Why does my boyfriend's inconsistency bother me so much?

My boyfriend often says one thing but does something else. It's never big things, it's little things. Like, he'll say he's going to go to a doctor's appointment for a serious health issue he's been dealing with, but then he cancels it and doesn't reschedule. He'll be home for dinner at a certain time and then always gets hung up working later - but doesn't give me notice. He says he needs the freedom to do what he believes is best, and doesn't want to feel stifled. He thinks I should relax, but no matter how much I try, I can't feel ok with it. Is something wrong with me? Why does this bother me so much?


We all prefer to be able to do whatever we want. If we feel like pasta for dinner at 3pm, but then change our minds and want a burger for dinner at 6pm, we want to be able to eat burgers, and we tend to feel frustrated when someone gets in our way. I mean, it's not like we're deciding to commit murder. We just want a burger. Or, in the case of your boyfriend, we just want to skip the doctor, or work late, or whatever.


This would be fine if we all lived in a vacuum, but we don't. Our decisions impact other people.


The decisions your boyfriend is making are having an impact on you, and though they may not amount to something as dramatic as declaring war against another country, they can have serious consequences for your relationship. Why? Because his unpredictability damages something every solid relationship needs: certainty.


The more uncertainty we experience, the more difficult life becomes. True in romantic relationships. True in many other social situations.


In most of life, uncertainty is unavoidable, but we have more control over our relationships than we do over... say... the economy, or COVID. If uncertainty can be avoided, we should avoid it. If we can reduce uncertainty for those we love, we should do it. If someone in our lives is creating uncertainty when doing so isn't necessary, then I don't see how it's fair for them to conclude that you're the one with the problem.


When someone says they're going to do something but ends up changing their minds, or not being able to follow through, that's being human. But when they don't do what they say they will over and over, that's being disruptive. They're creating a situation in which their partner has a hard time knowing what to expect, which makes it hard for their partner to make their own decisions.


And how can you live a life of contentment if you're powerless to make choices?


The choices we do make under uncertainty run the risk of being not that great. Under uncertainty, we're more likely to employ heuristics or biases and less likely to slow down and think rationally. Rather than weigh pros and cons like we should be doing, we end up being mired in doubt, wondering why things happened the way they did, and then drawing conclusions that give us an illusion of certainty, even if those conclusions might be wrong.


And wrong conclusions lead to bad decisions.


Uncertainty also leads to stress, which is no good.


If your boyfriend is regularly unpredictable, then it's not surprising that he's upsetting you. And it's a bit unnerving that he expects you to get used to feeling uncertain. It's like asking you to stop being human.


Your boyfriend needs to decide whether having absolute individual freedom is more important than being in a relationship with you.


You should realize that if he chooses his freedom, it's likely not a statement of your value but rather a statement of how he wants to roll.


You just need to decide if you'd be willing to roll with it.