Ask Anna: My partner stays out late and won’t text or call me

By Anna Pulley

Dear Anna,

My partner of 3 years has a bad habit of staying out all night without communicating and ignoring my texts and calls. For example, coming home at 1 a.m. on a workday or 4 a.m. after a night out with friends. This is really distressing behavior to me and I’ve expressed that to him. He promises he’s not cheating and says I’m trying to control him. Is it unreasonable for me to expect a text update if he plans on staying out past a normal schedule? Am I desperate for calling when he doesn’t come home at a reasonable hour? — Am I Overreacting?

Dear AIO,

It’s definitely anxiety-producing to be the one at home at 3 a.m. when your partner has been out all night and is not responding to texts or calls. Cheating is only one of the myriad horror-thoughts that might go through your mind in that scenario. What if he’s crashed his car into a ditch and is bleeding out somewhere? What if he’s in the hospital or was knifed by a roaming gang of hooligans or passed out in an alley, choking on his own vomit? Et cetera!

So, I get it.

I also understand not wanting to have a curfew when you’re an adult. To do what one wishes whenever one wishes, because FREEDOM. AMERICA! But being in a committed, cohabitating relationship means you can’t just do what you want, when you want to. (Being an adult in general also means this to an extent.) There are certain courtesies we extend to our partners that we don’t have to extend to anyone when we’re single as adults. If you drink too much and fall asleep on a park bench when you’re single, then wooh, live on that edge! Vomit on a pigeon. Whatever.

But if your partner is at home waiting for you, then one of those courtesies is letting them know you’re not bleeding in an alley at 4 a.m.

Every couple is going to have different expectations of what’s “too late” or how often is “too often” to go out sans your plus-one. It’s clear you have some differences about that that you’ll need to work through. That said, asking your partner of three years to send you a text that he’s alive is a pretty small token to extend and does not qualify as “controlling” or “overreacting.” Such communication does not mean revealing your GPS coordinates or providing photo proof of who you’re with. A simple, “I’m okay.” often suffices.

That he’s balking at this small request and calling you controlling for asking is a bit concerning.

That said, see if you can establish some boundaries around this together, preferably having this conversation (or conversations) not in the heat of the moment, after he’s just come in from a night of debauchery or what-have-you. Reiterate to him that you trust him, but that you worry for his safety and well-being when you can’t reach him at stupid o’clock in the morning. Ask him if he would be worried if you did something similar. My guess is that he would, because horror-thoughts!

I had an ex who used to stay out very late not infrequently. They also had a history of alcoholism and blacking out, so I was worried about that on top of the usual horror-thoughts. After several fights about this, we eventually agreed that if they planned to be out past a certain hour, then they should not come home, but had to stay somewhere else for the night. I realize that for some people, that might be even more worrisome as a compromise, but for me, especially since I trusted that they were not going to cheat on me, it ensured that I slept a little better, because I wasn’t awake all night wondering when they would come stumbling home and in what condition.

It wasn’t my ideal solution, of course. My ideal solution was that they came home at a reasonable hour, like me. But we can’t force our partners to be like us just because we want them to.

Communication around late nights, however, is not an unreasonable request. And if he can’t be bothered, then you’ll have to decide if it’s a behavior you’re willing to overlook or if it’s a dealbreaker. You don’t say how old you both are, but at a certain age, the 4 a.m. drunken weekends and 1 a.m. drunken weeknights don’t look so cute anymore.


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