Should I stay with my passive, unromantic boyfriend?
July 4, 2019 2:31 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I have been together for nearly 2 years, and I'm finding that I am dreading our upcoming anniversary. I am very tempted to end things with him for a few reasons, but I do love him dearly and don't want to back out without giving the relationship a good try. However, I am running out of steam. Since I have no one to share my doubts with I'll have to publish them here in the hope that some kind stranger will offer some advice. Buckle up, because it's a novel. To save boring the pants off you I haven't included every single detail, but I'll make any clarifications you like in the comments. I'm sure I'm not perfect and I welcome insight into my own behaviour, but be kind with me please! I'm only human.

To set the scene: we were friends before we got together, and the 'getting together' was a slow and steady process. At the time that we started to have those feelings, he already had a ticket to Canada, so we both knew that if we chose to follow our hearts, it would mean moving country. I had several good reasons for visiting Canada myself and in the end we decided to give it a shot and moved out there on our 6 month anniversary. I realise this is very fast by most people's standards, but we both felt it was the right decision, and sometimes the cookie crumbles that way. So for the past year and a half, we have only had each other to lean on, and to be honest we're doing remarkably well despite a lot of difficult situations that have been thrown our way. We still get excited to see each other, and we make each other laugh every single day.

My boyfriend is a kind and gentle soul, pretty introverted, but also sociable and happy to be around people. He is usually happy to spend this time in people's company without saying much, and the more comfortable he is, the less he will say. This is a quality that I initially enjoyed, as I also like to be in silence with others. I am a sociable introvert by the way - so we are not too dissimilar, but I am a bit more sociable and certainly more empathetic. I completely understand that someone wouldn't want to be pressured to make conversation when relaxing at home, BUT I have to carry the conversation 99% of the time and it's exhausting.

And I mean any conversation, from making a shopping list to relationship problems and everything in between. The only things that he will bring up and talk about at length are problems at work or problems with the car. I am not interested in those things in the slightest, but they are important to him so I listen as much as I can. However, it has got to a point where I have said numerous times that I cannot listen to the same thing over and over, and he doesn't get it. Like I said, this is one thing at home, but when we go out for dates I feel like some effort should be made to create conversation that is fun and interesting. But when we go out, he will sit silently and I have to carry the conversation myself. To be honest, it feels like a weight on my shoulders and I'd rather just be by myself. We have spoken about this, and he says he is just happy in my company. Which is a compliment I know, but he doesn't seem to be aware of my feelings and that concerns me.
When we need to talk about serious things, he freezes up and goes completely silent. This is incredibly frustrating for me as I am a born communicator. I like to talk things through. However, I recognise that we are all different, and I know that he needs more time and space than I do to process his emotions. So I try to make it absolutely clear that I'm not levelling anything at him, keep confrontation as low-key as possible and give him time to think and come back to me with a response. The problem is, no matter how much time I give him, his response will always be unbearably brief, and it usually does very little to get to the bones of the matter, or make me feel any better. If I ask him how he is feeling, he usually says 'I don't really know' which gets us nowhere.

To give you one example, we have been having trouble in the bedroom department for quite a while. As in, nothing happens at all these days. He has always expected me to initiate sex, although this is not my preference. He has given me head less than a handful of times in our relationship; I have done it for him frequently, although I've stopped in the last few months. There is also a massive lack of foreplay on his part, and this includes telling me that I am sexy, which is very important for me. The actual act of sex is great, and it really wouldn't take much to ramp up the whole thing to an amazing level. However, he doesn't put any effort in at all (as far as I can tell), and the whole experience is devastatingly brief. When he is done, we're done.

If I bring it up (and I have tried this in every way I can think of) he goes silent and looks down. Eventually he will say 'I just feel so bad.' And, at last, 'it will get better.'
But he will not reassure me that I am attractive (which at this point I really need from my partner) nor will he come up with constructive solutions. I did ask him once to give me some concrete steps that we could take to finding a solution and he got defensive and said: 'well what are you doing?' to which I listed the numerous actions I have taken (and we're talking...countless...). Silence. No solution.

If I'm completely honest, I don't have the same feelings for him that I used to because I kept getting hurt. At some point I lost them, and I feel like there might be a window of time where they'll come back, but it's closing. I have said this to him, because I need him to act quickly. Not in an ultimatum-type way, but I did say that if our situation doesn't improve, I don't have a choice, because I can't stay in a sexless relationship. That was a few months ago and there's been no improvement.

I do think some of this boils down to the death of his mother when he was a teen. He has mentioned that at the time he disconnected from his emotions because they were too painful, and I think he never really got over it. He has also said that sometimes he doesn't like to say when people are important to him, because he's scared it will make it too real and then he will lose them.

So, we have the communication issue and the bedroom is becoming a big problem.

It also annoys me that he doesn't take care of his health. He smokes heavily, and is very attached to the idea that he doesn't need to go to the doctor for anything. He has a rash all over his body that I and his sisters think could be an autoimmune problem, but he will not do anything about it. He can be lethargic and it makes me wonder if this is where the sexual problems are coming from. However he will not act on it and I'm wondering how long to wait around for someone who will not take responsibility for their health.

Lastly, he is unromantic. I don't mean that I need flowers all the time or big romantic gestures, but an occasional flower would be lovely. I am open to asking him if this is not something he naturally thinks of, but I have tried and even when I do, he doesn't do anything about it. I ended up in tears on my last birthday because he gave me socks. Socks!! The thing is, he very sweetly researched the socks to find the warmest ones for me, and I recognise that in his eyes, this was an act of love. But it doesn't resonate with me at all. I had mentioned numerous things that I would've loved, but in the end I got a present that he would've loved, not me. He could've written me a nice card or a picture and I'd have been happy, which he knew because I told him beforehand. So I'm still confused by his decision.

Now I'm not a very big social media person - I don't even have Facebook anymore - but sometimes I see people putting up birthday messages for their loved ones and I think that, every once in a while, that is a beautiful thing. But he would never in a million years acknowledge me on social media. If he had put a birthday message on there, that would've been present enough. But I know that that's something I will never get from him. And it's starting to bother me because after two years, I'd like to be acknowledged in some small way on someone's social media. I'd like to be with someone who doesn't have a problem with letting others know that they love me.

This probably all sounds like we have too many problems and we're arguing all the time, but actually we get on really well 90% of the time and we make each other happy in so many ways. Our friendship is beautiful. He can be very supportive and he really tries. He listens to me any time I want to talk, and he gives me lots of hugs and affection. It's just that I often don't hear the words I want to hear, and it feels like there's a gulf between us where we do not meet emotionally. I know about the 5 love languages, and it is clear that I am more concerned with words than he is; he is more concerned with acts of service and quality time. I don't think that this is a dealbreaker, if both parties are willing to work at things. But I'm reaching a point where I am wondering how much more to give.

What do you think Hive-Mind? I suppose what I want to know is:

1. What could possibly be going on from his perspective? How can I better understand him?
2. Is this normal? Are all long-term relationships like this after a while?
3. Is there something I can do to save the relationship or do I need to accept that we want different things and move on?
posted by PepperPot to Human Relations (49 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You just typed a whole lot of words describing all the reasons your boyfriend doesn't make you happy. That's way too many words.

You should break up with him.

But to answer your specific questions:

1. What could possibly be going on from his perspective? How can I better understand him?

He could be depressed, he could just not care, or he could just be a jerk. Break up with him.

2. Is this normal? Are all long-term relationships like this after a while?

Fuck no! I've been married 22 years and if I had to type up what I don't like about my wife the best I could do would be, like, she leaves the kitchen light on or she lets her mail pile up sometimes. Break up with him.

3. Is there something I can do to save the relationship or do I need to accept that we want different things and move on?

You could just decide to be unhappy and stick with him because he's kind and gentle, or you could find someone who is kind, gentle, interesting, funny, clean, healthy, etc. etc. Break up with him.

I almost never post in relationship questions but I have the day off today and I'm taking a break from chores and you should totally break up with this guy who doesn't make you happy.

Find someone who makes you happy. Find someone who you would be hard pressed to come up with 1000 words about what you don't like about them. That's too many words.
posted by bondcliff at 2:44 PM on July 4 [74 favorites]


If I'm completely honest, I don't have the same feelings for him that I used to because I kept getting hurt. At some point I lost them, and I feel like there might be a window of time where they'll come back, but it's closing. I have said this to him, because I need him to act quickly. Not in an ultimatum-type way, but I did say that if our situation doesn't improve, I don't have a choice, because I can't stay in a sexless relationship. That was a few months ago and there's been no improvement.

I think your answer is here. In that and in the fact that he's not taking care of himself physically or emotionally (seeing a therapist or doing whatever he needs to do to work on things like letting people know they matter to him).

It sounds like you gave this a solid try. If he was meeting you halfway or even thirdway, then maybe there'd be something more to work on ... but he's not.

Good luck to you.
posted by bunderful at 2:44 PM on July 4 [10 favorites]


Women are not rehabilitation centres for poorly raised men.

If you want to romantic love, go find a partner, not a project. I am so lucky in that I know half a dozen couples, in relationships of 30-60 years in length that are healthy and loving and supportive, so I can definitely say that what you describe is not something you should just settle for.
posted by saucysault at 2:48 PM on July 4 [117 favorites]


My boyfriend is a kind and gentle soul

Is he kind to, like, I dunno, puppies? Babies? Senior citizens?

Because he isn't kind to you.

He doesn't listen to you when you tell him what you need out of a relationship. He doesn't care about your sexual satisfaction. He doesn't even make conversation with you when you go out on dates.

These are not the actions of a kind person.

Kindness is more than a lack of meanness.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:51 PM on July 4 [63 favorites]


1. It sounds like he has what he wants and nothing is missing for him, so there’s not a lot of incentive to work on things from his perspective.

2. Not all relationships are like this, but some are. Of the things people want (romance/emotional depth, intellectual stimulation, sexual compatibility, not having to parent the person regarding their health/other, shared experiences), it’s not too much to expect several items off that list in a happy relationship. It sounds like maybe you have none?

3. Probably move on... he’d have to overhaul his whole personality to be a good match for you. This is unlikely, and any changes he tries to make may never be permanent ones. Is this how you want to spend the rest of your partnered life?
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:52 PM on July 4 [7 favorites]


There are acknowledged problems in the relationship and he is declining to work on them. You can't carry the load for two in this case, and if you tried resentment would kill everything anyway.

You're on a sinking ship. Time to move on.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:52 PM on July 4 [8 favorites]


Bad/no sex means you have identified a friend. Just my opinion, but one which, I think, has a lot of appeal to it when you're facing a monogamous relationship without decent sex for either one of you.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:56 PM on July 4 [5 favorites]


Oh, and speaking from personal experience I would advise you not to get too wrapped up in the "why" of it all. He is treating you how he is treating you and it hurts, that's the important thing in this situation. You don't need to know why he acts this way to take care of yourself.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:58 PM on July 4 [16 favorites]


If you're happier alone, you've lost romantic feelings, you're not having sex, and he can't even hold a proper conversation with you, what the hell is the point of this relationship? Be grateful you're figuring out you're incompatible before you had kids together/bought a house/got married and leave.
posted by shaademaan at 2:58 PM on July 4 [8 favorites]


I am dreading our upcoming anniversary
I am running out of steam
I have to carry the conversation 99% of the time and it's exhausting
He has always expected me to initiate sex, although this is not my preference.
the whole experience is devastatingly brief. When he is done, we're done
I don't have the same feelings for him that I used to
I can't stay in a sexless relationship
I know that that's something I will never get from him. And it's starting to bother me


3. You need to accept that you want different things and move on.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 2:58 PM on July 4 [17 favorites]


Wow, this is a picture perfect example of a relationship where you're doing every ounce of emotional labor.

I think this would be entirely fixable if HE was willing to fix it.

But--BUT!--he's not. You've given him all the information, including "this relationship THE WAY IT IS NOW is not one I can stay in." I don't know if his failing to change is because he can't, because you're doing all the work so why bother, because he has specific emotional hurdles that make it harder for him, or what.

But you have already done all the things you can do on your end. It doesn't matter if he can't change or won't; he isn't changing and isn't going to.

I'm so sorry, I think you have to go.
posted by gideonfrog at 2:59 PM on July 4 [11 favorites]


This is a pretty bad relationship and you would be better off alone. And, like, even if you weren't better off alone for whatever reason, this is a replacement level man: basically any man could deliver this level of value to you. Like maybe the particulars would be different, "good at sex but addicted to heroin, whoops". So you could go on like a small number of first dates and find this level of man again if it came down to it. You deserve better!
posted by Kwine at 3:02 PM on July 4 [9 favorites]


You’ve repeatedly and clearly articulated your needs and wants and he’s chosen to ignore them. Whether it’s because he doesn’t think they’re important or because he refuses to address his own emotional issues is unimportant. He’s actively choosing to not meet your needs and expects you to carry the relationship on your back.

This will not improve. Go find a partner who puts in at least as much effort and care as you do.
posted by quince at 3:06 PM on July 4 [4 favorites]


He puts no effort into your sex life, your social life, or your emotional life as a couple, despite you repeatedly asking him to and carefully explaining how he can do it, which you shouldn’t have to ask for in the first place. Break up yesterday.
posted by sallybrown at 3:10 PM on July 4 [5 favorites]


It will be easier to leave at the two-year mark than it will after three, five, ten, or twenty. Check if the sunk cost fallacy is informing your choices here.

If you knew that it would be the same one year from now, would you stick it out another year? It probably will be. Think of what else you could do with your energy and time if you weren’t pouring it into a black hole.
posted by armeowda at 3:13 PM on July 4 [11 favorites]


Since communication is the key to solving most problems between two people, his being unwilling to communicate doesn't sound particularly hopeful to me.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:29 PM on July 4 [2 favorites]


The question is, is this the relationship you want? The answer is "no," obviously. Time to leave. And no going back. He may promise to change, but it won't happen and you'll find yourself back in the same quagmire of loneliness if you make that mistake. He is not the one for you. Free yourself and him for a better future.
posted by Enid Lareg at 3:33 PM on July 4 [4 favorites]


This probably all sounds like we have too many problems and we're arguing all the time, but actually we get on really well 90% of the time and we make each other happy in so many ways.

I'm actually curious to what those are, because he doesn't make you happy in the ways that are really important to you. Anyway, no need to respond to that, because you don't need to be at point in your relationship where you argue all the time in order to break up. It sounds like he'd make a great friend, but right now he's actually a terrible partner and lover.

Bottom line: Do you want to be in this relationship, given everything you've said above? You've told him clearly that things need to change and nothing has. Apply the Sheezlebub principle: If things stayed exactly as they are, how long would you stay? A year? Two? Five?

1. What could possibly be going on from his perspective? How can I better understand him?
Either nothing (If I ask him how he is feeling, he usually says 'I don't really know' which gets us nowhere.) or repressed pain (what you said about his mom dying a few years ago).

2. Is this normal? Are all long-term relationships like this after a while?
God I hope not.

3. Is there something I can do to save the relationship or do I need to accept that we want different things and move on?
To save the relationship? Accept him completely as he is, where you have to all the emotional labour, never have any wants/needs and never ask him for anything. I'm being serious. Makes this: do I need to accept that we want different things and move on? sound a little more palatable, right?

OP, you know what you need to do. Get out and save yourself before you lose any more time and energy on him.
posted by foxjacket at 3:34 PM on July 4 [3 favorites]


Should I stay with my passive, unromantic boyfriend?
That's a no from me, dawg.

Jokes aside, your questions at the end of your novel are about how you can fix or deal with or understand this person. I don't see enough of him actually trying to be, understand, or even acknowledge the romantic partner you want or need in anything you wrote.

Don't try to save him, don't try to save this relationship. Save yourself.

posted by sm1tten at 3:50 PM on July 4 [7 favorites]


Here's are two really important, fundamental things to understand:

1. Loving someone isn't enough. You'll love loads of people in your lifetime. Loving this dude is straight up not enough of a reason to stay with him.

2. Him being nice is literally the bare minimum you should expect in a relationship. Like, that should be a given. All the other stuff that makes a relationship isn't there.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:52 PM on July 4 [8 favorites]


For your first question, it sounds like you know what's going on on his side, which is that he's shut his emotions and communication off to avoid pain. Not only is there nothing you can do on your part to change this, but it sounds like he's completely fine with being that way and has no intention of changing right now. So...stay with him if you can be ok with things staying exactly the same for the rest of your lives.

But I'm a month out of a similar relationship where I was doing all the work to keep it afloat and still being miserable and not having any needs met. Let me tell you, as sad as I am about it ending, it is such a goddamn relief to have that off my shoulders. Like you, we were still really good friends and still enjoyed each other's company, but it was not a romantic relationship at all, and it was killing me to try to make it one. At this point, four years of that, it dragged on for so long and I'm so resentful that he let it that I'm not sure if we can go back to just being friends. But either way... so much better than being miserable and resentful and exhausted all the time.

You got to see Canada, you got to enjoy someone's company for a while and try to help them on their path. I'd be happy about leaving it like that. There's no reason to put this much work into it while getting zero back. You deserve more, you deserve to be doing less, you deserve someone who will actively love you and who can meet you on your level of enthusiastically talking things out and taking themselves to the doctor and listening when you tell them what makes you happy and then doing it. It's not bad to want more than this, and it's not unreasonable to expect, either.
posted by gaybobbie at 4:05 PM on July 4 [17 favorites]


I found another great Captain Awkward post for you: This boyfriend is ill-fitting pants. (Trousers, if you speak the Queen’s English).

Also, you're dreading your upcoming anniversary. Know what you could do to not dread it? Break up with him before then.
posted by foxjacket at 4:14 PM on July 4 [3 favorites]


How much of your life to you want to spend directing all your attention at a "nice" lump of barely-formed clay who feels neither the need to engage in an actual relationship with you nor any guilt about your unmet needs? When you are gone, he will likely look for the next woman he can get to stick around for a while. It's also entirely possible he will eventually break up with you, figuring your patience is finite and about to run out and you're going to leave, and having identified someone who seems game to take over for you. One day he might wake up realizing he too wants something more, but it will not be with the person he's with, he'll move on for a clean slate.

You don't have to stay with a guy just because he's not an actual monster. I promise you that being alone and living your life entirely on your own terms is preferable to being with someone who can't be bothered to even try.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:17 PM on July 4 [7 favorites]


Having been in a loveless marriage, literally just seeing you use the phrase "dread" as one of your feelings about the relationship rings all the alarm bells. You are going to feel so much relief when you let go of this relationship and start being able to live on your own terms again.
posted by augustimagination at 4:18 PM on July 4 [2 favorites]


First thing's first: internet randos will self-select to tell you to get out of this/any relationship about which you have questions.

Second: what you've written boils down to textbook communication issues. If you have the resources to facilitate it, a couples' counselor could do wonders for both of you by being a trained, skilled intermediary who can help you translate for each other your unheard needs, complaints, and desires. I mean it, you two would benefit greatly from the experience, however you ultimately decide to carry on or move on.

Third: I think it might be useful for you to look into attachment theory-based glosses of how couples attract one another but end up in situations like this. You may be in a classical "wave/island" dynamic—you respond to duress by reaching out, he reacts by walling off. This is a classical situation because "waves" and "islands" attract one another, but in the long term some predictable communication and conflict resolution issues can arise from your differing modes of attachment. Which is to say, there's likely a very good resolution process available to you if you both want it.

No matter where you go, be well and know you're not alone in wondering about this sort of thing.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:26 PM on July 4 [6 favorites]


Women are not rehabilitation centres for poorly raised men.

^this x 1000.

He lacks basic social skills (e.g., how to hold a conversation, even when he's not particularly interested in talking). He could gain those skills. He has repeatedly chosen not to do that.

It doesn't really matter why. If he genuinely cared about you and making you happy, he would make the effort to gain those skills -- or at least to try.

He's not going to get better. At least not for you. Harsh, but you deserve much better than this guy.
posted by EllaEm at 4:37 PM on July 4 [5 favorites]


Wow. Honestly I am impressed with how many people took the time to read all of that and answer. So thank you! There are a lot of great responses in here, and quite a few that made me laugh. I guess the situation does look pretty desperate and I can see why there are so many blunt answers, but also there are many wonderful things about our relationship that a MetaFilter post (no matter how long) would be unable to contain. That said, something's gotta give, so I'm looking into moving out for a while to see how that feels. I really appreciate all of your responses - thank you for taking the time to offer me some different perspectives.
posted by PepperPot at 4:50 PM on July 4 [5 favorites]


By the way, I'd like to add that I've been looking at all the resources you've all recommended and they are super helpful. Captain Awkward foxjacket? Floofin' gold dust!
posted by PepperPot at 5:15 PM on July 4 [2 favorites]


I want to add that I'm sorry people are tearing him down so much. I can absolutely see how 90% of the time this is great--because he's a good friend to you. He listens, he is nice to be around, you get along. But the part of you that wants a deep connection to someone can't find purchase on him--the ways he connects (or the amount he wants to/is able to connect) is different. That 10% is the difference between a friendship and a partnership, and the loneliness you feel is not going to go away.

He's shown you what your relationship looks like--you've talked it through. Maybe he could give more with therapy; maybe that would be healthy for him. But HE has to do that. You have done everything you can, and moving out is the right choice. He may be just what you need in a friend, but he is definitely not what you need in a partner.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:33 PM on July 4 [14 favorites]


Thank you for your measured and thoughtful response gideonfrog. I realise that some people reading my post will make him out to be a monster, but he has many wonderful qualities which make him my best friend. Believe it or not, I wouldn't have made the decisions I have unless I believed there was something special there. I don't generally move across the world with any old potato. But you are right - a friendship is not the same as a healthy romantic relationship. We'll see what happens after we've been apart for a bit. I'm not one to move backwards though.
posted by PepperPot at 5:49 PM on July 4


I feel like I am reading about my husband who I have been married to for 22 years. If I could go back and do it differently I would. Being in a relationship like this is maddening and so so lonely. My heart literally hurts at the aloofness and the lack of connection, but knowing he’s such a nice gentle guy and how could I end things with him when he’s such a nice guy? Please, please, don’t be me. Be stronger than I am.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:14 PM on July 4 [24 favorites]


I realise that some people reading my post will make him out to be a monster

He definitely doesn't come off well in the post, but what stands out to me is the title: "Should I stay with my passive, unromantic boyfriend?"

Who's going to answer yes to that? I take a post like that as someone seeking community support to do what they have already decided on. I think others may have followed the same cue, but only you can say if we've misread you.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:30 PM on July 4 [4 favorites]


I was married to a man like this for half my life. I would try and try and try. We went to marriage counselling more than once. He promised to change but never made an effort to do so. I became responsible for everything in our lives (though we were both working) because I was tired of asking him multiple times to do something that he never did. I asked him to go to the doctor about his sex drive (he did once, but the medication made him angry and aggressive and he stopped taking it and never went again). I feel like I wasted so much time when I could have been enjoying my life, but instead I was on a heavy dose of antidepressants to suppress my rage. You can do better. At this point in your relationship, there should be a feeling of teamwork, of deliberate and loving negotiation and compromise as you two navigate life's challenges, of a committment to remembering to do the little & big things that are important to your partner's happiness and wellbeing.

I too would advise you to leave this relationship but I also know the hell that is online dating. So, looking at what you have told us, I would sit him down for a talk, tell him that you're unhappy, and state a deadline (reasonable) for changes, and that if he is unwilling or incapable of making those changes, you won't waste your life being unhappy with someone you love, because that is far lonelier than being alone.
posted by b33j at 6:46 PM on July 4 [13 favorites]


Any chance that he is neurodiverse? The alexithymia might be significant.

Aside from that, my partner is passive, and it drives me crazy except when I realize that I'm not as good at sharing decision making power as I'd like to be. There are times that it gets lonely, but when I express my needs if I do it in a way that he doesn't get defensive, he tries to meet them. Your partner really doesn't.

I think you should consider attachment focused couple's therapy (EFT) or consider calling it quits. I believe that this could be an attachment issue. Attachment can change but the person has to want it. He may have pushed his emotions so far away that he doesn't realize how much it hurts to be distant. Good luck.
posted by crunchy potato at 7:21 PM on July 4 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the insight Tell Me No Lies. When I wrote that title, it wasn't meant to be a value-judgement at all - more highlighting a couple of qualities that I am finding difficulty with than saying they are awful. Genuinely, they are just personality traits which could be positive or negative depending on where you're standing. Like, I am a romantic person and that might be someone else's idea of a nightmare. And being passive isn't necessarily negative either. But now I understand how that could be viewed as a bit snarky. It wasn't intended that way.

I'm sorry to hear you went through that b33j. That sounds awful. I think in my boyfriend's case, he does make a lot of effort in other areas but the question is whether he is capable of meeting my needs, even if he wanted to. We've already had a few chats so now, as you say, it is crunch time.

Crunchy Potato - there is certainly a chance that he is neurodiverse - I'm not in a position to diagnose him but I do recognise some traits from some people I used to support. He (and his father) could plausibly be placed somewhere 'on the spectrum' but if so it would be considered mild at best. Better said, they have some personality quirks which include getting very focused on projects and not always being aware of social cues. However, I know plenty of people without a diagnosis who have considerably less social awareness!
posted by PepperPot at 7:53 PM on July 4


[Heya, PepperPot, for future reference the general expectation with Ask MetaFilter is to keep updates just to one or two comments if something specifically needs clarifying; not so much with ongoing point-by-point responses to comments. No harm, no foul, just aim more for that going forward.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:19 PM on July 4 [2 favorites]


I believe this is real but it sounds so much like a science experiment someone put together to see just how awful a theoretical boyfriend they could build if abuse was off the table but everything else was wide open.

when you start bringing in notions like "neurodiversity" after giving that very thorough spiel about how awful he is, it doesn't function as an excuse or a saving grace or whatever thing you have in mind that makes you mention it as if it matters. the only, and I mean only, reasons to wonder why he is the way he is would be if A. it was in some surprising way all your fault, or B. knowing why he was this way would provide instructions for how he could and would be different. or I guess C. if knowing that he had a good reason would make you suddenly not mind ever again.

but it's not your fault he's like that, and further analysis isn't going to teach you how to make him be any good at talking and fucking. you already tried. and these are the two primary skills of the human boyfriend! they are each so important that you can even do all right in a boyfriend career only being ok at one of them and letting the other one go by the way, there's room to customize, room to specialize. but you have to have something. you say it's other people unfairly calling him a monster, but this is your own detailed description.

advice is worth what you pay for it but there isn't a boyfriend-fixing school that does trainings, like a plumber certification; you can't go to the hardware store and get a boyfriend snake to see if he's got something caught in his drains. you got him as-is, and he is continuing on as-was.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:28 PM on July 4 [14 favorites]


You’ve talked it death, he knows what needs to be done to make you happy and he either can’t or won’t. At this point it doesn’t really matter which one or why. So the question, given that is clear the situation is going to change, if this is all you’re going to get, how long are you prepared to be unhappy for?

This is it, your one life. With this person. Like this forever. Crappy unfulfilling sex, no communication. You say he’s great in other ways and I’m sure he is but is it enough to sustain you? Something tells me if it was you wouldn’t be here. If it’s not enough, then again, how long do you wish to be miserable for. Pulling the bandaid off is going to suck regardless of whether you do it in the next five minutes or in fifty years time.

The difference is in fifty years time, you’ll probably be bitter and who knows what you’ll have missed out on by staying in an unfulfilling relationship. If the friendship is primarily what you’ll miss, depending on how and when you break up, you may have a chance at salvaging that at some point but if you leave it too long until you’re really resentful, even that may not last.

I think you know what you need to do, you just don’t want to. Which is understandable. The thing is someone doesn’t have to be abusive to be not right for you and out there is someone who will treat you the way you want, you just need the guts to end this and go and find them.
posted by Jubey at 11:54 PM on July 4 [5 favorites]


Here's are two really important, fundamental things to understand:

1. Loving someone isn't enough. You'll love loads of people in your lifetime. Loving this dude is straight up not enough of a reason to stay with him.

2. Him being nice is literally the bare minimum you should expect in a relationship. Like, that should be a given. All the other stuff that makes a relationship isn't there.


This was EXACTLY what I was gonna say and it's such an important lesson to learn!

Nice is the literal lowest bar! Repeat after me: Nice is the lowest bar

Go get 'em. Get ready for your world to turn to colour. ;)
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:02 AM on July 5 [5 favorites]


Couples therapy only works when both parties are invested in the relationship. You're carrying the load alone here, and you can't make changes for him - it sounds like you're already bending over backwards to accommodate him, and he can't even be bothered to communicate at a basic level with you. He has no interest in understanding you, in making changes for you, in making sure that you are happy, feel supported, feel sexual satisfaction. His I just feel so bad response when you ask him to do the tiniest bit of emotional labor is basically him trying to weasel out of even having the conversation, much less make the effort to make a change.

This is not normal. Walk away from this. There are so many people out there who will want to talk to you, do social things with you, and want to get you off.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:19 AM on July 5 [5 favorites]


So, I knew you should absolutely tap out at this. Imagine another ten years of it. It sounds exhausting and you deserve happiness.

The only things that he will bring up and talk about at length are problems at work or problems with the car. I am not interested in those things in the slightest, but they are important to him so I listen as much as I can. However, it has got to a point where I have said numerous times that I cannot listen to the same thing over and over, and he doesn't get it. Like I said, this is one thing at home, but when we go out for dates I feel like some effort should be made to create conversation that is fun and interesting. But when we go out, he will sit silently and I have to carry the conversation myself. To be honest, it feels like a weight on my shoulders and I'd rather just be by myself. We have spoken about this, and he says he is just happy in my company. Which is a compliment I know, but he doesn't seem to be aware of my feelings and that concerns me.

I already knew right here that there would be sex problems because your partner is not interested in YOU. You have permission from the universe to end this. He can be a very pleasant, nice, kind person, but that doesn't mean you have to stay with him. He needs someone who is fine just sitting in silence or talking about his car troubles. You deserve an interesting dinner date who actively likes talking to you and exploring the world. You will find it!

It'll be scary. I imagine he's comfortable and easy because he's so … bland. But imagine the future and I bet it makes you cringe.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:41 AM on July 5 [8 favorites]


actually we get on really well 90% of the time and we make each other happy in so many ways

...if and only if you deny and suppress all of our own wants and needs in a relationship. All of which are normal and you deserve them.

He has a lot of work to do. He's not ready for a mutual relationship and doesn't value you enough to overcome his own problems and seek some help. He's coasting and hiding. It's best for you to start getting out. Please don't waste much of your time. You have a life to live.
posted by Miko at 7:10 AM on July 5 [8 favorites]


Maybe a lot of this stuff stems from him not doing the emotional work to deal with his mother dying but that doesn't mean that he should get to use it as a reason to treat you like this. When he doesn't speak to you when you bring up something important, that sounds a lot like stonewalling to me and it's abusive and harmful. This website helped me identify a lot of issues in my previous relationship that I didn't realize were actual abuse. You can't make someone do the work, you can only decide if you're willing to stay with someone who, up to now, has decided that it's not something he needs to do. (And it sounds like it'll be that way with him forever, especially if you stay with him.)
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:28 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing - he probably is wonderful! He probably does have many great qualities! But he is not that into you, which I know because when men are that into someone they man up and do the thing.

If people are not responding to someone's concerns, the reason is they care more about their own comfort than that person's comfort. If he cared enough, he would be actively seeking out therapy or meds or reading self-help books or something instead of doing what makes him comfortable even though it makes you miserable.

Love is a verb. It is a thing that people do. He is not doing it. At this point, the reasons kind of don't matter. You need him to change what he does. You communicated that need, repeatedly. He has refused to do the thing, repeatedly. He's choosing to stonewall your basic emotional needs for partnership instead of making some kind of effort.

There is no where to go from here. You can't drag someone kicking and screaming into better mental health and communication skills. It does not work.

If - and only if - he's actively making an effort to change without you prompting him, therapy and/or medication (for him) and communications work (for both of you) could be really helpful.

But the person you've described is someone who is not feeling the impetus to change, who is perfectly happy with the results his years-long habits have gotten him, and will probably not make any changes until he has a serious, urgent, permanent reason to. Not just you being upset, unhappy, or talking about breaking up. You moving out and breaking up with him probably will not be sufficient impetus either, but at least then you will not have this creeping dread and self-esteem issues following you around all the time. And hey, actually seeing that people will break up with him over this might get him to change. I doubt it, but it might.

FWIW, my parents have been married for 3+ decades, and I walked in on them cuddling in the living room yesterday. Your relationship is not normal. It actually sounds deeply unhealthy for both of you. Please don't let fear of the unknown drive you to settle for this.
posted by Ahniya at 9:14 AM on July 5 [7 favorites]


I've had some success referring couples who are having communication problems to the Gottman Institute. The Gottmans have done a ton of research on relationships and, along the way, have developed some powerful tools that help people figure out how to connect even in the presence of past hurts.

They have trained therapists in their method, if you want to go that route, but they also do couples workshops which are educational, experiential, and less threatening than actually going to a therapist. I only have experience with the in-person workshops, but it looks like they also have the workshop on DVDs. They are located in Seattle, but do the workshops all over.

They also have a number of self-help books, and a presence on Youtube if you want to check them out.
posted by jasper411 at 10:01 AM on July 5 [2 favorites]


I wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who didn’t take responsibility for their growth and their part of the relationship. The biggest problem here, IMO, is not the poor communication or sex, it’s his inability or unwillingness to take action on his own behalf, to address these issues that are threatening a relationship he seems to value.

In my own life, getting to that point and learning that I could and wanted to take responsibility for myself was a significant maturity milestone that I reached on my own time. I don’t think he’s a bad person, I just don’t think he’s ready to be a good boyfriend.
posted by bunderful at 11:34 AM on July 5 [4 favorites]


This man doesn’t even love himself enough to look after his own health. If he’s not capable of that, how could he ever be capable of doing it for you?
posted by Jubey at 7:19 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


I identify with your boyfriend shutting down or disassociating during emotionally charged conversations. I attribute this to childhood trauma. But due to a lot of work I have been able to be more present with my emotions and sharing them with my partner and with other people I love. Your boyfriend CBS change if he wants to.
posted by shothotbot at 9:29 AM on July 6


I think you may have a fawning response to situations that repeatedly hurt you. I was in your similar emotional situation, and it only really made sense to me after reading about "fawning" as a trauma response, and realizing that was what I was doing.

Fawning as a C-PTSD trauma response
posted by yueliang at 1:52 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


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