Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I’m Worried About Family in Japan and My Boyfriend Doesn’t Care”

The majority of my family lives in Japan, including my parents. After the earthquake on Friday many people, including an ex-boyfriend whom I have not heard from in well over a year and a half, contacted me to express sympathy, condolences, well-wishes, etc. However, my boyfriend of a year, who was out of town for the weekend, did not show any interest in the quake and subsequent tsunami’s effects. When he called on Friday to tell me he had reached his destination, I asked if he had heard about the quake. He said he had. After an awkward pause, he asked if my parents were okay. I told him some details including that they were safe but could not reach other family members. We hung up shortly after.

When he called back on Sunday, he didn’t ask whether my parents were still okay — if they were able to get in touch with other family members, if they had property damage, if the aftershocks had stopped, if they had electricity, food, or water, etc. Not once did he express an “I’m sorry to hear what happened.” I asked how things were going on his trip, and when I didn’t express enough enthusiasm, he got annoyed that I wasn’t more excited for him. I’m hurt and angry that he hasn’t been more supportive and when I expressed that to him, he apologized but I’m still so angry. Since then, he’s asked about the situation in Japan but now I can’t tell whether he’s genuinely concerned or if he just doesn’t want me to be upset with him. This earthquake has shaken me emotionally and I don’t know how to get over my disappointment in him. — Emotionally Shaken

The true test of a relationship and measure of a partner’s character is how he reacts when you really need him. In this case, your boyfriend failed miserably. It doesn’t take a freakin’ emotional genius to know the appropriate response when there’s a catastrophic disaster is to reach out to anyone who may have been directly or indirectly affected. That your own boyfriend didn’t ask how your parents were — your parents who live in Japan — as soon as he heard the news does not speak well of him. But, even that could have been forgiven. Maybe he didn’t immediately realize the the magnitude of devastation. Perhaps he felt stupid that you had to prompt him to show some support. But that he didn’t bother to call you later in the day after your intiial phone conversation or first thing the next morning to get an update is not good. It’s not good at all, and your feelings of hurt and anger are absolutely warranted.

So, how do you get over your disappointment in him? Well, are you sure you really want to? This is what we call a red flag, and any time you see a red flag in a relationship, it’s an opportunity to re-evaluate the state of things. Is your boyfriend’s total lack of support and compassion indicative of his character, or is it completely out of left field? Do you find that you’re often giving more to the relationship than you’re getting? Is your boyfriend emotionally stingy in general or is this an isolated incident? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time to MOA.

If, however, you’re not ready to throw in the towel just yet, I’d suggest you talk to your boyfriend one more time about how emotionally distraught this situation in Japan has (understandably) made you and how hurt you’ve been that he hasn’t shown more support. Get it off your chest and then give him a chance to make it up to you without questioning his motives. Remember, he didn’t cause the disaster, so be careful about projecting anger in misplaced spots. His biggest sin was a complete and utter lack of sympathy and compassion. If that’s not a big enough sin for you to dump his ass, then find it in your heart to forgive him and be watchful of similar behavior in the future. If this incident has illuminated a character flaw in him you’ve previously turned a blind eye to, I’m sure there are at least a few of us here in the peanut gallery that would cheer you on if you decided to MOA.

You, your family, and everyone touched by the horrific events in Japan over the last few days are in my thoughts and prayers.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected].

84 comments… add one
  • avatar

    ReginaRey March 16, 2011, 9:09 am

    I’m so sorry for what you are going through right now, and I hope your family is safe and well.

    Like Wendy said, some of this COULD have been explained away by saying “maybe he didn’t know the severity” or “maybe he felt stupid after I had to remind him.” But the biggest red flag that indicates to me that is NOT the case is that he subsequently got annoyed with you for not expressing enough enthusiasm about his trip. You’re sick with worry for your family…and he’s annoyed with you for not caring more about his trip?!

    IMO, that alone proves that your bf is seriously selfish, and seriously devoid of compassion. I wouldn’t continue a relationship with someone who has proven in your time of great need and turmoil to be selfish, inconsiderate, and emotionally lacking. If this is how he reacts to something THIS serious, how can you expect him to be compassionate and supportive in the rest of the difficult times in your life?…and you’ll surely have more difficult times to go through, as we all do. I would MOA, and fast.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    lil March 16, 2011, 9:24 am

    The nerve of him getting upset with you about not being excited about his trip!!!! How selfish/narcissistic! I pray that your family is OK!!! A significant other is suppose to be a support person for you… your bf is obviously missing that character trait. If you do give him another chance, like Wendy said, watch out for similar behavior. If this behavior continues you should MOA…. you deserve support, love, and compassion.

    Again I pray that all your family is safe and well!

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Desiree March 16, 2011, 9:24 am

    I can’t believe I am going to do this, but I will say one small thing in defense of the boyfriend. Some people (often men) DO NOT know how to respond to tragic situations. Sometimes it is because their lives have been relatively devoid of personal loss, other times it is from a lack of emotional intelligence. Sometimes, in absence of knowing how to react, these people will choose not to react altogether. Poor choice, but there it is. Now, what this doesn’t explain is the boyfriend getting his feelings hurt over the girlfriend not expressing enough enthusiasm in his trip. That is the behavior of a five year old. And, regardless of the source of his apparent indifference, does she really want to be with someone unable to cope with life’s curveballs? I certainly wouldn’t.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      Mainer March 16, 2011, 9:36 am

      I was thinking this same thing. When I first started reading I could understand his actions. It’s not what I would have done, but it could be explained. People have different ways of helping other people feel good during a time of crisis. Whether it is a death in the family or an accident or a natural disaster, some people take the “try to act normal” approach. They do this because they realize you may be inundated with sympathy and condolences and sometimes that can be overwhelming to the point where someone just acting normal is a good change of pace. After hearing your parents were safe, he may have thought that he didn’t want to be one more person emailing you, calling you, text you, whatever asking what the update is.

      HOWEVER, the fact that he got irked when you couldn’t act all excited about his little trip is a dick move. It suggests that he was not acting like one of the people I just described but rather completely oblivious to your situation or your feelings. It’s selfish, plain and simple.

      Reply Link
    • avatar

      JennyTalia March 16, 2011, 9:36 am

      I agree with Desiree. I think it’s more of a maturity thing than anything else. Many people, myself included, don’t know how to deal with tragedy and can seem insensitive to the situation. Being that we are mostly removed from the tragedy overseas, it can be difficult for us to understand the severity. To me, he just sounds like an oblivious boy (yes, I mean boy) who doesn’t take others’ feelings into consideration. Furthering my point is his annoyance over your lack of enthusiasm for his trip – an immature thing especially considering the circumstances. Maybe I’m too nice, but I’m cutting the boyfriend some slack. Of course if the immaturity/insensitivity is not something you can deal with and work on with him then please MOA.

      Reply Link
    • avatar

      PFG-SCR March 16, 2011, 10:09 am

      I agree, and that’s why I think it’s important for the LW to really think about what Wendy said: “Is your boyfriend’s total lack of support and compassion indicative of his character, or is it completely out of left field? Do you find that you’re often giving more to the relationship than you’re getting? Is your boyfriend emotionally stingy in general or is this an isolated incident? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time to MOA.”

      Honestly answering these should help the LW ascertain if this lack of compassion and support is a true red flag that could be relationship ending, or something that her boyfriend needs to work on in _certain_ instances, like a tragedy.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        sarolabelle March 16, 2011, 10:14 am

        those questions could bring up a whole new post too. “If you answer Yes to these questions time to MOA”

        Link
      • avatar

        the1little1one March 16, 2011, 10:26 am

        another whole new post: red flags!

        Link
      • avatar

        ReginaRey March 16, 2011, 10:49 am

        YES. Wendy, red flags would be an awesome post! And clearly much-needed, given that a LOT of your LW’s seem to be missing them.

        Link
    • avatar

      maynard March 16, 2011, 11:11 am

      I agree. I didn’t read the replies to your comment yet so maybe someone else said the same thing, but a lot of guys are “fixers” and if they don’t have a solution to fix your problem they can just shut down and not respond.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        Quakergirl March 16, 2011, 11:32 pm

        Men are definitely fixers by nature, I think (especially the younger men I know). Sometimes it takes some time for them to learn that “fixing” the situation can mean listening to you cry or scream or wonder the same thing out loud over and over and over. This was actually a fairly common occurrence in my relationship with my boyfriend when we first started dating (as teenagers). He is such a fix-it, and really it has taken most of the last five years for us to understand and appreciate each others’ emotional differences when it comes to things like fights, life curveballs, and tragedy.

        I don’t know how many serious issues or problems the LW and her boyfriend have experienced in the last year either together as a couple or individually, but honestly, this sort of difference in coping strategies just might not have come up yet. I’d try again to bring it up and tell him that just listening and trying to understand your POV would be helpful. If he seems on board and willing to be there for you in that way, chalk it up to people being different and work on it in the future. No two people are born knowing how to play as a team– it takes work. Of course, this means you have to verbalize the difference and probably remind him (kindly) later on. But if he continues being distant and doesn’t seem to care that you’re (understandably!) quite distraught, MOA because the guy’s a tool and this behavior is just the tip of the iceberg.

        I hope your family is safe and sound, and that you reach them soon if you haven’t yet.

        Link
  • avatar

    Beckaleigh March 16, 2011, 9:31 am

    I think that I can speak for everyone when I say that everyone here hopes and prays that you’re family is ok. As for your boyfriend, I think that all you’re going to have to do is read Wendy’s response and all of the comments that are definitely going to follow to figure out how to deal with this. The support that you are undoubtedly going to get from strangers is going to make you’re boyfriend’s lack of support seem that much more apparent. You need to MOA. Now. If he can’t be there for your during this time, then there’s a very good chance that he won’t be there for any difficulties you may have in the future. And besides that, do you think that you could ever forgive and forget how he reacted when something this big has turned your life upside down?

    Reply Link
    • becboo84

      BecBoo84 March 16, 2011, 10:25 am

      Completely and utterly off topic, but I love the name Beckaleigh. It’s beautiful!

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        Beckaleigh March 16, 2011, 10:54 am

        Thanks 🙂

        Link
  • avatar

    nawilla March 16, 2011, 9:46 am

    Not to defend the possibly self-centered and moronic boyfriend, but if he was traveling when it happened, it’s entirely possible he has NO IDEA what exactly happened, how bad it was, how many people are dead, etc.

    I had the great embarassment of ‘missing’ 9/11 and having no clue what people were talking about until I got into work. Oops. I hadn’t turned the television on the morning that it happened as I was working on my computer, and didn’t go into work until news coverage was well underway. I had caught a glimpse in passing of a headline on yahoo or google (I think it was yahoo, just to date myself) that mentioned something about a plane hitting the WTC, with a picture of an apparently small plume of smoke, but it rather left the impression of a small passenger plane having hit the building and I wasn’t about to start my morning reading about a few dead tourists whose plane malfunctioned. (Either the tower hadn’t collapsed yet or the site had not been updated yet.) I won’t bother to revisit the embarassing BS that came out of my mouth to others before I got caught up on the news coverage.

    Considering the boyfriend has been dating the LW for a while, I’m sure he’s heard that Japan has a lot of earthquakes. He may have been (and may still be) working under the assumption that the earthquake was a slightly more powerful shake, the type we usually hear about in California, and considering tsunami is a Japanese word, he may think they are a normal occurrence and it wasn’t a big deal. Even the death tolls we heard about initially were very low. Someone seeing the whole story would know they must rise. Someone who read a headline might wonder if they were all in the same one building that fell down.

    I wouldn’t give the boyfriend a pass here, obviously they need to talk. But I wouldn’t assume he’s an insensitive jackass either. He may really not know (and may well be mortified later).

    Reply Link
    • Kate B.

      Kate B March 16, 2011, 11:56 am

      I’m so sorry to hear abuot the LW’s family and all of the people who have been affected by this disaster. Maybe the boyfriend has suffered the same “embarrassment” of missing the earthquake news, but she should have called as soon as he found out. I live in San Bruno and a friend of mine “missed” the news about the explosion and fire of September 9, and she called me as soon as she heard and actually apologized for it! MOA.

      Reply Link
    • avatar

      absurdfiction March 16, 2011, 12:24 pm

      I don’t know, I’m skeptical his ignorance could last that long. At least he should realize that his girlfriend is seriously distraught and either ask her for more information about what’s going on, or quickly find a news source. Even if he’s vacationing in some remote cave, the words “magnitude 8.9 earthquake” and “tsunami following within minutes” should give him some indication of the devastation in Japan and pique his curiosity. Giving him a pass for his immediate reaction still doesn’t explain why he didn’t call back later to apologize/explain/comfort her, and it sure as hell doesn’t explain why he would be a jerk — 2 days later! — about her not being enthusiastic about his vacation. If he couldn’t pick up on how upset she was, it was probably because he just didn’t want to hear it. He sounds incredibly self-absorbed.

      LW, I hope your loved ones remain safe. Don’t be afraid to reach out to some of your more supportive friends to help you get through this difficult emotional time. Whatever you decide to do about your boyfriend, I hope you can handle it in a way that won’t add more stress to your life right now.

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    Emily March 16, 2011, 10:14 am

    Word, Wendy.

    I second what other people said about some people just not reacting well to tragedy or knowing WHAT to say. I remember talking to my dad after 9/11 and he was clearly in shock – he was due to go to a conference a few days later in another state and he still thought it was going to happen. He sounded like a zombie on the phone. It was weird. So, anyway, some people just get overwhelmed but I do think the boyfriend here is a big dummy for not getting his s**t together and being more supportive. Oy.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    ArtsyGirl March 16, 2011, 10:14 am

    This is a really difficult situation. I think I would let it go until he gets home – some people do not communicate well over the phone/skype and never suggest it for important conversations. When he is home I would sit him down and explain that you need support. Also be sure to tell him that the fact that he wanted you to be excited about his trip while you are going through a crisis was really hurtful. Maybe draw connections between the World Trade Centers or Katrina – I know that both these analogies have problems, but we in American have been relatively lucky compared with many other nations.
    Hopefully he will pull his act together – best of luck for you and your family!

    Also for anyone who would like to donate Red Cross has a $10 text donation if you send REDCROSS to 90999

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    sarolabelle March 16, 2011, 10:16 am

    My biggest issue other than the whole not caring about your family, is that your boyfriend of a year went an entire day (Saturday) without even sending you a text?

    Reply Link
    • becboo84

      BecBoo84 March 16, 2011, 10:27 am

      I had that exact same thought. Very strange!

      Reply Link
    • avatar

      MissDre March 16, 2011, 10:48 am

      I don’t really think that’s a big deal at all… He was out of town. And a couple can still be close without being in constant contact. In this case though, he should have sent a text to ask how she’s doing.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        sarolabelle March 16, 2011, 11:08 am

        yes that is what I mean…he should have sent her something on Saturday…it doesn’t take more than 10 seconds to send a text that says “hey baby, thinking about you. Hope everything is okay”

        Link
    • avatar

      Maracuya March 16, 2011, 11:05 am

      I don’t know, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. (Situation aside, as Miss Dre said.)

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        MissDre March 16, 2011, 11:48 am

        Thanks. I probably talk to my boyfriend 5 or 6 days out of the week, so it doesn’t worry or bother me at all if we go a day without texting/talking. As long as you’re in an attentive/trusting relationship, it’s perfectly normal to need a day to yourself.

        Link
      • avatar

        Maracuya March 16, 2011, 2:19 pm

        I feel like people are misinterpreting my comment. I *do* think it’s a big deal that her boyfriend didn’t contact her given the circumstances. Under normal ones, I don’t think the fact that he went a day without texting her (while he was on a trip) is that big of a deal.

        Link
  • avatar

    me74 March 16, 2011, 11:02 am

    Two things – it is easy to miss things on vacation. Very easy. My hubby was in France when Princess Diana died and in England shortly thereafter. While he heard she died he saw NO INDICATION of the massive mourning/media attention. I was blown away by this at the time (and since I didn’t care personally it didn’t hurt.) He was shocked by what I reported and a look at media reports three weeks old at that point…

    We have no reason to think this guy folds when things go wrong usually! We don’t know how he responds. Actually the fact that LW thought he would be supportive means he probably is usually okay.

    I am not defending the BF but I doubt his head is in the game.

    LW you need to have some heart to heart talks with yourself. Obviously you have history with this guy that isn’t in this letter, we all know that.

    Tell him you can’t talk to him while he is on vaca. Give yourself a few days to soak in the support of your close friends and just worry about your family. When he gets back, and chances are he will see 80 magazines in the airport about this tragedy, then talk.

    If he is worth your love by then he would have found out more about this disaster. You can tell him how disappointed you were. Be prepared that he might be very contrite and say – “I had no idea the scope. I didn’t know to ask about food, water, shelter, radiation… because I only heard snippets of info from other people.”

    You are hurt and scared and you need all the support you can get at this time. Let this go to the back burner until he gets back and be honest with him. He is on a trip – you are dealing with a family crisis. Not a good combo to talk to each other until he is home and has his head back in the real world. He might be ‘hurt’ you don’t want to share his excitement or talk to him – too bad. It can’t go well so don’t let it do more damage by being in touch for a few days. He’ll live and you have one less thing to worry about.

    you and your family are in my thoughts.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      baby.blanka March 16, 2011, 11:54 am

      Just because there isn’t mass mourning (or at least you aren’t privy to it) doesn’t mean you aren’t sad. The LW’s boyfriend heard about the tsunami and if you hear anything else other than “tsunami, Japan” – isn’t your first question along the lines of, “are people ok”? Pile on the fact that he knows her family lives there and it still makes him pretty insensitive to not even ask, are they close to the tsunami? Have you heard from them? Etc?

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        Kat March 16, 2011, 11:35 pm

        Yeah I agree, even if he’s traveling and not up to date on the news, there’s certain stories we’re more likely to read. If your girlfriend has very defined connections to Japan, including her parents living there, then a story about a big earthquake or tsunami in Japan should warrant a second look. Then she told him about it, and he didn’t bother to brush up on current events? I don’t think it’s a travel thing, I think it’s a personality thing.

        Link
  • avatar

    cmarie March 16, 2011, 11:25 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about your family and hope you get some good news when you hear from other family members. That being said, my advice would be to MOA. He’s and insensitive to jerk who doesn’t care enough about you to even ask how your family was. After a year together those “little” things should com naturally. I’ll give him the benefit of a doubt the first time, maybe he didn’t know the extent of the damage, maybe he didn’t know how to react, but after the first conversation he should have continued to check in on you, ask about the news, not ignore you for a whole day, and then not get angry that you can’t be excited for his vaca when you’re worried and grieving. Also, believe me when I say this, you won’t be able to move on from this. There are many things you can forgive and forget but this degree of emotional callousness will always hurt. Within a year I lost my mother, an uncle, and a cousin unexpectedly. It broke my heart but what really stands out during that time was the way my (former) partner behaved. She didn’t care, didn’t ask how I was doing, didn’t even want to hear about my feelings. She didn’t want to get involved in my “negativity”. When my uncle died she was on spring break and she actually got mad at me for expressing how sad I was and “ruining her vacation”. Trust me, that type of hurt never goes away. He might not be a bad guy and given some time to grow up he might even be a wonderful partner but right now he seems too self-absorbed to give you the support you need and be the partner you deserve. If you stay together I can almost guarantee that this will always be a sore spot in your relationship.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    baby.blanka March 16, 2011, 10:40 am

    I’m glad to hear your friends and family are ok, despite your BF being a weird, that’s the most important thing!

    “The true test of a relationship and measure of a partner’s character is how he reacts when you really need him.”

    THIS – what Wendy said – I have found to be SO true and SO important in my relationships. It is difficult to maintain a strong relationship with someone when they fold at the very moment you need them to stay strong. I think everything Wendy said is true and I would hate to be the one jumping to major conclusions but I would really re-evaluate the feelings this person has for you (and you for them) at this point.

    Reply Link
  • Kristina

    Kristina March 16, 2011, 11:44 am

    Just kinda wanted to second what some other commenters have been saying. My dad was in another country when Katrina hit, and he didn’t realize the depth of the situation at all until he came back, and meanwhile he was complaining about his flights being canceled because he was going to an airport in the south where other hurricanes were taking place. Afterward, he certainly realized just how serious and disastrous it was.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Lindsay March 16, 2011, 12:12 pm

    It may well be that he didn’t know what to say or didn’t know the severity. I personally don’t think he deserves as much leeway as the other commenters are giving him. I suppose the key is to see how he reacts after he’s been home long enough to take in all the news reports. Maybe it’s because I work in the media, so I’m forced to pay attention to the news all the time, but it seems rather unlikely that he wouldn’t know the extent. Even if he saw a TV for a split second, seeing the absolute destruction should give him an idea. Plus, the stories that some people gave about their parents not knowing what’s happening make sense, but younger people now are usually so absorbed in mobile devices, etc., that it’s really hard to not be connected.

    So, give him a chance to find out what’s happening and gauge his response then. Like Wendy said, tell him how you felt. But you’re not overreacting. This may be a time when you find out more about his character.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      nawilla March 16, 2011, 12:47 pm

      ” Even if he saw a TV for a split second, seeing the absolute destruction should give him an idea. ”

      But again, you have the assumption he’s seen it. After the initial few hours, news coverage has been 1-5% visual images and 95%+ talking heads. A few seconds past a talking head is not going to convey the depth of the disaster. If all he has to go on is ‘quake in Japan which has a lot of them’ and ‘girlfriend is mad,’ that’s not a really helpful assessment.

      We also only know he is out of town. How is he traveling? Is he in an area where the talking heads are speaking in his native language? Ever try to follow the news on the one single television in a Greyhound station if there even is one on a layover? If you were outside of your normal environment, cut off from the web, your usual television stations, and possibly newspapers you can actually read, would you really know what was going on?

      And why is he ‘out of town?’ Is he dealing with his own family issues? Is he on a work assignment? Is he on vacation and possibly not making international news coverage a priority?

      It’s very easy to slip ‘off the grid’ when we are out of our usual environment. This isn’t a pass on the whole situation, but it can be unreasonable to expect everyone to know what we know simply because ‘it’s on the news’.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        MissDre March 16, 2011, 12:57 pm

        Yeah, I agree. We shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that this guy is a totally ass. Obviously she’s with her boyfriend for a reason, there’s got to be a lot of good things about him that we haven’t heard. We don’t know whether this is the 1st or the 100th time he’s behaved in this way, so I think we should at least try to give him the benefit of the doubt.

        I realize that the LW is scared, worried, hurting. She didn’t get what she needed from him in this situation. I think the best thing to do would be to talk to him when he’s back and explain to him how his behaviour was hurtful.

        Yeah, he should have asked how she was doing. Yeah, he was wrong in this situation. If being insensitive like this is a pattern for him, then MOA. But if we all just moved on every single time a boyfriend did something wrong, then none of us would ever be in a relationship.

        Talk it out, and decide where to go from there.

        Link
      • meadowphoenix

        AB March 16, 2011, 1:08 pm

        Frankly, I think knowing “quake in Japan,” and “girlfriend’s parents are in Japan” is a whole bunch to go on. California has a lot of forest fires, but I’m still going to ask someone I care about how their family members there are doing, even if I don’t know if they’re even in the same area. I think that response is pretty basic.

        I think we have to believe what he said: he heard about it. And I can’t imagine thinking it would be better to the ignore the whole thing completely, than to show concern over something that ultimately isn’t a big deal, especially when he finds that his girlfriend DOES think it’s a big deal, regardless of media coverage.

        Link
      • avatar

        MissDre March 16, 2011, 1:25 pm

        I still think the guy was a complete jackass in the situation. I’m just saying, none of us know the dynamics of their relationship. We shouldn’t just immediately advise her to dump her boyfriend until she’s had a chance to talk it out with him.

        Link
      • avatar

        sarolabelle March 16, 2011, 1:28 pm

        I wasn’t travelling and didn’t hear about it until Monday!

        Link
      • avatar

        jena March 16, 2011, 1:52 pm

        read the effing news.

        Link
      • avatar

        sesl March 16, 2011, 2:39 pm

        Not to be argumentative, but I didn’t know the true scope of the earthquake and tsunami until around Sunday and I’m usually a plugged in, informed person. My personal situation was a combination of family visiting, interview preparation and general job stuff, so while I knew there was an earthquake and tsunami I really had no idea of the magnitude of it all. I should also add that I don’t have cable and wasn’t on my computer much over the weekend. Not to excuse the boyfriend, but sometimes people really don’t know what’s going on all the time and don’t know the full extent of issues immediately. It doesn’t make them ignorant, intellectually lazy people, maybe just people with non-media things going on in their lives at the moment. Again, this isn’t to say that the boyfriend’s behavior wasn’t weird, but I just thought your comment to sarolabelle was a little intense.

        Link
      • avatar

        jena March 17, 2011, 2:45 pm

        But you did know *of* it where as they are proud of spending their weekend in blissful ignorance. Huge difference.
        Their attitude is the norm/majority in the U.S. these days. People don’t give a crap about anyone but themselves. Reading the news isn’t immediately SUPERFUN, so they don’t do it (see her comment below). I like being outside in the sun too, but I do check cnn and read the occasional newspaper.

        Link
      • avatar

        sarolabelle March 16, 2011, 4:38 pm

        I’d rather spend my weekends outside in the sunshine, thanks!

        Link
      • avatar

        jena March 17, 2011, 2:46 pm

        I do too, but it only takes five seconds to turn on the news while you’re having yoru morning coffee. Keeping yourself informed is a responsibility which you clearly don’t give a crap about.

        Link
      • avatar

        sarolabelle March 18, 2011, 4:22 pm

        I give a crap 5 out of 7 days a week.

        Link
      • avatar

        SpyGlassez March 17, 2011, 12:46 am

        @Jena – inappropriate and unhelpful.

        I heard about it the day of, because one of my FB friends is stationed in Japan – but he was nowhere near the epicenter, and I didn’t realize until a friend in England sent me a BBC link just HOW bad it was, because my friend stationed there is a typical guy and his very brief post was that “there had been an earthquake,” but that everything was OK where he was.

        Link
      • avatar

        jena March 17, 2011, 2:45 pm

        You heard about it the day of. You didn’t ignore every major news outlet for 3 days.

        Link
      • avatar

        convexed March 16, 2011, 11:56 pm

        Yes, ok, but when they spoke on the phone, and he asked her eventually about her parents, she told him that though her parents were ok, she or they had not been able to contact other family members and friends to determine their safety and well-being. TV, internet, talking heads outlining the ‘scope of the disaster’ is all beside the point. You don’t need an in-depth briefing to understand that if your girlfriend tells you lines of communication are down and she doesn’t know if all her loved ones are ok, there’s a serious situation! Unless we agree the boyfriend need not show concern until he fact-checks his girlfriend’s stated distress against official reports?

        I understand many of us have stories about missing something momentous and being subsequently embarrassed or out of the loop. That is irrelevant. She gave him all he needed to know for him to immediately register her concern and respond to it with appropriate support and care.

        Link
      • avatar

        convexed March 17, 2011, 12:08 am

        Also, I was traveling in Germany when the earthquake and tsunami struck. Though I did not have internet access for 5 days as I moved between cities, and barely speak the language (my dictionary is pretty much glued to my hand), I saw news coverage on TVs at the airport, at the bar, I saw images on the front of newspapers at newsstands, cigarette shops— and a German friend who remembered I had a brother living in California (where a tsunami warning was in effect) thought to express concern. So, again, I really do not buy this excuse-making we are all tripping over ourselves to make for the boyfriend on the tenuous grounds he did not know what was going on. Especially since he told his girlfriend he did hear what happened, without qualifying ‘but barely’, or ‘I don’t know the scope, fill me in’.
        If there is anything possibly not shitty in his behavior, it is in the idea that he froze and decided to downplay the event, to create normality. But due to his stupid expectation of her excitement for his travels, that theory can be debunked. If he was acting normal for her benefit, out of sensitivity to her capacities, it’s reasonable that he wouldn’t act like such a selfish ass at the same time.

        Link
  • avatar

    Kate March 16, 2011, 12:52 pm

    MOA. I had a boyfriend many years ago who did this same thing. After about 10 months of a relationship, my grandmother passed away. His reaction was, “yeah, grandmothers tend to do that”. That was the final signal (RED FLAG) for me to say goodbye to that charmer! And yes, there were other red flags!

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    matbo March 16, 2011, 1:08 pm

    Oh dear. My boyfriends father was in Japan and he did not tell me about it. I remember vaguely hearing something about Japan, but I was finishing a whole project about it. I only found out Sunday during a fight, of course I apologized, got the deets on his dad, everything was fine, but we pretty much continued our unrelated discussion afterwards. To me it was something he’d already dealt with with his mother and he’d been in contact so he felt no need to involve me. Maybe your boyfriend is thinking that it’s a family thing – and since everyone’s fine he’s not worried?

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      Beckaleigh March 16, 2011, 2:15 pm

      But that’s just it, the LW doesn’t know that everyone is fine! Yes, her parents are ok, but she has other family members that they haven’t been in contact with. A little, “have you heard anything?” or “are your parents making out ok with the aftermath?” wouldn’t hurt!

      Reply Link
  • Dear Wendy

    Wendy March 16, 2011, 1:37 pm

    Woah, I have to say, I don’t mean to bash anyone, but I am truly, utterly AMAZED to hear there are people who didn’t know about the earthquake and tsunami until DAYS after they happened. I am so happy you visit my site and all, but if you’re not taking five minutes of your day — or AT LEAST five minutes every couple of days — to check in with the major news of the world instead of with some random advice site, there’s a serious problem. Being an informed global citizen, and donating money or sending thoughts and prayers is a civic duty, as far as I’m concerned. We are all members of the human race and should show a modicum of concern for those who are suffering unimaginable loss, devastation and turmoil across the globe. Five minutes, you guys. Your papers can wait. Your homework will get done. The gossip sites will still be there. Take five minutes every day and check the headlines to have at least a sense of what is going on in the world around you. It will make you a better, more compassionate person.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      MissDre March 16, 2011, 1:42 pm

      Make news.google.com your internet homepage!

      Ps Wendy, maybe you could look into some of those numbers where people can text to donate and create a post? I am in Canada, so this probably won’t work in the US but I texted ASIA to 30333 to donate $5 to the Red Cross efforts.

      Reply Link
    • avatar

      Beckaleigh March 16, 2011, 2:04 pm

      My boss’s daughter is on the west coast (we’re not) and I asked him Friday afternoon whether he had heard from her and whether there had been any tsunami sightings in her area. He had no idea and I had to explain to him what had happened. I was shocked! Go to cnn.com every once in a while people!

      Reply Link
    • avatar

      Golden_Key March 16, 2011, 2:27 pm

      Thank you! If people read about Charlie Sheen for five minutes less a day and spent those few minutes instead reading/listening to NPR (my personal favorite news source), I think the world would be a better place.

      And @MissDre, in the US, you can text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross, go to the Red Cross website (www.redcross.org), or you can even donate through itunes.

      Reply Link
    • avatar

      TheGirl March 16, 2011, 2:31 pm

      I totally agree. There is no excuse to be uninformed, particularly with the multitude of opportunities the internet has to offer.

      Reply Link
    • avatar

      sarolabelle March 16, 2011, 4:41 pm

      I do M-F…I don’t do this on the weekends because I’m out and about with friends and family.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        me74 March 16, 2011, 5:20 pm

        Personally – I am a news freak (LOVE NPR and listen all day actually) until on vacation. Then I am off and could miss anything. Esp since not a TV person and never turn it on in the hotel.

        Link
      • avatar

        Rachel March 16, 2011, 6:17 pm

        The quake/tsunami happened Thursday night…

        Link
      • avatar

        Uyzie March 16, 2011, 6:17 pm

        First off, I agree with Wendy and am not absolving the boyfriend in any way. But I will say that on some weekends, or on vacations, I take time to specifically “unplug”. I still answer my cellphone, of course, but I specifically keep the TV off and my laptop closed. I spend nearly 14 hours each weekday plugged in with sensory overload on my TV, laptops, and smartphones, and on the weekends, I think it’s healthy to take a break! However, I realize not everyone feels the same way about this topic. (Which is why you see so many people “on vacation” with at least four different gadgets!) I’ve had more than a few friends and relatives who have been livid with me for not responding to an email they sent over the weekend, but my thinking is, if you really need to reach me, call me. Otherwise, I’ll respond to your email on Monday. So if something happens on a Friday night, and I don’t go online until Monday morning, I can easily see how I might not hear about it until then. I don’t think that makes me an uninformed or less compassionate person. In fact, I could argue that it actually makes me a better person, because when I unplug, I feel like I’m achieving a bit of that elusive work/life balance.

        Now, with all that being said: Clearly, this is not the case with the LW’s boyfriend, as he said that he HAD heard about the disaster when she asked, and then got annoyed with her for not being enthusiastic about his trip. So, yeah, in LW’s case, her boyfriend sounds like a bit of a dick.

        Link
      • caitie_didnt

        caitie_didn't March 16, 2011, 8:10 pm

        guys, newspapers!!!

        They existed long before the internet as a way for people to stay informed about current events.

        Link
      • avatar

        Uyzie March 17, 2011, 11:10 am

        I don’t know anyone who subscribes to a newspaper anymore. They’re a dying medium.

        Are we really saying that people who don’t read the news everyday, or surf the web, or read a newspaper for a few days are terrible people? Really? There’s a difference between being uninformed about your world and simply being unplugged for a few days. One is willful ignorance, the other is simply taking a (much needed) break.

        Wendy, I adore you, your site, and your advice, but are you really saying that if I go for even a single day without checking the headlines that I have some sort of serious problem? That’s pretty much what you said in your post above, and I have to say, I took it a little personally. When I go on vacation, my honeymoon, or a simple yoga retreat, I’m probably NOT going to read the news every day. I’m sorry if anyone thinks that makes me a bad, ignorant, or uncaring person, but I don’t think it does. Especially not when the other 355 days of the year I’m very aware and active in the global community.

        (Again, I don’t know how this conversation got turned into this, as it was clear that the LW’s boyfriend DID know about the disaster…)

        Link
      • avatar

        Maracuya March 17, 2011, 11:33 am

        No, I agree with you. I listen to NPR every day on the drive to work, but on the weekends, I unplug.

        Wendy also said, “At least 5 minutes every couple of days,” so I think that includes you and I. I think she was referring more to people who NEVER read the news.

        Link
      • avatar

        sarolabelle March 18, 2011, 4:21 pm

        I agree with you. I just don’t read/watch the news everyday. Last weekend was a weekend of fun with no TV, no internet and no newspapers. It does happen more often than not.

        Link
    • avatar

      Kat March 16, 2011, 11:42 pm

      The world doesn’t stop because it’s Saturday or Sunday. I could pick my two arbitrary unplug days as Monday and Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean that big things don’t happen on those days. You kind of have to go out of your way to avoid Japan coverage – like don’t turn on ANY sort of news (local, national, international) and stay off any sort of internet site (yahoo, msn.com, hell even perez hilton) to be completely oblivious to this kind of event.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        Uyzie March 17, 2011, 10:58 am

        “You kind of have to go out of your way to avoid Japan coverage – like don’t turn on ANY sort of news (local, national, international) and stay off any sort of internet site (yahoo, msn.com, hell even perez hilton) to be completely oblivious to this kind of event.”

        Well, that’s why it’s called being “unplugged”. No radio, no TV, no internet. Why is this such a terrible thing for a person to be, if only for the weekend, and only every once in a while. It doesn’t make you a bad person if you are unplugged every now and again, especially if you’re hyper-plugged-in most days of the week.

        The boyfriend’s sin wasn’t that he didn’t know (because he DID know), it was that he was devoid of any sort of decent sense of compassion or caring, and selfish about his own needs to boot. But if, for whatever reason he DIDN’T know, a good person would have reacted with compassion and concern as soon as they were told.

        Link
    • avatar

      Quakergirl March 16, 2011, 11:52 pm

      I do make an attempt to check the actual news (cnn, npr, ny times) daily, but there are occasions when I’ll be on an 18+ hour delay on reading news simply because there’s no way for me to get news while at work (I’m an apprentice chocolatier…no internet/mobile devices in the production kitchen and unless it’s apocalyptic news directly affecting our production schedule no one is coming in to update us), or at school (culinary school, so again, not so much with the constant phone or computer checking). And sometimes when I get home I’m so exhausted that I just crash. Sometimes I get behind on my legislative battles and who’s the latest possible presidential candidate (are we seriously already talking about that, btw?).

      That being said– how do you not hear about something this big solely from interacting with other people in a normal setting? On vacation where everyone around you is deliberately in la-la land, okay, maybe it slips by everyone. But in an ordinary day or even on a work trip?! How does no one in your day-to-day interactions bring this up? I swear at least 4 different people asked me in the 12-15 hours following the earthquake whether I’d heard/knew anyone there.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        Maracuya March 17, 2011, 11:35 am

        Only tangetially related: You’re an apprentice chocolatier? That sounds so cool.

        Link
    • avatar

      jena March 17, 2011, 2:47 pm

      Thank you!! “I prefer to spend my weekends in the sunshine” enraged me. Sunshine is nice. Being aware of things going on NOT in your backyard is important, too.

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    jena March 16, 2011, 1:52 pm

    To play devil’s advocate (I know, I know), if my significant other mentioned that her immediate family was safe but that others were not, I would avoid bringing it up until I heard more news from sig other.
    The fact that he is out of town and can’t visually see his girlfriend’s turmoil adds to the lack of expression.
    Cut him some slack. What is he supposed to do in a situation like this? He’s not at home to do much, and aside from asking about her family, what can he do?

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      Beckaleigh March 16, 2011, 2:18 pm

      “He’s not at home to do much, and aside from asking about her family, what can he do?”

      Oh, maybe he could ask her how SHE’S doing and how she’s coping along with asking about her family. The LW didn’t ask him to run home or to fly to Japan to save her family although she didn’t ask him “to do much” she probably would have appreciated a little sympathy and support, even if its a quick phone call.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        convexed March 17, 2011, 12:22 am

        Yes, agreed. I have an eye-rolling impatience with those ‘pragmatic’ types who feel that if the problem can’t be undone or totally amended, then it’s not worth doing anything. Instead of appreciating that emotional wholeness and well-being are as significant and in need of care as the material or physical aspects of a situation, they use the ‘there’s nothing anyone can really do from over here, right?’ line as a justification for complacency and disregard. Rarely is a situation best understood in the extreme terms of Do Nothing vs Do Everything. Do fucking Something, ok, even if it’s just demonstrating your love for someone who’s hurting.

        Link
  • avatar

    Maracuya March 16, 2011, 1:59 pm

    I’m on the fence. It’s possible that your boyfriend doesn’t know how to comfort people who are worried and have experienced loss–I know I’m terrible at processing grief and comforting others myself. But the fact that he was upset you weren’t excited about his trip even after he knew what happened is a 100% jerk-y response.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      MissDre March 16, 2011, 2:09 pm

      Same. That’s why I said she should talk it out with him, instead of us all immediately telling her to dump him. But I’m getting thumbs down!

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        Maracuya March 16, 2011, 2:14 pm

        Well, he was a jerk. 😛 I agree with you, without their history we can’t know if this is an isolated (albeit gigantic) incident of insensitivity or the last straw. I think saying, “MOA!” is a bit premature and she should mention it when he gets back home so he can explain himself. Talking on the phone is just not as good.

        (Speaking of which, he should be back home since it was a weekend trip already. So ..update us please, LW!)

        Link
      • avatar

        cmarie March 16, 2011, 4:42 pm

        This isn’t just the boyfriend being a little bit of a jerk and whether or not it’s the first red flag or not it certainly is a big enough one to MOA. Relationships can be perfect until one person needs the other more than usual. Supporting her through everyday life isn’t supporting her through a time of immense worry and grief. The true measure of a partner comes out in times like these, when nothing seems to go right. I know the pain and anxiety the LW has to be feeling right now, not knowing if everybody is safe, if her parents will have survived the initial disaster only to suffer without food, electricity, water, etc. Even the most emotionally unsure person would know to ask how their partner is doing following this tragedy. It’s not like she’s disconnected from it like most of us and it’s not like he doesn’t know her family is there. The simple fact that it didn’t even occurr to him to ask how they were without being prompted says a lot about his emotional maturity and frankly leads me (and please remember that this is only my opinion, I’m not trying to say it’s a fact, just the way I feel) to believe that he doesn’t care about her enough or he doesn’t see their relationship as serious enough to warrant a show of concern. Relationship can last for years before something tragic happens and that is when they’re really tested. Losing my mom 2 years into my relationship was the beginning of the end for us. We were fine until I expected her to support me more than she was willing or capable of. I brought too much “negativity” in to her life and it,I, wasn’t worth it. I say MOA not just because of his behavior but because I know from experience how destructive it can be to a person and a relationship. What she’ll always remember is the ex who she hadn’t hear from in a year who asked her about her parently while her current BF couldn’t be bothered to show any concern beyond “why can’t you be excited for ME”. In the end all that is, is my opinon, my personal experience and it will be up to her to decide if he has enough good qualities to stay with him. If the relationship is strong enough I’d say good for her, this can’t be an easy time for her or them, but if she decides to break up with him I truly hope she has a strong support system out there to help her cope.

        Link
      • avatar

        Maracuya March 16, 2011, 4:59 pm

        Nowhere did I say a little bit. She’s right to be shaken in her stability in him. But I think using MOA already as a catch-all in an instance where they have not yet had a face-to-face conversation is premature. I’m taking a conservative stance because, from the letter writer’s tone, this is unusual and distressing. I don’t know the details of her relationship, but I do know people make mistakes. This guy did wrong. He froze, and then he hurt her when she needed him. She said he apologized and is now inquiring as he should have in the first place. Is it the beginning of the end? Maybe or maybe not. I think it sincerely depends on his reaction when he returns.

        Link
      • avatar

        MissDre March 16, 2011, 6:14 pm

        @Cmarie and Maracuya:

        Just wanted to share something that my therapist told me once that really sticks with me. I know that the LW’s situation FAR more serious than my own which I’m about to explain. But I still think what my therapist said to me is relevant.

        I got in a fight once with my mother, and it had me in tears. I sat in the car crying and all my boyfriend said was, “Do you want me to drive you home?” And he did, in silence, while I continued to cry. He didn’t ask if I was ok, or show any support. And I was furious with him. I thought he should have reached out to comfort me, give me a hug or something. So it turned into a fight and we didn’t talk for a day.

        I told my psychologist about the fight and he said “Oh c’mon Dre, you’re not a little child and he’s not your father. It’s not his job to comfort you. It’s your job to TELL him what you need and to ASK for it.”

        My point is, a lot of the time women expect their men to just know what to do when we need emotional support. But the truth is, a lot of the time they don’t. So we need to ASK for what we need.

        If our SO can’t support us AFTER we have asked and communicated our needs, THEN we MOA.

        Link
      • avatar

        cmarie March 16, 2011, 11:29 pm

        I feel that even if he didn’t know he was supposed to comfort her, a simple “Are your parents alive?” would suffice. He might not have known how upset she was and I’m more than willing to give him the benefit of a doubt but when he had to be prompted to ask that simple question that so easily comes from everybody else then have the audacity to be insulted that she wasn’t excited about his vacation, it seriously makes me doubt he deserves that benefit of doubt. Asking if someone’s parents survived a catastrophe isn’t showing any more support than anyone who knows the LW would. Then expecting her to show excitement when she’s still probably grieving and worrying and be insulted when she doesn’t show a level of emotional immaturity and callousness that raises huge red flags.

        Link
  • avatar

    Golden_Key March 16, 2011, 2:14 pm

    I don’t have much of anything to say that hasn’t been said, but LW, I am so sorry to hear what you and your family are going through. I can’t begin to imagine how terrifying this whole thing has been and still is for you. I’m glad your parents are okay, and I hope you are able to get good news on the rest of your family members soon. I’m also very sorry that your boyfriend compounded your anguish. IMO, you deserve better than that, and I think Wendy’s advice is spot-on. I don’t say this hardly ever, but you and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

    Reply Link
  • JK

    Jessika March 16, 2011, 2:29 pm

    I agree with everyone who has said it’s a common courtesy to ask about someones family when catastrophe strikes… I have a lot of family in New Zealand, a few weeks ago after the esrthquake in Christchurch I had so many messages asking about my family, even people from my husbands work were asking hum if my family was ok, without even knowing me!!!
    I can only imagine being in the OPs shoes, and having my SO (apparently at least) not caring at all about my family, definitely time to MOA!

    Reply Link
  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom March 16, 2011, 2:42 pm

    I was thinking pretty much everything that Wendy said.

    I have only one thing to add that I haven’t seen posted here. Communication goes both ways and if anything happened to my family or the area where I grew up I would immediately call my husband and tell him about it and I would expect him to do the same with me if the situation was reversed. He may assume that if the situation was bad you would tell him and if you didn’t then it really didn’t affect you very much.

    I’m not sure that either one of you has communicated well. But, after all is said and done I’ve got a feeling this is a MOA situation.

    Reply Link
  • sobriquet

    sobriquet March 16, 2011, 3:11 pm

    I haven’t read all the comments yet, but here are my 2 cents.
    Sure, he may be selfish and lack any and all empathy, but… maybe he figured everything was okay since you didn’t tell him otherwise. Why didn’t you just tell him how upset you were about everything from the very beginning? All you asked him was if he had heard about the quake, then he asked you if your parents were okay. He also may have heard about the earthquake/tsunami without knowing the extent of the damage since he was traveling. When he realized how upset you were about everything (after you told him), he became responsive! I honestly don’t see a problem here.

    Reply Link
  • caitie_didnt

    caitie_didn't March 16, 2011, 5:41 pm

    I don’t think the BF deserves as much credit as people are giving him…he seems to have acted like a total jack-ass in this particular instance, and I think it’s right to point out that this represents a big red flag that the LW should consider. However, I don’t think the LW should immediately ditch him. 1). She’s under an enormous amount of stress right now and should be able to focus on her family without worrying about what to do with her BF. 2). She needs to sit down with herself and think honestly about the questions Wendy posed because they will help her discern if this was a one-time event or an ongoing pattern of selfish, inconsiderate behaviour. If it is part of a pattern, it’s definitely time to MOA. Your significant other is supposed to be the one person you can turn to when you need support- without that, it’s not much of a relationship.

    LW, I’ll be thinking good thoughts for you and your family!

    Reply Link

Leave a Comment