Jumping to conclusions

We’d been seeing each other for a few weeks. We’d hit it off really well and expressed our mutual liking. We’d decided to get together Friday evening for something casual. No definite plans had been made, just that we’d talk that afternoon and see what we wanted to do and when to rendezvous.

He called at 4:30 and asked, “Will you be there in 30 minutes? I need to make a call before 5:00. Then I’ll call you back and we can decide what we want to do tonight.”

I waited for the 5:00 call. Nothing. At 5:30, I called and got voice mail. I called again at 6:00, 6:30, 7:30. Voice mail. Every minute seemed an eternity. I was seething. “How disrespectful! How inconsiderate. Here I am spending my Friday night waiting for a call. This man does not keep his promises. He is out of integrity. I can’t date a man who doesn’t keep his word.”

The intensity of my disappointment and anger increased with each passing hour. I rehearsed the voice mail telling him I wouldn’t be treated like this. How dare he make a date then essentially stand me up. If he couldn’t honor his word about something simple like calling me back, what else wasn’t he dependable about? Was this the way to start a relationship?

At 10:00 he called. I knew that his cousin — a man with whom he grew up like a brother — had tried to commit suicide a few days before. My date had been the one to find him after he’d slit his wrists. He had been at the hospital ICU for hours the last few days. We knew from the previous days that there was no cell phone usage inside. After we talked at 4:30 he called to check on his cousin. The nurse said he was failing and to come immediately. He rushed to his cousin’s side. He stayed with him, holding him in his arms until he died. He called me on his way home, disturbed and emotionally drained.

Imagine if I’d left the voice mail I’d rehearsed. Or laid into him as soon as he called rather than hearing what happened. Or said, “You could have stepped out and called me to let me know what was happening.” Yes, he could have called, but in the grand scheme of things that sounded so petty to point out. If you are in the midst of a loved one’s dying, you are focused on them, not on a phone call to some woman you barely know.

It taught me a lesson of how much I make up what’s going on with the other person based on no information. Could he have called me on the way to the hospital to let me know? Yes. Is it understandable that someone would forget to do so given the situation? Absolutely. It is easy to criticize others based on what we imagine we would do in a similar situation, but we aren’t living in their skin, with the thought patterns, emotions and history which determine their decisions.

It is so easy to make it all about us. It is natural and automatic. It is much, much harder to hold off reacting and wait until we have some information. The trick is to feel what you feel, notice what you think, and keep it to yourself until you hear the other side. If you need to write down what you’re feeling to get it out, do so. If you need to talk to a good friend and ask, “How else could I interpret this?” do it. Just don’t barge in like an angry bear. You may end up feeling skinned by embarrassment.

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28 responses to “Jumping to conclusions”

  1. Cupertino Avatar

    I’m wondering why, when you and he had been doing so well in the couple of weeks you’d started getting to know each other, you went so readily to anger, rather than concern or curiosity, when he didn’t call. It feels like you weren’t seeing *him* at that moment, you were seeing the long line of men who had disappointed you or gone poof in the past.

    I do try to follow your good advice, though: wait until I have enough information to know whether being upset is justified.

  2. Gatti Avatar

    One of my pet concepts is:

    You just never really know what another person is going through.

    So if someone is acting strange or even rude I try to remember to back off until I have a better idea of what is actually happening to them.

    If it’s a fleeting encounter (like a crabby waiter) I will usually just let it go. Maybe they’re just like that, maybe something terrible has happened. Who can know?

  3. Deanna Avatar

    The advice to wait and hear what a guy has to say in that sort of situation is good and I do agree with that. But I have yet to find a guy that actually has had a good explanation (that he didn’t make up). When I was younger, I was much more trusting, and my first thoughts were always the benefit of the doubt for the guy (and I was always wrong). After a 10-yr marriage, and 14 subsequent years of dating various men mixed in with a few long-term relationships, I have met so many that are inconsiderate, liars, cheaters, etc, it has become extremely difficult not to jump to conclusions and get angry when they do things like that. And it doesn’t matter how great they are in the beginning when they are on their “best” dating behavior. They can do a 180, or pull a “Jekyll & Hyde” so fast it makes your head spin. I think each time I have jumped to conclusions (in a negative way), I have turned out to be right, which is very sad. I do know some good and honorable men, but unfortunately, they seem to be in the small minority these days. I know a lot of men complain about women, too, and many women are not any better, but I don’t have to deal with women that way so I cannot speak from experience. Not sure if it’s just human nature, a societal problem, or maybe it’s just certain generations being brought up a certain way. Or a combination. But it’s very difficult to find a “good” one, that much I know. Hence the reason I choose to remain single.

  4. "Darling Donna" sometimes "Daring" Avatar
    “Darling Donna” sometimes “Daring”

    You are so absolutely right on this one!

    A friend of mine from out of town was to be coming to see me, when his son was in a boating accident and everything else that did not need his focus went poof! I emailed him and wondering why I had not heard from him that day, and that’s when he emailed me back telling me about the accident, I was so glad that I had not assumed the worst because that would have been the last straw concerning our relationship if I had jumped to conclusions. Later, around Midnight…he text messaged me from his son’s bedside and I did the best I could do to console him, His son survived and we are on even better terms then before. I finally realized that by contacting me at that late hour that he needed me and had reached out to me….and I was there for him. You can not believe how a moment like that can deepen a relationship.

  5. Dating Goddess Avatar

    Cupertino: I tried to only include details of the story that I thought were relevant to the point, but I can see I left out an important one: this was not the first time he didn’t call when he said he would. It had happened a few times, and he always had a viable (at least it seemed) reason (meeting ran late, no cell coverage in the hospital, etc.). So I had some baggage built up with this one. We even talked about how important it was for me to hear from him around the time he said he’d call as I had adjusted my activities based on that (not made outbound calls, etc.).

    So all this added to my disappointment and ire. I felt he had ignored my request that he be more rigorous about calling when he’d said he would.

  6. Deanna Avatar

    My dad was about the best guy I ever knew (they were married almost 50 years, til the day he died, and he was the only man for my mom). If he had been still dating my mother, and told her he had to make a call but would call her back in half an hour to make plans for the evening, and then found out he had to go the hospital, the first thing he would have done would have been to call her back the moment he got off the phone to explain the situation and let her know. Actually, i’m sure he would have told her in the first place that his call was to the hospital to check on his cousin, instead of leaving her wondering what was going on.

    This guy was not emotionally incapacitated after he was notified he should go to the hospital (and if he was, then there are other issues here). He was still able to function and drive to the hospital and be available for his cousin the whole night. Obviously, his cousin was the top priority for the evening (and rightfully so) but it only takes a moment to make a call or send a text to let someone know what’s going on. I used to make excuses for guys all the time, but the truth is, a responsible, reliable and considerate man would have taken a moment to let a woman know that he would be at the hospital for the evening. I don’t care if he’s only known her for 5 minutes. I would have done that for someone else under the same circumstances, and I expect the same consideration in return.

    Would I stop seeing the guy over that? That incident in and of itself would not be enough of a reason… but this combined with his history of not calling when he says is actually a big red flag indicating that this guy is not very reliable or considerate. Since he’s probably still on his “best behavior” in the early stages of the dating relationship, it probably doesn’t bode well for a long-term one.

  7. Deanna Avatar

    Correction… my dad would have immediately called my mom to let her know what was going on, then he would have included her in his life and asked if she wanted to go with him to the hospital, and she would have said yes, and would have been there for him the whole night at the hospital to lend emotional support, even if she spent most of the time in the waiting room so as to give him privacy with his cousin.

  8. LA Avatar

    How it starts is how it goes.

  9. hunter Avatar

    to Deanna,

    you had nice parents….

  10. hunter Avatar

    to DG,

    I used to do this, not call, ’till one day someone set me straight. But, that is not what I wanted to say. It doesn’t take much to make a call, most of us have cell phones, text messaging, electronic whatever….. A phone call can be done in seconds, “hi, I need to cancel tonight, Bye.” If you are interested in that person, “we will talk some other time….”

    On another note, I get phone numbers from women who don’t answer the phone. Many times I wish they would just say, “get lost mother f###…. so I could just move on….

  11. Christine Avatar

    Well, DG, if I just consider the facts as you’ve written them here, I see a red flag or two. Just my opinion…However, this post reminds me that it’s never a good idea to personalize things when a situation doesn’t work out as planned. I’ve had to practice this alot since my break-up. I’m learning to apply a bit of a teflon coat to my emotions so that I don’t overreact with some big story I’m telling myself. This gives me the distance and reserve to handle a situation with a little more grace in the moment, but it doesn’t help with the icky feelings of disappointment that always seem to lie underneath. This has led me to lower my expectations for everyone and this seems to be serving me in dating somewhat..

  12. hunter Avatar

    to Deanna,

    Many guys don’t realize, that a woman can rationalize almost anything we say, we don’t have to lie to her….

  13. Christine Avatar

    Hunter, say more about that.

  14. Ally Avatar

    I’m with Cupertino, especially since recently I had the same reaction as DG. I make stuff up, out of fear, and old disappointments.

    As for Deanna, your dad sounds great. At the same time, they were married, and knew each other for a long time, just as DG’s beau knew the cousin closely and for a long time, so the priority is not on the new girlfriend, but on the family. It is a key difference.

  15. Deanna Avatar

    Hi, Ally… yeah, my dad was a great man, very reliable, very honest, respectful, highly intelligent, hard-working, lots of other things. I can’t even think of anything bad to say about him. I did not mean that was what he would have done when they were married (although of course he would have). I meant that is still how he would have treated my mother even when they were first dating. That’s just the way he was, very upstanding character, and all-around kind man. Having grown up in a normal, non-dysfunctional family with good parents, I had to learn the hard way during and after my marriage (to an abusive man) that really good men like that were a rarity.

    I asked my mother once if my dad had ever done anything really crappy when they were dating that she had to overlook or make excuses for.

    Her response… “Never.”

    They just don’t make ’em like that anymore ๐Ÿ™

  16. Deanna Avatar

    There are so many inconsiderate guys out there that we get used to it, and we overlook and make excuses for a lot of things. If the situation were reversed, I bet Dating Goddess would’ve made a quick call to her guy, to let him know the plans for the evening would have to be canceled. She deserves the same respect.

    Each situation is different, of course, but from what she described, this guy has a habit of not calling when he says, and this really was no different. He already knew his cousin was in the hospital in very bad shape (in other words, it was not something that took him by total surprise so that he was unable to think straight and remember what he was supposed to do that night, or to cause him to have a sudden emotional breakdown and make him forget everyone/everything else), and he had ample opportunity to let her know what was going on with a minimum of effort. He just chose not to bother with it. Inconsiderate. Disrespectful.

  17. Deanna Avatar

    Ally.. one more thought…. not only would my dad have treated my mother that way (with consideration and respect) when they were first dating, he would have treated a total stranger the exact same way. Not knowing someone for long is not an excuse for poor behavior.

    If this guy was so emotionally distrought and had a nervous breakdown after hearing the news of his cousin’s condition, that he couldn’t remember what he’d told DG just minutes earlier and call her to let her know the evening’s plans were canceled…. then I suppose that’s a valid excuse (although I still think he could have done it, or asked a nurse to give her a call, at some point earlier in the evening, and if he was that emotionally unstable I’d probably question still wanting to date him because of that). But given his history, I really doubt that’s the case. He has already demonstrated a habit of not calling when he says, etc, and those habits are hard to break.

    He knew that when he told her later what had happened, she would forgive him (because she had already forgiven him for the same thing several times), so he just didn’t bother. Women are very forgiving, and we really do enable a lot of immature and inconsiderate behavior sometimes (and I am just as guilty of it as anyone else, but I’m learning).

  18. PreviouslyQueenofE Avatar

    Like Christine, I see a red flag or two, especially after hearing how he didn’t call when he said he would.

  19. Christine Avatar

    Deanna – I think we’ve hit a nerve!

  20. PreviouslyQueenofE Avatar

    And why didn’t he tell you what the call was that he needed to make before 5 pm? If he had said he needed to call the hospital, then that would have given you a reason to give him the benefit of the doubt for not calling. You would have thought that things had taken a turn for the worse and worried about him, instead of getting angry.

  21. Deanna Avatar

    Hi, Christine!

    LOL… yes, I guess that’s true but not really about this specific thing…. I’m just so tired of men’s bad behavior in general! And that sometimes it seems like the not-so-good men outnumber the good men by a zillion to one (and to be fair, I know women can be just as bad, but I don’t have to deal with them in dating relationships ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Staying quiet Avatar
    Staying quiet

    I read Deanna’s reaction, and I heard my ex-wife. Unfortunately, I know what drives her apparently “rationale” reaction, and it’s not healthy. As matter of fact, I (and others) believe that she has a serious personality disorder (that I won’t go into).

    I don’t have experience being on the other side, but I do know that the expectation that the man will call the woman and keep her abreast of an inconvenient situation is an expectation that seems to predominate among women, and not among men. I’ve never experienced this among my male friends, but I have heard women complaining about other women. Perhaps the single most important thing that a woman can do for a man is give him some slack.

  23. greendaze44 Avatar

    Men are given too much slack. They need to be held accountable for their actions! As each person does.
    As Deana said, I believe he could have made a call to you on the way to the hospital. As it was said, it doesn’t take long to say, “I’m on the way to the hospital because of an emergency, I can’t make it tonight.”
    Yes, there are a lot of losers of both genders out there. But do you really want to lower your standards?
    There are also always good and bad in every relationship. You have to think about if the good out weighs the bad and if the bad is something you are willing to put up with because of the good that you do have. Is he willing to try to work of the bad? What is important to you, DG? Listen to yourself, you know the answer.

  24. bookyone Avatar

    Hi DG,

    It’s a good thing you trust this guy, as if a guy told me a story like that without a lot of backstory and a good deal of past honest talk and behavior to back it up, I’d seriously wonder if he was trying to feed me a line. Of course, as I’ve been fed a lot of lines over the years, I’m naturally suspicious of most guys untl they prove they’re trustworthy. Some people call this baggage, I call it the wisdom of self-preservation that comes with age, disappointment and disillusionment after disillusionment.

    I’m glad you found a good, honest guy, IMHO they’re few and far between…

    Best wishes from bookyone ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. nysharon Avatar

    DG there are red flags a waven. Some drama and he forgets your number. Yes you should never react strongly since if we allow others to keep us waiting than it is our own fault, no matter what the excuse. My suggestion is to give it an hour or two, and then call him to say, “I am worried that I haven’t heard from you and you are very late. It feels like something else has come up so I think I will make other plans.” Regardless of this excuse, I think he could have rung you back to let you know, and get some support from you to boot.
    PS>there are pay phones in the hospital and it is fairly easy to take a walk to the back door or lobby to make a call. I splashed chemical in my eyes and drove myself to the hospital. On the way I called my BF to let him know.

  26. nysharon Avatar

    AND btw: you should make other plans.

  27. Mitsy Avatar

    I can relate to Deanna’s story about her Dad in some ways. While my Dad was pretty strict, and I had my share of arguments and turmoil with him, I will say that he taught my sister and me to always do what we said we would do. We called someone if we said we were, we were on time if we were picking someone up and did not leave anyone waiting if someone was picking us up, etc. It was the way we were raised. My Mom continues to believe in that theory for living. Unfortunately, a lot of men were not raised with that motto in place. They will say they will call but then don’t (or wait hours or days after they say they will), and many don’t seem to have a conscience about it at all. I say that comes from their upbringing.

    I met far too many men (mostly online) who did not follow through with things or led me on when someone who had been raised by my Dad would not have done that. A lot of it was plain old fashioned courtesy (or lack thereof). So while some men may not understand the theory behind keeping their woman updated on things, it’s a matter of courtesy and respect. Sadly, many men (and women) don’t put those traits high on their priority list.

    So, we can probably blame some upbringing on our men’s lack of manners–at least in a lot of cases, I think.

  28. hunter Avatar

    to Mitsy,

    ..well said, I can relate to what you said…I was not raised with the “old fashioned courtesy motto” My parents were too busy with their own marriage flaws…..and most men, dive into the dating scene, just as they are….