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My boyfriend and I (age range 26-30, I'm the older one) have been together for two months now and for the most part it was great, we have similar interests, we do things together often, and we make each other smile and laugh often. However,I've noticed the following pattern that repeated itself around six times now:

  • if he ever thinks I'm angry at him, he starts being way nicer to me than he usually is
  • if I'm being very nice and kind to him, he stops caring about me.

What I mean by "stops caring" is:

  • When we weren't in a relationship, he would remember every little detail about anything I did. However now, sometimes he doesn't even remember something I said yesterday. Sometimes he acts spaced out while I talk to him and doesn't even notice parts of sentences I said and I have to repeat myself.
  • He used to look up information about me online and check my social website statuses, nowadays sometimes I send him a link to a joke in a text message and he doesn't even open the link.
  • He acts very lazy around me and gets gradually more lazy over time. He used to invite me to hang out all the time, now he just tells me to go to sleep.
  • His other friends ask him for help with something and he spends hours helping them. I asked him to help with something small that I know is easy and would only take him a few minutes, and he says he will but then forgets and doesn't even spend 5 minutes on it.

None of those would be an issue on their own, I could brush it off as just "him being this way", but I can visibly see that all of those things change as soon as I start being passive-aggressive towards him. This means I just act "normal" the same way I act to any normal friend, which is less nice or considerate towards him than he's used of me: I'm giving honest but short replies to questions without elaborating, I'm not trying to pry or analyze, I give off an attitude of "what you told me is fine and it's none of my business to think more deeply about it". Note that this kind of behavior is not actually negative in any way, my regular friends like me a lot when I'm like this around them, but my boyfriend sees this as passive aggressive because I'm essentially being less nice or considerate towards him.

Whenever I do that, suddenly he starts giving me lots of attention, checking out those messages I sent him that he ignored earlier, and starts planning occasions for us to hang out together, etc.

I'm trying to be very generous towards him and have almost no expectations at all, constantly reassuring him that whatever shortcomings he has are not an issue for me. When he says something negative about himself or how society views him negatively, I use facts and logic and expose to him that life isn't black and white and that there's a full half to the glass as well, help him see the bright side and his strong points and tell him those overshadow his weaknesses.

Basically no matter what I do, no matter if I buy him gifts based on his preferences, or play the games that he likes with him, or just act nice and accepting of his personality, at the end of the day he just takes me for granted and treats me worse than all the other people he hangs out with. If I ask him for anything small he pretends to not notice or forgets.

I can't even dream of him doing something small for me on his own. Although he is my boyfriend, I'm usually the more assertive one in this relationship. I clearly remember three occasions he was more assertive around me and I found him to be way more attractive in those times, I know he has potential, just wish he could show it more. I tried to encourage him multiple times to be more assertive around me in general but he seems too scared to do it no matter how cooperative I try to be with him.

The only times he's ever really nice to me and goes out of his way to consider how I feel and do things for me is when I make any sign of getting angry or upset and he feels like he might lose me. This is really upsetting for me. I don't want to feel like I constantly need to scare him to make him care about me. But it feels like nothing else works.

How can I make my boyfriend have the same motivation he had for me before we got together without constantly having to scare him that I might break up with him with passive aggressive behavior?

[Edit] After trying to communicate my needs, I was met with a wall. He did not want to communicate on the same level as me. We have ended our relationship shortly after.

I like both the answer by DDSK78 and by Kat, they both seem to resonate with my personal experience here. I can't choose which one is better so I'm not sure which one to upvote.

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  • 1
    When you say "amount of repeats" I'm not quite sure what's being repeated?
    – DaveG
    Jul 19 at 22:10
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    @DaveG that was a reply to my comment, asking Cler to clarify about how often this pattern (of him getting lazy, Cler getting upset, him improving) has happened over the past two months. I've edited the question too, so it hopefully should be clearer now?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jul 20 at 7:25
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    I've got 2 questions that might influence how the answers you get / need that you might want to answer: 1) Is your boyfriend under a lot of stress over something else? (lack of interest / forgetting lots of small things / not really listening are typical signs of problems outside of your relationship. Maybe dealing with school/new job/... is harder on him then he realises himself?) 2) Have you tried talking to him about what you expect in your relationship other than "be more assertive?". Speaking out of experience as a man, I pick up on a lot less "hints" than my wife expected at first ...
    – Imus
    Jul 20 at 9:14
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    Not really an answer but an observation: you can very rarely "make" someone do something. If you want to take that tactic, you'll eventually fail. I'd suggest using "influence" or "convince". Otherwise it sounds like you're forcing him to do something. Jul 20 at 13:27
  • "I can't even dream of him doing something small for me on his own." : 1. Did you already think that what you describe in your post might be a doomed relationship? "we have been together for two months : 2. Don't you think you're still in the 'discover an understand each other' area and that it's just what these early times are about?
    – OldPadawan
    Jul 22 at 6:57
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Frankly, I don't think you can.

Typically when people first start dating someone new, they put in extra effort to be the best version of themselves they can. This might include being more attentive, making a point to schedule fun activities, being extra helpful, taking more care on their appearance, initiating conversations, etc. Usually part of it is wanting to impress a new partner and part of it is the genuine excitement of a new relationship. However, these things can take a lot of effort to do consistently, so it's hard to keep it up over time. As a result, people generally revert to their normal ways once the new relationship excitement wears off and they feel they're on solid ground.

You two have only been together for two months. This is still well within the "honeymoon" phase for most relationships, so he is probably still trying harder than he would after two years. If the amount of attention and consideration you are getting now is not sufficient, it's likely only going to get worse. He will expend extra effort when you make it clear you're unhappy, but as soon as he thinks it's safe to return to normal, he will. His normal is apparently not compatible with what you want, so my recommendation is you simply move on and find someone you're more compatible with.

If you really want to make a last ditch effort at making this work, there are a couple things I would suggest. First, examine your expectations. Are they realistic and reasonable? What is really important to you? Maybe you could be more flexible on some of them.

For instance, nobody is going to remember everything you say, and nobody pays attention 100% of the time. It is easy to get used to being the center of someone's attention when you first start dating, but it's simply not sustainable. Consider whether he remembers important things and forgets some things that are just casual conversation.

The fact that he's not helping you is a bit strange, but if you're asking him to do such quick things, maybe he thinks you can do them yourself. Or maybe you are asking only him instead of leaning on your own friends sometimes. Consider whether you really need his help or if you just feel slighted when he doesn't do it.

To be clear, I'm not saying you are definitely being unreasonable. Perhaps he really never remembers anything you say, can't be bothered to listen to you, and doesn't help even when you badly need it. If that's the case, why are you even with this guy? Do you think he's going to drastically change himself for someone he's been dating for a measly two months? C'mon, be realistic, most people wouldn't be willing to do that for a spouse. If you want a lot of changes, cut him loose and save both of you the heartache.

So let's say you decide some stuff you can accept, but there is one behavior that's a deal breaker, and you'd like him to change it. This is a more reasonable ask and stands a chance of happening. Let's assume you want him to help you more, especially since he is obviously willing to help his friends. You will need to have a conversation with him, so pick a time when you're both calm and not in a rush. Definitely don't do it right after he blows you off and you're annoyed. Then explain to him how you feel about just current behavior. You might say something like the following:

I've noticed that often when I ask for your help, even for something that you can do quickly, it never happens. I've also noticed you put in a lot of effort helping your friends, so it feels to me like you're willing to help people you care about in general, but not me. That makes me feel like maybe you don't actually care about me.

Note the "I" statements. Do not tell him "you don't care about me" or anything like that. You don't know how he feels, all you can speak to is how you feel. I can tell you from lots of personal experience on both sides of this that if you make accusations like that, you will just make the person defensive and you will get nowhere. After you express how you feel, follow it with how you'd like his actions to change:

In the future, I would like for you to help me with easy things when I ask, especially if you say you will. Please don't say you will help and then never do it.

Keep it clear and to the point. Don't soften it, as that may create confusion about what you're asking for. This may be difficult, but you need to do it. Lastly, ask if he's willing to commit to that or if there's something you need to change for him to be able to:

Is this something you're willing to commit to doing going forward? Should I do something differently when requesting help to make it easier for you to help me? Are there some things you don't want me to ask for your help with?

You'll have to go from there, depending on what he says.

In my experience, one of the three following things generally happens:

  • They get upset and start listing things they don't like about you. Up to you whether you consider making your own changes or just call it quits due to incompatibility.
  • They agree to change but quickly revert back to the old behavior. In this case, I suggest a few gentle reminders, as habits are hard to change. If there's still no progress, accept he won't change and move on.
  • They do actually change their behavior, maybe with some gentle reminders. This is the least likely, but it can happen.

Personally, I would only bother with this in a long-term relationship unless it's a small issue, and even then only if it's a single issue. Most people do not and maybe cannot change unless they really want to, so they generally need to agree it's problematic behavior worth changing, unless the change you are asking for is small. I'm not sure either if he is very likely in this situation.

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I honestly can't think of a time where I've ever decided to change how I treated someone in a relationship because of their passive aggressive behavior. In my experience communication is EVERYTHING and the lack of it destroys relationships. Hints never worked on me, nor did they help me in trying to use them to communicate my needs. I've learned (the hard way) that you need to be honest about what you need and give your partner a chance to really see you.

They have to want to change and right now your partner has no incentive to change because you've been putting up with his behavior. To be blunt... you're teaching him how to treat you by repeating this loop of passive aggression.

I remember dating someone in my early 20s that I had an amazing physical and emotional connection with. Unfortunately, she was ready to get married and have children way before I was. I was still figuring out my path in life and wanted to make sure I had a good career before making that type of commitment. I still remember the fights and I especially remember the passive aggressive comments that were meant to get a rise out of me. I never really listened, so much as I learned how to react to them in the best way possible to cool her off. They were exhausting and over time made me resent her to the point where I eventually fell out of love with her. She went from someone that I loved being around to a person that I only saw as immature and pouty. To be frank, I lost respect for her because I believed that what she wanted was out of insecurity more than anything else. I didn't really believe that what she wanted was so important because of how she communicated it to me. Granted, I can only speculate, but I imagine had she taken the time to have a real heart to heart with me about why it was so important to her, then I would have been more open to getting married and having kids with her sooner.

If you really want change in your relationship, then I believe it has to start with you. You have to put more value in yourself and be unapologetically honest about your needs.

You have to be willing to walk away from this relationship if your needs won't be met. If you're ready to make that decision for yourself, then the next step is to work on your communication...

Obviously the passive aggressive behavior is getting you nowhere, so you need to change course and be direct with him. You need to communicate the needs that you have in a relationship. You don't need to be threatening, but you need to be able to articulate what makes you happy. Now you have to be honest about what makes you upset, but make sure to use positive reenforcement as much as possible. Keep it light and uplifting whenever you can! Talk about how great the relationship is when your partner is responding to your needs and how much you miss that person.

Now if this doesn't work, then you need to walk away from this relationship. The first time that I ever decided to take a hard look at my actions was long after the relationship was over and I know I'm not the only one who learned things the hard way. If you've really given your partner a chance to see your true vulnerable self and what you need, but he's still not willing to make things better, then what else can you really do?

You should be able to walk away without regret knowing that you did the best you could and move on peacefully, but there's one catch...

There's a chance he's going to want you back after you end it. If he does come crawling back, then you need to be careful about taking him back. As I said before, the change has to start with you and you need to stick to your guns. Placing more value on yourself means he has to prove to you that things will be different. That takes time, so he essentially has to date you all over again, so don't be so quick to be exclusive again and enjoy the freedom to date other people if the opportunity arises.

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  • Thanks for improving your answer, hope it's more clear about expectations on this stack now :)
    – OldPadawan
    Jul 23 at 11:00
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    @OldPadawan it’s really not though. It’s still needs to be fixed and the site needs to be updated. I’m not saying this is all your fault, but down voting people’s answers immediately and then explaining after the fact is a lousy practice.
    – DDSK78
    Jul 23 at 11:34
  • I can't tell for other or speak for them, just can say what I did: try to explain, and UV this answer. Who did and Why it was previously DV is just... what it is :)
    – OldPadawan
    Jul 23 at 12:04

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