Dear Relationship Playbook,
Me and my boyfriend have been together for about 4 months now. He is currently in his fourth year of medical school which can get really stressful. We already discussed initially, before our relationship begin, how he has his priorities and responsibilities as far as with his schooling. I am far from being the needy type so I let him know that I respected it. I myself love my “me-time” so I don’t put any demands on anyone that I honestly don’t want myself. I understand how time consuming and stressful it can be especially in med school. He spends a lot of time with me on his down time and gives me enough attention that I am TOTALLY satisfied with.
So my issue is this I told him that I am cool with it UNLESS he A. gives me fair warning that he wont be available and B. calls me or text me periodically when he is going through his “study periods” just so that I wont have to worry that he is laying somewhere hurt in a ditch. He agreed. So a few days ago he goes about 3 days without calling me, or returning my FEW calls that I made or sending a text message. Now by the third day I’m worried and I leave him a voice mail message calmly stating that. He calls back and I CALMLY and almost nonchalantly tell him that I was upset with his actions. I was just upset because he did not follow what we had already discussed. He in return bites my head off and tells me that I am being chastising. What in the hell?!?!
He has been going through somethings with school and though he doesnt always say it, I know that he is stressed out about it. But he feels that if he is going through something with school that he doesn’t feel that he needs to discuss it with me cause “he can handle it”
I guess I am wondering if I am challenging his manhood. I feel like if I’m his girlfriend I am his crutch and even if I cant solve the problem for him I can still give him support in some way. Right now I’m just giving him his space but at the same time…..I’m not a fool. Yes, I trust him and I know that he is a VERY honest person……but there is still that possibility.
I need a males point of view. What do you think?
The words you choose to say are just as important as how you say them. No matter how you say it, “upset” still means UPSET and that may have been too strong of a word. You don’t know what he’s doing when YOU text him so he could have been studying, stressed out, going through… or all of the above. Personally there have been plenty of times when I’ve gotten a text or phone call while I was busy… told myself I’d respond later… and forgot to respond at all. Yes it’s easy to say “it only takes a second to respond.” You’re right, it does. However just because he could have stopped what he was doing and got with you doesn’t mean that he HAD to.
Also if he’s always kept his word and this is the only time he messed up, you don’t need to throw that up in his face by reminding him he didn’t keep his word. I can “nonchalantly” tell you to go “Fuck off” or I can do it angrily, you’ll still probably view it the same way. He said you’re being chastising which usually means he feels that you’ve gotten on him unnecessarily more than once. I assume him word is important to him (since you mentioned he’s very honest), so why challenge that over one tiny mishap? This is probably what caused him to bite your head off.
Think about it this way…
If every time he sees you, you’re all made up, looking right and you told him that’s how you do on the regular. Then one day you decide to not go through the effort and was just “plain looking” and he told you he was upset and you didn’t keep your word, how would you feel about that?
You’d be pissed wouldn’t you? It doesn’t matter if he said it angrily or nonchalantly.
Although it was 3 days, I still only see it as one incident. He called you back after your voice mail because it was probably a wake up call for him. Even if it’s just for a couple of minutes, you stop what you’re doing when you check your voice mail. So when he heard your message, it was probably a reality check for him that, “hey I need to call her”. When he did call, you told him you were upset because he didn’t keep his word.
Now by no means am I excusing or condoning what he did. The reality is that if he knows it’s important to you, then at some point in 3 days he should have let you know he was still breathing; whether you contacted him or not. That’s inexcusable on his part. My point is you probably wouldn’t have gotten your head bit off if you expressed it differently other than saying you’re upset because he didn’t keep his word.
You’re probably saying, “But I really was upset”.
That MAY be true (sometimes we say upset when we’re simply just hurt, or disappointed), but that doesn’t mean you have to say so. Your point was to address the need for him to call. Save “upset” for something serious, not something minor like this. This is one reason why men often say women trip too much because you all say you’re “upset or have hurt feelings” about everything; whereas, you can just say what the issue is without adding those emotional words.
The same way you expressed to me how you want to be his support, you could’ve expressed it to him.
“Hey baby, I know you’re busy working/studying hard and I understand and appreciate you doing what you must to become the man you want to be. However, you know that I worry when I don’t hear from you and it’s been 3 days, please give me call and let me know you’re still breathing. I’m sure you know this, but I want to remind you that I’m here to support you whenever and however you need me to.”
Who can argue with that?
A technique I’ve learned when voicing disagreements is to “sandwich” them between two positive things. You start out with telling him how you understand his schedule (now he can’t come back with, it) then you told him what your REAL CONCERN is. It’s not about him being busy, it’s about him not getting back at you. Then you end it with telling him you got his back.
His only response should be, “My bad baby and you two go on your way”.
Finally I don’t know if he snapped because he felt you were overreacting or because he’s burnt out; but regardless, DON’T GIVE HIM SPACE. Call him. don’t waste your time playing the “I’ll let the other person call first game”. Don’t let it fester. Call him and apologize if he felt you were overreacting (whether or not you feel that you were). An apology isn’t always about you doing something wrong. You’re apologizing because of how he perceived your message. Don’t apologize for what you said if you’re not sorry.
Communication is not so much what you say, it’s what the other person hears.
Why do you have to apologize first? Because YOU asked me for my thoughts.
Next time tell him to ask me and I’ll tell him to apologize first. LOL!