My Boyfriend is Wonderful, but Not Ambitious or Successful

a man relaxing on the couch

Hi Evan,

I have been struggling with the fact I have a wonderful man in my life who loves me more than I’ve ever felt loved, but I’m just not satisfied somehow. We have known one another for about ten years dating on and off, taking a four year break at one point. He is VERY persistent and continues to take me back into his life if I let him. We are compatible on many levels, but there is one thing that continues to turn me off (from ten years ago to now) and that is his lack of ambition to be successful professionally. I wouldn’t be picky about his career field of choice but at the rate it’s going I’ll never see him in a 6 o’clock loosened tie… which is a huge turn on for me.

I’m very much that young professional go getter with the high stress job, always moving to the next promotion. I’m busy all the time professionally and personally because I thrive on feeling accomplished. He on the other hand is satisfied with bringing home an okay pay check to put food on his table, not that concerned with finishing college (he’s 31) and rarely has anything interesting to talk about outside of “us”, movies, and other media outlet driven conversation. A full day of freedom in my life does not revolve around TV, 90% of his would.

I can’t let go of wishing he were a stronger, more creative, more successful man who I could look to for experienced life advice. I’m very independent but I’d also like to get some reassurance and empathy from a reliable source from time to time. I know that’s harsh. I would never say those things to him, but it’s how I feel. I find the sexiest thing about a man is his intelligence, and no matter if a person is well read or not, a great deal of intelligence comes from professional life experience. Please tell me I’m being too hard on him and myself.   I should be happy to have a man who loves me and I can trust.


Thank you, CJ, for writing one of the most self-aware letters I’ve run. I think everyone here can feel your pain. Love is only easy when we’re so whipped that we can’t even think clearly. In such circumstances, there are no decisions to be made. But right now, you’re seeing things quite clearly. Which means the world is grey, not black and white.

Love is only easy when we’re so whipped that we can’t even think clearly.

So before I get into talking about him, let’s talk about you.

You’re not a gold-digger for wanting a guy who is more ambitious.
You’re not snobby for finding intelligence sexy.
You’re not shallow for craving conversation that doesn’t revolve around pop culture.
And you’re not wrong for wishing he were stronger, more creative, and more experienced professionally.

The questions that linger for me are these….

1)       Are compatibility and kindness more important than worldliness and ambition?
2)       Is it realistic to think that you can find a worldly, professional man who is as kind and compatible as your current boyfriend?

This is the calculus of dating. And the same answers don’t apply to everyone. Which is why giving advice on such individual matters is somewhere between impossible and pointless.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t try.

Someone told me recently that women expect men to fulfill ALL of their needs, which sets them up for failure. They want men to fulfill the role of their best girlfriend and their rock solid Marlboro Man simultaneously. As I said in “Men Don’t Go Both Ways” chapter of “Why You’re Still Single”, these are different men and you’ll always be disappointed if you expect a man to cover all bases. Strangely, this is one area in which I think men “get it” more. We can compartmentalize. Which is why we’d rather watch football with only the guys, while you’d like us to come shoe shopping with you.

Point is, it’s a failing proposition to expect one man to be all things to you. Thus, you have to make hard choices. What’s most important to you? And what things can you NOT get from anyone BUT your boyfriend?

I’ve wrestled with that myself, because, like you, I get a rise out of ambition, philosophy, and creativity. Who doesn’t? But I can talk to my business coach about my business, I can talk to my best guy friend about philosophy, and I can experience my own creativity and others’ creativity in 1000 other forms. But I can’t make love to my business coach. I can’t wake up next to my best guy friend. And with all the art and culture out in the world, I don’t need my spouse to be a creator as much as an appreciator.

I get the joy of sophistication. It’s fun to feel like the witty, urbane couple that can break bread with the prime minister if need be. Just know that apart from the spark you feel around a sophisticate, it doesn’t have much inherent value. The ability to quote Proust pales in comparison with the person who will drive you to your chemo treatments in thirty years.

The ability to quote Proust pales in comparison with the person who will drive you to your chemo treatments in thirty years.

So, back to the original question: are compatibility and kindness more important than worldliness and ambition? Well, if it were either kindness OR worldliness, I’d say yes. But there are ambitious people who are kind as well. And it would be easy to tell you to dump your guy and seek one of these guys out. The thing is that most good qualities often come with bad qualities as well. The ambitious guy may work 70 hours a week. The sophisticated guy may be a know-it-all and a snob. You just don’t know until you put yourself out there. There’s a pretty big risk in doing so.

I would encourage you to look long and hard at what really matters, CJ, and how hard it is to find it. For years, I said that I wasn’t jealous of any of my married friends because it’s not like they married MY wife. And I meant it — I never really met anyone with whom I was super-compatible. But now that I have someone with whom I’m super-compatible, my mind succumbs to the temptation — what if there’s someone else? Someone younger. Someone more accomplished. Someone more well-read.

Is there someone like that out there? Maybe. But she wouldn’t have the number one quality that my wife has: she accepts me as I am, and loves me unconditionally. No other girlfriend I’ve ever had has done that. Which is why I’m keeping her and never letting her go.

I can’t say what’s right for you, my friend. Intellectual stimulation matters. Money definitely matters. But if you can get stimulation from other people and you can make money yourself, why not land the one thing you can’t get anywhere else — a partner for life?

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  1. 1

    Evan—this was a GREAT answer to her question!!!!

    1. 1.1

      Cj run for your life….. She will be looking for that dude forever… He doesn’t exist

      1. 1.1.1

        CJ sorry if this is an old post. I’m a real person. I don’t really care for “don’t repost.” This is interesting.

        I had a co worker. I won’t mention her name. But she was very young. About to turn 22.   Her boyfriend as she put it “was the understanding, kind. compassionate guy.”

        I remember after she started thc conversation. “But he quit his career.”

        I remember her having money issues. She also was sexaully assaulted at another job.

        It was shocking.

        One of the things I learned.

        She seemed to have felt that when he quit his career in baseball, that she was his rebound. Maybee possibly it was fate.

        I had to stop and think. Her boyfriend is not ambitious.

        He doesn’t have career plans.

        There are alot of women in your boat.

        They date guys they like. Good for you.

        Just because you like someone doesn’t mean that they are going to be succesful.

        You might have to sometimes choose love over finding a person exciting because of their job choices.

        Sometimes the more ambitious person, doesn’t have the right personality for romance.

        Something to think about.

      2. 1.1.2

        damn right, you better run Cj, go find yourself the perfect man…  
        but to mister boy freind sitting at home having fun watching netflix…
        what an  opportunistic  mindset your girl freind projects…  liking pop culture and having a harsh  rigorous  and realistic  perception  of life is way smarter than burning yourself out for money.  I  think Mr boy friend has it all figured  out and he is at peace with his  existence…  looks to me that he is more driven by passion than fear of failure in life, he walks off the beaten tracks he has not the fear of rejection from society, he is simply proud with the person he is and no one should, would or could take this away from him. looks to me that Mr boyfriend  values friendship and his loved one’s well being more than his futile professional race or ascension. he seems to realize that working   so hard in life for an excess money and prestige among his entourage is simply materialistic and a waste of time, he seems to realize that wanting more than necessary is only intended for bragging and nourishing the feeling of superiority towards his fellow human beings, he simply  doesn’t  fear what people think about him  and subconsciously  knows that no one holds the ultimate truth in life. It is clear to me  that Mr Boyfreind  asked himself the fundamental   and most  feared existential  questions, and with logical reasoning resulted  with a beautifully logical answer… human  existence  is pointless and meaningless (Friederich Nietzche).  Mr boy freind siting at home educating himself with pop culture  is a nihilist, and that guy is SMART!   smart  enough  to see past his  little  nose and ego. Mr boyfriend  will die a happy and a  fulfilled  man knowing he is doing the things he inherently love, and not doing what is  delusionaly  seen as successful  according to  society. Mr boyfreind  traces his own path.  Friedrich Nietzsche

        To all the supposedly lazy unsuccessful and non ambitious boyfriends across the universe and afar,  I  think you are smart and your  girlfriend’s  are definitely gold diggers and biologically clocked to being so. Don’t blame  your girl friends, blame nature, blame DNA, blame our ancestors, humankind is still a wild beast and needs a couple of centuries to truly reach the human state we so much ache for. For the time being I suggest to all the wild beasts sitting in front of their computers MALES and FEMALES to embrace  ourselves,  embrace the simple  souls we  are, the  gold diggers we are, the most  singular, egocentric,  polluting, ecologically  devastating, hyper-consuming,  possessive  and last but not least loving beasts we are.
        Ps  nothing  is eternal not even human kind so why so serioussss????

        1. Chris

          John 3:16

        2. A person

          You don’t know what that man is thinking. Seems like you’re projecting quite a bit.

        3. Daria

          I have never met anyone who would understand this!
          Thanks for giving me hope i’m not alone! <3

        4. Cami

          Uhhh you sound like you’ve claimed bankruptcy before.

        5. Tj

          Not necessarily gold diggers but want an equal levels of achievement. Most women who work hard don’t expect anything from their men but for him to work just as hard. Gold diggers do nothing and want everything. Independent women do everything and want nothing from their men.
          If a man has no aspirations, where will he be in life, what will he want, what successes will he strive for beyond financial. If he’s comfortable that’s great but there’s nothing wrong with someone wanting more from their lives.

      3. 1.1.3
        Chandra Chatman

        Wonderful response!

    2. 1.2
      I love EMK

      it was a good response except for ;

      do you want to swap compatibility for worldliness and ambition?

      Actually the fact that he isn’t wordly and ambitious is a compatibility issue so yes she’s settling on compatibility, the most important aspect in a relationship.

      Worldy and ambitious men are kind too, they just have less energy and time for you if they spend most of it at work. Who’s to say you can’t find a man who is ambitious but not crazily so or already successful and semi retired and therefore ambitious and kind?

      1. 1.2.1

        Wow! What a great point!

    3. 1.3
      Regina La Prince


  2. 2


  3. 3

    I have just met a similar kind of guy and I wonder where you draw the line on not wanting to be too success driven and having the “Peter Pan complex”. On the surface he seems super nice, we seem to like some of the same things, etc, but from our conversations it seems that he would like to spend his time doing what he enjoys and not take a job that he would not be happy doing at his age (we are both over 50). I see this as a red flag that the relationship won’t be “equal” and either he intends to mooch off of me or if he has too much pride he will mope about how he has to depend on me. My thoughts are – I can’t afford a husband right now and if I have spare money I would like to do what I enjoy and not just support his hobbies. I think it might fall under the category of having different values and it could be a real deal breaker for me.

    1. 3.1
      martina kournikova

      I am 39, and just broke up with a lovely guy who made me feel loved and happy. Sadly he was not very ambitious, and did not bring out the best in me. I felt irritated, wanting to change him. Felt that we talk different language. Felt he’s too relaxed, living his Buddhist ways, which I like but don’t intend to ignore the reality, which is we need money to live on, plan future. I decided to break it off after 4 months with a heavy heart. But doing what’s best for the long term. Maybe, I will regret, but took the risk, he does not deserve someone who criticises him all the time….we are all different, hope I can forget him soon. Still a bit sad…Martina

      1. 3.1.1

        I fully understand, sometimes you have to take the risk! If not hoe will you ever know. You have one life, don’t settle

      2. 3.1.2

        My take is, you would rather suffer loneliness than a heavy body sitting idle.

        1. Jane

          LOL! Great take!! I agree.   =) 🙂

      3. 3.1.3

        Martina, I hope you are ok, I have to ask do you regret breaking it off? I am in exactly the same position now with a. Wry good man, with no ambition deciding if I can move forward or not. It would be good to hear from someone who has been through it. Helen

      4. 3.1.4

        I feel the same way of course you care about tge person but for some people its a deal braker because if you dont have the same values you are most likely not compatible 😔

      5. 3.1.5
        kharly Aiden

        Your story is so touching, I hope things work out for you.

      6. 3.1.6

        I’m sorry to hear that Martina, I’m in the exact same dilemma and it’s killing me. I don’t know if I have the courage to end it but I fear I will with my constant irritation. He is such an amazing guy with so much potential, it hurts. I hope your broken heart heals soon and you find the someone more compatible

      7. 3.1.7

        Hi Martina. Did you later find someone better? Did you regret quitting?

        I’m exactly at this point and I need some life experience.

    2. 3.2

      I like.

      1. 3.2.1

        To all the ladies who can relate to the OPs dilemma, please remember, no ambition/professional drive does NOT mean idle and lazy. There’s a big difference! Someone who is well educated can very easily be entitled and not very hardworking at all. A man can be happy having a mundane, day to day job that pays the bills but not necessarily want the stress the goes with high paying employment. All the best

  4. 4

    I really liked Evan’s reply. I don’t know though how much impact it will have on CJ in the long run. The things she writes that bother her about her bf have been bothering her for 10 YEARS. With a 4 yr. break included. She writes they are compatible on many levels, but obviously not on this one and it would seem as they both get older, this level is becomming more and more important to her.

    I have to wonder if she’s just “settling” until the guy with the “6 o’clock loosened tie” comes her way. Kinda sad all the way around.

  5. 5

    Hey, wait a minute…I thought love conquers all? Guess not. Like Evan said, no guy can fulfill all your needs, and it seems that is what CJ is looking for. I never had a big problem with the “settling” issue because I think largely it was taken out of context. If the word “compromise” or “adjust” was used it wouldn’t have been an issue. And we do have to compromise all the time. I think she has a pretty good deal going with this guy, but has she told him how she feels? Maybe he needs someone to “knock him around a bit” (guy talk) to let him know he needs to be more wordly and interesting – that no woman wants a guy who just sits on the couch and watches TV all day. Most guys need a little nudging in that area. Maybe CJ is putting too much emphasis on somehting that may seem important now but may not be in the long run.

    1. 5.1

      “Maybe CJ is putting too much emphasis on somehting that may seem important now but may not be in the long run.”

      No offense, but I don’t buy it.

      It’s about values they hold and as you say “…  that no woman wants a guy who just sits on the couch and watches TV all day.” This is not something that gets better over time on its own. You would like to be able to hold down a conversation with your partner and if your time together goes on with awkward silences when you are out of bed, you are going to have a hard time in a LTR. And as Evan is saying compatibility is important. Just because he’s a kind guy doesn’t mean they’d be compatible in long term. Instead it’s more likely that it will breed resentment because of his apparent lack of ambition (of course he might have a different perspective on it) on her part and being forced to change on his. This is precisely a compatibility issue. That being said, she doesn’t need to dump him immediately. She can share her part and give some “nudging” as you put it and see how it goes. Of course she should be acceptiing of him as he is but she can introduce him to her perspective and find a common place. Let’s note that worldliness and “ambition” (I use phrasing because it has very various definitions depending on person) and kindness are  not  mutually exclusive.

  6. 6

    But I can talk to my business coach about my business, I can talk to my best guy friend about philosophy, and I can experience my own creativity and others creativity in 1000 other forms. But I can’t make love to my business coach. I can’t wake up next to my best guy friend.

    Sure you can, it would just be very awkward :).

  7. 7


    I don’t think you or your BF are wrong/deficient/whatever for being who you are and wanting the (different) things you two want. Be aware that neither of you are going to change in this regard. The question you have ask yourself is if the lack of desired qualities in your BF are enough for you to go find someone else. Can you be happy for the next 40 years living without those qualities in a husband?

    I think there is a lot of insight to be had from asking why has a woman who describes herself as a go-getter stayed with such a man for 10 years, even going back to him after a 4 year break.

    No fair, you can’t use the “he is compatible in every other way” card. As Evan wrote, their are guys with more ambition and intellectual drives who have the qualities you want and an intelligent woman like you already knows that.

    I think once you examine these questions you will feel more strongly about staying or going which will help you make a decision.

  8. 8

    I would have to throw my lot in with Selena on this one. If this issue is bothering her as much or more ten years later, rather than less, then I don’t know how likely it is that she’s going to be able to overlook it now. Although I think Evan makes a great point about women compartmentalizing a little more, you really have to figure out what is non-negotiable for you. It sounds like CJ really really WANTS this to be negotiable, but it’s not.

    1. 8.1
      David D Sanchez

      But they are rare, and every woman/homosexual male wants them. Is she going to be comfortable being a mistress or being rejected when she finds a her ideal? Would her old boyfriend take her back? Would she be alone forever? Would being alone make her happier? Would she just be in the chase her whole life? Would she just style with someone else that is potentially a worse person than her boyfriend? If she can answer all of that, then she can make a decision.

  9. 9


    Evan was much more even-handed than I would’ve been. Reading your letter just made me mad.

    You have wasted ten years of this poor guy’s life, plus ten years of your own in the process of dating him (read: keeping him on the string). After this length of time, you know exactly who he is and what he has to offer as a human being and yet you are chronically dissatisfied, which he has to know at least intuitively, and which surely must hurt him deeply. You keep yo-yo-ing back and forth, dancing in and out of the relationship, and he takes you back every time. Congratulations. Aren’t you the lucky one, to be able to keep someone hanging in like that, hoping, for a good chunk of his adult life.

    You say, I can’t let go of wishing he were a stronger, more creative, more successful man who I could look to for experienced life advice. You want HIM to change – be different improve, in your eyes be more like you. You keep yearning for your man to morph into a person he clearly isn’t. Enough! People don’t change, or at least we should not expect them to unless it’s something they decide to do for themselves, by themselves. We should either love our mates the way they are or move on. Anything less than full acceptance is a sign you shouldn’t be together, or at least that you certainly won’t be happy together.

    It sounds like you presently are “tolerating” him which is the kiss of death in a long-term relationship. It’s one thing to tolerate a man’s bad habit (like biting his nails or being late sometimes); you don’t like it, but it’s not a deal breaker, and it’s not a black mark against him as a person. It’s quite another to merely tolerate who a man IS at his core — which in your case is a very simple, straightforward, average Joe. You know this, you say it isn’t enough for you, and yet you remain indecisive let the poor man go, already.

    If you do stick around will you really be able to love him unconditionally, as Evan urges? Or is he always going to feel criticized and not enough in his loved one’s eyes? How sad. How downright cruel. Saying you think a guy in a 6 o’clock tie is a turn-on implies that this man is NOT a turn-on, because he doesn’t happen to have a professional bent. Instead, he prefers to have fun and balance in his life. He seeks to be entertained and enjoy himself in his free time, like most emotionally healthy people. He must be extremely easygoing to put up with the kind of nonsense you’ve been dishing out all these years.

    Tell you what: you break things off with him and go out there and find Mr. Ambitious Intellectual Dude to dazzle you (good luck with that), and I will introduce your boyfriend to about a dozen of my single friends who are sick of game players and men who vanish and aren’t stable or steady, and would thank their lucky STARS to meet a solid, affable, forgiving young guy like your boyfriend.

    As Evan says, you aren’t wrong AT ALL to want a man who is more like you and shares your values, goals and dreams. Not at all! What upsets me is that you don’t seem to have the courage to say to yourself, Alas, this isn’t the right man for me. Because I do love him, I’m going to let him go with love so he will be free to find a woman who will truly appreciate him and be grateful for him every day of their lives together. Now that I think of it, you are depriving THREE people of happiness and contentment: yourself, your boyfriend, and the woman who would make him a wonderful, loving wife, the woman who would make him feel like a king and her forever hero! which every man deserves to feel like with his wife, if with no one else in this difficult world. If you can’t do that for him, because you simply are unable to please do the right thing and say goodbye.

    1. 9.1

      While I absolutely loved Evan’s response.   
      I have to say I completely agree with you too. Clearly she
      hasn’t been able to find the charming professional she
      wants because she keeps coming back to this poor guy.

    2. 9.2


    3. 9.3

      Maybe if her boyfriend would get a spine, man up and realize that he’s being strung along neither of them would be in this situation.   She’s clearly tried to break it off, he more likely than not begs and crawls back so she feels badly and takes him back.   Agree she should move on but she is not 100% to blame here – he needs to have some respect for himself and move on also.   She’s also not wrong for wanting someone with the characteristics she craves – men like to coin themselves as dedicated and loving partners – which, in their minds is the ideal for swooning women – not all women want that version of love.   Women with their own careers want someone who can keep up with them – let the other women have this guy – he sounds like a loss.

      1. 9.3.1

        This reply is totally accurate. Why is it that men won’t just let go when you break it off? They want for this bullshit to continue even if you’re perpetually unhappy. The begging is the worst. Even worse when you live together and they cry I have no where to go. So again the woman will man up and move.

      2. 9.3.2

        It is obvious that they have a compatibility issue, but it’s not necessarily the fault of either of them. If she wants someone who can ‘keep up with her’, however she defines it, she should go for it. At the same time, he’s not ‘a loss’ for having different priorities, they’re just incompatible which would cause resentment. Keeping up and being dedicated and loving is not mutually exclusive. If a man wrote that I wonder how it would be received, there was another post about a millionaire and a woman making 45k $ a year, the latter was talking about how he didn’t want to contribute to her certain spendings. It had a different content but no one labeled her a loss. They should iron it out openly and move on.

    4. 9.4

      I LOVE this! Wish I could have my ex read this cuz this is exactly what he did to me. Although he doesn’t seem to think that stringing me along for 10 years till he met someone else was wrong. He wasted my prime years and now that he’s happy…I can’t even find a date!

      1. 9.4.1

        there is a good chance he didn’t string you along, some say, a womans mind is built to follow a man…

    5. 9.5

      Wow! Awesome respobse. I say this because i have been the woman on the other end of this. Why keep pursuing a reltionship with me if I obviously do not “check your requirement boxes”.

    6. 9.6

      Thank you

    7. 9.7

      You sound very jaded and like you’ve been the wringer and quite possibly experienced the same thing as CJ’s boyfriend we’ve just read about.

    8. 9.8

      Damn. PREACH.

    9. 9.9

      That is a great reply “been thru the wars,”. What you said is right on!   Boils down to Love Him or Leave Him.

    10. 9.10

      Easy to judge when your not in the same situation. You dont understand.

      1. 9.10.1
        Heather Downs

        Me too, I’m not asking for an amazing job, honestly… I’m asking him to get a job, we spend so much time together… Like apart for an hour a day.. I want to miss him, he has no hobbies, he doesn’t go out with friends without me, we have the same friends. Everything is WE, there is no him or me. I want him to feel successful as an individual, not about money buy about having pride in something. I really wouldn’t care if he sat there and crocheted all day buy something besides sitting on the phone and sleeping would be great. That other rude person forget their name has been hurt by this and I hope they can find a way to not be so angry.

        1. Chris

          Did you ever think to take his mental health into consideration? He could be depressed. I know I would be if I was made to feel like I wasn’t enough for the person I love.

    11. 9.11

      This reply is all what I needed to read today.

    12. 9.12

      Excelent response, i m in the same situation, i m the boyfriend and my Girlfriend has two Master Degree, While I only have a Bachellors, and i m in the same job for 8 years (Very well Paid, Better than hers) but she has much brighter future. I know I   m kind of stuck on my job. WE are vocal about what we want in life, and she wants me to have more ambition. Creates trouble… Other than that the realtionship is perfect. THERE IS NO SOLUTION, I tried to explain to her that a gold watch does nothing to me but unconfortable,   that I do have ambitions and that ambitions are not only momentary, she will not listen. She better has a boyfirends who cheats than me.

  10. 10

    Hey, Lady, send me your boyfriend’s number. I would take him in a heart beat!!!

  11. 11

    I’ve agreed with almost all of the comments so far, but I have a few questions for CJ.

    1) What did you think of your dates during your 4 year break? If you dated the urbane & ambitious, what kept you from staying with them? Compare the guys you have dated with those characteristics to the guy you’re currently seeing. In which situation are you happier?

    2) How old are you? Though you shouldn’t try settle for less than what you’ll be happy with, it is true that the older you get the smaller the dating pool becomes, and hence it will likely be harder to find a man with all of the qualities you’re looking for.

    3) I know that you’re ambitious, but are you the creative type who constantly wants to discuss philosophy and world events? For instance, I’m interested in a man who enjoys camping or adventursome sports, but at the same time that’s a very small percentage of how I actually live my life.

    4) Is there room for compromise here? If his life revolves around the tv, would the two of you be willing to make one of those hours the Lehrer News Hours instead of Deal or No Deal and talking about it? Would that make a difference for you?

    5) Last but not least, are you happier with him, or by yourself? That’s frequently a good way for me to figure out what to do about a relationship; if it makes you happier, then it’s a good thing.

  12. 12

    I also wonder what happened during the 4 yrs. they were apart. Did she just not find any ambitious, successful, tie wearing guys? Is that why she went back to Mr. Nice Guy, laid-back, reliable? It almost sounds like he’s a default boyfriend, rather than a man she truly loves for himself.

  13. 13

    hi cj,

    i’ll take him!


  14. 14

    CJ – If some quality of your boyfriend bothers you now (and for the last 10 years), it WILL bother you for the rest of your life. As beenthruthewars says, people change because they want to, not because you want them to. Love does not conquer all.

    What about if or when you want to have children? Will you be satisfied with a stay at home husband? Will he be satisfied? Will the kids get what they need and deserve? Will you be satisfied working full time and not seeing your kids grow up? What about if you divorce after the kids come? Will you be happy paying child support and alimony to an underperforming ex-husband? There is a good chance that you will end up carrying him financially.

    My ex-husband was not ambitious, and became a reluctant, low performing stay at home husband (I made 3X what he did, so it made financial sense for me to keep working). Instead of taking the initiative to improve his job skills, he blamed me for his situation. I stayed in a loveless marriage in order to provide some stability for my children. It all fell apart anyway.

    You need to find a mate that you love and accept unconditionally, and respect. I don’t get the impression that you respect your boyfriend. Yes, finding someone to accept you for who you are is very difficult. But, relationships get more stressful and complicated when you really try to build a future together and start a family. The pre-marriage stage of a relationship is actually pretty simple. If you don’t think he has what it takes to provide you the life ultimately want, then release him back to the dating pool.

    1. 14.1

      I think that this was the best response so far. Thank you, it helped me et some more perspective on my relationship.  

      A few things I want to add:
      If its become clear that a man doesn’t want to “work” on the relationship to make things better for the both of you, then he’s being selfish. It is true: love conquers all. But love isn’t just “warm fuzzy feelings”. Its the ability to make a little bit of a compromise on *both* sides. You should be able to see the truth and intelligence in his way of life and learn from it, and he should be able to self-reflect and understand why being more ambitious might actually give him more satisfaction as well as you. Its not an ultimatum. But if you can’t work it out and are being impatient with each other, then don’t torture each other. Just walk away. The bond isn’t strong enough to create the life you both want to live.  

    2. 14.2

      Further CJ, if you go forth with him, you’ll find yourself cheating on him ( mentally or physically) down the road because you won’t be satisfied and I don’t think you’ll live with settling in the long run. A quality lady like you deserves the opportunity and risk to looking for the right partner for yourself. Unfortunately there is no guaranteed results one way or another, it’ll be vulnerable and take courage to do what you want to do. It’s ultimately up to you. Make up your mind. My best wishes for you to find a content life.

  15. 15

    A-L, comment #11, insightful questions.

  16. 16

    CJ…we are similar in that we profess independence and upward professional mobiity. Since your boyfriend is in his early 30’s project that you are fairly close to his age.

    I, on the other hand, am a baby boomer who was married to a man with characteristics similar to your man. And that marriage is now in the past tense because as I grew, he did not. I know now that those who claim to be willing to change are not necessarily on point.

    Your attraction to the 6 PM loose tie guy may/not alter over time, but I can assure you that a man in his early 30’s who is into the status quo is NOT going to change. Expecting a great revelation (on his part) is imaginary.

    Since parting ways over 10 years ago with the X, I now have a successful business and squeeze in as many “cultural” expeditions as possible. I also remain single and am not necessarily unhappy with my status.

    You have some issues to consider CJ. Will you be content to do the “opposites attract” or swim further out into the sea to find Mr. Somewhat More Compatible.

    I only speak (write) from my personal experience(s) and will attest to the fact that Evan’s site has been of great help to me. One reason why I now date very selectively.

    Best Wishes to you CJ……..the World is really an interesting place.

    1. 16.1
      martina kournikova

      Beautiful reply, makes a lot of sense to me. Think after similar experience, just recently, I also will be working on being single and happy with it.

    2. 16.2

      Preach! Michele you couldn’t be more right. I’m so glad I stumbled on this page, my relationship has been mediocre because I have no balls to end things for fear of being alone! Screw that! I need to learn to be by myself and stop hoping for things to be different. It will never happen. I’m all about being ambitious and moving on with my life, making myself a better human being. And since my loving sweet boyfriend doesn’t want that I need to accept that he’s happy where he is but it’s not enough for me. Most times I feel guilty for not loving him as much because he loves me to the point of desperation I tell him. It’s time to let him go, we both know it.

  17. 17

    I think it is very telling that CJ never indicated that she loves her boyfriend — only that he loves her. If she doesn’t love him at all — let alone unconditionally — the most caring thing she can do is let him go — permanently. He deserves someone who will love him unconditionally, and CJ should find a man whom she can have a mutually loving relationship. Like many other posters, I sincerely doubt that she will ever be able to have that type of relationship with him. As another person indicated, it’s not his bad habits that she has issues with, she has issues with who this man is at his core. I think she needs to acknowledge that he’s just not the right man for her. As hard as you might try, you just can’t make yourself love someone if you don’t.

    While I know it’s easy to be hard on CJ for keeping this man around, he is culpable too because CJ made it pretty clear that she leaves and he keeps taking her back and/or asking her to come back. I think any person with a healthy dose of pride and self-esteem should not allow themselves to be taken for granted no matter how much they love someone. So, at some point, it’s actually his responsibility to take care of himself and break up with her.

  18. 18

    Thanks, Steve.

  19. 19

    I was in almost the exact same situation. I found a man who knew me like no one else did, who was so thoughtful, we enjoyed doing things together.

    HOwever, he didn’t finish school, had low paying jobs and didn’t have much ambition to get ahead in the world. I tried and tried to not let that bother me, but in the end, my success and financial stability was becoming a problem. When I would go to make a major purchase, like furniture, it wasn’t a joint decision-he felt uncomfortable about it when I wanted his input.

    For a time he was unemployed and happy to collect a check from the government. I wondered, what would happen if I couldn’t work-would he step up? Could he step up?

    Marriage is about a partnership-love isn’t always enough. I don’t believe two ppl have to place the same importance on career success and salary, but I do believe you have to be somewhat similar in your work ethic.

    1. 19.1

      I agree with you. I’m 23 and last yr of college and i been dating a man who is 30. He made few mistakes when was young which   r hunting him now. He dropped out of high school when he was in his junior yr and never went bk. I mean i love him and he loves me.   He’s sweet and smart, but never had anyone in his life that make him c it. I’m about to finish my undergrate n will be attending law school. I c how he struggle to be apart from me even for hrs bc he think i’ll find someone better and leave him. I c how he struggle to get a job. He is good at building houses and love it…but with no degree he has few options and can’t argue on what they decide to pay him. So it made me wonder, if he is having hard time providing for himself now, how is going to provide for me and the kids we talk about having? I don’t want to live my life paycheck to paycheck. My father worked hard to put himself to school so me and siblings wouldn’t have to worry of where r meals will come from. I want to do the same for my kids…give them a good life. So I told my boyfriend…he either go bk to school or lets part our ways. i don’t want to waste my time or his…if he is comfortable leaving on paycheck to paycheck, i’m not. I never had to worried about money my entire life that’s bc my parents made sure of i don’t want my kids to have to worry abt it either. I told my boyfriend since he wants to marry me…i want to c a degree in his hand and a stable job. I will support him, help him in anyway i can and hold the house down while he is in school. I don’t mind that, but if he is comfortable with his life style then we need to say goodbye so we don’t waste each other’s time.  

    2. 19.2

      This is the best reply of all.   Smartcookie sees beyond the guilt and confusion of the writer-what the woman sees is the future. Her boyfriend doesn’t have enough ambition, no matter now you define that word, to make a go of a life together. We know things in our gut-he won’t make the grade at any level. And yes, a relationship is all about seeing what has to be done, and then compromising and doing it because we see what the other does and learn from it and because we also want that relationship to work. Ambitious hardworking people like the writer is,   are catches for lazy people. Look, this guy is 31 yars old and watches TV all the time and doesn’t want to work a job with a good future. He hasn’t encountered the challenges of a wife and family yet-it’ll only drain what little ambition he has now and he’ll do even less.

      1. 19.2.1

        Leave him now for both of your sakes. Please do this before you have kids. You will resent him until the end because you CANNOT change anyone except yourself. He will feel like he never met your expectations because he hasn’t and won’t.

        You are a good person. So is he. Love alone CANNOT overcome this. You are people with two different expectations of yourselves and life. Been there (still am) – 35 years..

    3. 19.3

      I really love this response. Tho am going through same issues presently.

  20. 20
    Sarah G

    BTTW: Wow. That’s rough. I didn’t read all that into what CJ had to say.

    I do wonder if we have all the information — is it just that the boyfriend isn’t ambitious or is it that he’s an underperformer? Is he letting her carry him b/c he doesn’t feel like getting off the couch? Or is he some kind of alternative lifestyle guy who just has different values regarding worldly achievement? Hard to know.

    But let’s say the issue isn’t wordly success but weight. Let’s say she’s out there hitting the gym and watching what she eats and looking all hot and he’s sitting on the couch slurping down pepperoni pizza every night and rubbing a beer gut. He could be the sweetest guy on the planet and absolutely adore her (and why wouldn’t he?), but that isn’t going to make him more attractive or a better partner. By contrast, if some guy wrote in saying how great his girlfriend of 10 years is, but that she’s really overweight and never works on getting healthy/in shape, like she always says she wants to, and the guy is saying how he’s attracted to other, more fit women — who would have sympathy for the woman and tell him he should just suck it up, that she’s loving and kind to him and that that’s so much more important than whether or not he’s attracted to her and proud of her.

    Point being: Somebody adoring YOU is not a pass into good-relationship-land. Plenty of losers adore non-losers and try to attach themselves to them. As someone else pointed out, he is the one pursuing her, not vice versa. Why is he doing that? If he’s so great and she’s so horrible for not being that into him, why isn’t he taking his stellar loving self and finding an equal to reciprocate?

    Hard to know the answers to these questions without more info, though. I don’t condemn CJ for wanting more and for being confused, however. And there are lots of successful guys who are terrific and not jerks, so she can find her equal, too.

    1. 20.1
      Gay HIM professional

      I’m in this exact situation right now. I plan on breaking up with my boyfriend, because he has been struggling career-wise for the pasty year. Now he’s working in retail. I feel he is not giving me everything the ones I did not pursue a relationship with could give me. He is failing me. I’m even cheating on him! What is keeping me holding on is the love he gives me. He has stood by me even if I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He accepted me when the meds started to make me gain weight. While I acknowledge that, I feel he is not being the partner I deserve. When I read the Proust quote, I was hit hard. I guess I want my partner to be too many people at once. We did not grow up in the same environment, and we did not grow up exposed to the same things. He hated Sausage Party, which I totally loved. I do not like him sharing content from these vapid social media stars. My mom, who is my rock, told me if I let this man go, I will live forever in regret. I dunno which I will regret.

      1. 20.1.1

        Don’t do it.

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