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Dont Hang Up On Me
September 9, 2009 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Do I have bad phone etiquette?

My boyfriend and I have a horrible time on the phone. He has told me since the beginning of our relationship that the one thing he cannot tolerate is being hung up on. I've tried to explain to him that I need his help because ultimately I am justified in hanging up the phone on him under the following circumstances:

1) Me telling him repeatedly that I have to get off the phone to go to a meeting or go to bed or go to the bathroom and him not allowing me to end the conversation (this is particularly true in an argument).

2) His insistence on not allowing me to speak. No exaggeration, he will talk endlessly (10-15 minutes without me saying one word, I've timed it) and then when I try to say something he will begin talking over me after I'm able to say 2-5 words. Again, this is particularly true in an argument. He will go on and on and repeat his points over and over again, moving from topic to topic with no response from me. It's actually quite unbelievable. When I get to the point where I'm so frustrated I could explode, I will hang up the phone.

Once I finally cross the line in these arguments and do the unthinkable (hang the phone up on him) he will then shift all his energies to making me feel bad about hanging up on him. Telling me that that is the ultimate betrayal and that since I "know how it affects him" it makes it that much more egregious.

Am I crazy? Is it not acceptable to end a conversation that I no longer care to be in (and never was in in the first place)?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (53 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I would say his phone etiquette is bad, not yours.
posted by scarykarrey at 2:46 PM on September 9, 2009 [27 favorites]


At the point that people are arguing on the phone, they have passed the realm of "etiquette".

It's hard to judge based on one question, but it really doesn't sound like there's a lot of good energy in this relationship. Heated arguments on the phone that he won't let you contribute to? "Telling me that that is the ultimate betrayal and that since I "know how it affects him" it makes it that much more egregious"?

This is not how an adult acts.
posted by muddgirl at 2:47 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't think the phone is your problem. I think your boyfriend is. But to answer your question, yes it's ok to hang up the phone after you say "OK, I have to go so I'm hanging up now--bye," and it's ok to hang up the phone if there's no other way to end an argument.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:47 PM on September 9, 2009 [25 favorites]


To add to my answer above, you should communicate to him that he is not the only one in control of a phone conversation, and that it is not up to him to dictate when the conversation ends. If he is unable to acknowledge or accept that, I would suggest banning all arguments from phone conversations, or else telling him that you will not communicate with him by phone any longer.
posted by scarykarrey at 2:50 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm really wondering if he let's you talk when you're face to face or if he somehow magically becomes a dick whilst on the phone. He's being rude.
posted by ArcAm at 2:50 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


It sounds to me like you might be able to fix your phone etiquette problem by getting a different boyfriend.
posted by The Straightener at 2:50 PM on September 9, 2009 [75 favorites]


Hanging up the phone is fine and sometimes needs to be done. For example, I've done it to clients who have become emotional, confrontational or otherwise unprofessional.

The important thing is that you say that you have to hang up the phone, and then you hang up the phone.

BTW, why are you friends with this jerk?
posted by KokuRyu at 2:51 PM on September 9, 2009


It's hard to say with only one side of the story, but yeah it sounds like his etiquette is lacking.

For one thing, "hanging up" on someone is when you hang the phone up without warning or saying "goodbye." If you tell him you have to go, you are not "hanging up" on him by any reasonable definition.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:52 PM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


That is amazingly rude behavior--from him.

The fact that you're supposed to sit and listen to him talk to you without responding is heading towards creep territory. Might not be there yet, but it's on its way.

I guess if he didn't want you to hang up you could just put the phone down and go get a snack instead...

Besides, it's not hanging up on someone if you say goodbye.
posted by kathrineg at 2:53 PM on September 9, 2009


Ha. Sounds like you already know the answer. Do you really need someone else to tell you that your boyfriend's behavior is unacceptable? Nobody has any right to monopolize your time like that. I wouldn't be able to take even five minutes of this without hanging up.
posted by ekroh at 2:54 PM on September 9, 2009


He is using the phone and his "need" to totally control you.
posted by Postroad at 2:55 PM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Arguing on the phone is almost as bad as trying to argue over text/email/forum. Try to avoid this if you can. Of course, if it's a long distance relationship it will be more difficult.

If it was me, I would say the one thing I could not tolerate was being interrupted. Then when he interrupted me, I'd hang up. That would be a very bad sign for the health of the relationship.

Essentially, it's not hanging up on someone if you have told them you are ending the call. Him trying to force you to stay on the phone is also a bad sign. Explain this to him and ask that you two renegotiate the "phone rules".
posted by soelo at 2:56 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's the one with the problem, not you. It is a classic trick of people whose behavior is egregiously inappropriate to try to turn the shame onto the person who is trying to behave appropriately.

The real question for me is why do you put up with it? Because I can't believe that this is the only arena in which he acts like this. I will now for the 47 millionth time recommend the book Facing Codependence by Mellody, Miller, and Miller because if you're even entertaining the idea that it's OK for someone to act that controlling, a reality check might help you a lot.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:56 PM on September 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


2) His insistence on not allowing me to speak. No exaggeration, he will talk endlessly (10-15 minutes without me saying one word, I've timed it) and then when I try to say something he will begin talking over me after I'm able to say 2-5 words.

DUMP
THE
WINDBAG
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:57 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


He sounds very manipulative and controlling, basically creating a situation in which you HAVE to hang up (only a jerk wouldn't let you off the phone when you need to go), then making you feel bad about it.
posted by janerica at 2:57 PM on September 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


He's totally in the wrong on this issue as you have presented it. It really scares me that you would even question your behavior in this situation, as this type of self-doubt makes you vulnerable to an abusive relationship.
posted by desjardins at 2:59 PM on September 9, 2009 [15 favorites]


Phone calls, like face to face communication, comprise a negotiation involving give and take. Negotiating how we get from the opening words, ("Hello?" "Hey Mary, it's Joe." "Oh, hey Joe.") to the hangup ("Well, I should probably get going," "Okay--talk to you later..." "Buy-bye.") requires something of a ritualistic exchange of certain pleasantries that have become conventions. When someone violates these conventions, negotiation can no longer take place and you have little choice but to act unilaterally in your own best interest. Such as hanging up the phone. Or questioning the health of the relationship.
posted by ViolaGrinder at 3:02 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was once in a long-distance relationship that could get pretty fighty on the phone. The difference there was that we actually kind of took turns shouting at each other. And then crying, and then apologizing. I only once said "I can't do this right now," and then immediately hung up the phone.

You are not "hanging up on him" and your phone etiquette sounds fine. As other have pointed out a lot, he sounds controlling and not very nice. Maybe he's not like this in person - some people have a really hard time on the phone - but even if he's not, I wouldn't keep letting him treat me this way.
posted by rtha at 3:06 PM on September 9, 2009


Your boy"friend" does not respect your ideas, your speech, your conversation or yourself. He's a controlling loser. Dump him.
posted by BostonTerrier at 3:08 PM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


If your portrayal is accurate then your boyfriend is being overly controlling. Dump him.
posted by nestor_makhno at 3:09 PM on September 9, 2009


This isn't about phone etiquette. It's about your dealing with someone who is manipulative and controlling.

I've seen this kind of b.s. before. It's abusive, albeit in a petty way. Do you really want to deal with someone who is eagerly awaiting (even entrapping) you to do something "wrong" just so he can hold it over your head?

F' him.
posted by letahl at 3:12 PM on September 9, 2009


When he tries to interrupt you, don't stop talking. When he talks over you, keep talking. When he tells you that you can't hang up to go to the bathroom, set the phone down and let him talk to himself for as long as he wants, until he's ready to hang up.

All of these suggestions are pretty passive aggressive. But right now, you're letting him control you, and that's not okay. Take back some control over your life, and do so without committing his (absurd) "ultimate betrayal." Then you'll find out whether this is actually just a huge pet peeve of his (in which case replacing it with other behaviors will fix the problem) or whether he's a control freak (in which case he'll find something new to accuse you of when you stop doing "the one thing" he doesn't like).
posted by decathecting at 3:13 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a manners exploit. It's rude to point out that someone is being rude, you see. Some of the rude are aware of this and use it to their advantage. You are fine.

Do try something different — simply put the phone elsewhere and walk away after, say, five minutes. You didn't hang up on him, after all.
posted by adipocere at 3:14 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


You are totally in the clear as long as you give him warning before you hang up, "I have to go now," "I'm not going to continue talking about this on the phone right now, goodbye," etc. Honestly, if he's being a jerk like you describe, you don't even owe him that.
posted by ishotjr at 3:19 PM on September 9, 2009


Just say to him, "Honey, it is going to sound like I am hanging up the phone. I am not. Just keep talking." Then hang up. He won't even notice you are not there.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:26 PM on September 9, 2009


If you two get along really well outside of these terrible sounding phone calls, you must have much better face-to-face interactions.

Is it possible for you two to use Skype video calls instead of telephones? It sounds like your phone dynamics aren't working well together, and if you have these long conversations frequently, perhaps it would help both of you to be able to see the other person.
posted by redsparkler at 3:29 PM on September 9, 2009


Yeah, well he knows how you feel about it too, yet he continues.
posted by rhizome at 3:36 PM on September 9, 2009


Well, I'd say stuff like "How about you shut the F up and let me talk for a minute?" or "I said I have to go, asshole!"
I'm kind of a bitch, though. But if you do go that route, he'd either get the message loud and clear and alter his behavior, or dump you. Problem solved.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 3:45 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are millions -- yes, literally millions -- of men who will "let you" talk and/or get off the phone when you need to go to the bathroom. I recommend looking for one of them for your next relationship, preferably sooner rather than later.
posted by scody at 3:49 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Alternatively, just leave the phone off the hook and walk away. It's what I do to telemarketers and it's sometimes surprising how long they'll go on yakking before it occurs to them that no one is listening.
posted by rhartong at 3:49 PM on September 9, 2009


By the way, he is going to completely change his tune when you decide to dump him. He's terrified of abandonment - he won't even tolerate being hung up on, how's he going to react to being dumped? My guess, based on experiences with similar guys, is that he'll beg and plead with you not to leave. Don't listen to him. Leave.
posted by desjardins at 3:52 PM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Based on this info, all the above is right.

Though, I would love to hear his side of the story.
posted by inigo2 at 3:54 PM on September 9, 2009


Holy crap. It's always a nice question as to how long it will take AskMe to go from a complaint about a significant other to "dump the bastard." Variables seem to include prevailing winds, but one thing that's always irrelevant is whether OP has actually asked that question.

I think scarykarrey is essentially right: his behavior is a lot worse than yours (which, frankly, was the answer you were somewhat disingenuously soliciting). That said, I personally would bridle if someone hung up on me, and it wouldn't make too much difference if he preceded that by saying "I am going to hang up on you now" (contra drjimmy11) -- any more than I would feel great if someone terminated a face-to-face conversation by saying "I am too busy to continue this and will know ignore you," and proceeded to do that abruptly. I have also been in relationships where the other party simply won't terminate a call that I feel I need to be done.

So the way I view this is that he is behaving very badly and forcing you to counter with what would otherwise be fairly regarded as rude behavior -- and the reason he doesn't see your otherwise rude behavior as excusable is simply because he doesn't understand how out of line he is.

It really isn't clear from your post whether you have calmly explained to him, while not on the phone, the objections you make here. If you have, I would tell him that since hanging up on him is a no-no, you will have to substitute some other behavior -- like putting him on hold, walking away from the phone, etc. -- and then declare when you are doing that when you do. I don't buy the cute suggestions down thread that you should just hang up, walk away, etc., and that he won't notice; they are as infantile as he is.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 3:57 PM on September 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


He seems to have no problem interrupting you, so do the following in a calm, friendly and polite tone of voice:

"I'm sorry, I can't talk to you when you're doing this. I'm hanging up now. Have a good evening and we can talk tomorrow. Goodnight!"

Then turn the ringer off.

If he goes ballistic, tell him that having a phone conversation is a) a two-way thing, and b) not a mechanism with which to hold your social correspondent hostage.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:58 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


anonymous: My boyfriend and I have a horrible time on the phone.

Stop talking with each other on the phone. Just use text messages and talk in person.
posted by koeselitz at 4:06 PM on September 9, 2009


1) Me telling him repeatedly that I have to get off the phone to go to a meeting or go to bed or go to the bathroom and him not allowing me to end the conversation (this is particularly true in an argument).

2) His insistence on not allowing me to speak. No exaggeration, he will talk endlessly (10-15 minutes without me saying one word, I've timed it) and then when I try to say something he will begin talking over me after I'm able to say 2-5 words. Again, this is particularly true in an argument. He will go on and on and repeat his points over and over again, moving from topic to topic with no response from me. It's actually quite unbelievable. When I get to the point where I'm so frustrated I could explode, I will hang up the phone.


1) Him getting upset after you tell him that you need to go is bad etiquette on his part.
2) Both of you are arguing on the phone with such frequency that you can use the phrase "this is especially true in an argument" with regards to phone conversations in general. Stop that. Anyone who contributes to an argument on the phone is in the wrong, and this includes someone who "patiently" waits for their turn to speak all the while getting more and more upset that they will not be "allowed" to speak.

Things to do:

1) Stop having arguments on the phone. If one starts to brew on the phone, be all "This feels like it's going to turn into an argument, and I don't think either one of us wants that. Let's call back when we can be more calm" or something.
2) For any and all other reasons, don't let him be all butthurt that you have to end the conversation before he is ready for it to be over.
3) If you DO decide to leave this guy, find one whose fighting style is more closely matched to your own. "Guy who won't let anyone get a word in edgewise" does not fight well with "girl who silently fumes that she doesn't get a chance to speak".
posted by 23skidoo at 4:25 PM on September 9, 2009


He has a problem with being hung up on because it happens to him all the time. Looks like there's a reason it happens all the time.
posted by 31d1 at 4:31 PM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


No one should have to put up with his ridiculous behavior -- it's weird and controlling. If he does this to everyone he speaks to on the phone, it's no wonder he gets hung up on enough that he's so fixated on it. ("Ultimate betrayal" ? Yikes!) I'd hang up on him too, and I hardly ever hang up on anyone.

If he acts normal off the phone (i.e., doesn't try to guilt/shame you into putting up with his inappropriate behavior, ever, in any circumstance), maybe you could have a conversation about his phone etiquette. Otherwise, yeah, dump him. You don't have to tolerate being treated this way.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 4:36 PM on September 9, 2009


Your question is about whether you are in the right. Hard to say from here, as my guess is that your boyfriend's narrative about these conversations might be different. But the facts are these: you are so frustrated that you must hang up on him fairly often, and he finds this painful and intolerable. I don't see how being right about his deficiencies will help this situation. Instead, you might try coming to some mutual compromises: perhaps he would be able to deal with it better if you gave him 2-minute warnings before getting off the phone. Perhaps you would be willing to listen to his endless points of view for 5 minutes, not 15. See if there are ground rules you can agree on to ease these conversations. If not, then stop having them and look for a boyfriend who you don't want to hang up on.
posted by Wordwoman at 4:47 PM on September 9, 2009


Boyfriend trouble: You are being manipulated. Run.
posted by lottie at 5:26 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think your phone ettiquite is bad at all. A word of advice- don't answer your phone when you're busy. Just beacause you carry a cell phone doesn't mean you have to answer it if you're in the middle of something or have a meeting coming up. Let him leave a message and call him back when you do have time to talk. Or in your case, listen.
posted by emd3737 at 5:29 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is not too different from gaslighting. You are fine, don't question yourself, but rather question his behavior and why he seems to be ok with making you feel bad about yourself.

Also, who cares about etiquette when you are the victim in a phone hostage situation?
posted by iamkimiam at 6:25 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a bully no matter how you slice it. I think you're perfectly within your rights to hang up. Just say, "I am hanging up now. Bye." No rudeness there.
posted by littleflowers at 6:32 PM on September 9, 2009


he will talk endlessly (10-15 minutes without me saying one word, I've timed it)

My guy was such an overtalker that, in the first few months when we were long distance, we agreed that he would set an alarm for himself to go off every 15 minutes to remind him to ask me a question. Which helped, though I rapidly started getting impatient at having to wait for 15 minutes to be able to talk about how things were with me! He gradually acquired normal habits for our phone conversations. I'd have had to end things if he hadn't.

However, he didn't mind being told that I wasn't happy with the lack of give and take in our conversations. For arguments, we had normal exchanges because he was less interested in haranguing me (I'd call 15 minutes straight a harangue) than in having my perspective on the nature of the problem and how I thought it could be resolved. Your guy, in contrast, sounds like he gets off on schooling you.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 6:57 PM on September 9, 2009


DTMFA.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:12 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


You are being dominated and intimidated by your bf. He is using emotional blackmail like "I cannot tolerate being hung up on" with its implicit threat to assert himself. If you are deeply involved with him, you should start seeing a therapist to coach you on the process of dealing with this situation. This does seem to be a not-uncommon dilemma of the person (you) with poor boundaries and assertiveness skills in a relationship with a bully. It's likely that he was attracted to you by his ability to manipulate you, which also means your willingness to be manipulated. Don't feel bad, we've all been there. This is how your learn and become stronger. You are in a co-dependent relationship, which can be a valuable experience for you, if you can learn from it and understand how not to repeat it.
posted by conrad53 at 7:37 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your phone etiquette is fine. You are fine. There is nothing wrong with you at all. Your boyfriend is a controlling, abusive asshole. DTMFA.
posted by Dasein at 7:45 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


He has told me since the beginning of our relationship that the one thing he cannot tolerate is being hung up on

Dude needs to get over himself.
posted by flabdablet at 8:10 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


You guys don't sound like you're having fun in this relationship.

That being said: don't argue with each other over the phone! When you are arguing, you need to BOTH put down the phone and have a face-to-face talk. Maybe even calling a total moratorium on talking on the phone and communicating in other ways when you are apart is called for here.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 9:32 PM on September 9, 2009


He's never going to acknowledge the validity of your position because he has engineered this situation (consciously or unconsciously) specifically to his advantage. The scenario he has created is that you are not allowed to end a call with him unless you concede defeat in an argument, and if you refuse to concede defeat in the only manner possible (by hanging up, because he will just keep arguing forever) the argument magically becomes one in which (by his decree) you automatically lose. Your relationship sounds terrible and your boyfriend sounds like a grade A prick.
posted by nanojath at 10:08 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, he sounds pretty controlling - I am curious (but highly doubt) whether he is like this only on the phone.

That said, I have known people that think that hanging up is the most inexcusable offense ever, regardless of whatever has transpired in the conversation. I don't get it.
posted by Pax at 7:08 AM on September 10, 2009


Everyone piling on here given one side of the story ought to consider our source: A person so innocent of wrongdoing they made everyone on AskMe hate their boyfriend under the guise of inquiring about their own phone etiquette. :-/

So in answer to your question and ignoring all your qualifiers: Yes, hanging up on someone is rude. As is timing them to determine how long they've been rambling on and then using it to justify hanging up on them. Much like his behavior, your rude actions are the result of lots of high-dudgeon self-righteous emotional conversations. In a healthy relationship, you don't need rulebooks for your soul-destroying arguments because you only have about 3 a year. Both of you need my new self-help party line: dial 1900YODTMFA for more information.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:10 AM on September 10, 2009


DTMFA.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:22 PM on September 11, 2009


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