How can I encourage my boyfriend to plan dates more often?
November 18, 2010 6:17 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend of over a year and I have a great relationship. One of his best qualities is that he's so easy-going, but that's also led to an annoyance: he rarely takes the initiative to plan our dates anymore.

When we first met he would think of a few options and let me pick. Now he reserves his weekends for me, but just says he'll do whatever I want to do. I know it's because he just wants to spend time together and really doesn't care what specifically we do. I don't mind planning even most of the time - my friends get together more often than his do and I'm on a few event mailing lists - but I would appreciate it if sometimes he'd make the plans.

I don't want to elevate this to the level of a Talk, so I'm trying to think of casual ways to encourage him. Ideas?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I think guys are lazier worse at picking up signals than most women realize so nudging might not work. I think if you said "Could you plan something for us to do next weekend? I'm tired of doing it all the time." It should get the point across without causing offense.
posted by ghharr at 6:24 PM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just a warning from someone who sounds an awful lot like your boyfriend (if that's you, dear, I'll see you tomorrow!):

"Casual ways to encourage him" might come across to him an awful lot like nagging. If I were your bf, I'd really prefer it if you just said something like "hey honey, it would really mean a lot to me if you planned a date once a month". No need for it to become a BIG TALK, but also no need to beat around the bush. Just my opinion.
posted by auto-correct at 6:27 PM on November 18, 2010 [27 favorites]

I think you can do this without elevating it to a Talk, but really, the only way to do it is a talk.

Trust me -- even the sweetest, most wonderful, most considerate guy is never going to get that way on his own. (This is learned both from example -- and by being the guy who never picks.) But most awesome guys -- or even less than awesome -- can pick up this on his own.

"I know this might seem nitpicky - but I really like spending time with you but I also wish you could decide what we do some of the time."

Based on my experience, a lot of guys (read: me) look forward to not having to plan because they feel like if they make the choice and it somehow goes poorly in a way that's not their fault (the restaurant/movie/whatever sucks), they will still feel that it's their fault. So it might help if you would add " I'm not going to judge you on what you pick -- just picking will get you points."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:28 PM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

This doesn't have to be A TALK if you don't make it one. "Hey, could you plan date-weekends from time to time? I'd really appreciate it." "Casual ways to encourage him" sounds like a variant of "I'd like to either get him to read my mind, or subtly manipulate him without him knowing it." You're adults. If you want him to do something for you, ask him to!
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:28 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

that way (in the second paragraph above) = knowing to pick without being told
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:29 PM on November 18, 2010

"I would like it if you would plan our weekends on occasion." (Optional: give a specific frequency, like every third weekend.)

What are you asking for? Ways to manipulate him into doing that without telling him it's what you want? I also don't understand what's at all not-casual about just telling him this - it IS a small thing, it's something you want, and it's not a Big Scary Talk.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:31 PM on November 18, 2010

Ask for what you want; it increases your likelihood of getting it. It doesn't have to be A Talk, either: "Hey, I miss how you used to think up stuff for us to do." "What are we doing this weekend? I don't know, what do you think you'd like to do? We can't just always do my thing, it's not fair."

You may be inclined to elevate this to "if he cared about me, he'd do this without being asked." Life isn't like that, people are complicated, your life will be a series of disappointments if you expect everyone else to read your mind. Maybe he truly does not give a microscopic shit and doesn't even realize you're doing it all or figures you must like or want to do it. Maybe it's some kind of subconsciously-ingrained gender role thing. Maybe you bringing it up will make him realize he would actually like to plan things or maybe that he'd rather have his toenails yanked out, but at least will be able to say so instead of leaving you guessing.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:55 PM on November 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

This is one of those parts of becoming an adult where you get to just say stuff that has consequences without making a big Talk. "Hey, how come I always have to plan everything?"
posted by rhizome at 6:59 PM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

"Tell him" is the answer. It doesn't have to be a Talk, and it doesn't have to have the subtext that he's been failing somehow.

"Hey, you know what I was thinking would be fun? Let's go on a date this weekend! Take me out somewhere. I like it when you do that."

Say it while smiling and being affectionate, and boom, mission accomplished. You've just handed him an easy and fun way to make you happy, and all the emotions surrounding the whole thing are positive.
posted by kprincehouse at 6:59 PM on November 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

Talking is necessary. "Hey, can you pick this time?" "I'd love it if you could plan our next vacation." &c.

It doesn't have to be A Talk, but talking is necessary. I mean, you can try miming it (I currently have zero voice due to Demon Throat, so I am finding my inner Harpo Marx), but talking is key.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:02 PM on November 18, 2010

Two ideas, if you follow the above advice (just ask for what you want) doesn't work.

1. Start planning things that are much more one-sided "you" things, like "Oh, I thought I'd go to my knitting circle, and then maybe hang out in a bookshop for a while." He will have no choice but to start contributing if he wants to both see you and enjoy himself.

2. Don't plan anything. When he asks, "What are we doing this weekend?" Respond with, "I don't know, I figured you'd come up with something."
posted by Sara C. at 7:36 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

...just says he'll do whatever I want to do.

You've been together a year, and a "plan" is still required? It sounds to me that he's an easygoing person and content with your company - this is a wonderful situation. If you like to have things planned, and he doesn't need that so much, I'd guess you should count yourself lucky and take charge!
posted by fish tick at 7:41 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Shamu technique: when he plans something praise and reward. Works wonders.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:06 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is one of those parts of becoming an adult where you get to just say stuff that has consequences without making a big Talk. "Hey, how come I always have to plan everything?"

I'd recommend against wording it this way. I've found that "Why" questions, unless you are asking about Science! or "philosophy", are rarely helpful. "Why do [I/we/you] always" is possibly the worst way to start a question not intended to create a big argument.

I agree with the others recommending you just ask for what you want directly. It's even better if you start out with praise, along the lines of what Lyn Never was saying: "I really enjoyed it when we were first dating and you would suggest things we could do together. I'd really appreciate it if sometimes you suggested our activities for the weekend."

Sara C's first suggestion, in a best-case scenario, will backfire: your boyfriend might really enjoy knitting or going to a bookshop (between myself and my wife, I'd actually be way more into knitting than my wife, and we'd both be very happy in a bookstore (or, even better, library!) for hours. Worst case, he will know he is being manipulated and will pull away. The second suggestion is better, but comes across as super passive-aggressive and probably won't have any impact if he didn't respond to your earlier request.

Frankly, if the boyfriend does not respond to a straightforward, "I would like you to plan more of our dates," I would let it go if you want to keep the relationship.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:39 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

FWIW, I meant both of my suggestions as half-joking "extreme measures".

Though to be honest I don't see what's wrong at all with my second suggestion. If asking him upfront doesn't get the message across, just stop planning stuff. It's not your job to be his relationship mom, organizing playdates and managing his social calendar. Simply expecting him to contribute might be the easiest way of communicating that.
posted by Sara C. at 8:57 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's something I saw here on Askmefi called the 5-3-1 of you picks 5 options, the other person picks 3 out of those options, the first person makes the final choice.

Or a script:

You: Hey, do me a favor and make some plans for Saturday?

Him: Anything is fine.

You: I really want some concrete plans, but I don't feel like making them. Can you? Or you can come up with a few options and I'll pick.

Him: Okay

You: Thank you so much--I love it when you make plans!
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:12 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm not a big fan of the positive reinforcement 'i love it when you make plans' stuff. It sounds patronising to me. I also wouldn't make no plans. Way to wind yourself up for no reason whe he takes a long time to 'learn' this one. I'm all for just saying it. The way you make it not a talk is by not linking it to any general criticisms of his character/attitude towards life. Keep it specific.
posted by jojobobo at 10:37 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

If she loves it when he makes plans, why not say it?

If you get the chance to express genuine gratitude...why not do so?

It's a bonus for you, a win/win. They get to hear something nice. Yay, you get to say something nice! Sure beats having to criticize them or point out something that they're doing wrong.

I've always had excellent results in romantic relationships and friendships by being upfront with how awesome I think someone is and how much I appreciate the things they do for me.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:16 PM on November 18, 2010

As others have said, you can probably fix this by just bringing it up to him directly. I'm an easy-going guy so I have to work at this kind of thing, and if I don't know someone wants me to make an effort it is less likely that I'm going to do it. And in general, the best way to make sure you get what you need in a relationship is to clearly tell the other person what you need.

Also, depending on your personalities, it might help to have actual days that you mark on the calendar that you expect him to plan something. Like, it's the second Saturday of the month, what do you have planned for us? And it might help if you make it clear that you are cool with doing whatever. I know for me personally, part of the reason that it is easier to just let the other person decide is that I don't have to come up with the perfect outing (something that is new and different, yet will definitely be enjoyable, etc.). I know that I am easy going enough that I will have a good time regardless (even if it's something like knitting that I'm not into at all) but not everyone else is like that. If the focus is on trying new things that may or may not be the best time ever, it's easier to plan.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:03 AM on November 19, 2010

Yeah, I married this guy.

On the upside, he doesn't notice if I've neglected any of my responsibilities around the house. On the downside, he doesn't notice & vocalize appreciation when I *do* perfectly execute all my responsibilities around the house (not that a person HAS to compliment me if I clean the litter box, just that I've realized that I really like it when they do compliment me).

After many years of hand-wringing on my part, I've begun to do this: I'll provide him with a list of umpteen ideas of things to do and ask him to pick one and make any relevant arrangements, and then ask which weekend he'd like to complete this responsibility. And then I tell him why the task is important and meaningful to me.

It's certainly not the stuff that romantic movies are made of, by a long shot* . . . but I'm committed to staying married to him and this seems to be the best method I've found of getting my needs met while adapting to his . . . 'quirk'.

*and it's worth considering if your having a life akin to romantic movies/and uber-active participation from your partner is important to you, in the long run.
posted by MeiraV at 8:15 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

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