Tired of being the kibble that's always there; time to turn into a laser pointer!
April 20, 2011 9:22 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I live together, and the relationship is great, but things have gotten very 'comfortable'. I think it's time to take everything he thinks he knows about us and turn it upside-down (in a good way)! How though?

We have been together for 2 years. Living together for over one year. Our current lease is almost up, and it has been agreed tentatively that we'll renew it together. I would like to know if there are any ways to live under the same roof, but have it so he still has to pursue me, like he used to when we lived apart.

I'm not asking to play games, just modifications that I can make to seem less available to him all the time. At the heart of this is that I would like to feel more valued, desired, and less taken for granted. I sense that nowadays he is more excited to hang out with his female friends, or have a flirtatious exchange with other women because he's already 'caught' me and knows I love him (I am more physically and verbally affectionate than he is, and I initiate the affection almost always). He is the non-expressive computer engineer type, so you know how that is.

There is no doubt that he loves me, but I miss feeling pursued. I miss feeling like I have control over how much he gets to see of me... I miss how he used to value my time spent with him as though it were a precious commodity. I don't want to be thought of as the girl who's always there whenever he likes. I think this view he has of me is at the root of why I feel any insecurity about us. I no longer want to be more predictable and less interesting than other females in his company, just because we live together and have established a certain routine.

I know the answer probably lies in making myself scarce somehow, but I am an introvert who's lost a lot of her friend base by moving to a new city. My best friends are in other states. So... I should probably take some classes, get really involved in my hobbies and interests, and start meeting new friends, right? Are there ways I can seem "out of reach" to him even while interacting with him, in a way that gets him intrigued (and not walled off)? Anything else I should consider?
posted by Sa Dec to Human Relations (40 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Look, maybe I'm misreading this, but when I read your question, I parsed it as "I want to manipulate and control my boyfriend so that he can't continue to be happy and have what he wants because I want to be the only one in the relationship who gets what I want."

I'm not sure if that is uncharitable (and it may just be poorly phrased or poorly read), but I think you need to think hard about what you're really asking for here.
posted by brainmouse at 9:26 AM on April 20, 2011 [16 favorites]

So... I should probably take some classes, get really involved in my hobbies and interests, and start meeting new friends, right?

These are great things that it sounds like you need, but I'm not sure they solve this problem.

Anything else I should consider?

Yes - that you should talk to your boyfriend about your unmet needs, and work together to find a way to meet them. You are considering playing a game instead; this probably isn't the best approach.
posted by fritley at 9:26 AM on April 20, 2011 [33 favorites]

I should probably take some classes, get really involved in my hobbies and interests, and start meeting new friends

Those are good things to do, regardless of your relationship with your boyfriend.

I think the best way to get your boyfriend to make you feel more valued, desired, and less taken for granted is to talk to him about it.
posted by amarynth at 9:28 AM on April 20, 2011

Yeah, talk to him. This game might backfire horribly, because he won't know he's playing it, and you'll get more and more frustrated.
posted by desjardins at 9:29 AM on April 20, 2011

That sounds like games to me, honestly.

Talk to him.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:30 AM on April 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sorry, obviously I could have saved us both some time by simply saying, "What fritley said!"
posted by amarynth at 9:30 AM on April 20, 2011

I don't want to be thought of as the girl who's always there whenever he likes.

But you live together. That's kind of how things work once you're under the same roof. There's a certain level of comfort achieved that I'm not sure you can take away. What you can do is focus on putting more romance back into your relationship. Set up date nights, get all dolled up and go out on the town. Or stay home in front of the roaring fire, if that's more your bag. Just do something to regularly spend romantic time together.

I also agree that building a life of your own (classes, friends, hobbies) will bring some life back into your relationship, since you won't be leaning on it so heavily and it'll have room to breathe.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:31 AM on April 20, 2011 [11 favorites]

I know the answer probably lies in making myself scarce somehow, but I am an introvert who's lost a lot of her friend base by moving to a new city.

If you do this, you risk upsetting the apple cart and losing him by playing games. Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder, sometimes it makes the flame go out. Be an adult and tell him that you miss being desired and that you wish he was more outwardly affectionate.

Of course, if he's just not that kind of person, you'll likely just get a little bit of increase in this to begin with and then a return to his normal state of non-affection. You have to decide if this is something you can live with. If you can, great, but if you can't...well, maybe you're not the match you thought you were.
posted by inturnaround at 9:32 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I miss feeling pursued.

I'd mention that to him.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:32 AM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

There is no doubt that he loves me, but I miss feeling pursued.

Massive red flag. This, to me, says you're less interested in being in a relationship with him per se than with a certain kind of excitement. Which reads a lot like drama farming.

Talk to your boyfriend. If things aren't working for you, that's something the two of you need to talk about. Trying to figure out how to change your behavior to get the right kind of response from him is the very definition of manipulation.
posted by valkyryn at 9:33 AM on April 20, 2011 [35 favorites]

I no longer want to be more predictable and less interesting than other females in his company, just because we live together and have established a certain routine.

What leads you to believe that he feels this way? I live w/my partner and we have a fairly solid routine, but this is real source of happiness and emotional comfort, and makes her much more interesting to me.

Nthing games: don't mess with him based on your assumptions - talk to him about what you need, and how he's feeling about the relationship.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:36 AM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

My first answer was that you should take ecstasy together (and maybe you should) but I think the real problem is that "He is the non-expressive computer engineer type," and you want to "engineer" him into being something else. That can't really work. Similarly, though you are posting and he is not, he has needs that are unmet that he satisfies with his externally directed flirting behavior. How can you help him satisfy those needs? Maybe he has some suggestions. Maybe the two of you can work together on this.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:40 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, I think we've tried discussing my unmet needs several times. That's the thing: I don't think he knows how to provide it consciously. From my observations, he's the type to react (he is also an introvert)... when something is bright, shiny and interesting, he pursues it. If not, then he doesn't. I don't always feel so bright, shiny and interesting to him (compared to others) since I'm always with him, every day. I think I'm bored with myself too, and need a good kick in the butt to make some big changes, be a little different, bring something new to the table. I'm probably not phrasing the problem correctly; I just want to be a bit mysterious (and exciting) to him again. Is that a silly or misplaced desire?
posted by Sa Dec at 9:45 AM on April 20, 2011

You have a ludic love style - pursuer and pursued - but you're in an under-one-roof committed relationship. You need to bargain between these realities.

Take up a solo hobby so that you're around less, and also so that you'll have more of a life outside of your partner. Invite him to places that are more out of the way. Joke around more. Tell him that you'd like to explore more of wherever it is that you live.

Don't take up a strategy where the endgame is just to get him more intrigued. That's buying into the notion that you're around whenever he likes - even if you structure your schedule so that he has to make an effort to see you, you're still framing your life with yourself as the object and him as the subject (like a laser pointer is to a cat, to steal your metaphor). Objects are boring after a while.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:46 AM on April 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'll agree with everyone else when they say, "Oh jeez, you really need to talk to your boy about this!"

But I'll add one more suggestion. Before you do, make sure you have some specific, actionable things you want to see him do differently. If you walk into it with vague statements like, "make me feel more desired" or "make me feel more valued", you're going to drive him out of his mind with frustration. You need to focus on actionable, tangible behaviors you need to see change. Things like, "Once a week, I want you to take me out on a date. Dress up, dinner, some activity." or "Once a week, I want you to meet me out at a bar, buy me a drink and flirt with me." Or whatever it is that pushes your buttons. But make sure it is very explicit and tangible.

And while I'm at it, yeah, you've got to get out more. Find some hobbies, meet some people. Explore websites like meetin.com and meetup.com. Take an evening class through your local community college, even if it's something frivolous like badminton. Volunteer at your local foodbank. Anything that gets you out of the house, meeting new people, bringing new interests and energy into the relationship.
posted by browse at 9:47 AM on April 20, 2011 [7 favorites]

For sure you can be exciting again. Get dressed up and go out to the bar; have him show up a bit later and try to pick you up like you are strangers (there is a great scene in Mad Men like this, when Don and Betty go to Italy).

Come up with new games to play at home that you are both in on so that you are both shiny and interesting and working to upset the status quo in a desirable way for both of you. Talk to him about hobbies you always wanted and are thinking of taking up so he can support you or join in...
posted by Acer_saccharum at 9:48 AM on April 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sa Dec: From my observations, he's the type to react (he is also an introvert)... when something is bright, shiny and interesting, he pursues it. If not, then he doesn't.

Is this your first long term relationship? The excitement will wear off of most any prolonged togetherness, and the constant shower sparks becomes more of a comfortable glow. There are still the sparks, but they're more rare (and because of that, they can be more exciting than before).

As Stitcherbeast said, you can become "less available" by doing more things without him. But don't taunt him with it, or blow him off because "you're busy" in an attempt to make him want you more. Do those things for yourself.

Otherwise, you can still go on dates, even though you're living together. If that's not enough to get dressed up and make an event of it, try roll-playing, like Acer_saccharum mentioned.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:50 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really think the key phase here is to be "more interesting." I'm always nuts about someone I can learn from. Maybe you can get out there and learn about a new kind of music/culture/language etc. Then you're not only more interesting, you're meeting people and having fun for your own benefit.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:51 AM on April 20, 2011

The most alluring trait I've ever found in a S.O. is their having a passion for something, whatever brings a spark to their eyes. So forget this idea of attracting him and go get yourself excited and absorbed by a new hobby that also gets you out of the house. I think you shouldn't have the perspective of "making him want you", rather it should be "making myself happy and getting my social life going again".

For you, it's likely you need an activity where the social aspect would be more focused on the task at hand rather than forced general social interaction and small talk, until you felt more comfortable with the people there. Go sign yourself up for introductory classes for everything and anything you ever found interesting but never got up the nerve to try, and find what actually engages you. As an introvert, well maybe you'd prefer something like an art class where you're working on "something", or a yoga/martial arts class where you're training. Go volunteer somewhere, like at a theatre where you can usher people to seats and watch plays, or at an animal shelter.

I am more physically and verbally affectionate than he is, and I initiate the affection almost always

This part you have to address by talking to him, seriously. Have the "how we express affection to eachother" talk. In a relationship worth keeping, you should step up and make your needs known.
posted by lizbunny at 9:54 AM on April 20, 2011 [9 favorites]

Thank you, these answers are helping me a lot to focus on what can be done. I'll admit boyfriend and I don't have the best communication, but we have made some progress. About the tangible actionable things, recently I asked him if he could take a shower once during the weekend so I'd feel as if he took care of his appearance while just being around me (not just for work or friends), so he has agreed to that. That sounds horrible, like I don't like who he is (in his private life), but it's more like when he's smelling clean it makes me feel like he cares about what I think, about whether I'm attracted to him or not. It makes me feel like he's courting me. So that got through. Still, I DO need to lean less on this relationship, it's true.
posted by Sa Dec at 9:59 AM on April 20, 2011

You can become a more interesting and less bored person by doing more and interesting things. This can be fantastic for a relationship...when it comes from a loving caring place.

If what you meant to say was, "I feel taken for granted and kind of in a rut, and maybe I'm expecting too many of my needs to be served by a single person. I'd like to have more going on in my life and I'd like for him to want to do that too, but obviously that's not my decision. Still, I'm going to do it for me," that's cool. Go do it. Doing it to fuck with someone you allegedly love is wrong.

But if you're just not getting what you want from him, use your words. Tell him. If he's not at least responsive (which does not mean doing what you want), maybe you guys aren't really all that compatible in the long run.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:01 AM on April 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I don't think there's anything manipulative about doing something to make yourself feel bright, shiny and interesting. Don't do it for him, do it for yourself. People have already mentioned taking classes and getting out in the world, but it's also fun to play dress up some times. You could also get a fabulous new hairstyle. Or try wearing a waist cincher under a vintage dress. Or try some fabulous gel eyeliner. Or sparkley earrings. Or a colorful scarf tied near your neck. Or some awesome shoes. Do something that makes you feel like a glamorous vixen - and rock out on your own fierceness. It's okay to remind yourself what a fox you are.
posted by ladypants at 10:04 AM on April 20, 2011

Also, you did a good thing telling him to take a shower. That's a perfectly reasonable request. It sounds like you are very concerned about hurting his feelings, but honestly he sounds quite resiliant, if not a little obtuse. I know it's easier said than done, but don't worry so much about his feelings, and speak up about what you need.
posted by ladypants at 10:08 AM on April 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

No, I would never blow him off just to seem less available or behave in ways that are dishonest just to get what I want from him. I actually DO want to be honestly busy, involved in some passion, and excited about something other than him. I know that that's the key. I've gotten really good responses from people here on just how to do that. Thank you!

We DO have date nights regularly. They're great, but again, with my lack of self-esteem stemming from my self-perceived dull life, I feel he's the only one who has anything to offer. So, I'd like to change that dynamic and be the one he's thrilled to be with and listen to. I'd like to balance things out, rather.
posted by Sa Dec at 10:09 AM on April 20, 2011

Yeah, this is not about your boyfriend, this is about you. The best way to be shiny and new in a relationship is to keep evolving as a person. Work to make your life shiny for yourself, follow your passion, try new things, develop new interests. This solves the issue of always being around and available as well as getting you out of your rut.

If in the end he still takes you for granted and after, of course, you've tried to address these issue with him directly then it might be time to move on.
posted by Kimberly at 10:13 AM on April 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

I think people are being too hard on you. It's very easy, when you're living with someone, to fall into a pattern where the lived-with partner is the backup choice, the one you stay home and watch television with when you have nothing better to do with your time. And the "shower once a weekend" comment is very revealing, because it suggests your boyfriend has slid pretty far in the taking you for granted direction.

I really don't think talking about how you feel neglected will get you where you need to go, or at least not as efficiently as people hope. Of course he doesn't think you're neglected...he's probably spending more time with you than anyone. But if that time is always when he's tired, or vegging on the couch, you will feel like you're getting the leftovers of his time. I've been there, and done that and it sucks, and it's more than just the normal "things get less exciting" of a long-term relationship.

The solution that worked for me was making an effort to go out and do more interesting things together. Suggest taking up a new hobby or activity together, making more of an effort to get out of the house together. The best way, honestly, to get him to do this, if he's anything like my man, is to propose specific activities at specific times, and make it clear you'll be disappointed if he doesn't go along. The doing things separately idea is a good one, but it should be accompanied by doing things together as well, or you won't fix the "taken for granted" feeling, you'll just make sure he feels it too. Which is less than productive.

And, it's perfectly acceptable to tell him that you'd prefer he'd maintain certain standards of cleanliness and dress around you. It's one thing to tolerate the Saturday-morning ratty sweats. It's another to tolerate the always-and-only ratty sweats or the full weekends without showering.

Maintaining a relationship takes work, but it also takes time to figure out what sort of work that is. Sometimes the best approach is experimenting with different hacking-style solutions, not talking abstractly about feelings and what might change them.
posted by psycheslamp at 10:15 AM on April 20, 2011 [15 favorites]

lack of self-esteem stemming from my self-perceived dull life

I was just going to add that you can't rely on another person to provide 100% of the excitement in your life, and then you basically made my point for me. I absolutely agree with the posters who say you should avoid games and talk it over with your boyfriend. But the other thing that you need to do (as people have said) is just to do something that makes you happy and brings the sparkle into your life - something that doesn't rely on your boyfriend. It's a good bet that your boyfriend will mess up at least some parts of making you feel special. He's not a mind-reader (nor are you). When he does mess up, it's important to be happy yourself so you can shrug it off and supportively enjoy the mistaken attempt. Moreover, if the only excitement in your life comes from your boyfriend, then no matter how special he makes you feel that's a pretty dull life. So talk to your boyfriend, but also get your own hobby.

on preview: psycheslamp's suggestion of planning specific new activities together at specific times is AWESOME. THIS SO MUCH. Just make sure they're activities that he's okay with, and at times that are good with him - they're partner activities, not marching orders. You might have to nudge him at first to try some new things, so it's fine to take the initiative at the beginning. But as you explore new activities try to focus on things you both enjoy, and if you want him to plan some of them then be ready to step out of your comfort zone as well. My girlfriend doesn't take me to pottery class and I don't ask her to watch MMA, even though both would be 'new.' But she took me snow tubing and I took her canoeing - both new things that it was reasonable to expect the other person would enjoy.
posted by Tehhund at 10:28 AM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

This may be a problem with your boyfriend, but more specifically this is a problem with yourself. How do I know that? I've been there.

I like a little bit of excitement, too, but not as much as being loved and valued. When I got together with my fiance, I wasn't too far removed from a stormy relationship in which the engagement of arguing and working through it really energized me (and probably kept me thinking that the relationship was better than it really was). I asked my then-new partner to be a little more aggressive, demanding, whatever. Finally, he said, "Look, I know that's what you want, but I'm not that guy and I can't give that to you."

With my lack of self-esteem stemming from my self-perceived dull life, I feel he's the only one who has anything to offer.

That's YOUR perception -- and it's most likely quite distorted. I can never remember how this quote goes, but it's something like, "Don't tell someone how they should feel about you; let them decide for themselves." Hell, even if he does find his own life more exciting than what he experiences when he's with you -- which is not a given -- maybe he likes it that way for the restful contrast it provides. Maybe the downtime and respect he gets from you is something he needs.

But -- speaking as a frustrated introvert, and one whom everyone assumes is an extrovert -- it's very hard to be the "cruise director" all the time (setting the social agenda when the other person doesn't seem to care as much), particularly when one person's desire to go out and/or interact with others differs from his or her partner's. It can be tiring when your social life consists of a lot of tagging along; it can be tiring to always deal with a partner who wants to stay or wants to go much sooner than you do. If you sense some sort of boredom or fatigue, "cruise directing" might play a part.

For me, it's a big trust issue. My partner is one of the very few people I trust enough to be near me when I let my guard down. And it's SO STUPID -- really, all I want out of a close friend is the ability to sit on their couch and not feel obligated to keep up conversation. How hard is that? Well... pretty hard. It takes a lot of work to get to that point, especially for an introvert, and especially when that introvert is likely to seek out other introverts who share the same needs but also the same fears.

You have to learn to trust yourself before you trust others. Remember that you can't be a good partner without being more settled within yourself. Just as you can't rely on another person for all of your excitement, you also can't rely on him to fix your problems. The only person you can control is you.

You know this already.
posted by Madamina at 10:34 AM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Psycheslamp pretty much hit the nail on the head. The 2nd paragraph put it really well. My bf (and cat) has become my one source of fun in my life. Other than with his friends or with him, I don't really meet other people or do new things. I have started up painting again though, and I do have interests and dreams (awesome ones, I might add), just not the courage and motivation to see them through.

I just want to elaborate on the communication part -- like Psycheslamp said, having those relationship discussions with him is like getting him to pay me a compliment -- like pulling teeth from his mouth (like many guys, if it's obvious to him, he doesn't need to do it). It's not pointless, but telling him 'I need x, y, z' is like asking him to take out the garbage ... he'll nod and understand and get my reasoning, but forget a week later. It's hard for him to be conscious of my perspective because we are so different. I've observed him long enough that I know what makes him tick and what situations bring out those qualities in him that I want and miss sometimes (which he used to show in abundance to me when we had more separate lives -- I was much more independent then), that he so easily whips out when with people who excite him. It's not something I can ask him to pretend for me because I need that from him. That would be too phony for us.
posted by Sa Dec at 10:41 AM on April 20, 2011

I only read the first couple of responses, but I don't think the OP's desire to feel more wanted amounts to manipulation or games. It's a perfectly natural reaction if her boyfriend has become lazy and less attentive.

I actually think you might consider living apart again. This will not only create some distance, but also give you the drive to establish new roots in the city.
posted by timsneezed at 10:55 AM on April 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

As a first time poster on AskMeFi, I can't believe how quickly the advice (many, spot-on) flew in. Thank you again... I don't think I need more. It's pretty clear what steps I should take to improve the situation. :)
posted by Sa Dec at 10:58 AM on April 20, 2011

Welcome to Ask.Me! There are a lot of insightful folks around who like to help.

One more comment, in reply to this:

Sa Dec: getting him to pay me a compliment -- like pulling teeth from his mouth (like many guys, if it's obvious to him, he doesn't need to do it).

I adore my wife, but I'm often at a loss for words how to describe her. I say what makes sense to me, but I'm no poet-on-the-spot. She'll tell me as much, which helps me, even though it can sting when I say what I feel and it's not enough for that moment.

At first, honest feedback can be hard, both in the giving and receiving. But it gets easier, and it can be fun to poke at each-other's awkward little phrases.

In summary: don't let these thoughts stay in your head, discuss them, even if the discussion starts out rough.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:35 AM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

"It's not pointless, but telling him 'I need x, y, z' is like asking him to take out the garbage ... he'll nod and understand and get my reasoning, but forget a week later."

Does he have a calendar? Put it on his calendar. Weekly reminder on Thursdays to compliment girlfriend. I'm not even kidding. You'll feel dopey setting it up, but it'll help him get in the habit and after a month or two you'll start to forget it was there unless you consciously think about it.

Really all you're doing is reminding him to express his admiration for you on YOUR preferred frequency schedule. As long as he gets a reminder (rather than nagging), he's probably perfectly happy to do so. He's just not good at remembering it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:37 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

As others have said, losing the thrill of the chase is standard once relationships get to a certain point. But the payoff is so worth it: you have, ideally, someone who knows and understands you deeply and loves you even if you have morning breath or forgot to take the trash out. You might never have that courtship phase again, but if you look at the steady, quiet advantages of being in an established relationship, you might not miss it as much.

The beginning of a relationship is exciting because you don't know what to expect, so I get where you're coming from on the desire to be more mysterious. It's going to be hard to make that seem authentic at this point, though. Instead, consider going the opposite route, and add interest in ways that take advantage of how well you know each other. Maybe it's something as simple as getting him his favorite candy bar from the store. Maybe it's remembering some sexy sex thing he expressed interest in five months ago and has since forgotten about.

Before you met him, you had a full and interesting life on your own, and probably didn't lean as much on any one person or thing. There was probably a turning point when he started being a major part of your life and free time, and maybe some other interests of yours have fallen by the wayside. Now's the time to rekindle those. Get out of the house and do some stuff! Not only will you be in his presence less, but you will be relying less on him for entertainment, and you'll continue to be that interested and interesting person who caught his eye two years ago.

And use positive reinforcement when you can. If he spontaneously does something that makes you feel sexy, appreciated, cared for, etc., tell him and thank him. I don't always respond well to "I wish you would do this," but I'm a total sucker for praise, and I'm not alone in that.

Good luck with both your established relationship and your new adventures!
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:05 PM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you still dress sexy? Do you still try to seduce him? Do you still flirt with him? Do you still put on the special perfume?

If you are not doing all the little things you did in the beginning, then you cannot expect the same level of 'attention' that you received back then.
posted by eas98 at 12:35 PM on April 20, 2011

Tee hee. I am just going to answer this head-on. I don’t think this is about playing games. If your boyfriend wanted to soften you up to ask you something, and brought home two dozen of your favorite flowers or cooked you dinner, would you be mad because he was manipulating you?

Okay first of all, some books. Before you roll your eyes, it won’t kill you to just read them, right?

The Rules: there's the original and its sequel (which come in a set) and one about marriage that’s probably more suited to a committed relationship. I found that the sequel got more into the theory behind the rules.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Mars & Venus on a Date: John Gray has started turning to quackery a little bit (he has dieting books out now) but honestly, his stuff about men and women has just taken my interactions with people to a whole new level. I paraphrased him in my comment on another question, for a taste.

There’s the very old-fashioned and un-feminist Fascinating Womanhood. There’s a little too much Christianity in it for my tastes but if you are open-minded, you can pass that over. She has some good advice about how to “make a man feel like a man” and that sort of thing. Her version for singles (Fascinating Girl) is where I learned about super-active listening: you know how you go “Oh BOY, really???” with gigantic wide eyes when a kid is telling you about his day at school?

And if you like old movies, there’s If a Man Answers with Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin, where Sandra’s mother advises her to make her husband think she has a lover by sending herself flowers and having someone constantly calling the house who would hang up if Bobby answered. Very cute.

Now some ideas, off the top of my head.

First of all, yes, obviously MAKE SOME PLANS. You want him to be sitting on the sofa, turn to say something to you and remember “Oh yeah, she’s not here tonight, she’s out doing ____.” They can be anything, really, but you should have at least one thing that is regularly scheduled and that you will almost never be able to get out of. Bonus if you plans that you have to get sort of dressed up for. And I know it’s much easier said than done, but having friends helps, especially if you have a group of friends that you can invite him along with, so that he can see you as fun and interesting anew through other people’s eyes.

Speaking of dressing up, start ramping things up, gradually, in the lingerie department. My mom told me about a friend of hers who was feeling that things were getting a little ho-hum with her husband, so she bought a bra-panty-garter-belt-stockings set, and put them on in the morning for work, while her husband was watching. This is like 5% making him jealous, which I generally don’t approve of, and 95% having him think about you walking around dressed like that all day where he can’t get at you.

Buy some vases and scatter them around the house. Buy yourself some flowers and gush about how good they smell, bury your face in them sensuously and let out some soft moans of pleasure, and so on.

Something you can just in general do with him is to hold back a little bit from venting every thought and feeling. How can he be curious about what you’re thinking and feeling if he already knows? You don’t even have to do a big production—if you think of something funny, instead of saying it to him, just don’t say anything. Thinking about it to yourself will naturally put a smile on his face and he’ll wonder what you’re thinking about.
posted by thebazilist at 2:01 PM on April 20, 2011 [10 favorites]

Yes, definitely go engage in some activities that you love. It will feed your extroverted self, give your boyfriend some alone time to be completely introverted and allow him to be a little more focused on you when you get back.

But also, as others have said, you really need to talk to him about this. If you like having your head scratched (as I do) snuggle up on the couch and say, "Hey, scratch my head, it feels good when you do that." If physical affection is not your bag, let him know that you like flowers, and be specific, "hey, it would be super sweet if you'd have a florist deliver a pot of tulips to my desk some day this week." Remember - specific! What flowers, when, and how do you want them. If you just say, "I'd like to get flowers sometime," there's no deadline, no urgency. If you don't say what kind you want, he'll hit the website and be overwhelmed by selection and price. If you want him to cook dinner once or twice a week, tell him to cook dinner - being specific there may or may not work, but ask him if there is a particular night this week that would be good for him. Or if you're swamped at work on Wednesdays, let him know that coming home to a hot meal would make you hot... he'll catch your drift.

and regarding this:

Do you still dress sexy? Do you still try to seduce him? Do you still flirt with him? Do you still put on the special perfume?

If you are not doing all the little things you did in the beginning, then you cannot expect the same level of 'attention' that you received back then.
posted by eas98 at 3:35 PM

Of for fuck's sake, can we get over this sexist mindset already?

The OP has mentioned that she's had to ask her boyfriend to shower once a weekend. I suspect that if she owns man saving panties they are in the rotation. Telling a woman that if she's not still hot (however hot is defined by the speaker, no less) she can't expect her man to maintain a level of interest and affection that pleases her is rude and makes me super grar-y.

posted by bilabial at 2:22 PM on April 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

thebazilist, thank you!!! Your tips are just the sort of inspiration I needed to hear. A vision of a different me: a confident, sexy and attractive me that I was having such a hard time believing in. Having a complacent boyfriend didn't help me, but I was relying too much on the hope that he'd 'chase' me again to confirm my own worth. I mean, when I posed this question, that was initially the only end I wanted. But now I see quite clearly that my sense of worth must come from myself, not from whether I am number one in my bf's life..

These replies have confirmed that it IS my Self who has to take action, make plans, make friends, take classes, pamper myself and splurge once in a while on things that make me feel good, and just believe that I deserve to make myself happy, instead of revolving around pleasing him, obsessed with keeping him around. I think I've become dependent on him (not co-dependent, since he's healthy). Just thinking about spending time away from him regularly is a little scary. But it's definitely what I have to do.
posted by Sa Dec at 3:21 PM on April 20, 2011

OK, you've got the enjoying your alone time and ideas for developing yourself, now you need to figure the together time.

...he'll nod and understand and get my reasoning, but forget a week later...

This is where you have to make plans together and SCHEDULE them! They should be written in red or circled on a wall calendar. Take turns with the planning. He may need to be gently reminded that it's his turn to do something (besides staying at home.) You need to plan recurrent things like a Friday night date night--things like dinner out or candle-light dinner in, with flowers and the good china; make a point of discussing what new place you will try for dinner--get out of your comfort zone. Plan and cook a meal together, and both of you do the dishes after.

Go club dancing, or dancing at home. Pick out romantic music to slow dance. Make mix tapes for each other. If he says he can't dance, take a dance class together! Sing together. Watch a movie out or a DVD with popcorn on the couch. Each of you take time to pick out movies you think the other person might like to see as well as a few you would like. Discuss them. What are the themes? Why did you like/dislike it? (explain the why.) What could have been done differently? Research if the movie was based on a book, and read the book together? Better or worse?

Let him plan half the dates, the where and the what. Maybe once in a while he'd like to go out to dinner with another couple--that's great, but dessert is just for the two of you.

The other type of plans would be the non-recurring type. Make a plan once a month or just be spontaneous. Go to the zoo, museums, and historical spots. Have him research places to go on the net: try Roadside America or ThingsToDo.com. Plan a picnic, a hike, or just take a drive to the country. Try geocaching if you have a GPS or can borrow one. Do rock climbing, skating, horseback riding, kite flying, bike riding, fishing, a short cooking class or some other community education class, and the ever popular snow tubing and canoeing. ;) There's lots of equipment that can be rented. Make a deal to spend two weeks learning a foreign language. Sing karaoke together (once may be enough!) Spend the day in bed.

Talk to him. Model the behavior you wish he'd develop. Tell him you like the way his tie brings out the color of his eyes. You like the way he brings you coffee in the morning. Then fish for compliments: ask him whether he likes your hair up or down, and WHY. What color does he like best on you. If he remembers and does something nice or compliments you, get all shmoopy and tell him how it makes you feel. Reward him, even if it's just a thank you. Sometimes 'please' and 'thank you' get ignored in long term relationships.

See if you can both agree on three 'rules'.
Rule 1: both people have to be engaged in planning.
Rule 2: you will try to enter into the spirit of the activity.
Rule 3: you have to talk.

tl;dr Make plans. Talk to each other.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:49 PM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

recently I asked him if he could take a shower once during the weekend so I'd feel as if he took care of his appearance while just being around me (not just for work or friends), so he has agreed to that. That sounds horrible, like I don't like who he is (in his private life), but it's more like when he's smelling clean it makes me feel like he cares about what I think, about whether I'm attracted to him or not.

Wait, what the fuck? Look, this is not out-of-line at all. It's one thing to get settled in and sort of complacent around your partner. But getting to the point where you do not exercise basic standards of hygiene* is a big Fuck You to your partner (and to physical intimacy). If this is the point where he's at, where showers are not necessary, then no wonder you are feeling antsy. When I got to that not-showering point in my last relationship it should have been a big red flag to me that I was not participating in my relationship the way I should be.

I agree with all of the other posters that you need to build your own passionate, interesting life outside of your partner. It's not about seeming more interesting to your partner, but feeling more interesting and confident to yourself. From there, other people naturally become attracted to you.

However, you guys do need to have a talk about his actions here, because shit like not showering is some passive-aggressive nonsense.

*As reached in compromise within the relationship, I understand some partners don't give a shit how often their SO showers
posted by schroedinger at 7:39 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

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