Background: I am 23, partner is 21. Been together for 4 years.

We just moved in together a month ago while I am working abroad for a few months, to have a "trial" period of whether we're good together. I have lived on my own for 4 years, he has never lived alone yet.

We are both used to spending all free time inside playing games, but with my experience of living alone I learned responsibility for myself and my health - meaning, even if I enjoy spending time on my PC I still eat healthy, keep my place clean, go for walks everyday, and constantly seek to live a better, happier life. I don't have much of a social life or hobbies yet, but I am constantly seeking ways not to waste myself on the PC.

He is different. He lived with his parents, so he is not used to living alone yet. He plays games, eats pizza and burgers (also has an eating disorder type of thing, where he in his childhood learned to be disgusted by basically anything that isn't white bread, cheese or meat) and just seems to have no care for where his life is going. He says he is insecure about his body and wants to lose weight, but he does nothing to change his diet or to exercise. He says he wants to save money, but keeps ordering takeout which is very expensive where we are living now.

He says he will start taking walks with me, but he's "waiting for the motivation and energy" to do it. As if it would magically come without doing anything?

Simply put, he is quite emotionally immature. Besides his life habits, he is not very emotional, and is not empathetic in the least. In difficult situations, he often makes himself the victim, and gets pissed off if I say things that make me unhappy or try to establish boundaries on what I will and won't do for him (because I don't want to encourage his lazy and childish habits, to become his parent). If I try to talk to him about how his actions are harming him, he gets clearly annoyed and I give up and let him do what he wants.

I love him very much despite everything, and as we are both so similar, I want to support him and help him be happy. I know I cannot live his life for him and I can't force him to change his life if he doesn't want to - I understand that very well.

How could I get him to understand that what he is doing is harmful and not a healthy way to live?


2 Answers 2


Frame challenge: Your partner cannot change unless they are willing to. You can only do so much to let them know the consequences of what they are doing, and it is still up to them whether they will actually change or not.

You can continue to let him know that you support him, and this will help him realize that he can trust you to be in his corner cheering him on when he is ready to take on that change.

I found that one way to influence someone is to actually start doing whatever it is you want to do yourself. They can decide whether to join you or not.

Note: This is a way of enforcing your boundaries and letting him know that you aren't just gonna give in to his laziness. If you want to be productive, you will be productive, regardless of how he feels about it. This does form a feeling of separation between you and him, so balancing it out with discussions is a good way to keep connected and keep your boundaries as well.

I've already experienced this- I can say the separation feels healthy. I do miss him when I'm doing my thing but now that I understand he's just not gonna do things the way I do it, I can let go of that expectation and just let him be himself without affecting my experience of whatever it may be.

This comes from personal experience with my husband, I tried the same gentle approach of wanting him to improve something about himself and he ended up never changing. I learned to work with and accept who he is. I have seen slight improvement over the years of knowing him, so if that's the rate of change, that's just something that I had to work on accepting and adapting to.

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    Thank you! That's a good tip. I am indeed still trying to get my life in order and I have stopped participating in his unhealthy habits, but I didn't think it may influence him as well. I don't want to go into actually manipulating him or trying to control his life or anything, so that sounds like a healthy way to be a good influence in his life without being too direct. Thank you very much! May 8, 2019 at 2:48
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    If you continue working on your life and making good habits, he may very well say to you one day "I really like how you have your life in order, how do you do that?" then you can advise him and say "I do A, B, C, etc. to help me reach my goals of X Y and Z"
    – ElizB
    May 8, 2019 at 2:51

Sorry if this gets too personal - everything in this answer is based on personal experience. Feel free to edit out unnecessary stuff or notify me in comments.

Your partners' behaviour, especially his lack of emotions, reminds me of the time when I was in a long-time, low-grade depression. "Waiting for motivation and energy" is something I use to cheat myself to this day (having been in therapy for two years so far). While I'm in no way a professional, I wanted you to now that it might not be just laziness or immaturity. Unfortunately, unless he himself wishes to change, there is little you can do. Be there, be supportive, care. Importantly: don't push. However good intentioned such pushing is, it can much, much easier ruin that relationship than help him.

Another thing from personal experience is that staying constantly glued to a screen may be a way of escaping. From reality, his own emotions, something. This one might be the reason for refusing those walks - during a walk there is not much to focus on unless the discussion turns passionate so he may subconsciously reject them. Maybe try encouraging him by asking to spend quality time together? Going on a date, playing a game, going to the movies? This is harder to reject and may show him that there is nothing to fear inside his head (or is there?).

For cooking - try asking him to share cooking duties. So that sometimes he cooks for the both of you, sometimes you do. For many people cooking only for themselves is unrewarding, while cooking for someone they care about is very rewarding. Be prepared to have your meals delayed.

  • This is excellent to help me understand how he feels, thank you. These are wonderful tips. I'm very happy that you got past your depression. A lot of what you said makes complete sense and even though I cannot be his personal psychologist or anything, this really helps me to think of how I can support him better. Thank you so much. May 18, 2019 at 7:39

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