engagement, he didn’t expect this to happen and they’ll have to find someone else to play. If his teammates/manager/coach don’t understand that adults make plans then that’s on them. They wouldn’t expect him to skip work to play ball, would they?

          Reasonable vs unreasonable depends on what agreements the team have in place, if any, regarding players’ obligations about showing up. If he’s agreed to be “on call” for every game no matter how late the season runs… well, he agreed to that. And you should discuss that with him because he needs to not be making plans that require buying tickets and travelling when he could be called up for softball.

          • johann7 said:

            “IMO if you have prior plans that far in advance then BF needs to tell his team that he’s sorry, he has a prior engagement, he didn’t expect this to happen and they’ll have to find someone else to play.”

            Which is clearly a thing that happens in the league enough that BF is expected to substitute for other people. Why are other players’ commitments more important than BF’s? Why does BF substitute for other people, but they don’t substitute for him?

          • Temperance said:

            I’m wondering if it’s a case of him preferring sports to all other activities. Just a hunch.

          • I’d agree that it depends on what kind of arrangement has been made, but:
            I’m a teacher.
            When I’m working a contract, I am expected to show up barring emergencies. That is fair.
            When I work on call, I’m allowed to turn down requests for whatever reason I goddamn well feel like, including “I’m working somewhere else today”, “I need to study”, “I feel a bit ill”, “I’m out of town on vacation” or “I’ve decided this is my day off to eat ice cream in my underwear.”

        • Sheelzebub said:

          WHAT THE ENTIRE FUCK?

          I. . .this is just. No. Your family is important. Your friends are important. Your plans are important. YOUR TIME IS IMPORTANT. YOU ARE IMPORTANT.

          Seriously, I have a lot of irons in the fire, and if I was in a relationship, and on a trip with my partner visiting my partner’s family, my answer to last minute requests that would require us to cut that trip short would be “LOL” followed by “NO.” I mean, that’s just. I. That’s just shitty.

          Also: tickets for any event? Unless this is a super emergency, it’s a fucking no-go for me. Now, YMMV, but it’s awfully rich that *you’re* the one stuck selling or exchanging those tickets. (If you enjoy sports, maybe you can find someone who’d like to go with you? Otherwise, he can worry about selling or exchanging the tickets. And if it’s something that you paid for and he didn’t, AND he feels free to just skip out on that, that’s another problem right there.)

        • Temperance said:

          You totally do not have to sell/exchange the tickets because he has a hobby! Unless it’s a sport that you don’t want to watch or something. If Booth had a random conflict come up, I would take his soccer ticket and give it to a friend with no regrets … but if it was baseball, I might just give them to some random person on the street.

        • Anonyish said:

          Other people said “no” to those softball games first. You’re not the person causing the game to be forfeit.

        • BigDogLittleCat said:

          LW, in your letter you said the texts come from teams he subs for.
          There is an enormous difference in the obligation one owes a team you are a member of and one you sub for.
          I would be willing to try to accommodate a team to which BF owes a commitment, but if he’s being asked to sub for a reason other than a hospital or a funeral, I’m not sure I’d ever agree.

          What I would find especially annoying about your situation is that his scheduling difficulties are almost the mirror of yours: he’s willing to dump your plans to accommodate unforeseen conflicts, but you have to schedule the hell out of your known obligations to make your plans in the first place.
          You have to spend time, energy, work capital to make a plan, and then he thinks it’s fair to dump it because ‘surprise!’?

          (I also don’t buy the my only chance to see my friend excuse- how the heck many friends does he have who have sudden unplanned visits to your part of the world? That’s probably happened to everyone sometime or another, but if it’s often enough that it’s a problem, then his friends need to get their shit together or he has an inordinate number of flaky pals.)

          • Anon, Goodnight said:

            Again, he’s trained his friends to treat him this way – if he’s always down for spontaneous plans, why should they worry about giving him advanced notice? If *he* were harder to see when they were in town, he’d get more warning.

        • Wait, *both* of you cancelled your vacation? Even if that other vacation-cancelling time was for a playoff, I side-eye.

          I totally get that not missing playoffs is important. Not missing playoffs is important in an “oh holy crap, LW, I am so sorry but I must flee, I will take care of all my own emergency travel arrangements and not inconvenience you, possibly here is the nice apology gift I have gotten for your family, I will see you tomorrow, enjoy your time with your family, much love” way.

          (If you want to be there for the playoffs, then the two of you may travel back together. There should not be presumption on his part.)

          Not missing playoffs is *not* important in a “LOL super-unlikely but vacation’s over for you too!” way.

  26. robotneedslove said:

    Hey LW! That sounds frustrating.

    Here are some things my husband (tends toward introversion) and I (extreme extrovert with complicating anxiety) have been working on lately that have been working very well for us in terms of both practical time-planning and sharing emotional and mental labour more equally.

    1) family meeting once a week to go over our plans, the schedule for the week, and our bring-forward and new task items as a family (eg: plan vacation,make vet appointment, whatever whatever). This helps us get on the same page and can talk about the week ahead, share tasks, and gives us a space to communicate where we are at emotionally, mentally, at work, etc, so we can make plans to accommodate our needs. And then when my husband is like “oh, I might do this” I can be like “oh, what does it say on the calendar IN YOUR OWN HANDWRITING?”. I can be like “I need a priority three date night” or “Tuesday let’s hang out and make tacos and let’s invite some friends if it works out” and he can be like “I desperately need a night in alone can you make some plans outside of the house to make that happen?”

    2) hyper-specific communication. We’re trying more and more to take nothing for granted about what the other person knows about our feelings and wants. Recently I was kind of kidding around with my husband one evening about some seriously smelly shoes he has (that honestly he has to stop wearing to work) and he said to me “you know, I appreciate the honesty and I know you’re trying to help but tonight I need our relationship and our home to be a really emotionally safe and comfortable space and I’m finding this not that”. It was SO helpful and clear and allowed me to meet his needs in that moment, and bypassed all the hurt feelings and huffing off and slamming doors that have characterised other relationships and even our relationship at other times. So could you try, either in advance or in the moment, a very clear “tonight I feel the need for some quality one-on-one time in order to feel safe and loved (or whatever you want to feel). Is it possible for us to have that?”.

  27. johann7 said:

    My second suggestion is to ask him to clarify his question when he asks. “Are you asking me if I’d like hang out with your friend who is in town or telling me that you really want to hang out with your friend who is in town?” Get him to own the fact that it’s not just a simple question. Depending on how he responds, you can respond with what works best for you, like, “Can you and I have dinner together, just the two of us, and then you can peel off afterward and meet them?” or “Hey, I’m out, but go and have fun!” or “Sure, the more the merrier!”

    I think the thing that’s bugging you is that he’s checking in with you to ask you what you think when it’s clear that he wants to go do the other thing. He says it’s a real “ask” situation but you don’t feel like it is, and right now, “Love, is it cool if my friends join us for drinks tonight?” = “My friends will be joining us for drinks tonight.” It would be more honest if he said “Babe, I can’t make dinner tonight, I gotta go play softball or we’ll forfeit” rather than going through the rigamarole of asking you thereby putting you in the role of Chief Timecop and Funkiller.

    Thank you for identifying and articulating why this always bothers me so much, since I had thus far been unable to figure it out myself! I, too, need to plan things out in order to budget my spoons, but also just to make sure that things I actually want to do actually happen, becasue logistical and administrative work is often necessary for anything that isn’t routine (even something simple like drinks out with a few people involves identifying a venue everyone is cool with in terms of atmosphere, noise level, prices; making sure people have transportation; identifying a timeframe that works for everyone; childcare arrangements for anyone with offspring who are not yet able to care for themselves; accessibility considerations for anyone with disabilities; meals can involve a lot more to accommodate dietary restrictions). I’m not incapable of spontaneous activity or adapting to unexpected occurrences, but initially establishing a baseline plan that one can then adapt if necessary allows me to make sure I DO get to see the band I wanted to see and also CAN help my friend move and also DO have people over to watch a movie in the back yard and also DO go for a bike ride and also DO get my weekly house chores done and also get enough sleep so I can be functional at work to make the money I need to survive, for the most part, and if I have a plan where all of those things can fit around each other, an emergency might only mean I have to bail on one of them instead of several. Humans can think in abstract terms, which allows us to engage in planning; it’s one of our major advantages as a species, and I’m a fan of leaning in to that advantage.

    These days I run into the issue mostly with friends and family, but I had a girlfriend in high school who didn’t understand why, for example, bailing on a planned day trip to another city several hours away – for which I had to arrange to borrow my mom’s car, meaning both my mom and I had to arrange our weekends around that scheduling – becasue she decided the previous night to stay up until 4:00am drinking with the members of the band she went to go see play that night and was too tired/hung over the next day to go on the day trip was objectionable to me. Those kinds of situations bother me the most, becasue the other person is treating it as a decision that can be made in the moment if ze feels like it or not, but it actually isn’t because the option of doing [whatever] is only possible with some amount of logistical/administrative labor beforehand, which might also impact more people than just whoever is directly involved in [whatever]. So it works out to be an implicit demand for or assumption of labor that will be done to give the indecisive person the option of doing [whatever], while the last-minute person can’t even put in the effort of making and keeping a commitment. That one feels unfair becasue it’s an unfair demand for unequal emotional labor (which is then taken for granted, not appreciated); it’s nice to have a better picture of why bailing on events that are possible without that kind of logistical labor (and thus do not involve me doing that beforehand) still bother me in a similar way.

    I also think that clarifying what the other person intends to ask will be helpful for me when I run into this.

    • johann7 said:

      I also categorically object to intentional surprises for exactly this reason. There are enough things that happen unexpectedly with which I have to cope; I don’t need additional disruptions of my planning intentionally injected into my life.

    • johann7 said:

      Also, I recognize that there are psychological conditions (anxiety disorders, AD(H)D, executive dysfunction, etc.) that make it much more difficult or impossible for people to plan in advance or follow through on commitments. I’m NOT saying anyone is somehow a bad person for having one of those conditions; on behalf of the planners of the world, I do ask that those of you in that boat try to be self-aware about that fact about yourselves and the impact that it has on others, and adapt to it by not committing to things when you may not be able to follow through. Hopefully, your friends and relatives and romantic partners can accommodate YOU, too, by making sure that their various activities include a mix of events for which planning is necessary and unstructured time in which spontaneous events can happen (or things like shifting chores to another night – unless you’re literally out of clothes, for example, laundry can wait a night). Planners can make some accommodations for the spontaneous, too.

      • ashbet said:

        I have to plan around my chronic illness and (lack of) spoons, because I’m sometimes “pretty okay,” and sometimes need a wheelchair, and sometimes can’t get out of bed.

        I work around this by RSVP’ing “maybe” to group events where my presence/absence isn’t going to make or break the occasion, by giving as much notice as possible when I can’t make it, and by NEVER bailing on plans if it isn’t physically necessary.

        My friends know they can count on me, unless my body fails. And unless I’m in “shrieking migraine that requires darkness and silence” mode, I try to have an alternative plan for if I can’t do the Thing That Requires Driving/Leaving The House (“I can’t make the movie, but would you like to come over and watch a thing instead?”)

        I feel terrible that my disability makes me “flaky” about plans, BUT my loved ones know that I’ll move heaven and earth to be there for them, if at all humanly possible.

        And it sounds like you’re understanding of that — just offering the perspective of someone who does have a couple of limiting conditions (neuro damage has added ADHD and executive-function issues to complicate my life), but I still am responsible for being a good friend/family member/partner, to the best of my ability.

        (I put *everything* in writing, and fill in my phone’s calendar during scheduling discussions, so that I don’t forget stuff and get double-booked or pull a no-show!)

      • Madison said:

        You know, psychological (dys)function is on a different level to me, though. Can’t is not even in the same league as ambivalence. I’m not *choosing* to do something else last-minute that I have since decided might be more appealing. If I put the time and energy into attempting to show up for (general) you, and at the last minute one of my completely-out-of-my-control health conditions flare, then yes, I’ll have to cancel, and yes, that will suck, but it will suck for *both* of us, and you will know how much I hate this. I will miss being there every bit as much as you will miss having me there – maybe more – and I will do my best to make sure that you aren’t put out even further by it. I know this is an issue for me, and it’s why I very rarely ever commit to a concrete plan where someone else is dependent on me like that. But sometimes the options are 1) give it your best effort and accept that sometimes you will fail or 2) not get to see someone at all. And so, if I do commit, what it means is that I realize this breakdown is a possibility, and I’ve still chosen to attempt it, even if it costs me a week’s worth of spoons to never even get to make it there. I’m communicating that you’re absolutely worth that effort, to me, so I’m *tying* very hard, on your account, because I value you as a person. And if I don’t make it there, it’s because I’m curled up in the bed, physically unable and suffering, NOT because Alternate Thing popped up and I just can’t be bothered to respect the effort you’ve made, or to value your time or my potential-time spent with you.

        Sh!t happens, and everybody has plans fall through sometimes, but when relationships are actually important to us, we can still manage to successfully communicate it. Sometimes it’s unavoidable that I have to bail. But I will NEVER let you feel like it is because I don’t prefer spending time with you far and above what I’m dealing with instead. That really seems to be the thing that LW is not getting out of her relationship right now – someone who makes the effort to demonstrate her importance. It’s not like these calls are unavoidable or legit emergencies. BF is dropping LW at a moment’s notice in favor of people who literally call him as a last resort when other (more important) people can’t be there, and then all compensatory measures fall on her shoulders to make this possible for him, else she gets to feel like the ball and chain that’s holding him back from Things He’d Rather Do. I would never, ever rather be focusing on my breathing through the shakes of a panic attack. I’m never going to ask, “Hey, can we do In Bed With A Migraine and Possible ER Visit tonight instead of Really Awesome Date we had planned?” even though, realistically, that is a possibility. That’s always going to double-suck for me. But I’m not getting any hint whatsoever that BF regrets this time he will not get to spend with LW. It’s no wonder she feels like her time is taken for granted! Because that’s exactly what he’s showing her.

        • ashbet said:

          Yes, yes, yes, exactly!!

          When I have to cancel/reschedule, it’s for Something Unavoidably Worse, not “a better option came along.”

          I’d feel hurt and disrespected if a partner treated time with me as their lowest priority, easily shunted aside for last-minute plans — ESPECIALLY if I had to carefully clear a spot in my schedule like LW does.

          Even though my time is more flexible, it still doesn’t feel good when plans are canceled, especially if I feel like spending time with me is the fallback option rather than the desired outcome.

        • “Sh!t happens, and everybody has plans fall through sometimes, but when relationships are actually important to us, we can still manage to successfully communicate it. Sometimes it’s unavoidable that I have to bail. But I will NEVER let you feel like it is because I don’t prefer spending time with you far and above what I’m dealing with instead.”

          OMG, this. This is why things fell through with my ex (had mental issues but also treated me like I wasn’t a priority) and why I’m still friends with someone who has similar mental issues. Because my friend has made it clear that I am important to her, even when she cancels, and ex–he bailed in ways that made me actively wonder if I mattered to him.

      • Amy said:

        As someone who has anxiety that sometimes means I have to unexpectedly cancel, I kind of view it like having the flu. Sometimes I have a couple days where I’m doing really, really badly and can’t handle life, and I have to cancel on a commitment I made (unfortunately, since it’s not always predictable when this will happen, just avoiding commitments isn’t really practical). If I need to cancel, I don’t let myself feel bad at it–it’s a health thing, people don’t want to be out somewhere dealing with my hyperventilating panic attack any more than they’d want to be out somewhere dealing with my vomiting/flu germs, it’s better for everyone if I stay home.

        Instead, I try to be really reliable the rest of the time. If I can go but my favorite show is on, I go. If I can go for two hours but can’t handle all day, I do that. If it’s a type of event that I know is particularly likely to be a problem for me, I give a ‘maybe’ and make sure they’re not relying on me, then confirm the day of whether I’ll make it or not. Because I don’t cancel on committed plans very often, my people know that when I do cancel, it’s not because I don’t think they’re worth the effort or don’t care about seeing them–it’s because I really am unable to do it.

        • Private Jane said:

          “people don’t want to be out somewhere dealing with my hyperventilating panic attack any more than they’d want to be out somewhere dealing with my vomiting/flu germs, it’s better for everyone if I stay home”

          Oh how I wish I could get that into my Re-enactment Sergeant’s thick skull. For him “I can’t” always translates to “I don’t want to”, when in fact it says “I have to take care of myself, lest I’ll be reduced to a sobbing heap and spoil the event for all involved.”

          • Amy said:

            Have you considered going on and going and having said hyperventilating panic attack in public? I suspect he will quickly decide it’s not worth it!

            (This is facetious, but I do sometimes fantasize about doing things like this with really pushy people. Seriously, if I say I can’t, I mean I can’t; if you don’t trust me that far, why are we friends again?)

        • This is really similar to what my friend with anxiety does with me–we’ll schedule something, and then maybe a day or two before I’ll see how she’s feeling. Or she’ll bring up how she’s feeling and I’ll offer to push our plans to another day or something.

  28. ctruex said:

    I think it sounds like you’ll have a high probability of a good result with him, judging by how you portray him. What you’re experiencing would drive me insane… I like at least 24 hours notice on things, or I get anxiety, even when it’s a fun thing that I know I will enjoy. Cancelations are even worse for me, as I kind of anchor my mood on them. I think the advice here, about a date night, etc, is very good.

    One thing, though, is that it irritates me when someone has a “position” on a thing like this. “Here is a thing I feel shitty about” should not be met with “Well, I don’t think you should, here are the ‘logical’ reasons why”. The first reaction should be “Oh, man, I feel bad that you feel shitty about this, let’s figure out a way that we’re both happy”. It can be a subtle framing, but it MATTERS. It’s trying to resolve an issue, not “win” the argument. And it doesn’t mean that either party has done anything wrong, it just means that one of you has an issue that, presumably, both want to resolve. I’ve noticed that a lot of my fellow nerds/geeks argue in the “win the argument” way, and it gets extremely annoying, even worse with a S.O.

  29. Rezia said:

    Oh man, I’ve been through a version of this — and came out with a stronger relationship, so I want to share what worked for us.

    In a nutshell, I felt like I was always upset with my boyfriend when he was late or changed plans, while he was never upset with me when I was late or changed plans, so not only was I frustrated with his constant lateness but also upset that it felt like I was not being “fair” – he was not getting upset with me, so why should I get upset with him? Initiate guilt-self blame spiral.

    Then I realized there was a bigger picture, which was, time is my love language. When he said he was running late or “hey, my friend wants to grab dinner can I do that instead?”, I was hearing, “I don’t want to spend time with you as much as I want to spend time with X or doing X” which also read as “I don’t love you as much (as you love me/ as much I love playing basketball)” The same didn’t happen to him – he doesn’t fundamentally feel unloved to lose time with me.

    So we talked about that bigger picture. I said something like, “It makes me feel unloved when you tell me 5 minutes before we meet that you’re running late and it doesn’t seem to matter to you, and/or try to change plans, because time spent is precious to me.” and he was able to express that he felt under pressure to never be late and got frustrated when unforeseen circumstances come up because then I’d get so upset. What we realized together was that it helped me SO for him to just add a few words – e.g. “I’m so sorry I’m running late, *I really want to spend time with you today!*” and/or “Do you mind if I go out with my friend tonight – *I know it’s last minute so I am really okay if you say no/ can we reschedule our date for tomorrow?*” — basically, I AM okay with changing plans sometimes, but want to be reminded that I AM his priority. He was operating under a “clearly you’re my priority, duh” but once he understood it helped me so much for him to articulate it in these situation, it clicked.

    The latter response here is exactly what the Captain is suggesting, but I think it helped him to remember to use these terms because he understands what’s in it for me. We’re married now, and he sometimes *proactively* says things like, “I know it’s been a busy month for both of us and I know it matters for you to spend quality time together- do you want to set up a date night?” And my heart melts.

    • CommanderBanana said:

      I think this is really important! In this case your partner valued your feelings and changed their behavior.

    • I had to ask belovedest point-blank, “Dear? It seems like you’re bending over backwards to be on time to dates with [metamour], and I don’t see you making the same effort for scheduled time with me. What’s the difference?”

      This was part of the adjustment period after we became local. It got very abruptly better after that discussion.

      • The Bee's Knees said:

        Meh… I don’t think comparing relationships is ok and can get very problematic, very fast.

        If you want something specifically ask for that thing without bringing anyone else into the picture.

        I may notice my partner is much more nurturing to his other partner and realize I’d like that to be part of our dynamic also…

        I wouldn’t say, you’re nurturing to Lisa why not me? What’s the difference?… I’d say, hey love I’m noticing something about myself would you be open to hearing about it? I’ve realized I’ve been feeling the desire to be nurtured more… is that something we could try to incorporate into our dynamic? And I’d give examples of what that could look like…? And I’d ask him how he felt about it… I’d ask if he felt there were any obstacles… and what he may also need from me…

        My partners are so responsive to me I don’t know if I’ve ever asked for something and been denied and they tell me it’s because of the way I approach it.

        I have a meta that does a lot of comparing and it took our mutual partner awhile to realize each time she approached things that way he often times just shut down because of his own insecurities and stories around being good enough. Which made her more resentful because she observed how responsive he is to me… she hadn’t realized we used very different tools approaching the situation.

        • Joielle said:

          I see what you’re saying, but I do think there’s value in speaking your truth. Ultimately, the truth is that you (general you, not YOU specifically) have noticed that your partner is more [whatever] to their other partner, and feel hurt by that in some way. This approach seems like a lot of emotional labor spent to avoid directly saying that. Personally, I’d rather be able to say to my partner exactly what I feel and have an open discussion.

          • In this case, my partner and I were both aware that time management was something that they struggled with, particularly being on time to scheduled dates. There had been previous discussions about how that was important to me.

            It took the stark comparison of saying, effectively, “This is something that we both know you struggle with, but you’re succeeding here but not there, and I can see the effort you are putting into the success here. How can we make it happen there, too?” I probably could have also used work as an example of things that they were reliably punctual for, but the fact was that I had not seen them making the same level of bend-over-backwards level of effort to not be late for work. (Partly because I wasn’t usually there to observe them leaving for work, and partly because circumstances were such that they didn’t have to put that same level of effort into being on time for work down to the minute.)

            It was a painful discussion.

            The more “gentle” discussions previously went more like:

            Me: “You were an hour late for our planned time together, which meant we had to switch from an in-person date to a phone date. That makes me feel like I am a low priority, and I feel terrible.”
            Them: “I feel terrible for having made you feel terrible, and I will work hard on being more punctual by adding more reminders to my calendar.”
            Me: “Thank you.”
            [bonding time ensues]
            [later, partner is late yet again, but never again the epic four hours late incident]
            That approach was not effective.

            The root cause did turn out to be that my partner was in a mindset of “well, now that we’re living in the same state, we can see each other Any Time, but time with my other partner [who was approximately an equal distance away] is rare and has to be scheduled!”

            The reality was that while we were in regular *communication*, since we weren’t living together, our physical time together had to be scheduled just as much as the time with their other partner.

            (Now that we are living together, we still have a sacrosanct Date Night, which is in-person. It’s going well so far.)

        • aebhel said:

          I mean, a lot of this feels like bending over backwards to avoid saying ‘the way you’re acting right now makes me feel like shit’, which is a thing that sometimes needs to be said. Especially when the behavior in question is ‘treating me like I don’t matter.’ And yeah, comparing how a person treats me to how they treat other people can be a part of making that point. If someone is chronically late to everything or frequently misses plans with everyone, that’s a personality quirk–a potentially annoying one, sure, but not one that says anything about how much they value their relationship with me. If they can keep plans with other people but not with me, that says something about how they prioritize me.

          • I hate that–if someone can keep plans or will bend over backwards to accommodate others, but when it’s my turn they blow me off, it makes me feel like I’m worthless/don’t matter to them, no matter how much they say they care about me.

    • Yeah, figuring out after the fact that time is my love language really was important to me. And that I am a priority to my partner. I realize for some that after a while it can be assumed, but it’s nice to have that reassurance every now and then that you are important to them.

  30. Ashleigh said:

    I don’t really have any advice that the Captain didn’t share, but I wanted to chime in and say that this can get better! I had a really similar problem with my partner a while back – we weren’t communicating well about his schedule and my expectations, I felt taken for granted & pushed aside, he thought I wanted him to quit playing music, etc. Specific date nights were REALLY helpul for us (even though I thought the idea was corny and kind of resented having to do it).

    I also couldn’t tell from your letter how spontaneous your partner’s plans actually are? I mention it because some of my boyfriend’s plans were genuinely spontaneous but some of them were things that he knew about in advance, but didn’t think to tell me about until the last minute (the dude is a musician, so he would book shows months in advance that I wouldn’t find out about until like, two days prior). Once he got better about sharing the plans he knew about with me, I had an easier time rolling with some of the genuinely spontaneous ones.

    I also had to get a little bit more comfortable saying “no” for a while. I really hated it when he’d ask if we could change our plans last minute because I didn’t feel like I could actually say no, so I’d tell him it was fine and then get really mad when he went ahead and did whatever thing – you already know this, but that’s a terrible plan. Learning to say no if something was really going to bother me felt shitty for a while, but it ended up being a really good way for him to learn what kinds of things I’m okay with rescheduling for and what kinds of things I’m not, and as a result it really doesn’t come up that often anymore. (FWIW, this really only worked because he was actually okay with me saying “no” to certain things – we both wanted the best for each other, too, we just weren’t always communicating very well.)

    This whole process took us a long time and a LOT of conversation, but it’s going so much better now. I hope this works for you too!

  31. Deidre said:

    Most of the activities you mention are things he can say no have other plans to. I agree you need to have the conversation about this and scheduling in regularly Together Time and date nights. Advise that flying by the set of your pants is not working here as it then doesn’t happen.
    You mention you having to go to a lot of effort when he bails. Make him take on the effort!! And make him pay the consequences ie finish, pack and freeze the started meal. Reimburse you for the tickets you’ve paid for etc.

  32. Diziet Sma said:

    It seems to me that (although there is a lot of useful stuff here about communication styles etc) what you fundamentally want is for him to *want* to spend time with you as much as you want to spend time with him. In other words, a situation where he wouldn’t try to blow you off at short notice because he was looking forward to seeing you so much?

    Living together doesn’t mean that your partner gets fitted into the spaces around your “real” and more exciting life. Would there be something to be said for taking this out of the space of negotiation about how your time is spent, and focusing more on the message his behaviour is sending about the importance of your relationship (if indeed that is a message you are getting – I know I would, but perhaps I am projecting).

    • Lizards80 said:

      Diziet Sma, that’s the exact same message I would be getting as well.

  33. Anna said:

    Hey LW. A lot of people have said a lot of things about your situation, but I’d just like to point you to sources that apply directly to the last thing you said:

    https://bandanablog.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/your-kink-is-not-my-kink-but-would-you-like-some-doritos/
    https://bandanablog.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/you-can-take-it-back-consent-as-a-felt-sense/

    In these they’re talking more specifically about sexual consent, but there’s a lot of work done here (and in all of Consent as a Felt Sense) about distinguishing permission from ‘consent’ that applies to a bunch of kinds of interactions, so I thought might be relevant to you. But most of the stuff in there isn’t applicable here (tho I definitely recommend the essays, in general)! so here’s the point that I think is:

    I think it might be helpful to you in this case to think of those interactions with Boyfriend in the frame of ‘permission’ vs. ‘okay with.’ ‘Technically,’ you gave him ‘permission’ to end/postpone the dates, but didn’t really want to do it, right? Or maybe how you felt about it changed while you were out, or afterwards? Part of being in a mutual relationship (of any kind!) with someone is thinking about a person’s wellbeing and needs beyond whether you “got” a “yes” or “no” out of them, because “yes” and “no” can be influenced by other things (like pressure to not seem unreasonable). It’s something that we do ALL THE TIME, on large scales and small ones, but that it happens often doesn’t mean that it’s not valid for you to feel like he was being a jerk even if you said yes under pressure.

    So, I hope that eases some of your guilt, maybe. 🙂 Best of luck!

  34. slythwolf said:

    I’m gonna throw this out there because it took a long time for me to figure it out about myself, to the point where I now can ask my friends and loved ones for it: I need at least two to three days to mentally prepare myself for social activities outside the house. LW, if this resonates with you (or really any other one person reading this comment), that knowledge is my gift to you. I have to plan my whole week around social outings. I can’t do them two days in a row and I can’t do them on short notice. Not everyone is like this, but it is not unreasonable to have these needs, and it is not unreasonable to expect, barring legitimate emergencies, that the people in your life not change plans on you at the last minute.

  35. One question that occurs to me (especially seeing some of the LW’s responses in the comments), is: How “cool” are you being about this? Obviously in a healthy relationship you want to talk things out calmly before they have a chance to develop into a full-blown fight, but it sounds like you’ve been trying that for a while and it hasn’t gotten you anywhere. If you haven’t already done this, I wonder what would happen if you gave yourself permission to get mad about this, to his face. Not, like, screaming and cursing, but not trying to sugarcoat your feelings, either. In one of your comments you mention how much energy and capital it takes for you to get these nights off of work–has he seen you be frustrated about that, for whatever that looks like with your personality? My partner and I have a very good relationship and very good communication, but there have definitely been one or two things that he just treated as “I need to get better about this” without much progress until I brought it up _while I was angry_ instead of taking the time to calm down first. Again, not ideal, but in those cases the shock of it got the message through that this wasn’t just a “get better about it eventually” thing.

    • Commander Banana said:

      Yeah, I have noticed that my boyfriend takes me way more seriously when I am angry. It sucks that talking calmly about stuff doesn’t get the point across as effectively as me snarling, but he’s also choosing not to pay attention to me until I’m already at Defcon 1.

  36. SH said:

    It sounds like quality time is an important love language for the LW. It may be worthwhile to have that conversation and explicitly state, “When I have your undivided attention for some time, and we get to focus on each other, that is what makes me feel loved and important to you.” I think the Captain’s advice to

    I am definitely a quality time person, and I have a partner who’s also a quality time person. We both strongly prefer planning as well. Despite that, we both still end up having to ask to reschedule somewhat regularly. One of our regular quality time evenings is Saturday, which is unfortunately when most concerts/parties/events happen. What makes this work for us is that I usually ask “how would you feel about rescheduling this?” instead of “is it okay to reschedule this?” That is a big difference. Because I’m not asking permission. I’m actually checking what his feelings are about the change. And he trusts that I actually do want to know what his feelings are. We talk about it, and a decision is made from there. And the same process occurs if he wants to make a change to our schedule. There’s also been trust built up on both sides, because we’ve shown each other that we will prioritize time together. So for that reason, we’re both quite accommodating to each other’s outside interests.

    Another thing I believe helps is that there are different types of asks. There’s the regular ask, which is, as I said, simply asking how he feels if we change plans. Then there’s the light ask. That goes like: “Would you mind changing our plans so I can do X? I’d like to do it, but if you are needing my attention, I will prioritize you.” What I’m conveying is that I *am* interested in the other activity, but my tending to partner is more important. So even if he’s willing to experience mild discomfort to let me do something, I won’t do it if there is *any* discomfort at all. And then there’s a more signficiant ask, which is along the lines of: “X activity is very important to me. Can we please re-arrange so that I can do it? I can make it up to you by [specific details which we can discuss].” In this situation, I am outright asking my partner to accommodate me, even though it may not be what he wants, and I would like to discuss *specific* ways to make it up to him.

    And when he asks me for a change, it’s the same way. He’s able to communicate the different degrees to which he might want something. I really feel that this is very important. Because it seems like the LW feels as if there is *always* an urgency to the outside event, and she feels uncomfortable saying no to it. That’s not fair, because they’re NOT all equally urgent or important. Being able to distinguish the difference between “I really want to do this” and “If you don’t care either way, I don’t mind doing this” is very helpful.

  37. AndyL said:

    LW, I don’t know if this is applicable, but you may be getting some tiny amount of passive aggressive pushback from your BF, and he may not even know that’s what he’s doing. If you are so busy with work and volunteer stuff that he only ever sees you as you’re rushing by, or only when you can squeeze an afternoon or evening in, he may be working out some unconscious frustration about the fact that your schedule dictates how you both spend your officially free time. As in he only gets to see you when it works for you.

    I’m not saying it’s right, and I may be reading too much into it. It sounds like you have so few days you can get together with him, that he should be able to plan his dinners with his sister and hanging out in bars with other people on the days you’re already busy, which sounds like most days of the month. But if he’s feeling like it’s always your schedule or not at all, he might be wanting to spend some of the little “date” time you have together doing what he wants too – dinner with his sister, as a couple, or hanging with a group of friends at the bar – as opposed to Plans with a capital P.

    Of course, he would have to use his words with you to determine if this is a factor.

    Would it help things if you chose the itinerary for the 1st day off thing each month, and then he planned the 2nd, and so on? Having dinner with my Sig Other’s family isn’t my idea of date night, but actually for my DH it happens seldom enough that he would consider it a relaxing chance to spend quality time together. And my ex considered an evening in the bar with me + a bunch of his work mates the perfect date night. (Reason #2,497 why I think it’s wonderful that he’s an ex…), so even though I didn’t really enjoy those nights quite as much, they ended up in the free time rotation a fair amount of the time.

  38. twomoogles said:

    This question speaks to me in a way few have, honestly. My partner and I had this issue in the past, and the part that hurt was that I always felt, fairly or not, that if he asked, it meant he would prefer to do Other Thing than spend the night in with me. Like you said, it would be great if it had been him who said “Actually I have plans” and made it obvious that, actually, he’d rather spend time with you. I always felt like if I said “no, we have plans, spend time with me like you said” it was a bit soured, because part of me would feel like he would be wishing he was out doing Thing instead.

    (Things have gotten much better and we don’t really have this problem anymore, but it was really pretty painful, especially the time he got a phone call from an in-town friend and left an hour into a movie we were watching. He asked if it was OK, but I just felt so squelched, like he wasn’t excited to be there with me at all.)

    • chloe said:

      I agree so much! It doesn’t at all feel like they’re asking me to weigh in, it feels like they’re asking for permission, like I’m their mom or something. “Sorry, guys, I can’t go – Chloe said no :(” (Cue chorus of all their friends booing)

      Your “like he wasn’t excited to be there with me” is striking all my chords, twomoogles. That is really hurtful. I’m glad things are better. You deserve to feel wanted.

    • I feel this so much–it’d be one thing if they make it out like they’re regretting not spending time with you, or at least recognize your feelings on the matter as important. It’d make me feel better about being truthful instead of feeling like I had to say yes or come off as a mean, clingy girlfriend.

  39. MxLane said:

    This could have been me writing a few years ago! I’m an anxious, organised person in a nine year relationship with an easygoing, impulsive person who rolls with the punches.

    Date night is something that we do now – at the moment I’m studying and working partly from home, so I’m home a lot, but I’m often really not available for hanging out time. We have one night a week that we plan to have date night – it might be dinner at home, going to a new restaurant or stopping in at cheap pints night at the local craft beer bar. It doesn’t matter what we do, but as long as we prioritise it, and don’t make plans to change it.

    The good thing about Date Night is when you say it like that, it becomes non-negotiable. Mum invited me over for dinner? Nope, sorry, that’s Date Night. Last minute tickets become available? Nah, sorry, its Date Night that night.

    When you have that space to prioritise your time with each other, it became less intense for me – I didn’t stress out about the time he wasn’t spending with me, because I had proof he prioritised time with me. He also felt less resentful when I have to squirrel myself away and study, because I was showing him that he was worth making time for.

    Also, use your words. You’re stressed about his response, no matter what you say? Talk to him about it! Any partner worth their salt will listen and reassure you if you need the reassurance.

  40. shelga said:

    It sounds to me like the default answer to any request for him to change plans has become “yes” because you don’t want to be the fun police or because you feel that, regardless of what he says, he will be unhappy if you say “no” to plan changes. How about you change that around for a while and make the default answer to any request to change plans that you have made that involve bookings or tickets “no”?

    They need him to sub for a game or they’ll have to forfeit? “They’ll have to find someone else. We have tickets/reservations and you are not available.” Friend is in town and wants to catch up? “Oh that’s too bad. We have tickets/reservations/plans. Guess you’ll have to see them next time.” Sister wants you to drop everything and come over for dinner. “I’ve already started cooking. Some other time.”

    Go the No for a while. Go the No without guilt or apology. He says that you can say “no” and he won’t mind so take him at his word. You are every bit as important as anything else he wants to do. Your time and your plans are as or more important as anything else that comes up.

    When these plan changes are proposed, someone is going to end up unhappy. Sounds to me like it is his turn. You’ve been the one who gets to be unhappy about it long enough.

    • AnonBee said:

      “We have tickets/reservations and you are not available” sounds so paternalistic IMO.

      “I would prefer if you had dinner with me” uses more ‘I’ language without explicitly telling the other person what to do. OP needs to feel ok with the discomfort of thinking MAYBE her BF is upset, but unless he uses his words, OP will never know. If he actually isn’t upset (which is what I took “he takes it totally in stride” to mean) then the only problem I see is that OP is ASSUMING her BF is upset.

      If he isn’t upset, OP should try to relax. If he is upset, then that is his discomfort to handle.

  41. Jack V said:

    I’m not sure this is relevant to *you* but something that it only now occurring to me is that I tended to treat time as, step 1, we’ll schedule some time together, step 2, we’ll choose something to do. Because really, I wanted to do *something*, but there were plenty of options. But other people defaulted much more to “is there something specific planned? then I’ll make time for it. but if it’s only ‘something, tbd’, then I’ll assume it’ll probably fizzle anyway so I won’t prioritise keeping the time free”. But this made a bad feedback loop, I didn’t want to commit to something until I knew the time would be free. And it felt to me like if other people were flaking out on time they’d agreed, there was no point trying to arrange anything we actually wanted to do. Whereas they felt the opposite: if we weren’t making the time, then we probably didn’t care that much.

    • Jack V said:

      Other thoughts.

      It’s clearly really hard for you to find some time, at least during crunch time, you don’t have a lot of time sitting around unused. If he was rescheduling stuff when you might have time later, that could be more of a conflict-of-scheduling-styles thing, but here it seems clear, it’s rescheduling, when that means you WON’T get time together.

      And how come? It’s likely there’s at least some, “he doesn’t really care or doesn’t think it through”. But maybe mixed with other problems, like he hasn’t realised that “time together” is scarce, if you’re in the habit of having time without having to schedule it, it’s hard to make the adjustment. But the fact this keeps happening SHOULD clue most people in they’re doing something wrong. Or he doesn’t value two-time differently to “in vicinity” time, when you do. Or he’s overscheduled himself and doesn’t want to admit it, so ends up dropping events at random. Those are all mistakes I made when I younger, although *hopefully* when they were only inconvenient to me, not screwing someone else over.

  42. I think a lot of your insecure feelings about this issue would disappear, if you could be sure, one way or another. That is to say, you feel this is happening a lot, but you’re worried that you’re making a mountain out of a molehill, and maybe just overreacting to something that’s not that bad. But what if it is that bad? How do you explain to him, and get him to understand?

    May I recommend putting ALL your planned time together (including mornings, lunches, any time when you’re going to be together, anyway, not just the special times), on the calendar. Document every time those plans change, what the change was, why, and who instigated the change. If it was rescheduled, mark it as rescheduled, If it did not happen, but was not actually rescheduled BEFORE the event was scheduled to take place (even if you only have an hour warning), then write a big old “CANCELLED” over it. Your options are “It happened,” (use a check mark, or stickers, or something positive), or it was rescheduled (and note how much notice you had, and how problematic it was), or cancelled.

    After a while, if you’re still feeling like it’s an issue, take some time to review it, with your man, and count the Check Marks, the Rescheduled, and the Cancellations, and see if you can detect any sort of pattern. Do your plans actually happen more often than not? It might be more of a situation where the *wrong* plans got ditched, and because you cared more about them, their loss overshadowed the other times that worked out fine. Do you have proof that your plans get derailed, or even crash and burned, more often than they happen as planned? Then you have some real groundwork for explaining to him how that makes you feel un-valued.

    I’m not saying you should do this in order to collect Put-Upon Points (“I was put upon twelve times last month!”), but that you should collect as much data as you can, over the course of a few weeks or a month or so, depending on how often you have plans. Do it long enough to get some significant numbers. Then you’ll know if you really have a case, or if you are being “high maintenance.”

    For the record, I don’t believe you are being high maintenance. But I do see how your lover might think that your simple dinner-at-home hang out plans don’t “count” the way you think they do, because they’re not being scheduled in pen, and tracked, and rescheduled when they fall through. They are not, in short, highly visible, and what is out of sight is often out of mind. Even with the best intentions, he may simply not notice what is important to you. So, make it visible, and make it visible over time, so that you can both clearly see the pattern.

    It may be as simple as identifying particular scheduled activities that get ditched, because he doesn’t value those, rather than the random ditching that seems to be happening now. If you can identify which activities are prone to being ditched, you can change your own plans, accordingly.

    Good luck, LW!

    • Jules said:

      wow, that’s a lot of labor. Maybe the BF could do it? If you pitch it as, ‘I think we cancel a lot of plans, can you prove we don’t’ he might be willing.

      But I think Pen / Pencil date nights might be better. Along with a conversation along the lines of:

      ‘When you ask to reschedule, I feel that you don’t value me, and our time together. You seem to feel that other existing things (like sleeping) show how much you value me and our time, but for me, existing things get overshadowed by Plan cancellations. The other existing things don’t take time and work to create; Plans do take work (and for me, a LOT of work), which is why Plans are more important to me than sleeping.

      For my husband and I, there came a point where I consciously thought about whether the good things around the spontaneity (fun trips! surprise kisses!) outweighed the bad (floordrobe). They are all parts of the same thing. There’s no shame if you decide the cost outweighs the benefits, but if you decide the benefits are worth it, you will want to let go of some of the frustration at the costs. It helps if he demonstrates how much he values you in other ways (fixing broken stuff; chores and maintenance). Consciously deciding ‘ok, that quadrant of our bedroom is his floordrobe and I will kick his clothes into it’ was a lot easier when I remembered that he changed the oil in both our cars, made dinner every night of a busy week and fixed the dishwasher.

      • VA said:

        This already is a problem because LW is unhappy with the situation. She doesn’t need to prove quantitatively that it’s a problem before she can do something about it. Why should she spend 3 more months collecting data and STILL feeling unhappy and unvalued when she can talk to her BF now?

      • Haha! “Floordrobe.” Love it!

        And you make excellent points. What I take from this is that 1) You have to weigh the pros and cons of all facets of the relationship, and decide what outweighs which, and 2) you have to allow your partner to take on some of the labor of gathering the data and weighing the pros and cons. You’re in a partnership, after all, and he needs to weigh his pros and cons, as well, and express his own point of view on the matter.

        I think it would be AWESOME if the BF did the schedule tracking. Not only does it take some of the burden off LW, but it also will have more “bang for the buck,” if HE is the one gathering the data, and proving that they cancel a lot of her plans. Bias is a thing, after all. If she does it, she might be able to convince him, but he might still think that she’s somehow fudging the data, and not take it seriously. But if HE gathers the data, he will believe it.

        Just like the women whose partners don’t believe that street harassment is a thing, and they tell their (male) partners not to walk beside them, but to walk about 10 steps behind them, and watch, and at the end of the day, the partners say, “Wow! You got hassled all day long! I never knew!” Because when the men are standing beside the women, the other men on the street view the women as that man’s “property,” and don’t hassle them, and when the man’s not there, he’s not witness to it, and doesn’t believe the woman’s lived experience.

        So, yeah, I love your suggestion to have the BF track it.

        Your conversation on Pen/Pencil date nights is good, too. I particularly like “You seem to feel that sleeping shows how much you value me and our time.” I mean, come on. That really puts it out there.

  43. kshoosh said:

    Part of what I love about my boyfriend is that he *chooses* to spend time with me. I’ve dated guys who saw me as one option of several, before I realized I wanted someone who really wanted to spend time with me, who looked forward to date nights, who got excited at the prospect of dinner, or bowling, or sitting on the couch watching netflix.

    That’s what I read in this letter– he’s not choosing LW, he’s choosing all of these other options (or any option) over her, and he spends time with her if there’s nothing better to do. That might be a harsh read of the situation, but she also might want to have that conversation with him: what would it look like if he acted like he valued their relationship, if he invested time and effort into *them* instead of jumping on any better option that comes along?

  44. Sarah said:

    Oh, hey, LW, I’ve been in a very similar position.

    What worked for me was telling my ex “Hey, so, imagine your day is a wall. Every chunk of time you spend with people or doing something is a brick, and they’re important! No bricks = no wall. But your friends get bricks and work gets bricks and hobbies get bricks and I just feel like mortar. Can we carve out some bricks for me? It’s really important for me to feel like a valuable and important part of your life but right now I feel like filler and I don’t like that.”

    And honestly, it worked really well.

    I also think it sounds like you’ve got some guess vs. ask culture clash going on, so if you haven’t read about that it might help! I know I’m a guesser so it’s hard for me to remember that for some people, the ask is really a genuine ask and not “I’ve done hours of mental calculations and believe you will likely say yes which is the only reason I’m saying anything.”

    Best of luck!

  45. Hey LW, coming a bit late here, but your situation sounds an awful lot like the 1950s complaint: Take me for wife but not for granted.

    Google doesn’t seem to have that on a poster, but these are nice:

    (not adding big pics to anyone’s feed)

  46. mf said:

    Lots of good comments and advice. I think it’s kind of awful of him that he keeps putting in you in a position to say no. Every time he asks to cancel plans, you’re stuck with a shitty choice: say yes and sacrifice your own need/desire for time with him OR say no and you’re stuck being the Fun Police who won’t let him go out and have a good time.

    Next time he asks to cancel plans, what if you reframed his question from your point of view? “Boyfriend, you’re putting me in a tough position. If I say yes, I’ll feel disappointed because I won’t get to do X activity this evening with you, which I was really looking forward to. If I say no, I’ll feel bad because it’s like I’m telling you can’t do Y activity, which might be something you really want to do.”

    Or what if you refused to make that choice for him? If he asks to cancel dinner to visit his sister instead, you can just stick to your original plans and let him decide independently what he wants to do. If he wants to cancel on you, put that decision on HIM.

  47. neverjaunty said:

    LW, this sort of emotional outsourcing is super crappy, whether or not he realizes he’s doing it, and I strongly endorse not getting stuck in the yes/no Funkiller binary. Instead, turn it back on him as CA and many wise commenters suggest, by asking “Well, honey, what do YOU want to do?” or “It sounds like you’re asking me for permission on this.”

    It might also be a good idea to make a hard and fast rule with him: if he tries to change plans at the last minute so that your choices are either “go along” or “stay home alone because you can’t make alternate plans”, then the answer is NO.

  48. LW, I really feel you–when my ex started to do this, it was a sign that things were going south. Up until then, we had a Date Night once a week, and it kept me satisfied (despite other stuff that turned out to be legitimate concerns post-breakup), and while I thought the Date Night was sacred, ex clearly did not. “I’m not feeling up to it” is a crappy reason to cancel a date the morning of, lemme tell ya.*

    In the next relationship, I’m going to make sure that we have a Date Night, and outline acceptable reasons for cancellation (outside of emergencies/illness, obviously).

    Also, this part of the Captain’s advice resonated very well with me, so much that I want to take a time machine back to two years ago and show it to my past self: “Boyfriend, I feel like I work hard to set time aside in my schedule for you, and when you keep rescheduling me or telling me that we can always hang out later, it hurts my feelings, can we figure this out together” is not the utterance of some witch-harpy-fury-gorgon-insert the scary mythological being of your choice*- hybrid, ok? These are normal human feelings and they are important because they are yours and they are real. I don’t think it would have made everything all happily ever after, but it would have done a lot to kill a lot of the guilt and self-blame I had for wanting to spend time with a partner and feeling deprived of that.

    • Er, since I forgot:

      *upon calmly expressing how hurt I was, this was elaborated upon with genuine mental/physical issues. the subsequent discussions, though, were unproductive and had a lot of emotional manipulation. at the end of everything, while I was happy to make accommodations and open communication, I wasn’t seeing any indication that my effort was appreciated, or that I was as important to him as he was to me.

  49. Friendly Hipposcriff said:

    Lots of people have commented on points 2-4, the problem that you seem a low priority and how ‘sleeping next to each other’ is not quality time. (It’s a nice bonding thing, but does not replace a meal out.)

    What I’d like to pick up on is a couple of things I haven’t seen addressed. Why is your partner even asking #1 when dinner is under way whether it can be rescheduled? Why is he asking YOU (adding to your labour) instead of going ‘sorry, sis, no can do: we’re already cooking dinner’? He’s a grown up. He can solve this question on his own (are we free? No.).

    But also: why are you ‘cooking dinner for us’ when you’re the one with a very full schedule? Why isn’t he at least in the kitchen with you, chopping things or washing up or doing *something* and talking to you and being fully aware a) how much work dinner is and b) that it’s immanent? This seems like a missed opportunity for turning chores into quality time.

    Overall, I think it’s high time for your partner to look at how he is spending his days, and high time for him to learn to set his own boundaries and say either ‘no’ or ‘not this time’. And that’s a skill that will serve him well at work. He’s working much less than you do, so he presumably has time to schedule fun things without impacting your date night. That’s one thing. The other is that the softball team is short because other people have said no, so he can say no. And as for the people meeting up, they’d probably have been up for a meeting in the afternoon, or the next morning for breakfast. And while the person with a spare ticket might grumble, the money is already spent, and someone else has decided that going was not their first priority (voluntarily or not), so HE can decide that going it not HIS first priority. It sounds very much as if he’s letting other people take the lead in everything.

    I’d posit that ‘adapting your plans to whatever is suggested’ isn’t ‘spontaneous’, it’s ‘passive’. That might not fit how he views himself, but to me, a spontaneous person takes initiative, at least some of the time; they go ‘ooh, I’ve heard of this great exhibition in the next town over, why don’t we take a weekend trip.’ They don’t wait until Joe from accounts has a spare ticket. They might not _plan ahead_, but they’ll look at how much time/energy/money/sunshine they have available, flip open the ‘where to go’ website and suggest something appropriate right now, or as soon as you can get packed. They’ll look at a map, go ‘here’s a place we haven’t seen, how do we get there’ and make an outing for it. They don’t blow off their partner’s plans because something else sounds more fun.

  50. 1. At the last minute, his sister called and could we go have dinner with his family that night? Bonus points if I’ve already started cooking dinner for us (“can you just freeze it or use it tomorrow?”)
    2. He got a text from the softball team he subs for, and they urgently need one more tonight or they need to forfeit.
    3. His friend is in town for the weekend unexpectedly and he wants to hang out – since we’re just chilling at home/the corner bar is it cool if he and his girlfriend tag along?
    4. His coworker ended up with an extra ticket to [sport/concert] and he just has one but it’s tonight only.

    Examples 1 through 3 there really make me wonder if boyfriend can’t bear to say no to anyone so he dumps that job on LW. Not that that changes any of the advice about telling boyfriend how shitty it makes her feel to always come last with him, but it might change the work boyfriend has to do to start being a better boyfriend.

  51. MamaCheshire said:

    I’ve had Weekly Date Night be a non-option because of scheduling logistics hell and/or because of out of spoons error many times over the 15 years I’ve been with Mister Cheshire. I’ve also had some of them go SO BADLY because we were all “We Must Have Fun Now! We are cashing in a ‘watch the kids’ favor so we can have fun!” (spoiler: we’re totally NOT HAVING FUN thanks to the loudly drunk creepy conversation at the next hibachi table over) and I think we gave up on date nights at all for, like, six months after that, which wasn’t good for anyone.

    Alternatives that have worked at various points follow:

    – A monthly date night that was a little bit more all-out than the weekly one had been and absolutely not cancelable unless there was a genuine emergency.
    – A weekly Saturday Date Brunch and Mini-Spa while the kids were at dance company rehearsal for two hours: get tasty food, then sit in the massage chairs at the mall for a half hour.
    – A weekend overnight getaway about every other month (while the kids go to grandma’s or sleep over with friends), usually to do something that is inappropriate for the kids and/or too expensive to justify taking four people but can be managed with two.

    There were probably others, but those are the three I remember most clearly, and what we’re doing now is a combination of the last two.

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