How often should you call him?: A definitive guide for smart women

This letter brings up a perennial question that every woman has, so it’s about time we tackled it:

Dr. Alex,

I really appreciate your advice and have listened to your CD over and over again. I also followed your Tao of Dating principles, which was beyond enlightening for me, as it turned the tables and made me responsible for doing my own housework and trying to be the goddess and I still think ‘What would a goddess do?’ when I’m in a situation that hurts or annoys me and this goddess-thinking prevents me from acting needy or overly emotional!

Your advice has helped me tremendously in being able to finally a great guy!! We have great communication, great attraction, share the same values, have fun together, etc. etc. etc. We have been exclusive for four months and just recently went on a fabulous trip. We see each other as much as possible, however with his child and my work schedule, it’s sometimes not as much as we would like. At any rate it is one of the best, if not the best, relationship, I have ever been in, however there is only one thing that bothers me and that I don’t know how to address it. I have been debating even asking you as it seemed trivial at first, however I don’t feel that it is.

Here it is: It really frustrates me that when I don’t see him, that we barely speak on the phone…It’s just that I would like to talk to him more when I’m not able to see him and when I don’t, I feel disconnected. I think it’s partially my fault, since following your advice, I got out and dated more than one guy at the beginning and did not call the guys but generally waited for them to call (new concept for me and it actually worked, thanks!). Eventually he rose to the top and we started dating exclusively and I continued to let him initiate most of the calls but now I don’t know if he’s gotten ‘settled in’, but when I don’t see him, he doesn’t call that often. It’s not that I never hear from him, there is the occasional text, call etc., but for a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, it’s less calling than I’m used to and although everyone is different with how much they call, I think even a goddess might get a little hurt/annoyed by this behavior lol. And I do call occasionally and it’s always a good conversation so maybe I’m blowing the whole thing out of proportion, but I feel like if he doesn’t call that maybe he’s not thinking about me, or that a boyfriend ‘should’ call more because he wants to, but I know not to get into ‘should’ thinking!!

[Omitted: big paragraph on how she’s overthinking it because of her relationship history]

Anyway my burning question is what I should do?? 1) Should I just call him more if I want to talk and not worry about it seeming aggressive or overbearing cuz I am his girlfriend anyway and not one that would call 5 times a day anyway, we’re talking once every couple days or 2) should I should just suck it up and continue to not call him that much, knowing guys need their space and their cave and try not to let past insecurities get in my way but just continue to be the goddess and enjoy what I do have with this great guy or 3) can I just talk to him about this without sounding needy? Maybe it will be like other issues that I was afraid to bring up, but we had a good conversation from so I don’t know why I’m afraid other than I don’t want to do anything ungoddesslike and screw up this good relationship I finally have. Anyway your help would be greatly appreciated :))


Goodness gracious, Jill!  You’re lucky I’m not a lawyer, ’cause then I would have had to charge you $372.83 just for reading this.  Dear readers — kindly keep it under 250 words, willya.  I’ve got YouTube pet videos to surf here.

Also, you are not allowed to put ‘lol’ in a letter unless you actually laugh out loud at that moment.  Meaning that you’re laughing at your own writing, which seems mighty unlikely.  Even James Thurber didn’t do that.  And no, a mere chuckle doesn’t qualify.  So basically you can’t use ‘lol’, like, ever.  ‘MAM’, perhaps — it stands for ‘musing and mulling’.  As in, “I wonder if I’m overthinking this whole thing (MAM).”  Because you really are musing and mulling.  Or ‘SMHWTMH’ — scratch my head while twirling my hair.  As in, “We had a great first date — why hasn’t he called me yet (SMHWTMH)?  Geez.”

But no LOL.  That’s reserved for authentic guffaws and funny cat pictures.

So, the brief answer to your burning question is that you’re overthinking it (surprise!).  I mean, your letter’s twists and turns and decisions and revisions that reverse themselves make a Six Flags roller coaster seem like a stroll down a grocery aisle.  As the Tao Te Ching says, “Stop thinking and solve all your problems.”

You’re also being kinda insecure.  He’s calling as much as he ever did, so he hasn’t changed.  You have.  Now that you’ve got a great man (by your own reckoning), you’re operating out of fear of losing him as opposed to the joy of having him around.

The goddess does not fear!

If you cruise down the highway thinking “I really don’t want to crash”, what’s going to happen?  You’re probably going to crash.  And if you think “I really don’t want to come off as needy and drive him away”, you are probably going to come off as needy and drive him away.  You get more of what you focus on.

So instead of thinking “I don’t want to lose him” (which is the root of why you want to call him, needily, and also why you don’t want to call him, so you don’t seem needy, which is still neediness), think, “Gosh, I really like my man and I’d like to speak to him and convey to him how great he is and how much I appreciate him and love talking to him!”

In fact, I find it interesting that you should be worried that your calling him is a burden to him.  How did that ever happen?  I thought calling someone was an expression of love and connection, so aren’t you the one doing him a favor?  It’s like asking, “Am I giving him too many blowjobs?  Am I going to drive him away?”  Well, as long as he’s enjoying them, there is no upper limit to how many blowjobs you’re allowed to give him.

Similarly, if every time that you call him you make him feel like a trillion bucks, there’s really no upper limit to how often you can call him.

So if you or any of the other ladies reading this have wondered whether you’re erring on the side of calling too much, ask yourself whether the energy of your calling is one of neediness, desperation or taking, vs nurturing, giving, elevating and sharing.

The goddess does not whine!  However, the goddess can get lonely.  She does crave companionship and connection — sometimes more than her man.  So once you’re in a committed relationship, don’t be surprised if you’re doing most of the calling.

So call him when you feel like calling him.  That’s the whole point of real intimacy: the ability to be vulnerable with each other.  Can you be comfortable with your needs without being needy?  That’s being in your yin energy, your feminine essence, and it’s hot.

Jill’s letter astutely observes another principle: there is a developmental arc to the frequency of contact and who’s initiating it.  Also, guys love their freedom.  So here are some quick guidelines on getting your guy on the line:

1) Early on, let him call you first. In the early stages of courtship, you want to let yourself be pursued.  Sure, you’ll prime the pump with a hair flip and provocative look, a quick text or email, but he has to come to you.

2) In a relationship, train your man by setting expectations. Human beings are phenomenally good at noticing deviations from a baseline.  So as soon as you’re in an established intimate relationship, decide how often you want to speak to him, and establish that as a baseline.  In other words, create a baseline according to your needs.

Let’s say that’s once a day and call it Scenario A.  Now, if you get busy and forget to call him one day, guess what — he’s going to miss you.  Why?  Because you’ve deviated from baseline by under-calling him.  So he will want to hear from you.

Now let’s say you did what Jill did, and established a baseline according to his needs as you perceive them: “Oh, he’s a guy, he wants to go in his cave, I really don’t want to bother him, let him be free etc.”  Now you’re calling him every other day — say, Mon, Wed, Fri (Scenario B).  Now if you call him on a Thursday, he’s going to notice a deviation from baseline and wonder what’s up.  And the extra call may count against you.

So go with your needs first.  And if they aren’t compatible with his needs, maybe you shouldn’t be together anyway.  A man will only love you for who really are, not who you’re pretending to be.

Notice how in both Scenario A and Scenario B, the ladies have called their men 4 times in a 5-day stretch.  But the fourth call in Scenario A is more likely to be welcome than the one in Scenario B.

Why?  Because of the way expectations are set. In B, the guy’s thinking he’s got an amazingly self-sufficient girlfriend who barely needs to call him.  So the extra call is more likely to count against.

There’s a whole section on irregular schedule of reinforcement in Chapter 13 of The Tao of Dating for Women which should be mandatory reading for all of you.

3) Trust your intuition without dumping on him too much. If you had a bad day and you really want to talk to your guy, call him.  For godssakes that’s supposed to be one of the perks of intimacy.  Guys actually like having a chance to cheer you up — it makes us feel useful.

Unless you’re always calling us with a litany of pain and disaster, in which case we will soon develop a phobia to your calls and stop looking forward to hearing your voice.  If you still need to talk to people about your woes, distribute the pain amongst your girlfriends.

The 5:1 rule, as propounded by Prof John Gottman, that genius of relationship research, is a good one for maintaining a happy, balanced relationship: aim for 5 positive interactions with your man for every negative one.  And for girlfriend talk, use your girlfriends.

4) Use asynchronous communication as spice, not the main dish. Cute little emails and texts that say “I’m thinking about you” are nice.  However, be careful: you should use them only as an adjunct, not as a primary mode of communication.  Two ironclad rules about texts and emails:

a) Write them a text or email only if you’re cool with not receiving a timely response. That’s why they’re called ‘asynchronous communication.’  They’re also unreliable — you never really know if someone got a text or email.  If you pass out from holding your breath waiting for a response to an oh-so-important text he should have responded to, like, immediately, you’re a masochist.

b) No emotional communication over text or email. Ever.  Trust me — it’s the best decision you ever made.  I wrote a whole separate article about this, so I shan’t belabor the point.


Dr Ali B

23 Comments on “How often should you call him?: A definitive guide for smart women”

    1. MAM

      The best advice!!!! I wish my guy friends were this honest! MAM are my initials- I won’t forget that meaning!!!

  1. Braise patterson

    This is not true , men love to get calls from their girlfriends why should we always initiate ? Lady the one over this site why do you think you know what a man likes and doesn’t like ?

  2. Blaze Cornett

    This is so not true, I want my girl friend to call me . We have a huge problem which may end our relationship simple because she feels calling me once and awhile and a text only occasionally . Only closed minded selfish men who only thinks of themselves hate getting phone calls . I love them, I love the little text in the middle of the day with a smiley saying I love you , I miss you, Im thinking about you. Ladies don’t listen to this

    1. Olivia

      I call him often and I feel bad sometimes. One day i didn’t call and he call . But since then i initiate the call , if i don’t call he will not call.I m not getting his actions. I was saying he is a narcissistic

    2. Opeyemi Arowolo

      Yes we do but not receiving 15 voice calls and 3 video calls a day from one person and 80% of it is I just want to hear your voice, “hi how’s your day going”, not to count numerous messages

  3. julie

    great advice. had been struggling with this for so long, am excited to put steps 2 and 4 into practice. Similar circumstances but we are long distance. My concern is this, how do I transition from long engaging texts to calls ans the

  4. julie

    oops got posted before I could write full message. I think steps 2 and 4 could work well for me. How do I transition him from regular texts to regular calls and then skypeing once a week? We are long distance but I do think there’s a lot of potential here. Both of us have been shy in not initiating regular contact. It is so good to hear from one person who suggests that women can set up communication as per her needs. Advice please on how to pace the transition.

  5. Madeline

    I don’t call my boyfriend cause he’s not much as a talker and so sometimes I call him once in a while to see how he is and how his summer is and stuff like that

  6. Etta

    I really don’t see what the hoopla is about calling men. If i feel like calling, then I will.
    There’s someone I like very much. He lives in another state. So I call him. The last time he was busy with company (mother, grown daughter and her children). But not knowing this i called, and that’s how I found out. BUT guess what? Yep. For a few minutes he made time for me!! I just wanted to hear his voice from missing him. Then at the end, he surprised me by saying “Thank you for calling.” So stop the madness! Call him!

    1. Somachy

      @etta You said it all. If you really love or like someone call him or her, if u really love someone you Better prove it because love is not a noun to be defined but a verb to be acted up to.

    2. Anitra

      Thank you really seems that simple..but I would like the same while knowing that everyone may not feel the same about talking all the time or reaching out somehow.. so I call and leave a little message here and there..

  7. Agyei Stella

    Please I have only dated a guy not more than 3months but he called to inform me that he was having 7 ladies before me and he is asking whether I can stay or leave? But my problem is I have already fallen for him, so please need your advice to have him and only. or what should I do?

    1. Bridget

      I’m not sure if you already solved this but leave. You need someone to value you because you’re precious. It will hurt leaving him but doing this will allow for the right guy to come into your life

  8. Vera

    We started with lots of calling and texting,about a month ago buh i feel this is changing alot as in i feel our conversation has changed and i wonder why.Could you help here please

  9. litz

    my boyfriend of 5 month now used to call everyday until all of a sudden he started calling after 3 to 4 days. I had fallen for the everyday communication and also called him now more often..but i realised he could be suffocating and decided not to call him for weeks and only talked to him when he called..after about a month he has gone to the daily. Fact is make him feel your a prize.He will get back on track.

    1. Gee

      Agreed. Becoming obsessed with this need to recognize and establish communication patterns in itself is unhealthy. If the man doesn’t call me because he doesn’t want to. Whether his reason it is not the end of the world. Get him off the pedestal. It only puts me beneath him. instead, I center my thoughts on the love of God who wants me to be free from anxiety, trusting Him. Being in love with A personal God who is truly present and guiding your life will resolve issues of neediness. Gets everything in proper perspective and sets you free to love yourself and find other healthy outlets besides depending upon another human being to feed the need. The man is the icing on the cake and you can enjoy everything it is rather than feeling rejected when someone doesn’t meet your expectations. Wait. See how it goes.

  10. Thinking outside the box

    Here’s the thing. Guys don’t care about calling as much as you think they do. Guys are also visual so focus on getting more face time with him and stop worrying about phone calls. Think about relationships with family or friends, sometimes for me, we don’t speak on the phone consistently but I still have great close relationships.
    Also, don’t fall into the trap of basing your dating life around some phone call framework -every couple is different so do what works for you. What works is feeling good about yourself and not letting him use you.

  11. Dorincia

    About 10months now I got afriend but we stop talking and now have realized I love him, he feels connected to me but he doesnt call and he doesn’t answer my calls often too. Could it be he is not serious with me even though he said he wants to be committed.

  12. Rosemary

    I call him often and he dosnt , maybe once I’m a day and it affecting me. How do I come out of this without making to affect us.