≡ Menu

“My Boyfriend Doesn’t Pay Attention to Me”

On paper I have a good boyfriend — he is sweet, helpful, willing to accommodate my needs, and always has my back. However, I have been feeling for a long time like something is “off” and only recently figured out what it was. He has been described by others as self-centered, an attribution that he willingly admits to. I told him that I feel like he is generally more interested in and entertained by whatever is in his own life and his own head than anything I have to say. For example, he laughs far more at his own jokes than he does at mine (maybe I’m just not funny?…) and while he is willing to listen to my stories and anecdotes, it is difficult for me to gauge his interest in what I’m talking about. I recently went on a trip to Singapore and his friends seemed more interested in hearing about my trip than he did.

He claims that the reason he is more interested in his own thoughts is because he is an introvert and that this is a very typical introvert characteristic. I’m friends with and have dated many other introverts and none of them have demonstrated this trait. He is not generally expressive or effusive, and I am accepting of this and his other “introverted” tendencies, but I find this particular trait troubling. I feel like, at some level, most people are more interested in themselves than in others, but shouldn’t some kind of exception be made for your close friends and the people you’re, um, *in a relationship* with?? Moreover, he doesn’t seem to have trouble conversing with other people (although I have a hunch that it is something of an act, due to his lack of comfort in social situations, and that he is comfortable enough with me not to “fake” it. Small comfort.)

I am also afraid that I am simply being sensitive to what I perceive as his lack of attentiveness because I have definite abandonment issues (distant parents, flakey friends, etc), which I am working very hard to address. I am afraid that I am simply looking for a brand of attention that no one will be able to give me because of my own insecurities.

Is this self-centered behavior actually typical of introverts? Am I just laying the blame for my own insecurities on him? I told him about my concerns and he said he would think about it and see if there was a way to address it, but am I just overreacting? — Diverted by the Introvert

You’re asking the wrong question. It doesn’t matter if your boyfriend’s self-centered behavior is typical of introverts (it’s not). What matters — what should always, always, always matter — is how that behavior affects you and makes you feel. If you are not happy with it, don’t put up with it. If what you want is a boyfriend who actually, gasps, pays attention to you, asks about your trip to Singapore (how cool, by the way), and generally treats you like someone he’s, you know, interested in, then don’t settle for a boyfriend who barely gives you the time of day.

And, I’m sorry, what the fuck kind of response is, “Hmm, I’ll think about how to address that” when your girlfriend tells you she’s sick of you being a self-centered ass who doesn’t pay attention to her? Seriously, what kind of response is that? And what kind of moron blames his narcissism on being introverted? It’s the other way around, dear! He’s introverted because he’s a narcissist. He doesn’t care about socializing with anyone or asking his girlfriend about her cool trip to Singapore because no one could possibly be as interesting to him as he is to himself. Thus, he is introverted.

You say you have distant parents, flaky friends, and “insecurities,” so I guess you probably have self-esteem issues to boot. Maybe you feel like you aren’t very important and so you don’t demand being made a priority by those who are supposed to make you a priority (parents, friends, significant others). I say you take a page from your boyfriend’s book and start cultivating a little more interest in yourself. You ARE important, and I’m sorry the people who raised you didn’t give you enough of a foundation to believe that. I’m sorry you seem to be choosing to surround yourself with people who are as distant with you as the people you were surrounded by as a child. You didn’t have much choice then. But you do now. You’re important. Choose more wisely. And if you’re having trouble doing that, invest in a good therapist who can help you. You deserve a present you didn’t have in your past.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter. facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

{ 77 comments… add one }

  • Jess Jess of CGW March 23, 2012, 9:16 am

    Something that LW may want to read up on—Imago relationship theory. This letter is a classic case of it (one person is needy and one person is avoidant). It has to do with seeking out the same partner again and again because we are subconsciously trying to recreate (and solve) the “wounds” from our childhood. The theory goes that you don’t break the pattern, you only get better at recognizing it, understanding it, and eventually becoming the best version of yourself you can be. In turn, you will be able to attract the best version of the “type” that you are drawn to. The idea is that you cannot change who/what attracts you –that stuff is hard-wired and part of a master design. So it’s not about breaking your patterns, it’s about evolving into the healthiest possible form of them. It’s an interesting theory and you can find flaws in it, but I think many people would find it inspiring and healing.

    A good reference is the book: *Keeping the Love you Find* (Hendrix)

    • dandywarhol dandywarhol March 23, 2012, 11:45 am

      Yes this!! This is why I had multiple abusive/toxic relationships with guys. I was trying to fix my childhood “wounds”. Now I am working with a therapist to break out of this habit. LW I strongly recommend it!!

      • Jess Jess of CGW March 23, 2012, 12:55 pm

        Yay! We are in sync today on all points!!!

        I loved the book and it allowed me to review the patterns in my past relationships and also see how I have found a more evolved version of it in my current relationship —we both make an effort to stretch into the other’s needs –even though they are opposite in nature. I think there were many gems of wisdom in it that I had learned or intuited on my own through experience. But maybe it wouldn’t have taken until my early 30s if I’d read the book much earlier!

        • dandywarhol dandywarhol March 23, 2012, 5:26 pm

          Awesome I will definitely check out the book :)

  • avatar kerrycontrary March 23, 2012, 9:28 am

    I’m introverted and so is my most of my immediate family. This means that we form strong bonds with only a couple of people (family, few close friends) instead of becoming best friends with every person we meet. But within those relationships we can talk about anything and share everything. Being introverted doesn’t mean that you don’t like socializing or sharing with other people. Some introverts may be like this, but not all. I like socializing, but when I’m tired I need to withdraw and be alone to re-energize, where as an extrovert may re-energize by being around a lot of people. Your boyfriend is simply a naracissist, and if you don’t want to date someone who is obsessed with themselves (and who would, frankly) then don’t date him. Why do you want to be with someone who simply isn’t interested in what you have to say? Isn’t that a basic quality of all relationships?

    • Amybelle Amybelle March 23, 2012, 10:38 am

      As a not at all shy introvert I want to give a million likes to this! Too many people think that being an introvert means you must be shy, have social anxiety, never enjoy going out, etc. You described it perfectly; and I agree, boyfriend sounds like a narcissist.

      • avatar Suzanne March 23, 2012, 11:56 am

        Here here! I am also an extremely social introvert. It only has to do with where you get your energy, not whether you care about others.

    • Kate B. Kate B March 23, 2012, 10:41 am

      Another introvert here! You covered all the bases. There’s a difference between being introverted and being a self-centered ass. I’d say boyfriend is option #2.

    • avatar ReginaRey March 23, 2012, 10:52 am

      My therapist says exactly what you summarized — that the difference between introverts and extroverts is where they draw their energy from. She asked if after a long work week on Friday evening, would I rather go let off steam partying with friends, or go relax at home? I was like GO RELAX AT HOME! I honestly am exhausted by the prospect of socializing after a long week, haha. So yeah, I may be an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I’m shy or anti-social or narcissistic (that’s SUCH bullshit). It just means I tend to like to keep my socialization intimate, and I enjoy re-charging on my on.

      • Brad Brad March 24, 2012, 5:30 pm

        “She asked if after a long work week on Friday evening, would I rather go let off steam partying with friends, or go relax at home? I was like GO RELAX AT HOME!” I feel exactly the same way!! Between work, the gym, cooking, chores, etc. I don’t really stop until about 8 PM, and at that point all I want to do is relax on the couch watching TV or playing games for the 2-3 hours before bed. I’d open to going out doing stuff or just being social on the weekends.

    • Fabelle Fabelle March 23, 2012, 10:58 am

      Chiming in to agree, as well. I’m really not shy, but an event where I have to engage with a lot of different (or unfamiliar) people leaves me drained. And I try to not schedule big social events too close together, because I need to mentally recover…

    • theattack theattack March 23, 2012, 12:58 pm

      Yup, Love your description of introverts! We can love spending time with our friends, but we’re the people who sometimes have to break away from house guests for ten minutes after dinner, or can’t have too many social events one right after the other. There has to be some space in between.

      Being a narcissist isn’t the same as being an introvert. At all.

    • Moneypenny Moneypenny March 23, 2012, 1:11 pm

      Agreed! As a fellow introvert, I agree, this guy is a narcissist, not an introvert. (And he’s giving real introverts a bad rap!)

      I watched a TED talk recently called “The Power of Intoverts.” I totally recommend it if you have not seen it.
      http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

    • avatar Addie Pray March 24, 2012, 5:59 pm

      I used to think I was more of an introvert but then I realized I might be the text book definition of extrovert.

      • avatar Trixy Minx March 25, 2012, 12:01 am

        There are soo many introverts on DW..

    • avatar Anna March 26, 2012, 12:46 am

      You hit it on the head with that response! I am also very introverted, but by no means self-centered. In fact, I’ve often been ordered by friends to pay more attention to myself instead of always aiming to please others. Being introverted simply means I that draw close to a couple select people rather than becoming close with everyone I come across. It sounds like the LW’s boyfriend is looking for an excuse to be a narcissist, and that’s basically never ok in a relationship. Relationships are built on communication and common interests.

  • avatar EricaSwagger March 23, 2012, 9:32 am

    Yup — Your boyfriend sounded great on paper. As you said, he’s sweet, helpful, willing to accommodate your needs, and always has your back…

    Wait, what?

    Having your back means being there for you, and if he’s too wrapped up in himself to notice or care when you’re feeling down, I’m not sure he really has your back. And I’m sorry, but clearly he’s the exact opposite of “willing to accommodate your needs” since you asked him to accommodate your need for more attention from him and… he blew you off.
    He doesn’t sound very sweet or helpful. Not caring enough about a huge trip you took isn’t very sweet. His friends should not be more excited for you than he is. And I don’t see how helpful it is to have him constantly thinking about himself… I mean, unless maybe he really is sweet and helpful when it somehow benefits him. But even then, that’s not what you need from a significant other.

    • avatar GatorGirl March 23, 2012, 9:58 am

      That line stood out to me too…”he is sweet, helpful, willing to accommodate my needs, and always has my back.” But then you write a whole letter about how he is none of those things…I feel like she just took the list of things a BF is supposed to be and started her letter with that.

      LW, you’re not happy, he’s not going to change, break up and move on.

      • theattack theattack March 23, 2012, 1:02 pm

        Maybe he’s helpful in ways like helping her carry her bags. Sweet because maybe he tells her she’s pretty. Maybe “willing to accommodate her needs” means that he’ll agree to avoid foods she’s allergic to. Maybe “having her back” means that he wants to beat up other dudes who look at her.

        I agree that he doesn’t sound like a boyfriend of the year, at all, and she needs to end it. I’m just trying to brainstorm why she would consider him those qualities. I’m guessing it’s for superficial reasons like the ones I listed, and not because of his innate characteristics.

  • avatar ReginaRey March 23, 2012, 9:42 am

    I think your best course of action is simple — Break up with your boyfriend and start a new relationship with a therapist. I totally agree with Jess and Wendy on this…you seem to be dating this person because your self-worth isn’t developed enough to realize that you can have better than what you’re getting.

    It’s a good thing that you realize you have insecurities; you’ve acknowledged that you have some past issues and that they may be a contributing factor to relationship problems you’re having now. And the thing is, I think you’ve realized a lot more than you’ve given yourself credit for, or else you probably wouldn’t have written in to DW at all.

    I’ve found that very, very often, people ask questions not because they don’t know the answer to the question; but rather because they’re hoping someone will give them a different answer than they’ve already come to themselves. In your case, I think you’ve already realized that you’re not in the right relationship. You’ve realized that you should be getting more out of a partner than narcissism and no interest in YOU, and you’re dissatisfied with it. The next step is acting on the thoughts you’re having, which takes some courage, I know.

    If it gives you any reassurance — This is NOT normal introvert behavior. In fact, if I’m going to be really honest, your boyfriend sounds like a straight up narcissistic asshat. If you really want to do something positive to alleviate those insecurities and gain some self-worth, dump this guy. It’ll hurt at first, to be sure, but you’ll gain SO much confidence from summoning the strength to leave a relationship that isn’t right for you.

  • avatar SweetPea March 23, 2012, 9:54 am

    I have nothing to add except that I want to high five for her response!

    • avatar SweetPea March 23, 2012, 10:04 am

      Was supposed to be “High five Wendy for her response”. Oops!

  • avatar pho_sho March 23, 2012, 9:54 am

    Is he an only child? Sounds like you’d be better off finding somebody who actually cares about you as a person. This guy seems to only like you for what you are (his girlfriend), not who you are.

    • avatar Eljay March 23, 2012, 10:17 am

      “This guy seems to only like you for what you are (his girlfriend), not who you are.”

      Totally agree with this, and very well said. Sounds like LW is just a convenience to this guy, someone to give him his daily (or hourly) ego feeding. He’s not a great guy, on paper, in your head, or in real life. MOA.

    • avatar Stacy March 23, 2012, 10:19 am

      That’s not fair because you are an only child you have narcissistic behavior? Really?

      • avatar pho_sho March 23, 2012, 2:50 pm

        It stands to reason that it’s more likely in an only child than a child who grew up with siblings of a similar age.

    • avatar rachel March 23, 2012, 10:53 am

      Haha, my boyfriend is an only child AND an introvert, and he is very caring.

    • BriarRose BriarRose March 23, 2012, 2:57 pm

      Not sure why him being an only child would explain his behavior. You ask that question but then don’t even explain why you asked the question. I certainly don’t think you mean to imply that only children can’t care about people (as the sentence that follows your question seems to imply). Trying to explain away his poor behavior as a human being by suggesting that he is perhaps an only child is ridiculous, and shows that you believe stereotypes that have been proven over and over again to be untrue.

      • avatar pho_sho March 23, 2012, 3:09 pm

        Oh good god, I barely said anything about it because it was mostly a joke. While I tend to see a lot of narcissistic behavior from people who grew up as only children, or who had a large age gap between siblings, it certainly doesn’t happen in everybody who grew up as an only child, and some of the worst narcissists I know of grew up with siblings. It stands to reason, though, that an only child would have a higher than average level of self-centeredness seeing that they didn’t have to share parental attention or resources with another person, but that doesn’t explain every circumstance. I don’t feel like I have to explain every comment I make ad nauseum for the sake of offending people who are overly defensive or can’t understand that a single statement in a comment might not represent a person’s entire thought process on a subject.

  • Budj Budj March 23, 2012, 10:03 am

    While not sure on the narcissism I completely agree with Wendy. I am an introvert and that just means I don’t handle massive and loud social situations very well. I am much better one on one/in small groups and I need more “me-time” where extroverts would prefer a group hang out…..and you know what? I actually do care what people are talking to me about while interacting with them!

    Don’t blame insecurities from your past on this…most boy friends should be really excited to talk to you about a vacation or hearing about your day (less excited about this unless something cool happened to / for you, haha)…he either is a narcissist or he just doesn’t really have that much investment in you or your relationship and doesn’t want to break it off out of convenience.

    • avatar ReginaRey March 23, 2012, 10:33 am

      I find it interesting that you’re an introvert who doesn’t handle “massive and loud social situations very well,” but you must perform for exactly those kind of events pretty often haha!

      • Budj Budj March 23, 2012, 10:39 am

        haha – But I don’t have to socialize whilst rocking out so it works well.

        • avatar ReginaRey March 23, 2012, 10:40 am

          I enjoy and approve of you use of “whilst.” I try to incorporate it into conversations as often as I can.

          • Budj Budj March 23, 2012, 10:45 am

            to be extra obnoxious I emphasize the h before the w.

            • avatar ReginaRey March 23, 2012, 10:54 am

              Yup. You gotta say it with lots of British pomp, or it doesn’t count.

      • Fabelle Fabelle March 23, 2012, 10:54 am

        I’ve read a couple things that say introverts can actually fall into the role of “performer” quite often. Which I find to be true! I consider myself introverted, but things like public speak & live improv (something I did in college) barely fazes me.

        • Budj Budj March 23, 2012, 10:59 am

          Yea it isn’t really a social anxiety per say…I used to have that as a kid, but now I just think I don’t act my “best-self” in a crowd…I don’t like to fight for the attention, I don’t like to yell to be heard…just doesn’t appeal to me so I kind of sit back and listen / observe and then people are always like “what’s wrong” and I’m like….just chillin…but they never seem to believe me. haha.

          • Budj Budj March 23, 2012, 11:00 am

            social anxiety aspect was brought up because I think that is why people might view introverts as not able to be performers…but social anxiety isn’t always the reason someone is an introvert.

          • avatar Eljay March 23, 2012, 11:12 am

            Ugh! I get that all the time too! People (who don’t really know me) are always asking “what’s wrong” and I find myself explaining time and again that I’m just chillin, listening & taking it all in. I could be thoroughly enjoying the conversation with minimal input, and still they think something’s wrong. Just because I don’t put a lampshade on my head & dance on a tabletop doesn’t mean something’s wrong, or that I’m a stuck up snob. I could just be having a good time in my own way, not the way they think my good time should be had.

            • Budj Budj March 23, 2012, 11:16 am

              I have also been told by some people that I give off a snobby impression. I have come to the conclusion that the people that think that are insecure and think that because I don’t go out of my way to engage them when I barely know them that they think I’m too good for them? Stop analyzing me! haha.

              • caitie_didnt caitie_didn't March 23, 2012, 11:22 am

                Budj, It’s like you know my life!!! I won’t fight for attention in a crowd, so people assume that I’m standoffish or snobby when I’m actually just listening to the conversation or waiting for a natural opening. I HATE when people assume that- like, I don’t assume you’re vain or obnoxious because you’re the centre of people’s attention right now, so why would you assume that I think I’m better than you? Grrrrrr

                • CatsMeow CatsMeow March 23, 2012, 11:23 am

                  Yep. I get that too. HATE IT!

              • Fabelle Fabelle March 23, 2012, 11:55 am

                Yess after I warm up to people (which can take like, several instances of meeting them & hanging out) they’ll tell me something like “I thought you were stuck-up bitch at first, but you’re actually really cool!! Hahaha!” Oh! Thanks?

                • avatar Eljay March 23, 2012, 1:06 pm

                  Exactly! ALL. The. Time.

              • JK JK March 23, 2012, 12:54 pm

                That happens to me all the time, as well. The amount of times I´ve heard “you´re nice! I thought you were a total snob” once I actually start talking to people…

                • avatar Eljay March 23, 2012, 1:38 pm

                  Yeah, forget Lotto. Just give me a dollar for every time I heard that line!

          • CatsMeow CatsMeow March 23, 2012, 11:22 am

            I think I’m similar to you, Budj. I hate the “What’s wrong” thing when nothing is wrong! While I do love going to concerts/shows, I prefer to do my actual socializing in a less-crowded, quiet-ish bar where I can sit at a booth or table and have a server bring me drinks, and just have interesting conversations with my friends. Super-crowded/loud bars and clubs just irritate me.

            • Budj Budj March 23, 2012, 11:26 am

              I think the HIMYM episode where both lily and marshall leap out of the window to escape from their wine party and wind up at that club where ted is dancing with some girl and they are having two separate conversations with each other because the music is so loud sums up my feelings on talking in lould large crowd situations, haha.

          • avatar TheGirl March 23, 2012, 2:48 pm

            Yes! My in-laws do this to me all the time. They are super extroverted and like to talk over each other all the time. If I get quiet for more than 10 minutes straight they assume I’m ill and its a constant barrage of questions about how I’m feeling. Drives me nuts!

        • avatar ReginaRey March 23, 2012, 11:06 am

          Yeah, I actually really agree with that. I’m an introvert, but I had lead roles in plays and musicals and high schools, and absolutely love acting in general. I also don’t get nervous with public speaking…I’m actually kind of energized by performing, in general.

        • theattack theattack March 23, 2012, 1:05 pm

          Oh, that’s really interested, Fabelle! I fall into that category as well, and no one understands it. That makes sense!

        • avatar Francine March 23, 2012, 4:19 pm

          I’ve never heard that but thinking about the introverts I know it sure seems accurate. My introvert teen daughter is a cheerleader and she far prefers competitive cheer where her sport is the main event rather than sideline cheer. And my introvert dad was a competitive body builder. He hated being in a crowd but had no problem strutting his stuff in a speedo in front of a crowd!

  • Fabelle Fabelle March 23, 2012, 10:49 am

    This letter sounds like it could’ve been written by one of my (ex)friend’s girlfriend. I don’t really know her at all, but I know him…and he’s a douche. The LW mentions that her boyfriend’s sociability around others reads as an act, which is totally how my friend was…like he would turn ‘on’ and ‘off’ depending on if he felt the need to impress or not. When he was on, he could be a jokester to an almost-obnoxious level, or he could be very polite and professional (if it was a more serious setting). But in laid-back situations with like 1 or 2 friends, you could tell he wasn’t really interested in interacting with people at all. Not in an introverted way– just in an “I don’t care” way.

    Also, when I was still friends with him, the way he talked about his girlfriend made it seem as if he was with her for all the wrong reasons. For example, they would get into horrible fights, and he’d be like, “But I don’t wanna BREAK UP with her–we share the same political views!” (or something like that) It was very…formulaic? like he had a list in his head of qualities that make a good girlfriend, and this girl matched it, but he didn’t know her as a person at all.

    Anyway, sorry to go off on a tangent, but if any of this seems to be hitting home for you, LW, then this relationship is probably not much of a relationship at all.

    • Jess Jess of CGW March 23, 2012, 11:08 am

      Interesting description. For me, the common denominator in these stories is a lack of empathy and a basic connection to other human beings. You also describe many of the characteristics of a sociopath (not the Hollywood serial killer kind –the clinical definition) .

      • dandywarhol dandywarhol March 23, 2012, 11:50 am

        Hmmm funny because I was going to reply to Fabelle saying that guy sounded exactly like my ex boyfriend, and funnily enough, he had all the traits of a sociopath (clinical kind). Yes, lack of empathy is biggest problem here.

        • Jess Jess of CGW March 23, 2012, 12:49 pm

          Some of us are more easily drawn to these types. I know myself, for a long time I operated under the fallacy that all guarded, withdrawn people had a heart of gold on the inside. I was always digging for the soft inner core because I believe instinctively that love/vulnerability/trust must be earned. But what a tough lesson when I’d eventually find (in some cases) that there was nothing inside but a cold empty void.

          It took my awhile to identify the shy compassionate types over the selfish, guarded narcissistic types. Compassion is now the number one thing I watch for when I get to know people.

          • Lili Lili March 23, 2012, 12:53 pm

            Good point! I’m still trying to find the balance between funny and sarcastic vs sarcastic and condescending. I think I confuse the two quite easily.

            • dandywarhol dandywarhol March 23, 2012, 5:30 pm

              Ahhh yes the sarcastic and condescending. That is my dad, so naturally i found boyfriends like that. Thank goodness I have found a guy who actually listens to me when I say don’t joke about something, instead of calling me overly sensitive!

  • sobriquet sobriquet March 23, 2012, 10:54 am

    LW, I once dated a narcissist, too. After he broke up with me because I “wasn’t driven enough”, I realized that I had been his cheerleader for the entire year we were dating. He didn’t respect me as a partner, I was just someone who made him feel good about his accomplishments. If he doesn’t respect you enough to ask you about your trip to Singapore (!), what else do you think he’ll be apathetic about in the future?

    I also want to say that in my experience, I find most introverted people to be the most engaging and thoughtful once they let you in. Extroverts are more likely to be narcissistic because they want to be the center of attention.

    • avatar Eljay March 23, 2012, 11:15 am

      Perfect example of what I call the daily “ego feeding”. If they don’t get it, you’re of no use to them. Classic, textbook narcissist. They can drain the life out of you if you let them.

  • becboo84 BecBoo84 March 23, 2012, 11:00 am

    Thank you, Wendy! I think that was the absolute perfect answer for the LW!

  • avatar Lindsay March 23, 2012, 11:05 am

    There are a lot of things that introverts, or extroverts, do that the person learns not to do. For example, I am an introvert, and it’s hard for me to handle large groups of people I don’t know. I get shy and clam up, and can’t think of anything to say. But I still go to parties where I hardly know anyone and to events with my new book club friends. Whether he’s an introvert isn’t really the issue. The issue, much like Wendy said, is that he knows something about his personality that’s a problem (to his girlfriend, even!) and is doing nothing about it. A person who gives excuses for obnoxious behavior instead of addressing it is not going to change.

  • avatar Renee March 23, 2012, 11:17 am

    One thing that came to mind, was wondering how Wendy’s husband listens to her and to ALL of our questions? Does he nod his head? Offer feedback?

    I have no interest in my husband’s work. I listen attentively, because he is my husband. There have been times I just respond, “I have no idea what you just said, but it sounds (horrible/great).”

    He has done the same with myself. No clue about the subject, but he is doing his best to focus on my feelings about whatever I’m talking about.

  • avatar GertietheDino March 23, 2012, 11:41 am

    Dump him…He sounds like a tool.

    Just because he seems nice on paper, that doesn’t mean he is good for you.

  • avatar AndreaMarie March 23, 2012, 11:49 am

    I’m an extrovert so I can’t speak too much on the “charactoristics” of introverts but I’m pretty sure they include things like needing more alone time, not big fans of huge social interactions etc, nowhere do I remember ever hearing that it meant “the inability to care about what other people feel, say, etc” or “the lack of wanting to ask your bf/gf about their day/job/trip to Singapore.” I ask my boyfriend how is day at work was or if he got an update on his sister’s pregnancy, not because I’m an extrovert, but because I CARE!

    Let me guess, this “charactoristic” prevents him from talking with you about your life but it doesn’t affect his ability to talk about himself? I’m sure he’s quit “extroverted” when talking to you or his friends about his life and interests.

  • dandywarhol dandywarhol March 23, 2012, 11:55 am

    Wendy, your advice is spot on as usual. I especially appreciated the last paragraph. I have had similar relationships as the LW and you are right, its usually trying to fix childhood issues. Therapists help soooo much and i recommend the LW get to one. After dumping her jerk of a boyfriend first.
    And also, LW, he isn’t going to “get better”. No matter what you tell him, he will probably always be like this. MOA and find someone who actually enjoys your company, its refreshing!

  • avatar sarita_f March 23, 2012, 12:15 pm

    This letter and the responses are leaving me all twitchy-like. I agree with Wendy and everyone else that he’s at best a narcissist, and at worst, well…

    A little story about me (cause it should always be about me :)). I’ve diagnosed my own father as a classic narcissist (from afar, and from what I’ve learned on the internets, FWIW). And I recently broke up with a boyfriend who took it all one step further – I suspect he has Aspergers.

    The lack of empathy for others is what ultimately killed it for me. Although I suspected something was off for a long time, it was how our break-up played out that sealed it. I definitely was NOT happy for a while, but being the bull-headed person I am and buoyed by a long stretch of romantic loneliness prior to this guy, I stuck around for way too long and kept waiting around for the “right time” to bring up my concerns. Before I could muster up my ovaries, he started to try to pull the slow fade on me (after, like, 9 months, meeting the parents, talking about what our wedding would be like just the week before, etc). Which just infuriated me. I finally confronted him about it, and told him he needed to man up. He was on the shit list already and about to get the boot, but I just didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of being the innocent party. He called me from work the next day to agree that we should break up. Ok, fine. Out of curiosity I asked him why he was trying to pull the fade, and it became all about him – how HARD it was for him, it’s just so difficult to break up, call the WAHmbulance. Nothing about me, how I feel, an apology for being a douche or hurting my feelings, etc.

    He left me a voicemail about a month after that conversation (I deleted all social media connections and blocked his emails immediately after the breakup convo – highly recommend this route, btw). I suspect his family and friends were pressuring him to try to get back with me, since I was the only promising chick who’d come around in a long while. As someone mentioned above, I believe he had a checklist of what he wanted in a girlfriend but didn’t actually care about ME as an individual (matches my father).

    That’s a long intro to my point – LW, you’re getting shut down by this guy. He’s not an introvert. He doesn’t actually care about you. He may have a neurological or psychological condition, or he could just be a self-absorbed asshat looking for a convenient piece.

    I read a couple of pieces by David Finch toward the end/right after that relationship, and they REALLY struck home. David’s a man married to a woman who eventually diagnosed him with Asperger’s, and that diagnosis and utilization of coping mechanisms helped them save their marriage. His essay in the NYT was eye-opening: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/fashion/17love.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all
    I just could never, ever be the qualified therapist of a partner that his wife is.

    And his essay about gift-giving in Slate was hilarious and I can easily see my ex in it (colossal lack of empathy and enormous self-absorption and all): http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/11/thanks_to_asperger_s_i_used_to_give_my_wife_terrible_gifts_here_s_how_i_learned_to_pick_good_ones_.html

    At any rate, LW, you probably shouldn’t be with this guy. He’ll probably have the same issues all through life, and if he ever realizes that he’s the common denominator he may then finally choose to do something about it. Rather than ‘think about it.’ But it’s gotta come from him, you can’t save him from himself, stop beating your head against the wall.

  • avatar mf March 23, 2012, 12:32 pm

    No, this guy’s behavior is not due to his introversion. Either he’s too self-involved to bother listening to anyone else or he doesn’t care enough about you to be attentive.

    It’s hard to tell whether he’s actually, clinically speaking, a narcissist, but that’s beside the the point. This guy isn’t going to make you happy in the long run. So yeah, I’m jumping on the MOA train, because you deserve someone who is genuinely interested in you.

  • Moneypenny Moneypenny March 23, 2012, 1:33 pm

    The response to this letter was perfect. This guy could be as sweet and helpful as he could be, but if he makes you feel bad or feel small inside or make you feel like he doesn’t care about you, just by not paying attention to you, there is no need to stick around. I always think that your bf/gf should bring out the best in you and be a positive influence in your life. If this isn’t happening, then you’re better off to get out of the relationship.
    And as an introvert myself, I believe he is quite off in his reasoning behind his behavior. It just sounds a bit like an excuse to me. I agree with what others have said above about what introverts are truly like, and this guy does not sound like he fits the description at all.
    I, on the other hand, fit the description to a t!

  • avatar Lucy March 23, 2012, 1:40 pm

    ” He’s introverted because he’s a narcissist. He doesn’t care about socializing with anyone or asking his girlfriend about her cool trip to Singapore because no one could possibly be as interesting to him and he has to himself. Thus, he is introverted. ”

    Um, no. Introversion has a definition, and it doesn’t include anything about finding one’s own self so fascinating and not being interested in other people. I’m a little surprised no one else has pointed this out. Since there’s not a lot of info in the letter, it’s overreaching to label him a narcissist. He could just as easily be on the high functioning end of the spectrum, if we’re throwing diagnoses around. But Wendy got the critical point exactly right – it doesn’t matter why he is this way. He doesn’t meet your needs, and your needs aren’t in any way unreasonable, so you shouldn’t be together.

    • theattack theattack March 23, 2012, 3:51 pm

      I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think Wendy was intending to use clinical sorts of definitions here. I think she was using them colloquially. I really loved the sentences you quoted from her, because I think she’s really got it exactly right here. She’s not saying “He has Narcissistic Personality Disorder which creates and Introverted personality.” She’s saying that his self-absorption leads to a disinterest in other people, which appears as turning inward in introspection.

      • avatar Francine March 23, 2012, 4:25 pm

        I agree. Being an introvert didn’t make him a narcissist but being a narcissist could very well be make him look like an introvert.

        • MackenzieLee ColorsOfTheWind March 25, 2012, 11:39 am

          I couldn’t agree more

  • avatar Lamp March 23, 2012, 2:04 pm

    I do not understand how women can even get themselves in this situation. You don’t have to be 100 percent emotionally healthy, or some kind of superhuman, to recognize when you aren’t being treated well. Come on! We can do this, ladies! Just be with someone you’d want your best friend to be with! If he treats you any less than that, talk to him about it. If he can’t or won’t change, dump him.

  • avatar Myra March 23, 2012, 7:42 pm

    Right on everyone! So glad I haven’t seen anyone defend this so-called “introvert.”

    I dated a similar character — I won’t go so far as to diagnose him as a narcissist — but I realized in retrospect how threatened he was by any amount of success, perceived or real, I experienced. That included interesting trips, events, compliments, good days at work, amusing stories, playing the piano (a favorite hobby of mine), etc. Anything I did well or that made me independently happy threatened him. After enough put-downs and brush-offs I basically started to downplay my LIFE. And then one day I woke up and never looked back.

    I wasted a year and got out before my confidence was completely shot, but I felt like a fool for a good while after. Get out now, love and FORGIVE yourself, LW! You deserve respect and acknowledgement — you’ll find it after making a clean break.

  • avatar YouGoGirl March 23, 2012, 9:10 pm

    Like the LW, I had distant, uncaring parents and did not think I was worth anything. I was so used to being treated badly that I did not always choose my friends wisely, instead chosing friends who put me down a lot. I was also abused in my marriage until my husband died.

    I felt so damaged and so ashamed by all these experiences that I worked very hard to “act normal”, lest I betray my emotional pain and insecurity. I was also used to repressing my emotions and did not trust my intuition. Instead I would frequently ask other people if it was ok to feel a certain way.

    My long-distance former boyfriend was kind and treated me well, but he did not make me a priority. He would only call after every other chore was done and then he would fall asleep while we were talking. He would also promise to call but never call even after I would ask him to call. I was very upset by his broken promise, but I was so busy trying to be “normal” that I never confronted him. I assumed that a “normal” person would not feel this way and of course I was over-reacting.

    I want to tell the LW that she is not over-reacting. Her fellings are valid. Just because she endured a difficult childhood and made mistakes picking friends does not mean she is unworthy of being treated well.

  • avatar Steve December 9, 2013, 10:21 pm

    Its called ALEXITHYMIA.. Its a combination of narcissism & aspergers.. You can t change them, & they will leave u with no problem & move on quickly. They see people as objects & if they suspect your not happy, they will leave before u can. Its not their fault & extremely sad for both in the relationship. Look it up..

Leave a Comment


− one = 5

Next post:

Previous post: