1. In all the time we have been together he has only said “I love you” once. He says he has a hard time saying the words even though he feels them. It makes me sad, but he is more loving in his actions than anyone I’ve ever dated who has actually used those words on a regular basis and he doesn’t say “I love you” to anyone — not even his mom–so should I just let it go?
2. He seems to have a hard time doing common courtesy-type things and it causes fights between us. For example, he gives me the bare minimum of advance notice when he makes plans, whether or not I am included in them. We then have arguments when he tells me we are invited to something 45 minutes before we are supposed to be there and I don’t want to go because I made other plans/don’t have time to get ready, causing our mutual friends to think I don’t want to participate as he will always show up without me. If he makes plans without me, he will tell me right before he leaves so that, if I had things planned for us, I have to cancel them. (He’ll say, “Sorry you made dinner, but I have band practice and have to leave right now and don’t know when I’ll be back.”) He will also show up late to EVERYTHING, no matter what, and not just 5-10 minutes but rather 30+ minutes late almost every time. It gets embarrassing for me, but most of his friends and family just accept it as “how he is.”
3. He has a tendency to tease in a way I find hurtful and juvenile, such as saying, “You’re gross” when I kiss him and “Don’t touch me” when I hug him, cracking jokes about me “not being his girlfriend” and taking cheap shots at my intelligence level and life choices. (We are not teenagers! I’m 27 and he is 32). I know he doesn’t mean this stuff and, if I call him out, he will apologize and stop; however, I’d like for him to just not do it at all. He does it to his friends and family, too, but they just say that’s “how he is.”
Whenever I bring this up to him (or even friends and family), I’m usually told that I “need to lighten up” and “stop being so emotional” and “not let such small things get to me.”
Is the problem really my inability to “go with the flow”? If not, what is a good way to stress the importance of adjusting some of these behaviors? I left the good stuff in our relationship out for the sake of brevity, but I assure you there is a lot of good and I don’t want to MOA just yet. Any advice you and your readers could give is greatly appreciated. — Not a Teenager
My question for you, before I answer your question, is: are any of these issues deal-breakers for you? Like, if your boyfriend never, ever changes — if he keeps making plans without telling you and he keeps being chronically late and he continues teasing you in a way you don’t like and he never says, “I love you,” can you accept this behavior and be happy with him or is your relationship happiness and satisfaction contingent on him changing his behavior? If these issues are indeed deal-breakers, I guess I’m confused about why you moved in with him. Did you think he would change AFTER you moved in together? Were you hopeful that these issues would just go away? Or, did you not realize how much they bothered you until you signed a lease together?
For your sake, I hope that none of these issues is so great that you would end the relationship if they don’t improve. Because they may not. There’s a reason why, when you mention the things that bother you about him, your boyfriend’s family and friends keep saying that that’s “just the way he is.” They have accepted him as he is. The issues that bother you may bother them too, but they apparently aren’t deal-breakers. If they are deal-breakers for you, that’s probably going to be a problem because it’s doubtful that your boyfriend is going to make dramatic and long-term changes just because you want him to. It’s possible… but not probable, especially if you’ve already expressed to him how much these issues bug you AND THEN you moved in with him. Where’s his incentive to change now?
So, what would I do if I were you? Well, first, I would ask all your mutual friends to start including you — or just bypass your boyfriend completely — in all invitations so that you don’t have to rely solely on your boyfriend to relay the social plans. That’s easy, no? Then, going forward, I would check with him before doing things like cooking a nice dinner or making plans or accepting invitations for the two of you. Try: “Hey, so-and-so invited us to play pool tonight. You didn’t make any other plans, did you?” Or: “I thought I might make that chicken casserole you like so much for dinner tonight. You’re going to be home, right?” That way, you don’t go to the trouble of cooking meals or making plans you then have to cancel because your boyfriend is doing something else. Easy, no?
Also, if you know he’s at least 30 minutes late for EVERYTHING, start white-lying about the start time for things that are particularly important. If you have plans at 8, tell him your plans start at 7:30. Boom, done. Also easy, right? And if it’s not terribly important that he/you guys be somewhere exactly on time, try not to give such a fuck. Enjoy a glass of wine while you wait for him to get ready. Get in the habit of having something to read. If no one else really cares that he’s so late and they aren’t going to blame YOU, then, you know, get over it.
As for the lack of “I love you,” I suggest you come up with a secret-couple phrase that means the same thing but is easier for your boyfriend to say. Like, “Swiss Cheese Cantaloupe,” or “Butternut Squash” (Um, I may be a little hungry as I write this) or something equally as nonsensical that only you two will know the meaning of. Words are just sounds with meaning attached, so if there are certain words that are hard for your boyfriend to utter, find words that are easier for him to say and attach your own meaning. And if that sounds silly to you, maybe that’s exactly how your boyfriend feels about the the big deal you’re making about him saying three words that he already expresses through so many actions and behavior, you know?
The juvenile teasing, though — I’m with you; it needs to stop. There’s no reason a loving boyfriend in his 30s, for Christ’s sake, should be telling his girlfriend that “she’s gross” when she kisses him. I think you need to be much more explicit in telling him how hurtful those words are and that it may be ok for him to treat his friends like that, but you aren’t his friend. You are his girlfriend, and it’s absolutely NOT ok for him to mock you when you express affection. It sounds like he understands that — or at least understands that it bothers you — but because it’s such a natural part of his behavior, he may need constant reminding that it’s not ok until he finally internalizes the message and changes his behavior. I have no idea how long that might take, but I do know that you have to be firm in getting your message across. Every single time he makes a mocking comment, you have to tell him how much it bothers you. Eventually, he will get sick of being reprimanded and he’ll stop. And if he doesn’t? Well, you just have to decide if it’s a deal-breaker or not. And that goes for all of the above.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.