The guy I am long-distance dating has a habit of telling me he will call “tomorrow night” and then failing to call.  I haven’t kept track, but my guess is that this has happened 10 – 15 times since mid-October.


Each time it is because he got caught up in a conversation with someone else – family, the neighbors who are like family, or an ex-girlfriend.


We have not made each other any promises.  He is not ready for anything serious, and I respect that.  I don’t ask him to call me.  I try not to call him too often.  I let him decide the pace.


And there it is, in his “I will call you tomorrow.”


A couple of weeks ago his most recent ex-girlfriend was visiting.  He told me in advance that he would not have time to call, but he would text.  When he didn’t text I got upset.  It wasn’t that I thought he wanted to work things out with her.  I don’t think he’s playing games or just keeping his options open.


I think his focus remains on the person in front of him.


Unfortunately, when he says he will call or text, I wait.  When he doesn’t follow through I am disappointed to not have even those few minutes of tenuous contact, and I am hurt that I didn’t rate a few minutes of his time.  He was so focused on someone else it never even occurred to him to text that he wouldn’t call or ask the person to wait a minute while he canceled a prior engagement.  His disregard is foreign to me.  I can tell he wouldn’t be waiting if the situation was reversed.  And I am learning that even though I show people I care about them by making time for them, the two are not connected in his mind.


After his ex left town and we talked about the frustrated text I had sent him during her visit (while his phone was actually out of service) it happened again.  I asked him to just stop telling me he was going to call.  I would rather be pleasantly surprised than increasingly upset.  I can’t plan my evening around phone calls I don’t know are coming.


He insisted he would do better. I believed him.


On Thursday afternoon he told me he just needed to be more responsible.  On Thursday night he got caught up in conversation with another ex-girlfriend and didn’t call.  I had expected his call around nine and fell asleep just before 11, knowing the phone would wake me up when he did call.  Instead, I woke up around 2 and checked my phone, only to see the text telling me what had happened and that he was tired and going to bed.  He neither acknowledged we were supposed to talk nor apologized.


This time, I was angry, and I was done.  I couldn’t be less demanding of him than to say you can call whenever you want, but you don’t have to call, and don’t even worry about telling me when you will call.  Now I just felt disrespected.  Eventually, I fell back asleep – still hurt, still angry.  On its own, this was no big threat to him.  I am mercilessly forgiving.  A good night of sleep, a hurried apology, and I probably would have been apologizing for overreacting.


I dreamt about my ex.  J is my “one who got away” – though I use the term more loosely as time goes by.  When I am really upset I dream about him.  Sometimes they are just dreams, but sometimes we are so connected in them I wouldn’t be surprised if he were dreaming about me at the same time.  Usually, the dreams are littered with anger and recriminations.  This time it wasn’t.


In my dream J had cancer.  He was thinner than I ever saw him in real life, and parts of his leg and other foot had been amputated. The cancer was aggressive and had invaded most of his body.  The whole time he explained his prognosis the big, cheek-to-cheek grin never left his face.  He insisted he was fine.  He was going to go for an experimental treatment he was sure would be successful.  In my dream I knew it would be.  We were talking like the friends we once were.  It felt great to be surrounded by his happiness.  Then he told me that on top of everything else, his wife was pregnant and they would have a son soon.  And that was all I could take of his cancer and his happiness.  I distanced myself from him in the dream, but I was always aware of him.  Eventually, when he and his wife were leaving so he could start his treatment he caught my eye.  His wife wasn’t looking, so I gave him a thumbs-up.  And then I acknowledged with a hand gesture that we were still connected.  Then I woke up.


The dream was disconcerting.  It left me feeling even more tense than my original anger had.  Being a researcher with some time on my hands, I started looking up all the various meanings the ever-reliable online dream dictionaries gave my dream.  Eventually, one of them actually clicked.  It said that if you dream of cancer in another person, you have to determine what that person symbolizes for you to determine what the “cancer” is telling you to get rid of.  For me, J symbolized the best relationship I had.  If it hadn’t been deeply flawed, however, I wouldn’t have let him go.  One of the early problems in our relationship was a series of promises to call that never came to fruition.  Being young and dumb, I never stood up for myself or expressed my frustration the way I am now.  Silly as it may sound, I think my unconscious self was letting me know that I need to cut away the relationships that hurt me so that what remains makes me so unbearably happy I can’t stop grinning.


In other words, even though I hate staying mad or being demanding, it was not only okay for me to let the current guy know that I was upset, I really needed to let him know.  Which was good, because I had already sent back a text telling him.


It did not take him long to sincerely apologize and tell me it won’t happen again.  I believe he will do his best.


Dating long-distance is hard.  It is hard to get to know each other and hard to even communicate without the benefit of body language.  It is hard to define boundaries when “getting serious” is too much.  I’m not ready to call it quits, but I won’t regret expressing my frustration.  I want to end up unbearably happy, too.