Experts Explain Why It’s So Frustrating When Your Partner Cancels Plans
Like, give me a heads up, please!
Canceled plans can be a part of life. It's probably safe to assume that plenty of people have canceled on you throughout the years, and when things come up, you've canceled on plenty of people as well. Life can get hectic, and sometimes you've gotta call for a rain check. It doesn't need to be a big deal, and oftentimes, it's not. So, why is it so frustrating when your partner cancels plans?
When your SO lets you know that he changed plans at the last minute, it might hurt more than when a friend cancels on you. But why is that? I talked to some dating and relationship experts to help me get to the bottom of this.
According to Dr. Alexandra Solomon, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University, staff therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, and author of Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want, when your partner cancels plans on you, it can ignite a vulnerable feeling. "In a deep-down place most of us don’t talk about, we resent our partners because of the vulnerability that our love for them stirs up in us," she tells Elite Daily. We invest so much into our romantic relationships, so canceled plans can feel like a betrayal.
This also might be part of the reason why it's so much more frustrating when your partner bails on you than when a friend reschedules happy hour. Dr. Solomon says that dependence is "woven into the very nature of romantic love." But don't worry — dependence isn't a dirty word here. She notes that culturally, "we place a high value on being able to stand on our own two feet and not need anybody, but the truth of the matter is [that] an essential feature of intimate partnership is needing that person." Your significant other matters to you. As your teammate, you rely on them to support you by showing up, and that's a good thing!
Relationship expert and bestselling author Susan Winter tells Elite Daily that the primary reasons why it's so frustrating when your partner cancels plans are because it feels disrespectful and implies you're not a priority. "Your time is valuable... When a partner cancels plans, you're inconvenienced by the fact that you could have done something else had you known in advance." Ugh, when your boo cancels on you, it can make you feel like a loser — it's the worst! You've allotted time to spend with this person, and now you're left with a big, gaping hole in your day. You’re sitting there wondering what to do when your boyfriend cancels plans, and you’re ultimately stuck chilling at home. It can be extremely disappointing when someone acts like their time is more valuable than yours, especially when it's your significant other.
The thing about serious relationships is that when we're in them, we expect to be taken seriously. The way you react when your partner lets you down "will always carry a potent emotional charge," says Winter. When you're intimate with someone, it's natural to assume that you're important to them and that they care about the commitments they make to you.
According to Sarah-Rose Marcus, Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers School of Communication and Information and researcher on romantic relationships, when your SO cancels plans, it can make you feel anxious about the state of your relationship, especially if you're in the midst of a budding romance. She explains that "in the beginning, when the trust is still developing, people become uncertain about where the relationship is headed." If you haven't had very many serious conversations with your partner yet, you might be going off of other cues to determine where you stand in the relationship. Marcus notes that among young people who are actively dating, canceled plans are typically read as a warning sign that they're heading "in the direction of being ghosted."
However, it’s not just new relationships that are impacted here. A flaky boo can create just as much tension and uncertainty in long-term relationships, "especially if you had an established routine of going out on the weekends," says Marcus. It can be a total bummer when a friend cancels on you, but we tend to respond with a little less animosity because of the understanding we have of our friends' priorities. When you're young, your friends might seem like your whole world, but as you enter adulthood, this usually shifts.
So, what's the best way to communicate to your partner that it hurts you when they bail? Dr. Solomon recommends "resisting the urge to make it about them" by calling them unreliable or accusing them of not loving you. Instead, talk to your partner "about what their canceling stirred inside of you." Keep it focused on your feelings rather than their actions. Explaining to someone that you feel taken for granted can be scary! You might feel exposed, embarrassed, or even like you're overreacting by calling them out. Talk about vulnerability!
Marcus says to "calmly approach the subject the day after, when you can take that time to consider your strategy in a clear, level-headed way." She advises reminding your partner of how much they mean to you and communicating that you are simply trying to establish a level of trust and understanding. Did their last-minute cancelation make you feel silly? Tell them that!
Winter suggests asking your partner how they would feel if you canceled plans with them at the last minute. This puts them in your shoes and might make them reconsider before they do it next time.
Life happens, and everyone needs to cancel plans from time to time. However, if you're dating someone who frequently calls off the plans you make, it can really hurt and lead to resentment down the line. Winter says that "any partner who repetitively cancels plans to see you is revealing that you're a low priority in their eyes." Is your partner reluctant to reschedule the plans you had? If they rarely cancel plans and have a good reason for doing so, you might want to give them a pass. Sometimes, people need to cancel for completely valid reasons, but if they're a repeated offender with vague excuses, it could be a cause for concern.
Beyond feeling betrayed by canceled plans, you may have just been really excited about a date you had planned, and that letdown can totally suck! Instead of yelling or sending them a series of angry texts, plan to have a talk with your partner the next day. In the meantime, try to enjoy the unexpected opening on your calendar. Hit play on your favorite Netflix show, order takeout, or invite a friend over for some solidarity.
Dr. Alexandra Solomon, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University, staff therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, and author of Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want
Susan Winter, relationship expert and bestselling author
Sarah-Rose Marcus, PhD candidate at Rutgers School of Communication and Information and researcher on romantic relationships
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