What to Do When He Says He’ll Call…and Doesn’t

Of course we like to chat, to hear his voice, to check in and see how his day is going, to be reassured that our plans are still on for later. But the real reason why we’re so irked when he doesn’t call is because it feels like a broken promise.

Here’s a recent post from our DWD Facebook Community that I’m sure most women can relate to:

Boyfriend (new, 3 months) says he is going to call in “one hour” and it takes him hours… now, he is working 12 hour days, but I need to be able to count on his word. I want to be a Priority not an Option. (His words he says he loves me and cherishes me, but his actions are not always the same.) -Noel S.

In a perfect world, when your man says he’ll call you “in an hour,” you could glance at your watch, note that it’s 2:03pm, and promptly at 3:03pm your phone would ring. You’d also never open a takeout container and realize the restaurant gave you the wrong order, and you’d always look fantastic in every pair of jeans you tried on.

Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect world. Disappointments and let-downs are part of our daily lives. And one of the most common disappointments in the dating world is the phone call that doesn’t come when it’s supposed to.  Or worse, doesn’t come at all.

I’ve interviewed countless men on the subject of calling and communication, both for my “You Ask, Men Answer” series and for research purposes. Many guys admitted that they don’t understand why we get so upset when they call later than they say they will, or even when they forget to call completely. One man shared his frustration with how “rigid” women can be,  wishing he could be free to dial them up when it’s convenient and not always at some designated time.

Here are some reasons men claim for not calling when they say they will:

  1. He got caught up with something important at work (honestly!)
  2. To him, “hour” is a loose term equivalent to “sometime later,” so he genuinely doesn’t see why it’s a big deal when he ends up calling you closer to three hours later
  3. He got distracted (by the big game, by his buddies, by a meatball sub) and forgot to pick up the phone
  4. He fell asleep
  5. He just didn’t feel like talking
  6. He said “I’ll call you” but didn’t actually intend to do so…It was just a convenient way to end the conversation.

Most men I’ve interviewed don’t seem to understand why we get so upset about the whole not-calling thing. I always try my best to clue them in: It’s not really about one silly phone call.  Of course we like to chat, to hear his voice, to check in and see how his day is going, to be reassured that our plans are still on for later. But the real reason why we’re so irked when he doesn’t call is because it feels like a broken promise.

It’s called “managing expectations,” and if men would do a better job of this (rather than saying what they think we want to hear with no intention of following through — see excuse #6 above) then they’d save themselves a lot of agony. This applies big-time to introductions and first dates, when you have a nice conversation with a guy and he asks for your number, saying, “I’ll call you,” and never does.

The panelists from “You Ask, Men Answer” told me that they often ask for a woman’s number as a way of letting her down easy. To be honest, I find this a little insulting… We’re big girls, we can handle the truth. If a man doesn’t have any interest in calling, he shouldn’t say he will. If the expectation isn’t set, then there’s no disappointment.

So now that I’ve gone off on a little rant (see, even though I’ve been married for years now, the calling game frustration from my dating days is very fresh in my mind!), let’s get back to Noel’s question.

In her case, since she’s been dating her guy for three months and he claims to “love and cherish” her, I’m guessing he’s either genuinely busy at best, and absentminded at worst. Or maybe he has a looser definition of the word “hour” (see excuse #2 above). In any case, as a woman who’s committed to drama-free dating, it’s her job to let him know (lovingly) how she expects to be treated.

One less-than-healthy habit that’s common for women is expecting men to read our minds. Often, our guy will do something we don’t like, but instead of letting him know, we quietly seethe with resentment. He may not even know we’re upset, so how can he know to do things differently the next time? We need to spell it out for him (again, lovingly) to give him the opportunity to get it right.

Here’s a little script for Noel (and all of you out there who share her problem). Try saying something like:

“Honey, I know you’re so busy with work and you’ve got a lot going on. The thing is, when you say you’ll call in an hour, but don’t call for several, I feel like I’m not a priority in your life. My time is valuable to me too so if you say you’re  going to do something, it’s important to me that you’ll follow through. If something comes up, of course I understand, and a quick text to let me know you’ve been waylaid is fine. Or if you’re not sure of your schedule, don’t promise an exact time for your call and we can play it by ear.”

When you explain the issue in this way (identifying how you feel without being accusatory, and offering solutions — because men love solutions), he should be really receptive to hearing you out.

If he continues to make promises he can’t keep, however, that proves that you aren’t the priority that you deserve to be. And then you, my friend, get to make the call — to end the relationship and find someone who has no problem keeping you top-of-mind.