Waiting for a Call

Question from a reader:

Hi There.

I have a friend with whom I have wonderful conversations on the phone. When
SHE phones, we often talk for hours, and when we talk I feel like we are
close friends due to the nature of what we discuss and the length and
intensity of the conversations. However, when I phone her I almost ALWAYS
get her answering machine, and I often don’t hear from her for a long time
after (sometimes up to a month). When she does call me, she can almost
always reach me. She often starts by apologizing that she hasn’t been able
to call me back, and says she’s been busy. This issue has bothered me for a
long time, because I feel like she’s lying to me about “being busy” as the
reason for her not phoning. I feel like she’s screening her calls, and
purposely doesn’t pick up when I call, but I’m not sure why. I’ve touched
on it once by saying “When I call, I get your voicemail an awful lot…..is
there a good time to call when I’m likely to reach you?” She responded with
a pause, some rambling, and eventually said that a particular time worked
best. I had already been trying to call at that time. Miraculously, after
that, for a couple of months, she answered the phone when I called. Now,
the situation seems to have reverted back to me getting the answering
machine all the time.
I have often thought that my calls are being avoided on purpose, which
would suggest that she doesn’t want to hear from me. Yet, I am not sure, as
when she phones me, we talk for hours. In one way I’d like to know what’s
going on so that I can finally stop wondering and guessing, but in another
way, I’m scared to have this conversation because she’ll likely say
something I won’t like hearing.
I think I need to mention the voicemail issue again, but in a way which
clearly conveys how I feel and what I’m concerned about. Do you have a


Waiting for a Call.

[My 1st reply]

Hi Waiting,

Thanks for taking the time to write. Sorry to hear about your frustration.

It sounds like your friend enjoys your friendship, but might be trying to set boundaries with you by controlling when you two talk. Maybe I am wrong to think you want a romantic relationship with this person but it sounds like it. I am guessing you have other friends with whom you talk on occasion and it doesn’t bother you like it does with her.

Clearly, she likes talking to you … when she has the time and inclination, which seems to me like she does consider you a close friend but is probably not considering romance. Deciding when and how often you two talk may be her subtle way to communicate this.

However, since her behavior hurts you, confirm her intentions. What about opening the conversation with something like this:

“If you did not know this, I look forward to our conversations. They energize me and seem to deepen our friendship, which I really enjoy.

Because I consistently have trouble reaching you whenever I call, I wonder if you are uncomfortable with something I am doing? I do not want to push you away or do anything to weaken our friendship. But, sometimes I really want to reach you. When you don’t answer the phone or return my calls within a few days I get the feeling something is wrong, and I get frustrated with your silence.

Is there something different I can do to encourage a call back?”

Hearing this from you might give her permission to tell you how she feels about your friendship. Maybe add an additional comment about your intentions, such as:

“Are you concerned I want something more from our relationship? Maybe this is something we should talk about briefly.”

It is a bold move to encourage open and honest communication. Fortunately, we can approach these talks so neither party dreads having the conversation.

Be well,

[Reader reply]

Thanks for the advice. I will definitely try some of these suggestions if she phones me back.

I’m curious about what makes it seem like I’m interested in a romantic relationship with this person? It is true that I have other friends with whom I speak with only sometimes, but these are relationships with a great deal of reciprocity ( I phone, they phone, I suggest an outing, they suggest one, etc) something which I feel is really lacking in this relationship. Also, my other friends generally answer the phone when I call, or they get back to me within a few days of getting my message, and vice-versa. But, strangely enough, I don’t feel the same closeness with them that I do with this friend. I think I forgot to mention that I was only calling her once a month at best, sometimes every couple of months. I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, and I’d like to think that if she didn’t want to talk to me, and she ignored my calls and never called me again, I would get the hint. Only when she does phone me, she is keen to chat..and often for at least a couple hours at a time. This is what leaves me feeling used and confused. It’s like I am there for her, but she is never there for me. Texts are the same way. She sends me these long, thoughtful texts, and when I text her..no response for many days. We hang out on occasion, and seem to have a great time. I think she does consider me a friend, maybe even a close or “good” friend. And when we are talking, I feel the same way. I think that’s why I get so angry and upset when I can’t reach her. I just don’t understand what to make of it all.

-Waiting for a Call

[My 2nd reply]

Hi Waiting,

In your original message, you expressed fear about how she might respond to your needs. I thought you might have romantic feelings for her because I know that I feel much more afraid approaching a difficult conversation with someone I want as a romantic partner than I do with a platonic friend. Maybe that’s just me.

In my earlier years of dating, I grew anxious if someone I liked did not get back to me within a reasonable time period. These days, I chalk up delayed calls to lack of romantic interest and will let go of wanting a relationship with this person. When a friend does not return my call, my feelings are less hurt because I know how busy life gets and feel secure that I will eventually connect with this friend when it is convenient for us both.

Because your friend pushes your buttons, in both positive and negative ways, I hope you will honestly communicate your concerns to her. If she is a good friend she will listen and try to find a solution so you can feel heard by her when you need it. If she will not accommodate you, then you may want to consider the depth of the friendship and whether or not it is worth pursuing.

Good luck,

[Originally received November 2012]


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