Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Am I Demanding Too Much By Asking My Long Distance Boyfriend to Call Me?”

I have a question about forced long-distance relationships. My boyfriend and I have been good friends for over a year and started dating late last year. We live about three to four hours away from each other and were seeing each other every other weekend. But now that the pandemic has hit, we’ve stopped seeing each other entirely as we are both high-risk and have high-risk roommates. Unfortunately, this means we will go at least three months without seeing each other, assuming the quarantines don’t last even longer.

He lives in a very, very rural area and has highly limited internet access, so we can’t use skype or zoom. He has a basic phone without texting. Our options are facebook messenger and phone calls, but he literally never calls me. He also will just leave to go do something without saying a word about it, so when he goes offline I never know if it’s for five minutes or five hours. I asked him over a month ago to call me some time and he called me once. I haven’t heard his voice in over a month. I understand he’s busy catching up on hobbies and applying for better jobs, and I’m glad he’s keeping busy, but is it selfish of me to want him to call me while he works on his car or does his painting, or at least tell me before he disappears? I don’t think it’s personal; he talks about missing me and about seeing me as soon as this is over. I get the feeling he just doesn’t like talking on the phone and doesn’t see it as any different from messenger, but I feel like I have a bot instead of a boyfriend. I try not to be demanding, but I just want to hear his voice, or for him to at least tell me before he logs out for five hours. Am I still demanding too much? — Demanding Too Much?

The person you need to ask this of is your boyfriend. I suspect most people would agree that what you’re asking for is pretty basic-level efforts to keep up a long-distance relationship and that if someone who is currently unemployed and has endless amounts of time at home can’t even manage a freaking phone call a few times a week because he’s too busy on his hobbies, then he probably should not be in a relationship. But you really need to discuss with your boyfriend whether this is true.

You said you asked your boyfriend over a month ago to call you some time; is that the extent of the discussion you’ve had about this? Have you expressed to him how important it is that he call you more than just “some time,” and actually call you regularly? Have you told him that in lieu of the visits you were having and now cannot have, that you need daily interaction with him in the form of whatever technology is available to him, including phone calls from him two to three times a week? Have you told him that he needs to let you know when he’s getting off messenger if it’s going to be for more than a few minutes so you aren’t left waiting around for him to come back? If not, you need to tell him all of this.

State your needs explicitly and then ask whether he thinks he can meet them. If the answer is “yes,” then see if his actions actually back that up. If his answer is anything other than yes, then you have to decide if there’s any room for compromise or whether his not making an effort to meet your, in my opinion, very reasonable needs and expectations, is a deal-breaker. And if it is, MOA. At this point, getting over him should be pretty easy since life without him is already the norm.
 

It seems to me that cheating, in almost any context, involves depriving someone of something they would normally expect or be entitled to. If someone is no longer physically of mentally capable of sex, is it cheating for their partner to seek solace elsewhere while still caring for them? The legal parameters can get pretty complicated but the social dynamic should be separated. If a person is physically or mentally not capable of effective sex and likely to maintain that status, should their partner be relegated to that status too? I could go on and qualify that in a multitude of ways, but you can do that mentally in seconds. — Entitled

 
Interesting that in this strangely-worded note, you share zero details about what I assume must be your own personal situation. Also interesting you would argue that cheating, “in almost any context, involves depriving someone of something they would normally expect or be entitled to.” Uh, no. That’s not what cheating is at all. First of all, if the “something” that is being deprived is sex — and I assume it is since you reference sex immediately in the next sentence – no one is entitled to that: not a spouse; not a significant other; not a date; not a John – no one. And, no, “depriving” someone of having sex with you isn’t cheating, no matter how hard you try to spin it.

If you want to link cheating and deprivation in some context, try this: You are cheating your significant other when you deprive them of love and respect, and to screw someone else because you think you’re entitled to sex and aren’t getting it from them is disrespectful if you haven’t gotten your partner’s blessing to do so. If your partner is in a position of not being able to have “effective sex,” whatever the hell that means, and is likely to be in such a position for the foreseeable future, then yes, discuss how your needs could be met in a way that you are both comfortable with. And if this just has to include someone else outside your relationship, at least wait until it’s safe to touch someone with whom you aren’t sharing a home or quarantine space. You aren’t entitled to exposing your partner to potentially deadly germs because you needed help getting off.

***************
Follow along on Facebook,  and Instagram.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

40 comments… add one
  • avatar

    FYI April 23, 2020, 8:50 am

    Aside from all the lack of contact, LW1, why would you want to be with someone who lives so far away AND refuses to join the 21st century? We’re 20 years into a new era now, and his phone doesn’t text?!? He’s either lying (probably) or completely stubborn. People who refuse to move forward in life are people best left to their isolation. There is no way he can find a job anytime soon under his current set-up. How would he interview?

    It doesn’t sound like he even thinks of you as his girlfriend? Does he?

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  • avatar

    Anonymous April 23, 2020, 9:03 am

    First letter:
    I’m confused about the idea of him going offline. Is this in the middle of a conversation or just, in general? He shouldn’t have to tell you when he will be away from his phone for a while. Also, do you message each other every day, all day or just so often? I do think he could call but he might be trying to set boundaries if you two message all day and get angry when he’s away from his phone.

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  • avatar

    SM April 23, 2020, 9:26 am

    LW1: You don’t mention calling him and he never answers. Why is this solely on him? You can call him just as easily as he can call you.

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    • avatar

      BessMarvin April 23, 2020, 10:58 am

      I was wondering this, too. I don’t understand why it’s been a month since she’s heard his voice; can’t she just pick up the phone and give him a ring if she wants to talk to him? Does she not have his phone number??

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    • avatar

      ron April 23, 2020, 11:06 am

      Because in her mind this is a test. He has to chase her, not the other way around. Some LWs complain that their guy expects them to do all the relationship work. This woman expects that of her guy. If she calls him and they have a great conversation, that isn’t a sign that she is really valued.

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  • avatar

    Helen April 23, 2020, 9:49 am

    LW2 if you don’t have a conversation with your partner about your wants and needs and work out an agreement, then yes its cheating. Even if they’re incapable of effective sex wtf. Having tough conversations are apart of any relationship. If you’re just as incapable of a conversation as your partner is of effective sex (again wtf) then you shouldn’t be in a relationship no matter how much you care for them.
    I’m getting a weird vibe from this letter. Its worded like a guy who’s looking for permission to cheat because his wife is undergoing chemotherapy and incapable of PIV but has offered to give him a hand, but that’s not effective enough for him. And he knows he’s the bad guy hence the weird wording

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    • avatar

      Kali April 23, 2020, 11:17 am

      FYI: many chemo patients CAN have PIV sex effectively. I know firsthand. I don’t always feel good or sexy but sometimes I do.

      This guy sounds like an ass – hell, he signed his letter ‘Entitled’. That says it all.

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      • avatar

        Helen April 23, 2020, 3:08 pm

        I feel like the wife must have a damn good reason why she can’t have effective sex. Otherwise he would have said she just refuses. He’s bending over backwards to make us tell him he can cheat on his probably medically fragile partner. My read on it anyways

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      • avatar

        SM April 23, 2020, 3:08 pm

        I actually think Wendy makes up the signs for the letters. I may be way off base, sorry Wendy if I am. But I’m pretty sure she does that.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy April 24, 2020, 6:43 am

        That’s true – I usually do.

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  • Miss MJ

    Miss MJ April 23, 2020, 11:33 am

    So, I hate the phone and even during a pandemic, I am loathe to actually call people and talk for a long time. So, I think it’s definitely possible that there’s no real underlying issue with LW1’s BF trying to break up with her or not being interested or anything. Like Wendy said, she needs to tell him what she needs, not hint around at it and yes, she can call him herself. Set up a time for a call, even.

    As for wanting him to tell her when he steps away from messenger and how long he’s going to be gone, I do think it’s a little nuts to want to keep tabs on your SO’s comings and goings to that degree. I am imagining that they just have an informal conversation running over messenger similar to how I have running text threads with friends and family and sometime they don’t respond for hours and I don’t think I have any expectation that they tell me where they are and what they’re doing when they don’t respond. I guess if its mid-conversation, it’s weird to just disappear, but I suspect that he just sees it as an ongoing stream.

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    • avatar

      FYI April 23, 2020, 12:32 pm

      Nah. They haven’t talked voice-to-voice in a month, and it’s a relatively new relationship.

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  • avatar

    Bittergaymark April 23, 2020, 11:50 am

    LW1). Eh, who cares. Anybody penning a question this fucking silly and obvious probably should just give the whole dating thing a rest.

    LW2). Um, okay… Gee, everybody is making an awful lot of bizarre assumptions about this LW. For starters, there is zero indication the LW is male. To me, this doesn’t read like somebody who wants to get their freak on with somebody other than their hapless cancer stricken partner. No, this is somebody who has lost their partner to early Alzheimer’s disease. Thus the mentally capable aspect. To me this reads as somebody who is for all intents and purposes still married. But their partner is simply “gone.” Most like is in a longtime care facility and no longer even recognizes the LW.

    In this case — yes.

    Dan Savage sure would have a lot to say about the responses to this letter. He has said repeatedly that if one partner is simply completely and forever DONE with sex, then the other partner does have a right to seek it elsewhere. More, it can be the moral thing to do.

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    • avatar

      Helen April 23, 2020, 3:12 pm

      If that’s the case, the incapable partner can’t have sex because dementia has taken her mind, then my opinion would change. I would give the pass to cheat. But I’m thinking he or she left out why their partner is incapable because it makes him or her look like an ass

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      • avatar

        Helen April 23, 2020, 4:29 pm

        I also agree that if a partner is unwilling to have sex then a conversation about non monogamy needs to happen. But he didn’t say she just doesn’t want to. Even qualified it as “effective” sex, like s/he was offering something s/he felt wasn’t good enough. I’m not picking a fight you BGM! I love reading other people’s takes on letters! This one has so few details we’re forced to use our imaginations

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    • avatar

      Random commenter April 24, 2020, 6:55 am

      The lack of details in the question makes me think that the letter writer isn’t in a situation that would make them sound sympathetic.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark April 24, 2020, 11:36 am

        Possibly. It’s hilariously vague and obtuse.

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  • avatar

    Rebecca April 23, 2020, 11:59 am

    LW2: to answer the question I think you’re asking: if your partner is incapacitated, and you haven’t had a previous discussion about sex outside the partnership, then sex outside the partnership is cheating. If your incapacitated partner is also incognizant, for example, you’re married to a person living with advanced altzheimers or dementia, it’s still cheating even if they don’t know about it, and yes, you have three options: be relegated to a sexless partnership, cheat on them, or leave them. Options 2 and 3 are pretty cad-like, but hey, you do you.

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  • avatar

    brise April 23, 2020, 1:54 pm

    LW1: why don’t you both agree on a phone appointment, like once a week? It will be much easier if you set in advance a date and an hour. If he can’t do that once a week on a planned schedule, then I would just renounce this relationship. Why the fuss, the lost energy for you? Do you “date” a caveman or what?
    LW2: the LW can’t own his case. The transfer of responsibility in the second sentence is striking: cheating means someone is “deprived” of the sex they are “entitled” to ? what? LW, just own it. Or get consent from your ill spouse. I can’t see really an in-between option. The most important thing is to remain involved in the care of your partner, and not to consider that they owe you sex, especially if they are in such a poor state. It is not their fault. Then own what you choose to do, you are certainly not in a situation that other people should judge harshly. It is your private life, after all. So why the poll?

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  • avatar

    mellanthe April 23, 2020, 2:16 pm

    LW1: the key here is communicaiton. You need to explain what you hope for, and why it means something to you. It sounds like you both see it differently. Perhaps he treats it like we treat casual group chats- sporadic messages but no ‘leaving’ – a stream of conversation. You sound like you see it as akin ot a phone call – focused conversation with a voiced end point.

    Maybe part of the problem is you guys are both online together a lot, and so the quality of the conversation decreases. Also, if you’re online all day then of course you’re going to be walking away all the time, but it can feel like a drag to announce it. I used to have friend convos like this as a student, and they could be pretty tiring if the friend expected constant updates when you did stuff.

    If you feel frustrated that his AFK makes it hard to plan your own day, Isuggest having actual discrete conversations – an hour or two, when you both focus on talking rather than dipping in and out like you would with a group chat. This is important: it meas that you are both free to do anything when you guys aren’t talking- and nobody has to announce every single thing they do all day. You can still send each other memes or whatever the rest of the time, but it will stop you from expecting him to announce when he’s around the rest of the time.

    You can absolutely call or message him first. Guys appreciate that too. It sounds like you might need to discuss how often you hope to be able to chat – the people I know handle their relationships differently, even if long distance. Some people talk practically all day whilst others talk every few days – it may well be that he just has different expectations and assumes you are happy with how things are.

    My BF and I are long distance, we used to talk a few times during the week and spending the weekend together. It worked around our long commutes, irregular shifts and social ativities. But sometimes there’d be a rough patch when it just felt like we never got the chance, and this was still fairly early on, when being together didn’t feel like a done deal. We talked about it – I had been going through a very stressful time at work had worried he was pulling away, whereas he saw seeing and talking to me as a certainty and that talking less often was temporary and NBD – and was more serious than I’d realised. To him, meeting was much more important- he doesn’t message/call anyone much, and wanted to be supportive of my busy life rather than pestering me for the things I can’t change. He also saw it more like a convo you could dip in and out of, whereas I saw it more like a phone call – i.e. a discrete chat over a couple of hours that you sign off from when you go to bed or disappear. Now I’m more relaxed about when things don’t line up, and and he lets me know if he’s gonna disappear mid convo. Things work, but only because we talked about what we expected, and realised we expected slightly different things.

    LW2:
    If someone isn’t getting something core to their relationship, like sex, they can choose to leave, they can choose to accept it, or they can choose to find that elsewehre. But they really should discuss this with their partner, if their partner is able to communicate that.

    I don’t think it’s ethical to go behind your partner’s back, if you’ve made an agreement to stay faithful. Firstly, if the partner needs help or doesn’t realise that their partner feels neglected, this gives a chance to try to work on things. Secondly, if you’re looking elsewhere they deserve to know so that they are protected, and also so that they can choose if this new status quo is for them – you might not wish to leave a partner if you’re cheating on them, but perhaps that’s a dealbreaker for them. Or perhaps they will agree to changing the terms of the relationship, in which case honesty was always the best option.

    If they can’t make that decision mentally, then it’s really about what the partner left behind can live with – I’m not sure the boundaries are clear cut. Or at least, it’d be understandable if someone didn’t want to spend the rest of their life without sex because their partner is severely incapacitated to the degree they can’t consent, can’t understand the deprivation their parter is in. Arguably, these things should be discussed with partners beforehand so that people are on the same page.

    But I don’t know why you wrote in – you’re not asking for advice, you’re stating support for something you don’t need to justify to others.

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  • avatar

    Oracle April 23, 2020, 4:23 pm

    LW1. He’s just not that into you. LW2. You are such a jerk.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros April 23, 2020, 4:54 pm

    LW1: Aside from the current situation, presumably you didn’t really keep in close contact with your boyfriend outside of seeing him twice a month or so. That’s not really sustainable for a relationship by itself. I don’t have enough details to really speculate accurately, but I wonder if he doesn’t really take the relationship that seriously because it’s not really feeling like a relationship. If he hasn’t made any effort to improve his ability to be in touch with you (again before the pandemic), then I just don’t really see you guys having much of a relationship in the future or him really caring about that. If he doesn’t mind not talking to you for a month, then I don’t see the motivation in trying to get him to because it’s a really bad sign.

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  • avatar

    Diana April 23, 2020, 6:02 pm

    LW 1:
    I hate talking on the phone. But when my partner traveled out of town, we talked on the phone everyday. Why? Because we like to talk to each other. And we’ve been together for 10 years. I need to hear the sound of his voice and he mine. I never had the issue of not getting enough from him. I have dated (briefly) a Long-distance guy in the past who did not like talking on the phone, only online chat. I had to make a big deal out of it so he would agree to call me sometime. We broke because I realized we were not compatible.
    Wanting phone conversation is not needy. But it does mean you might not be right for each other. It’s time to let this relationship go. Once the quarantine is over, you can meet someone whom you don’t have to bag to talk to you.

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    • avatar

      Diana April 23, 2020, 6:05 pm

      Oops Meant to say *Beg
      Can’t seem to edit that

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    • avatar

      BessMarvin April 24, 2020, 11:52 am

      That’s so interesting! I’ve been married 20 years and if one of us is out of town, we do not talk on the phone or facetime or whatever. We are just not phone people!

      However, we do have a sort of running message conversation on a regular basis — on any given workday we exchange a few message about this or that, photos of interesting things or commentary on something that just happened. When one of us is away that activity probably ramps up a bit. But we don’t use the phone any more than we usually do, which is almost never.

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      • avatar

        Ange April 24, 2020, 7:25 pm

        Same, I loathe talking on the phone. When my husband and I lived apart for a year and a half we communicated mostly by a running WhatsApp back and forth

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      • avatar

        Diana April 27, 2020, 12:50 pm

        It comes down to compatibility and compromise. If she wants to communicate by talking on the phone but he doesn’t care for it, they can find compromise or decide they are not right for each other. It just seems to me that he doesn’t even want to make even a bare effort.

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  • avatar

    CinderALLIE April 23, 2020, 11:35 pm

    LW1) Contact goes both ways, you both have to make an effort. If neither party is willing and you aren’t getting what you need, then move on.

    LW2) Is effective being they cant due to illness or effective as in the sex just isnt good enough? Anyway answers the same either way in my opinion, if your partner has not consented to you going elsewhere for sex then it is cheating. If it’s because of sickness or mental incapacity, then it’s still cheating as they haven;t agreed to that kind of relationship…I need to have a conversation with my partner now to make sure he knows this LOL.

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  • Dear Wendy

    Dear Wendy April 24, 2020, 6:48 am

    A couple additions notes from LW2 with many more details, for those whoa re interested:

    “Well, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to tell the highlights of the relationship that inspired the Email.

    My girlfriend and I were together for 23 years until I called it off about a month ago. She started doing bizarre things and and refused to talk about it.

    Our relationship started with a little drink and dance date on a Saturday. On Tuesday she called on her way home from a ladie’s wine group and said, ‘I’m on my way home and the only thing we talked about all night was sex. Can you come over here?’ (She is a gorgeous, well-educated, and very intelligent woman.)

    We quickly found out we had a LOT of stuff in common beyond liking sex. The first fifteen years were a glorious whirlwind of dinner parties, wine tastings, and domestic and international travel. It was one very long party with an amazing amount of sex. I tried to estimate it one time and it was about once a day…even though we lived apart. (This thing started when I was 55 and she was 60.)

    She was caring for her mother at that 15-year juncture and she decided she needed to move to get her mother closer to other family to have help. I supported her in that and put crown molding throughout the house and painted the interior. I couldn’t move up there because I had just refinanced my house and would have had to take a pretty stiff penalty if I sold it at that time. It is possible to get an exemption claiming hardship but the mortgage company wouldn’t consider lackanooky as a hardship…..even though I offered to show them how hard it was.

    I very quickly came to dislike a long-distance relationship and called a halt to it. We were apart for several months and she met a guy at shul who she ended up marrying, against the advice of everybody, including a counselor.

    He defrauded her on sex by saying before marriage that he wanted to wait until after they were married. After marriage, he said he had a tough time with Viagra and didn’t like how it made him feel….ergo, no sex…ever.

    Within a couple weeks, after not being able to dislodge him from that stance, she was knocking on my door.

    For the past eight years, we have conducted this affair while she lives with a guy she doesn’t even like, let alone love. I cannot get anything out of her as to why she won’t divorce him.”

    And this:

    “I suppose I should pick the baton back up and take another swing at the piñata.

    Her late husband was apparently a sexual genius and left me with the female version of that. The most important lesson to be learned, I suppose, is that he didn’t turn her off to sex but made every intimate encounter a joyous celebration. That made our thousands of encounters just such joyous celebrations.

    Far too many guys want to stick it in, pull it out, congratulate themselves on their performance, and roll over and go to sleep. I know, that after I have had my fun, the encounter is less than half finished. I still have a lot of fun ‘work’ to do. There is a lot happening between the legs but a lot more between the ears.

    Guys should somehow be educated to the fact that making her as happy as possible can be a LOT of fun in itself and result in large payoffs down the line. Any guy who can’t see the value in that should be dumped immediately.

    Guys should also be studiously educated on female anatomy.”

    Ok.

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    • avatar

      misspiggy April 24, 2020, 9:03 am

      Thanks for sharing this Wendy, that makes things quite different. For one thing, the only action the LW could take if he felt the situation were unethical would be to ditch his partner if she doesn’t disclose to her husband that she’s seeking sex outside the marriage. (My bet is that the husband is in the closet, but who knows.)

      For another, I wouldn’t judge an affair partner (LW) as harshly as I would the affair haver. Dan Savage would say go for it in any case – this is not a marriage with a long and happy sex life until someone gets ill, this is a bait and switch. Sex is a societal expectation of marriage, and unless you negotiate something different in advance you’re breaking your commitment if you take that completely off the table straight away. So the lady gets to break her commitment too without much judgement. Sad that neither of them is willing to make a more sensible change, but I think the LW is off any ethical hooks.

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    • avatar

      Random commenter April 24, 2020, 11:00 am

      Nothing here stops it from being cheating.

      She married someone without finding out if they were sexually compatible.
      She discovered they weren’t.
      According to you, she doesn’t like or love him.
      She decided to start having sex with someone else without her husband’s knowledge as opposed to either doing it openly or ending an unsatisfying relationship.

      Where’s the extenuating circumstance that makes this ok?

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      • avatar

        Sea Witch April 24, 2020, 1:52 pm

        She met in him in a religious setting (shul), so he was able to pull the wool over her eyes by claiming he wanted to wait until marriage, because religion.
        There is still this reverence for people who appear to have strong religious faith, so they get away with a lot of stuff.

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      • avatar

        mellanthe April 24, 2020, 3:13 pm

        Arguably even most religious marriages have exemptions if a partner can’t or won’t consummate the marriage.

        Ethically, a partner doesn’t have the right to deny their partner a vital part of relationships forever without accepting that this may compromise the relationship. It might not, for some people but for others it might be the end.

        However, ideally this would have to be a conversation between the couple. However, if he doesn’t engage with that, I wouldn’t say it’s 100% unethical to go elsewhere. Some partners can take the line ‘I won’t divorce you, won’t have sex with you, and won’t let you go elsewhere’, in which case their partner is left feeling stranded.

        And yeah, her new husband sounds closeted and it’s a shame she’s stuck with someone she won’t divorce but who she doesn’t love and has no sex with – the problem is that she needs to choose what she wants to do about it. Having an affair is the less than ideal option – it’s much better to make a clean break and pursue relationships honestly. However if that really can’t happen then there are many shades of wrong. I’d hate to personally cast judgement on complex circumstances.

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    • avatar

      Sea Witch April 24, 2020, 1:59 pm

      “She started doing bizarre things and and refused to talk about it.”
      He doesn’t elaborate on what the “bizarre things” are. If she’s 83, she could very well be in the early stages of dementia.

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      • avatar

        Helen April 25, 2020, 11:09 am

        She was tricked. Keep banging away. I can’t comprehend not sleeping with someone before you pledge your life to them. I’ve had relationships with wonderful people but we just didn’t match sexually and it was a dealbreaker. I hate religion

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  • avatar

    anonymousse April 24, 2020, 7:33 am

    WTF did I just read? He’s in his eighties?

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy April 24, 2020, 8:00 am

      Apparently so!

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      • avatar

        Rebecca April 24, 2020, 8:29 am

        I’m calling bullshit on *gestures vaguely* well, all of the details, really. This reads like a cry for “AM I STILL SEXY” validation, or a test-run for a dirty-old-man fanfic.

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    • avatar

      Sea Witch April 24, 2020, 2:01 pm

      He’s 78 – not quite in his 80s – and she’s 83. There are people who are very fit and healthy at that age.

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  • avatar

    Sea Witch April 24, 2020, 1:54 pm

    Maybe LW1 should send her boyfriend a long, long, detailed Victorian style letter, complete with flowery prose. He’ll look at that and think “Holy crap, is that how she expects me to communicate now? I’d better phone her tonight to nip this in the bud.”

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