In general, he always treats me as if I need no tending to, which I can appreciate as a woman who values her independence, but I also want to feel taken care of. He is polite and affectionate but is unsure of how much attention I want. I told him I want a lot of attention, yet he doesn’t seem too good at it when it comes to us being apart. When we are spending time together, he is fine, but when it comes to interaction outside of that, he is majorly lacking. I have told him this, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. He texts me late in the day to see if I am “doing better today” but that’s it — nothing extra given even though I am dealing with a death. No offer to visit — he is currently healing from an injury, but he is not bedridden by any means and has been out for short amounts of time for his friends’ soccer game and for a short emergency shift at work. He also never offers to pick me up and never bothers to ask me for a text when I get home. (Whenever he works late at the bar, I always ask him to let me know he got home safely). I realize those are small things, but those things are present in my friendships and, when they are done, they show me my friends care.
Is this just a problem of me wanting more attention or is this something that I should consider a deal-breaker? I also have issues with trust, and the lack of attention isn’t helping. I want to be doted on, but I realize that this makes me seem like a brat! I want to be smothered with affection and attention, but so far he has shown me that he is not that kind of person — even in the ways he expects attention for himself. Whenever I get hurt because of the lack of attention, I act distant and then he ends up feeling hurt and I end up feeling terrible for hurting him. We are both 22 years old and I am his first real girlfriend. I want to be with him, but this is turning into an issue of insecurity and dissatisfaction. I have always thought that an attraction to someone would make another want to do these things, but that has not been demonstrated to me in my relationship, so I end up questioning whether or not he feels affection for me. What do I do? — Needs More Attention
First of all, I’m sorry for the death in your family and I hope you are getting support from other family members and your friend group if you feel like you aren’t getting enough from your boyfriend.
Only you can decide if your boyfriend’s level of attention-giving is a deal-breaker for you. But I will say that, for someone who considers herself independent, it’s interesting that you want to be “smothered by attention and affection,” “made a fuss over” and “doted upon.” It could be that your boyfriend is very much aware that you want these things and is… well, frankly, turned off by the neediness. Or, it could be that he is completely oblivious to your needs which may, in turn, make you ramp up the neediness in order to literally get your boyfriend’s attention. Whatever the case may be, you two don’t seem well-matched.
You’ve spoken to your boyfriend about this issue — several times it sounds like. You’ve made it clear that you need more from him and he hasn’t changed. I’d accept that he’s not going to. And YOU have to decide if that’s a deal-breaker for you. Can you handle not being doted upon and smothered with affection and attention? Can you deal with your boyfriend not texting you until the end of the day, even when he knows you’re grieving, and not asking you to text when you get home late at night? If you can’t, I’d end things with him and MOA.
I’d also consider whether your “trust issues” are in regards to him specifically or whether you generally don’t trust people or guys you’re dating. If it’s the former, then that’s even more affirmation that you and your boyfriend aren’t well-matched. If it’s the latter — if you have trust issues in relationships in general — it’s YOUR responsibility to fix those issues, not a boyfriend’s. Where do the trust issues stem from? Have you made bad choices in the past (in terms of whom you date and whom you trust)? Maybe talking to a therapist can help you address these trust issues. If you’re in college, your school may have a wellness center where you can find a counselor who can help you. It’s healthier and far more productive to address these issues yourself than rely on boyfriends to smother you with attention in order to calm your fears. That kind of attention is only a band-aid and won’t really fix the actual problem (your trust issues), and, until the actual problem is addressed, it will continue rearing its head in all future relationships.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.