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My ‘fantastic’ boyfriend rarely calls me

The question

I've been seeing my boyfriend for four months and I think he's fantastic. But we keep running into the same issue: He hardly texts or calls even though I keep telling him that this bothers me. On several occasions I've texted or called him and didn't receive a reply until the next day. Sometimes I wait for him to make the effort and three or four days will go by before I hear anything.

I understand that he's really busy with work and his job requires him to travel out of the country. I'm not asking to see him every day. But if you care about someone, shouldn't you be curious about how they're doing? When we're together everything is great, so I sometimes feel selfish asking for his time. Am I being too needy?

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The answer

Without knowing you and observing your relationship first-hand, it's hard to know whether you're being too needy or he's being neglectful.

But I do know that every couple has their own rhythm for how often they check in with one another. Some couples check in four, five, six times a day – by phone, e-mail, text. Others, not so much.

It's possible you two are still finding your check-in rhythm as a couple. Maybe you're a check-in-a-lot type and he's a not-so-much type.

Your problem could be partly technological/evolutionary as well as romantic.

If you think about it, our poor 50,000-year-old hunter-gatherer brains have had to acclimatize awfully quickly to the current climate of constant, instant communication.

In hunter-gatherer days, if your girlfriend lived in the next village and you wanted to see how her day was going, it took a messenger three days to walk across the scorching savanna, eating berries and raw lizard, and drinking cactus juice, to ask; and three days to return with the answer. (The previous sentence was "inspired by" historical fact, same way James Cameron's new spelunker clunker Sanctum was "inspired by" true events.)

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These days we stagger around staring at our handhelds, frantically Facebooking and phoning, typing and texting, only looking up when we bump into a lamppost or get in a car crash.

But if you answered all the texts, e-mails and phone calls you got all the time, you'd never get any work done.

Your boyfriend may be one of those guys who need a little electronic moat around himself so he can think and concentrate and work.

If so, I sympathize. I'm a bit that way myself.

On the other hand, there are some red flags here. Four days is an awfully long time to go without inquiring as to the well-being of your romantic partner, no matter how busy one is – especially in such a new relationship.

Ye gods, four months into dating my wife Pam, I would have called her no matter how busy I was – while crossing the Grand Canyon on a tightrope, being dangled by a mobster from a balcony, stuffing bills in my pockets in the wake of a Brink's truck explosion.

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Four months in, he should still be Senor Romeo Muy Romantico, strumming a ukulele under your balcony with a rose between his teeth, not Senor Incommunicado, failing to return your calls.

If I were you, I'd be asking myself: If he's like this four months in, what he going to be like after four years – or 40?

Two things a couple needs in the early going: a) momentum, b) equilibrium.

A) means you need to feel like the relationship is moving forward, and always going deeper, like the characters in Sanctum.

B) means you should feel like you're both equally invested. My 20s are still fresh enough in my memory that I recall how terrible it was when one party cared more than the other, when one had the "upper hand" and one had the "lower hand."

Luckily, it's possible to recapture both momentum and equilibrium, if they are temporarily lost.

And what better occasion than Valentine's Day to regroup, recapture and rekindle? Have a romantic evening. And a heart-to-heart tête-à-tête. Ask him how he feels, where he sees the relationship going, if there's anything on his mind.

If he makes the right kinds of noises – sorry, I've been busy/a jerk, I care about you, since it means a lot to you I'll try harder (good practice for if he ever makes it to husbandhood) and so forth – then, fine, see how it goes, on a probationary basis.

If not – if he acts indifferent or angry or, worse, blows you off – well, I hate to be the one to break it to you with Feb. 14 rolling up on us, but you may be in one of those "he's just not that into you" situations. And those types of arrangements unfortunately always lead to tears.

You deserve someone who returns your love – and your calls and texts, sharpish.

If your boyfriend is not that person, no matter how fantastic a guy you think he is, it may be time to say adios to Senor Incommunicado and move on.

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change, Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad and Damage Control, the book.

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