How Can I Change My Boyfriend Without Him Getting Upset That I’m Trying to Change Him?

How Can I Change My Boyfriend Without Him Getting Upset That I’m Trying to Change Him

I really love your work and have been able to put a lot of your advice into action and gotten great results. I started dating a guy almost 3 months ago. We had to deal with Christmas, his birthday, my birthday and Valentine’s Day all in the last few months. Each holiday was great as well as our relationship. We waited to be exclusive before having sex like you advise. He treats me well, respects me, and I haven’t had someone so attentive to my needs before. However, his communication skills suffer miserably.

From the start he wasn’t good at it and it’s kind of a joke between him and his friends at how bad he is at communicating. Everyone knows Steve is not a good communicator. He can easily go 2-3 days with no contact and there’s nothing wrong. However, I know my love language is words of affirmation, where his is acts of service. Is there an effective way for me to communicate my need for improved communication from him (calling/texting daily) without sounding needy or nagging? Or is it too early to request this need without scaring him?

Thanks so much!
Tara

This post was originally called, “How Can I Get My Boyfriend to Communicate Better Without Being a Nag?”, but then I realized that this was the same question I get in different forms every month: “I’m in love with someone who isn’t perfect; how can I get him to change on my behalf so I can be happier?”

Side note: I’m in love with someone who isn’t perfect. My wife is in love with someone who isn’t perfect. Falling in love with imperfect people is an unfortunate affliction for the imperfect crowd, one that cannot be defeated, but rather, gently managed each day.

Falling in love with imperfect people is an unfortunate affliction for the imperfect crowd, one that cannot be defeated, but rather, gently managed each day.

When I first started dating my wife, her family warned me about “Bridget Time,” which was set for 15-20 minutes later than standard clocks. Sure enough, ten years later, my wife still runs on Bridget Time. Despite this, we remain happy. Make of that what you will.

But you came here looking for tangible advice, Tara, so here goes:

    1. Steve needs to own his shit. My theory is that everyone’s got their own level of crazy/difficult, and since we can’t necessarily help it, the best way to handle it is to acknowledge it, try to improve, and take the heat when he fails. I know you don’t want to be a nag, but if you don’t have the occasional right to laugh, tease and complain about it, you’ll go nuts.

    2. Steve will change incrementally, but not consistently, because this is who he is. That’s the unfortunate thing about changing others for your benefit – you think it’s somehow a referendum on your relationship. “If you really loved me, you’d communicate better!” That’s not true. It’s closer to asking a zebra to change his stripes. The zebra can put on a camouflage jacket, but, at the end of the day, he’s still a zebra. My wife will always be late. I will always be critical. All he can do is manage his own flaws, not eradicate them.

    The art of marriage begins with acceptance.

    3. You have two choices: accept him or leave him. Let’s assume your relationship will always be this way. Can you live with it? If the answer is yes, then manage your expectation and learn some new communication and coping tools. If the answer is no, hit the road. Just don’t expect Steve to become appreciably better than he is now, while you’re in the honeymoon phase of your relationship. This is probably close to as good as it gets for him. Some women can handle this; some can’t. You get to decide which woman you are.

    4. Pick up “Kiss Your Fights Goodbye,” by Dr. Jamie Turndorf and learn to talk to Steve in such a way that doesn’t make him feel attacked. You want him to know how his lack of communication makes you feel, and, presuming he’s a good boyfriend, he’ll want to learn how to make you feel better. That’s when you propose a simple, achievable, specific solution that you’d like him to do in order to make you happy. My girlfriend told me she wanted me to call her before I went to bed every night. Did I think it was necessary? No. Did it make her happy? Yes. Did making her happy make me happy? Yes. Win/win.

    5. Ask yourself this one question: would you want him to try and change you? Imagine he wrote to an advice columnist on the internet and sincerely wanted help in ironing out YOUR biggest flaw? How does that make you feel about him? How does that make you feel about yourself?

The art of marriage begins with acceptance. It may be a begrudging acceptance, but the only way to have a relationship is to accept your partner, flaws and all, not to expect him to change just because you want him to.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    SparklingEmerald

    If you guys are already in an established relationship, can’t you send him a text  ?  Why not send him a cute little “thinking of you text” that invites a response ?  At this point, does he still need to do all the initiating ?

    1. 1.1
      Heather K

      ‘Thinking of you’ may be too vague?  He may not understand from that what she wants exactly.  It may be better for her to tell him exactly what she has in mind.

  2. 2
    Clare

    Tara,

     

    You write that your love language is words of affirmation, and I sympathise with you because mine is too, along with physical touch. It’s important to get those positive, supportive and affectionate words from your partner. It can be about quality though, and not just quantity. If he’s a very attentive, affirming boyfriend when you are together, try “storing up” those good words and feelings and try letting them sustain you through the days when you’re not together or don’t hear from him. I’ve found this can work pretty well for men who are not great communicators. If, like me, you feel anxious and worried when you haven’t heard from your partner in a certain amount of time, this is a great opportunity to practice self-soothing and other coping skills. It can sometimes be a good indication that you need to devote more time and energy to your own interests, hobbies, pursuits or friends.

     

    If you’ve done all these things and you still feel you would like to hear from your partner more, do as Evan suggested. Come to him in a vulnerable, loving, non-attacking way and say how much it would mean to you to hear from him every day, in the morning and in the evening, for instance. Ask him if he thinks he can do that or what he thinks he can do.

     

    This is the kind of issue which tends to iron itself out once you’ve been together a bit longer. When you’re in a regular rhythm of talking to each other you’ll probably find it happens more often and easier.

  3. 3
    Dana

    I dated someone who didn’t like to cuddle. At all. He’d tolerate it briefly after sex, but before or during sleep it was a total nonstarter. (Rare exception was when he was under great stress, but I digress.) He knew this about himself, said his prior GF wouldn’t let them buy a king-sized bed because “then she’d never get to touch him.” (Sort-of joke?) Yes, this may or may not have been a sign of some deep-rooted emotional avoidance-type issues, but the fact remained: He knew who he was, and he was a guy who didn’t like cuddling.

    We broke up for other reasons, but this was something that wasn’t mine to change. And thank god I didn’t try. I am partnered now with someone for whom cuddling, affection, and communication are embedded in his DNA, and it is impossible to imagine my ex morphing into that sort of person. The “best case” would have been a compromise in which he tried harder, I dealt with my disappointment, and the net result would probably have been a few more minutes of cuddling here or there — and being aware that it’s not really what he’d do of his own volition.

    As Evan’s said, we are all imperfect, but know yourself. By comparison, someone with Bridget Time would be annoying to me, but not a dealbreaker; being late is nothing I take personally, especially if I know to expect it. Others might feel lateness is an insulting disregard to others’ time; YMMV. For me, it’s really hard to imagine being happy with (what I’d view as) janky communication over the long haul; you should figure out how you feel about it. Because as he and all his friends have told you: That’s who he is.

  4. 4
    Jeremy

    Hmmm.  Good advice from Evan, SE and Clare above.  If I might add something as a man whose love language is acts of service, married to a woman whose love language is words of affirmation…..

     

    Men whose language is acts of service often don’t perceive the value of words.  In the past, when my wife has asked me to tell her in words how I felt, I replied in frustration by telling her about all the THINGS I’ve done for her recently to show her that I love her.  I was frustrated by how she could, after seeing me DO all these things, not know how I felt.  And why, I asked, should it be so important to hear words, which after all have no value beyond the wind that conveys them without action to corroborate them (as I perceive it)?

     

    I subsequently read about love languages and understood that acts and words are, quite literally, different languages.  And we must learn to speak the language of the one we are with.  So when you talk to your BF about this, he may not understand why you need to hear from him so often, given all the things he does for you to show you that.  He needs to understand that to you, his words matter more than his actions.  He may not understand how that could be, but he needs to understand that it is so.  It may or may not help him to read the love languages book, depending on whether he likes that sort of thing.  And it would help (IMHO) if you broach the conversation by doing an act of service for him (his language) to let him know that you can speak his language as well.

     

    HTH 🙂

    1. 4.1
      GoWiththeFlow

      Good advice from Jeremy.

      To expand on speaking to him in his language to start the process. . . be the person who starts the process.  It’s easy to say, “This is my love language, now speak it to me please.”  In the book, Dr. Chapman gives several examples where one spouse (the one who wants the change in the relationship) takes on the responsibility to speak to their partner in the recipient’s love language without initially expecting a tit for tat exchange in return.  What happens is the recipient begins to feel loved and understood, so they then try to return the feeling to their partner.  So commit to being the person who starts in, then guide him in how he can make you happy when he goes to reciprocate.

    2. 4.2
      Lisa

      Wow thanks for that insight on this.  My fiancé and I are the same and your explanation helps so much.   He is an acts of service and me affirmation.

    3. 4.3
      Stacy

      @Jeremy

      I hope you never leave this blog.

      That is all.

  5. 5
    Stacy2

    I wonder if people who don’t like to stay in touch every day, or don’t like to cuddle, or dislike/avoid other common expressions of closeness and intimacy, simply have some sort of emotional issues that would prevent forming a relationship, or are simply “not that into you” (i liked to cuddle with some people but not others for example. of course i would tell the latter that I don’t like cuddling and that’s who i am, when in reality it was – i don’t like cuddling with YOU, even though the sex was great). Does anybody here knows of a relationship that progressed to a long-term steady state or marriage where one partner was communicating once every 3 days? Is that even possible?

    1. 5.1
      CaliforniaGirl

      I agree with you, I was told by some ex’s that I am cold and by others that I am very affectionate, it all depends how you feel about that person.

      I think that you should choose a compatible partner from the beginning and not try to change him. Some people don’t have a need to be in contact every day, I remember some commenters here wrote it’s enough to meet once a week and talk every couple of days or so. For me it wouldn’t work but I am sure there are people who would be fine with that.

    2. 5.2
      Marika

      Stacy2

      It wouldn’t work for me, but one of my close friends is very happily married to a man who she met while living overseas, didn’t see for 4 years while he was organising to move here, lived in another state (1oo0 kilometres away) for the first year or two that he lived her (Visa requirement) and who she said (while they were dating) would only contact her every couple of days when they were away from each other and they’d only chat briefly as it was so expensive. I remember thinking, wow I must be really, really needy!

      My friend and her hubby are both very calm, secure, very settled and content people. I’m pretty sure they’ve never yelled at anyone ever and certainly not each other. They enjoy their own company and are not thrill seekers. They also greatly trust each other. It worked for them because of their demeanour & also the strength of their relationship.

      As I said, I can’t personally relate to this myself, but I’ve seen work in some contexts.

    3. 5.3
      Clare

      Stacy2,

       

      To answer your question, my 2 cents worth is that no, it is not possible. In my view, affection and communication are issues which should iron themselves out, more or less, over the course of the relationship. So whilst they may start off a bit slow, or awkward, or with some incompatibility, you eventually reach some sort of a happy medium where both people can be (mostly) happy. I believe that with two people who want intimacy and commitment, you eventually fall into a kind of comfortable rhythm.

       

      By contrast, I think people who don’t want true intimacy and commitment will always put the brakes on these issues at some point. I take the example of an ex-boyfriend of mine, who is nearly 39, and has never had a relationship which exceeded a year (except for ours which was off and on for several years and uncommitted for most of that time). He’s also never lived with someone for more than a few months and even then, only under duress. The point is, he’s never been willing or able to build something with someone for any length of time. I noticed over the time that I was with him that he often deliberately put the brakes on communication and affection or time together. Any time we’d get into a comfortable rhythm, he’d disrupt it. We’ve stayed friends since splitting up and I’ve noticed that he’s done that with every other girlfriend too – found reasons not to get too close. He says it’s because he’s stoic, I think it’s because he actually just doesn’t want closeness or intimacy beyond quite a superficial degree.

       

      I don’t know any happily coupled up couples where one partner won’t cave to the other’s desire for communication, affection and time together to some degree. With those who won’t, I’m not sure that it’s as simple as them “not being into you.” There are numerous reasons why someone might not want that level of intimacy. But I don’t see how a marriage or long term relationship can possibly evolve from communicating every 3 days, if for no other reason than there are practical issues to navigate as a couple such as “Are you still coming for dinner tomorrow night?” etc.

  6. 6
    ScottH

    The last time I dated someone seriously,  we talked about our love languages.  I wanted to know hers and I wanted her to know mine.  I think a good partner would want to know and speak in their language.   Isn’t that what being a good partner is all about, understanding her needs and fulfilling them?

    About cuddling- I LOVE to cuddle but there is no way I can sleep like that, no way.  I don’t know how people do that.  Plus, I used to snore (use a CPAP machine now but haven’t had a partner since starting it).

  7. 7
    Lisa

    My fiancé and I have a very similar problem to this writer.  He is an acts of service and I am in need of affirmation.   Early on he would make me beautiful things, etc and all I would say is why don’t you text me more?  See it was not just his communication problem it was our communication problem.  We did not see or appreciate each other’s different ways of expressing affection.   He actually read the book on the love languages and then got me to read it.   The problem intesified though when he temporarily got moved across the Country for a job.   Our only means of interaction was the phone and via text and we saw each other monthly.  It was as fight for a very long time, but believe it or not eventually he did come around and became more communicative.  He now texts me every morning good morning, and then we talk every night on skype.  He knows how important it is to respond to my texts as quickly as possible, unless he is working (I have no problem with this) and if he’s going to be unreachable for awhile he tells me that.    I do the same. I am not sure if the change would have happened if the distance did not, but it did. Now, it did not happen easily.   I know Evan suggests that you start out nicely, and try to be positive not demand or yell, that does not work with my fiancé.    I tried that for months, and he just did not hear me.  He only heard me when I got mad, really mad, and after a few times of that he got it.  I think it is because I NEVER get mad, I am very even keeled so when he saw I was actually angry he listened.    Sometimes he still forgets to text me, but when he does he apologies and that’s okay with me.    I think the best way to reach the person is to show them how the behavior makes you feel.   I think both partners need to recognize that even though things that they are doing would not hurt them if the partner did it, it does hurt the partner. A lot of our fights used to be him saying well I don’t think that’s a big deal, it would not bother me and me explaining that I am not him.   Good luck.

    1. 7.1
      Jeremy

      Glad he learned what you needed him to learn.  I hope it did not stop with him, though.

       

      In my own relationship, I was faster to learn about love languages than my wife.  So I learned that she needed words from me, I started communicating more words to her, and she thought we had a great relationship.  It was sort of the “now he communicates with me every day and I do the same” mentality.  Problem was, we did NOT have a great relationship because I was making an effort to speak her language and she was speaking that same language back to me.  She did not understand that in order to truly reciprocate, she needed to speak MY language to me.  And more than that, it was not sufficient to merely provide random acts of service, but rather those specific acts of service that I wanted (not that she wanted).

       

      Case in point, during one argument I was trying to get her to understand what I needed and she commented, “I do things for you all the time!  Why, just this morning I took your pants to the drycleaners!”  And my reply was, “who cares about that?  Taking my pants to the drycleaners is not what I want from you.” She was actually shocked to hear this, which really tells you how some people can really internalize bizarre ideas about what is expected of them in a relationship.

       

      I guess my point is that reciprocation in love is not about one person learning the love language of the other and then both partners using that language.  It is about each partner truly understanding what the other needs and providing it, and not thinking that they have a great relationship because they are giving the same way they are receiving.

       

      1. 7.1.1
        KK

        Jeremy,

        What specific acts of service do you want? I would be confused also if my husband told me that was his love language without quantifying it; simply by the example you provided. Wives, mothers are constantly providing acts of service. Maybe the conversation should include specific examples of what you quantify as worthy or not.

        1. Jeremy

          The conversation with her DID include the details.  I left them out here.   Those are personal.  But you are right, if you don’t tell, your partner won’t know.

           

          You are correct, wives and mothers are constantly providing acts of service, but not necessarily the ones their husbands want/value.  This is especially true once wives become mothers – the constant nurturing mode sometimes gets focused on the husband and she begins to treat him like one of her kids.  Bad for both parties.

           

          Another element, though, is getting past the need for validation.  To give you an example, a woman may want her BF to buy her flowers but she doesn’t want to ASK him for them.  If she has to ask for them, they lose all meaning.  In the same way, having to ask for what you want takes much out of the validation of receiving it.  Still, if you see that your significant other doesn’t understand what you want, you need to communicate your needs.  But hopefully they will get the message and take initiative from then on.

        2. KK

          “The conversation with her DID include the details”.

          Ah! Got it. That makes sense then how you would be surprised that she was surprised when you let her know that the dry cleaning wasn’t what you had in mind. 😊

          Back to the letter writer’s dilemma… As someone who has successfully navigated different challenges in their marriage, including meeting your spouse’s needs (while having a different love language) and effectively communicating your own needs… do you feel she should move on to someone who may be more compatible or work on communicating her needs more effectively and getting feedback on his as well?

          I’m asking your opinion on this because I value your insight. Evan has said relationships should be easy. Effort, yes. Work, no. I guess I’m just a bit conflicted on the distinction. For instance, if I were in a relationship with someone who wanted me to bring them breakfast in bed every weekend (act of service), I would eventually feel like this was work. That may be a silly example, but anything you wouldn’t naturally do is going to fall under one of three categories: (1) I don’t mind at all (especially if it makes my partner happy), (2) I’ll do it, but I don’t want to, or (3) No. Non-negotiable.

          Obviously, if all of our partner’s requests fall under category 1, and our requests fall under our partner’s category 1, I would consider this a successful solution. Easy. Effort but not work. Category 3 will obviously be a disaster if these are true needs (either our own or our partners). But I’m guessing most people struggle with category 2 in determining if this is simply effort put forth in order to have a happy relationship or… work.

        3. Jeremy

          I think you are asking very important questions, KK.  I’ll try to give you my take on them.

           

          Hmmm, is a given act an act of service or an act of pleasure?  Depends on the act, depends on the person, depends on the expectation, depends on the power balance (sorry, were you looking for a simple answer 😉

           

          I like to give my wife back rubs (TMI, sorry).  I do it because I know how much she likes them.  They often go on for some time.  She doesn’t need to ask for them, I know she likes them and I provide them often and enthusiastically.  Doing this for her isn’t “work”, though it would be for anyone else.  She enjoys it and I enjoy that she enjoys it.  If she came to EXPECT a back rub every night and got angry if one was not forthcoming, that would be off-putting.  But if days/weeks had gone by without one and she wondered why, that would not be off-putting.  There is a balance between entitlement and reasonable expectation.  And if I was working hard every day while she took her ease and then expected a back rub while offering nothing in return, that would indicate a power-imbalance and would not be sustainable.  It would breed resentment due to lack of balance.

           

          Relationships should be easy in the sense that you aren’t wondering if the grass is greener elsewhere most of the time, and if you feel happy with each other most of the time.  “Effort” is what you expend to make your partner as happy as you hope he/she will make you.  “Work” is when you expend effort and don’t see anything in return.

           

          Would you really feel like it was “work” if your husband hoped for breakfast in bed every weekend?  Would you opinion change if he returned the favor by cooking you a gourmet dinner every weekend?  What is the act, who is the person, what is the expectation, what is the power-balance?

           

          The OP here has yet to expend “effort” on her relationship.  She wants her BF to communicate more but hasn’t yet taken the time to communicate with him, nor understand how he receives love.  Leaving now would be premature IMHO.

      2. 7.1.2
        Nissa

        Jeremy, I think it is terrific that you told your partner exactly what you needed and wanted. I’m coming at this from the perspective of having been married to someone whose most uttered phrase was “I don’t know”. He didn’t know what he wanted for himself, from me or in life. Argh!!

        I would have loved to just make a ‘wish list’ of what I wanted, hand it to my love and say, “you don’t have to listen or guess. Here’s what I want so that you don’t have to worry about getting it wrong or reading my mind. I’ll keep an updated list on the fridge in case you lose this”. Then for whatever occasion, or if he’d like to surprise me,  he’s set. But apparently men interpret this as being told what to do. (As per A. Justin Sterling of What Really Works with Men).  Which I could see if it was a demand of “do/buy this, in this time frame, or I’ll be mad”.

        I think it was a very mature way for you to handle that situation, kudos.

        1. Jeremy

          Nissa, that must have been really frustrating!  As much as we all secretly hope that our partners can accurately intuit all of our desires (and as much as no one wants to have to ASK for what they want), sometimes we have to provide guidance.  And if our partners are not receptive, we have a problem.

           

          I wanted to comment about the notion of men “interpreting that as being told what to do.”  I think that most people (men and women) dislike being told what to do if they are not interested in knowing what the other person wants.  But if they are interested, they often do want to be told (gently and lovingly and with a minimum of criticism).

           

          Examples – my wife recently got irritated with me because she had asked me to take out the trash and I had not done so.  She reminded me at breakfast to please take out the trash and I rolled my eyes.  She commented, “I don’t mean to tell you what to do, but I need you to do it.”  My eye-roll was not because she was telling me what to do, it was because she was asking me to do something that she could totally do herself, and had more time than me to do.  I suppose my not doing it previously was a passive-aggressive way of telling her that, which I am not proud of.  But this is totally different than when she told me that she needs me to tell her with words how I feel about her.  This is not something she can do on her own.  It is something that she needs from me, with the intention of making our relationship better.  I have no issues with being told what to do in that regard.

           

          So please take with a grain of salt the notion that men don’t want to be told what to do.  It depends on what we are being told and why we are being told, as well as how we are being told.

  8. 8
    Rampiance

    I’m a writer, and I love putting words together and receiving them.  But I know people for whom words are very difficult.  One friend told me he spent 15 minutes composing a text of 2 short sentences.

    I wonder if sending words could be transformed into an act of service?  There are phones that can store several phrases written by the phone-owner, and these phrases or messages can be sent with a keystroke or two.  This is less of a strain for the sender, yet he does use time, attention, energy to choose a phrase (as an act of service), so it’s not like a random phrase-generator of meaningless notes.  He could set an alarm on his phone at selected times to remind him to send a pre-loaded message.

    If this works for the receiver of the messages, cool.  Otherwise, she may be asking too much.

  9. 9
    Mr.Goose

    Oddly enough, The Boss and I  were discussing this very subject the other day, during one of those heart to hearts she insists we have from time to time. On such occasions, I generally I find it’s safest to let her do all the talking and simply to nod knowingly from time-to-time, just to show that I am still paying attention. Discretion being the better part of valour and all that. However, this time she made it clear that she expected me to say something profound. She even stopped talking long enough for me to do so. 🙂

    So, I piped-up and told her that I still love her very much, in spite of all her faults. I admitted that whilst I had tried to improve her a few times right at the beginning of our relationship, all my attempts had  failed. I went on to explain that these days, I felt that the best that we could achieve would be to slow-down the rate at which she is getting worse, slightly.

    So you can imagine my surprise when she told me to “stop beaking stupidly” and that she felt exactly the same way about me!

    Hmm… it seems I may have grabbed-hold of the wrong end of the proverbial stick, again. Ah well, to (mis)quote the Great Bard of Ayrshire: “The best laid schemes o’ geese an’ men, gang aft a-gley.” 🙂

  10. 10
    Helene

    “Mary complained to Peter that he never talked to her. He could see she was upset, so to make it up to her, he went off to mend the shed roof.”

     

     

  11. 11
    Karl S

    Seems to me with this love language business, that a lot of guys are into acts of service and a lot of women are into words of affirmation, and a lot of tension builds up due this common pattern. 😛

    I could easily go a couple of days without feeling the need to call my girlfriend. So long as we’d laid out plans for the days ahead, I didn’t always see a need check in during that time in between. I was just happy doing my own thing. And if she wanted to talk ,well I guess she’d just call me.

    Do you have to make contact every day in order to be a successful couple? Could the OP try relaxing about it so long as some plans are set for the week ahead? Can she just call him? Maybe he won’t see it is naggy or needy? Maybe trying to change him will though.

    1. 11.1
      Nissa

      I’m with you on this. When I was married, I was perfectly content with a kiss goodbye when one of us left for work, and a cuddle before sleep at night. Though we both had cell phones, I never felt the need for him to contact me unless he had something specific he needed or wanted.

      I have coworkers that insist on their spouse calling them at work everyday without a specific purpose and it always seemed insecure to me. Doesn’t love and trust mean you know you’ll see them when you get home?  I also have coworkers that live & work together, so they are together almost 24/7, and I always wonder how they don’t get on each other’s nerves.

      So it works both ways. I’m that woman who has to consciously remind herself that if a guy a like texts or calls, talk to him on the phone, no matter how annoying the phone or texting is. I’m hoping to find someone who trusts me enough to know that I’m his, with or without regular contact.

      1. 11.1.1
        SS

        @Karl S and Nissa,  I’m curious as to your thoughts.  I’m currently dating someone long distance, and when we are together he’s amazing, attentive, affectionate, thoughtful, etc.  When we are apart, if I initiate text messaging he writes great responses (long thought out response as to how his day is going as opposed to a one word or sentence answer).  He never seems to mind that I text.  However, he rarely initiates.  Although I wish he did, I’m generally okay with it, although a small part of me wonders if that is showing lack of interest….

    2. 11.2
      Yet Another Guy

      I am neither an acts of service or a words of affirmation person. My love language is physical touch, which appears to work with all women. 🙂

      1. 11.2.1
        Tom10

        Ditto

      2. 11.2.2
        Jeremy

        YAG, when you wrote that physical touch appears to work with all women, do you mean that you think most women receive love through physical touch, or that they enjoy it when you touch them?  BIG DIFFERENCE!

         

        Do you think that most women understand that you are expressing your love for them by touching them?  Because my experience is that most women’s love primary love language is definitely NOT physical touch (though for some it is), and that many women have a tough time understanding that men wanting to have sex with them is an expression of love rather than simply using their bodies for pleasure.  In fact, so many women need a man to speak to her in her language (quality time, acts of service, gifts, and especially words of affirmation) to understand that any feelings beyond the physical are involved.

        1. Stacy

          @Jeremy,

          I agree. Most women that I know (including myself) does not have physical touch as the primary love language. Even with me being a very highly sexual person, it is still not physical touch (and it can actually be annoying of it’s too much). I think it’s because guys are always trying to ‘touch’ us.lol  However, it’s a nice form of expression while dating/in a relationship with someone as long as it’s in moderation (at least for me).

        2. GoWiththeFlow

          Jeremy,

          I was wondering the same thing.  My LL is acts-of-service which can be summed up by saying if I love you I will feed you.  Last night I made meat loaf for dinner and doubled the recipe so my 9 year old grandson would have his own loaf because he likes that.  BUT I also love giving and receiving hugs, hand holding, and snuggles.  Sex too 😉

        3. Yet Another Guy

          You made the deadly assumption that physical touch means sex.  Physical touch means human touch, nothing more, nothing less.   Touch is how humans bond.  In reality, what two people are doing on a first date is determining if there is mutual desire to break the touch barrier.  Everything else is for show.  If you do not believe, sit in a bar and watch how many times a couple touches each other.  I can pretty much tell how a first date that I am observing is going to end by how many times they touch each other.

          While physical touch may not be the primary love language that many women speak, it is usually ranked about deeds of service in order of importance.  Almost every woman with whom I have spent time has overlooked things that I did for her.   It is not that these women were unappreciative.  It is just that if given the choice between being held after a trying day and having a door hinge that had been bothering them adjusted, they would choose being held.

          I am a very communicative guy.  I can easily hold a multi-hour telephone conversation with a woman that I have never met.  However, the thing that women notice most about me is touch, and how I am able to close the distance physically without it always being about sex.   If a man touches a woman in a non-sexual way on a regular basis, she will notice it.   Touching has to occur outside of the bedroom in addition to touching in the bedroom.  Otis Redding got it right when he penned “Try a Little Tenderness.”

           

  12. 12
    Greg

    I have been following this blog for several years.  Often in astonishment, often in amusement with the POV and responses by readers and Evan, too

    I think this accept or leave message from Evan needs to be voiced early on and repeated regularly with many women.  Otherwise you can become blissfully ignorant of the manipulation that ends badly if you are not compliant. But its a fine line between being whipped by a woman vs being an obstinate asshole.

    A little background,  I just had a four year relationship end abruptly (her choice) by a woman who viewed me as a ‘project’.  First it was braces (at age 55), next was a new haircut (I have a full head of silver hair, that need a new look), then skin care, and weight loss.  And clothes buying with this 57 year woman became a flashback to my pre-teen, pants tugging, mother who made sure I did not ‘outgrow’ my clothes.

    Initially, she claimed she was ‘raising my game’ and that as she very striking, she wanted her “man” with the same “looking good” standard.  And I admit my game did improve, but there was a dark side that seem to have no limit.

    At the same time, some of her desires in me / relationship were wrapped into never ending list of ‘small changes’.   I tried to tell her that her improvement requests, often felt like veiled criticisms and was delivered with an “either/or” message that she could do better with someone else.  Yes, she could be vain, shallow, test, controlling at times, but on balance she was a pretty good fit for a type A, consultant type who needed a self managed woman.  Often when I pushed backed, she eased off on her list of changes.. at least initially.

    As you would guessed, I got sucked into the vortex of gaining increased passion from her through compliance.   To your readers, we are both pushing sixty so were not kids; however, this need to improve got re positioned into having new furniture, cars, vacation trips and estate sharing (yes even payback from years of keeping me “happy” when we would be married).   And then my generosity and support was not being compared to other couples and even to my father/mother marriage, i.e.,  she wanted most if all her expenses covered.

    Due to work projects, I have been in Texas for the last year and visit her in Chicago every six weeks for 2-3 day combined daily or even 2-3 times a day phone calls.  It was about a good as I could muster. I thought all these approaches and efforts are worthy of a relationship moving toward marriage. Compromise and respect should be the order of things to find a middle group. However, it all fell apart. Basically her values changed over the years, not so much  a gold digger but an emotional hostage taker that had her focused on keeping her happy and ‘safe’.  “Happy wife/happy life” strategy taken to an extreme level on some items!

    Subtle ultimatums were made. Then two weeks ago she decided my moving back to Chicago in mid May was driving her anxiety and she was ‘shutting down’ and could not function well at work. She then went totally dark (no call taken, no email nor text responded) without any explanation, discussion or goodbyes.  Nothing.

    Three days before the packer/movers arrived, I had to scramble to find a place to live as I planned to moved into her condo but that door was closed too.  Friends told me it sound like she found some one new and my re-entry as stressed her out; other (yes, men) thought she was going emotional thing that had no merit.

    Should I pushed back four years ago with the accept or walk message?  Probably, I would have saved alot of time and angst.

    1. 12.1
      Lia

      Greg,

      I would say that you dodged a bullet but you were with her for four years so you didn’t exactly dodge it. I will say that anyone who wants to change things about you so that you will be acceptable is not someone who is EVER going to accept you. You are free of her now. I wish you the best and hope you find a woman who accepts and loves you.

      1. 12.1.1
        Greg

        Thanks Lia

        I come from a modest background.  Blue collar farm kid who made good by hard work and good education in engineering with MBA.  I am only saying this because I been on self improvement drive since I have been 16 years old. So I know the whole package is important and having a partner/wife that will fit into my professional life is important too, ie looks, personality, etc.

        So self reflection and pursuit of excellence and staying competitive in the business world is a core value and pursuit of mine.  So some of her improvement could be positioned as better packaging for career success.  That is why I was ambivalent on her insistence being too controlling as I did see some benefits.  However, recently she wanted me to do liposuction after this ongoing weight loss.  Getting into shape is good for the heart and health and yes, when you are 60, it shows you not going to dry rot.  But she wanted that roll removed that men gain over the years and was persistent about it.  I pushed back on going under the knife in general and it led I believe in diminished interest by her.    Again, done differently,I might have agreed with her and did the procedure, it felt emotionally manipulative.

        Two weeks after she went dark on communications I am actually somewhat relieved this BS is in the past.  She shifted from ‘raising my game’ to ‘getting her payback’ from the years with me as a gf, which is really where I began to question the whole relationship.

    2. 12.2
      SparklingEmerald

      Greg – I am sorry you went through this, this woman sounds like a nightmare.

      1. 12.2.1
        Greg

        Sparkling:

        Thanks for the support, nightmare is a bit unfair, though my original note does suggest pure bred bitch, I’d admit.

        We all come into a relationship with quirks and experiences both good and bad.  This “baggage” is natural, normal and unavoidable, which is why I tend to avoid never married women or have no children as our life experiences, past and future,  just don’t line up easily.

        But my biggest red flag is values that radically change and needs that are hold the relationship hostage.   That is NOT a lifestyle I want to engage.

  13. 13
    Marc

    Too many people focused on “love languages” and “accept or leave” IMO.

    This sounds to me like an issue of attachment styles- an anxiously attached woman with a securely attached or avoidant man. I recommend reading the book “Attached”, they have a case study with this exact dilemma and how it was resolved (fairly easily) for that couple.

    1. 13.1
      Lia

      Marc,

      Perhaps there is too much focus on the “love languages”. However, if you are saying “I love you” in a way that is not getting through to your partner, then your efforts will not be seen or acknowledged. It’s like having two walkie talkies on different channels, you can talk all day but the other person will not hear you.

       
      I think that saying “do this or else” is not only ineffective, it is destructive. Several years ago I dated a guy who had a very busy life and did not have much time for me. My love language is quality time, his love language was words of affirmation. I gave him words of affirmation whenever we spoke but he did not have time to spend with me. I expressed a desire to have more time together, but he couldn’t make the time. I could see that he was doing the very best he could. I also knew that I needed more. That did not mean that he was wrong or that I was. We were just not a good fit. I ended the relationship as gently as I could and without making him wrong for being who he is. He is a really good guy, he just wasn’t the right guy. He still contacts me from time to time to test the waters and see if I will date him again. He talks about how good the relationship was and how good I treated him. He believes that we would be so good together and that what we had was something rare and worth pursuing. But that was his experience – not mine. My experience was that I was very, very lonely in that relationship and though I love and care about him I have no interest in repeating that experience.

      1. 13.1.1
        Marc

        Lia,

         

        You’re still fixated on the idea of love languages. I think this is an issue of attachment styles- which is easier to understand,  and in many ways much easier to adjust. Again, I recommend the book and the case study of the anxious/securely attached couple.

        1. Lia

          You say “attachment style” is important, I say “love language” resonates with me. There are a multitude of theories out there to help people understand themselves and others. Thank you for recommending the theory that you feel is makes a difference.

        2. GoWiththeFlow

          Or both differing attachment styles and love languages are coming into play.  If the anxious attachment style person isn’t receiving love in the language they understand, that might trigger their anxiety.

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