Dear Captain Awkward,
I have a really great relationship with a really great person. She can spot a logical flaw in an argument at fifty paces, picks up new languages for fun, and has a hobby of organizing elaborate theme parties. I like her lots. But.
She is bad at at time.
Like, really bad. She cannot accurately estimate how long something will take or when she’ll be free to save her life. She always succumbs to optimism and substitutes what she wishes to be true for what is true.
This shows up in two main ways in our relationship:
1) We often end up spending less time together than she promised, because her life is kind of a jenga tower that needs constant maintenance to not fall apart.
2) She’s often late for our phone calls
(Our relationship is long distance)
This has gone on for two years of dating. It felt like there was progress in the first six months, but now it’s stagnated. It seems like weekly she’s half an hour or so late to a call with very little (or no) warning, leaving me standing around, my night in disarray. The time zone difference means that I’m often giving up prime social hours to talk with her, so this is pretty upsetting.
When we last saw each other, it was for much less time than we planned. It was pretty upset and told her that I was tired of excuses and apologies and promises to do better. It’s been two years and it all just feels like empty words.
In the month after, she was really good about time. Then she was really late, but gave me good advanced warning. I told her that I’d appreciated all her efforts and then everything went to poop. She managed to be late or suddenly change our call four times in the space of a week. One of the times, she changed it to when she was in a car with friends, a thing I’ve previously asked her not to do.
I feel really sad. I can’t help but parse this as her not caring about my feelings at all. Meanwhile, she’s too depressed by other things to even apologize or take any sort of responsibility.
I’m tired of being unable to do stuff because all I can think about is how hurt I am and how much she probably doesn’t care about me. How do I get my brain back? Do I have to end the relationship?
February starts tomorrow, and I propose a February experiment. Here’s how it will work:
For the month of February, I want you to say “Yes!” to just about every local-to-you social thing that catches your eye. Accept with pleasure, go, and have fun. Fill your social calendar. Fill your not-social calendar, too – work your ass off at school or with your career or creative outlets. Everything that you want to spend time doing that you have a say in scheduling, schedule it and do it.
For the month of February, try scheduling calls with your partner around your social schedule. Like, yes, try to find times to talk that work for both of you, but do not work hard at leaving lots of blocks of time open on the off-chance you’ll catch her. It’s okay for you to say “Sorry, I’m busy that night, we’ll have to find another time.” If it means you talk less, then, you talk less.
For the month of February, if your girlfriend misses the appointed call time and you have something else to do, give her, say, 30 minutes? After 30 minutes, text her that you’re sorry that you missed her and you’ll have to connect some other time. Then, turn off your phone and go dancing. (Dancing, sleep, the movies, whatever, just turn off your phone. Put it in a drawer. Do not spend the rest of that evening waiting for her.) If she calls you when she’s in the car with friends, say, “Lovely to hear your voice! It sounds like you’re occupied, so, enjoy your friends!” and get off the phone. She won’t set the boundary, so, you can set it. Tell her what’s happening, even. “I’m selfish, I want your full attention, even if it’s only for a little while.” ” Change the dynamic where you chase her, the one where you wait.
At the end of February, evaluate. Has she realized that if she wants to talk with you she needs to do so pretty close to the time y’all agreed on? How do you feel about things in general? What’s the balance between “I miss her soooooooo much” and “I’m happier because I’m not spending so much of my gorgeous irreplaceable youth waiting by the phone?” When you do actually connect is it better, because you’re resenting her distraction less and have more to talk about? Does she even notice?
Is the relationship actually working for you and making you happy?
You’ve tried talking to her about this and it changed but not really. What would happen if you changed the way you prioritized your own time? What if you decided, hey, I love you, but I’m not going to miss out on interesting and fun things because I want to talk to you, especially if you can’t be bothered to check in even close to the time that we agreed? Long distance relationships take a lot of sustained effort and reliable communication over time. If she can’t give you that, it doesn’t make her a bad person, but it maybe makes this situation not right for you. Is it the worst thing in the world if you’re honest about that? “Babe I love you but you’re much too busy for a girlfriend. Let’s just be friends and we’ll see where life takes us.”
February is a short, cold month. Try something new.
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