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Give boyfriend space, he may want it

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Editor's note: Ask a Caveman is an occasional column in which Terry Sullivan answers your questions about love and life from a man's perspective.

Dear Caveman,

My boyfriend often says stuff without thinking. Later, he doesn't even remember what he said and acts as if I am making a big deal out of nothing. I find this to be thoughtless and it is getting in the way of us communicating well. Is he unique, or is this a man trait? It is driving me nuts, as I don't want our conversations to be meaningless.

Wants More Thought

Dear Wants More,

Welcome to the 'Nothing Box.' If you haven't heard about this concept, what I am about to share will both enlighten and disappoint you all at once.

As I have said many times, men are really quite simple. We are linear. We compartmentalize things and often times we speak without filters. The things we randomly express mean - well - nothing.

Sometimes we speak to be funny, to sound smart for the moment or to avoid getting in trouble for what we might really think.

Point being, be careful about over analyzing the words that spill from the mouth of your man. He'll remember the important things he says or he will remember if something he says is important. But don't be surprised when he spouts off without thinking.

Dear Caveman

OK, Caveman, help me out here. I have been exclusively dating a guy for nearly three months now. We see each other regularly throughout the week and communicate daily. He recently went out of town on a business trip. He was buried with meetings but we were able to communicate through texts and e-mails the first two days he was away and then there was silence.

I knew he was busy so did not overload his phone with messages, but I received nothing but silence from the few that I did leave. After four days of this silence I started to get very worried about his well-being because it seemed out of character our relationship. It was like he disappeared for five days. He finally texted and told me he was not feeling well. Help me to understand this disappearing act because to me it was disrespectful. Thanks.

Feeling Dissed

Dear Dissed,

On the surface it may seem disrespectful. But consider something else. You're dating three months and seeing a lot of each other. In your mind things are moving along quite nicely. In his mind however…. hmmm, he may be wondering if this is going just a bit fast.

A trip out of town could put a little time and distance between this growing pressure and he can regroup. So you text him on his escape so you can stay connected which pretty much kills his vacation from relation strategy. He gets no breathing room, so he seizes it back by not responding.

We don't call this ignoring by the way. Ignoring implies he's thinking about you. He is not; he's thinking about himself. He's a guy.

In his subconscious way he may be testing the squeeze of the potential chains. If he isn't sure about commitment a business trip can be very timely. Guys don't want to talk about this stuff so nudging with text and phone calls is not a great strategy.

To test this feedback, simply back off. Don't pursue a rational explanation. Tell him it feels like he needs some space so you're happy to give it to him. Let him take the lead on phone calls, texting and date planning.

If he re-engages quickly then maybe he legitimately wasn't feeling well, needed the space and may be worth continuing the relationship. If he takes the space you give him (and more), his relation vacation may be intended to be permanent and you should take the cue and move on.

Caveman

West Linn resident Terry Sullivan is a consultant, writer and self-described well-behaved husband. He can be reached by e-mail at askthecaveman@

yahoo.com