Q. My boyfriend who is 35 and I (38) have been dating for a year and a half and he seems to have a difficult time looking at me while I am speaking to him.
When we are out to dinner he is normally looking around sometimes at other women, other times at random people or things on the wall, really anything but me. While at home he normally will not take his eyes off the TV show, game, phone, etc when I am talking to him. If I ask him to pay attention to me and look at me he then turn his head and stares at me in a way a child would do and it makes me angry.
The strange thing is that a lot of the times he seems to be actually listening to what I am saying. When I ask him if he knows what I just said he repeats what I said back to me. Not all the time but a lot of the time.
If I stop the conversion or ask him a question, he can be slow to respond, but will eventually answer me or ask me to continue. Even though it seems like he is hearing me I don’t feel like he is caring what I have to say and it is making me feel unimportant and unloved.
I ask him why he does this several times and usually he gets annoyed with me like I am attacking him or something. He says he does this to everyone and doesn’t mean he isn’t paying attention to me.
He says when he is out to eat he is a paranoid person and is always looking around to make sure everything is safe. However we do not usually go to places that would seem like we should be worried about our surroundings (hot girls seem to be the most particularly dangerous since he seems to look their way a lot).
He never gave any excuses for when we are home just said “why does it matter if I am still listening and responding.” He has talked to his guy friends about me bugging him about it but they all agree with me saying that he should be looking at me and showing attention to me while I am talking since it is a romantic relationship. It is apart of good communication and establishes a connection between two people. I thought the advice from his friends would help but it really didn’t.
The last time we went out at a restaurant he did pay attention to be a bit more (only slightly even though he thinks he paid mostly his attention to me), then afterward mentioned about how he tried and that I should notice that he is working on it. That was nice but that was only once and that proves nothing to me until it becomes a continuous thing.
We haven’t been out to eat since but still at home he cannot keep his eyes off the TV, etc. I am not expecting someone to not people watch, get distracted or continually look at me all the time. I just want that when we are on a date to feel like he is more into me then the soundings so I feel important to him.
At home I want to know that he cares about what I have to say especially when I am talking to him about important stuff or venting. I have tried different ways of telling him from getting mad, to being nice and saying how it makes me feel, and other times just stop talking all together in the middle of my conversation.
Nothing really seems to help.
If he would give me the same attention and time he gives to his games and to his football I would feel happy and more secure in my relationship with him. I do love him and truly believe he loves me as he does do other things that make me feel loved. However just because I believe and want to believe he loves me, I don’t trust it. I would love to move forward with him with my feeling and be more connected to him but I cannot do that when I don’t feel loved, appreciated, and respected by my man.
If I cannot get him to improve this I feel that I will eventually fall out of love with him. Is there any other methods to get him to pay more attention to me and look at me?
Am I approaching him incorrectly?
Is there possibly other reasons on his side that would cause him to do this so I can understand?
He has lost his mother at a young age, was on his own young, and had a string of very bad relationships. I know that can affect a person with their future relationships but not sure how that would equate to not giving me the attention I am asking for and deserve.
A. Dearest Reader,
Thank you for this excellent question. I assure you there are many others dealing with similar situations. We are never alone in our struggles.
Since the two of you are not sitting before me in a coaching session, my response will solely reflect the information in your explanation.
First off, I believe non-listening is a symptom to a greater problem and the reason you have not seen much improvement is because you simply do not know where this behavior is stemming from. Being I don’t know your partner, I cannot give you that answer, but I can give you some pretty good ideas to ponder to see what might be a good fit.
1. He doesn’t know how to be in a relationship.
It may sound ridiculous, but I assure you there are many, many people roaming around that did not have healthy relationship role modeling as they grew up. How he is behaving could be equal to or possibly a step up from what he witnessed in his childhood, hence he doesn’t understand why it’s a big deal. This does not excuse his behavior, but it certainly gives you a starting place. He can’t know what he doesn’t know. Great questions to discuss would be:
What does a good/healthy relationship look like to you?
How do you give love and like to receive love?
What behaviors are considered disrespectful, not appropriate or deal breakers?
2. He is not happy with you.
I know, I know, this one stings to read and I’m not saying this is true. I’m listing it as a possible reason behind his symptom. When you speak about him always looking at other women, I see a HUGE red flag. When a man is truly into a woman, he wants her attention. He may notice attractive ladies, but he won’t continually be scanning the room for them. Sometimes this behavior means: Is there something better that I am missing?
Frankly, if our partner thinks there might be something better, he is not valuing what he has. An empowered woman knows if he doesn’t value you, it’s time to move on!
3. He’s been alone too long.
I call this “Bachelor Syndrome”. Men who have only been responsible for themselves can fall into a selfish rut. If they’ve never learned the art of self-sacrifice for another’s well-being, they can be very difficult partners because they’ve only had to consider themselves.
The good news is if he truly loves and honors you, he will be willing to work on it. He won’t want to lose you. There’s a song by Rascal Flatts called, “See Me Through” which explains this beautifully. If this is the case, begin having meaningful conversations around it and work together on how to come to an agreement that works for both of you.
4. He lacks enthusiasm for life or is possibly depressed.
If your partner isn’t tuned it or turned on to life, there’s not much he will be interested in including you. This isn’t personal. It’s about what is going on inside his head and heart. Again, this is only a symptom of a much greater problem. If he’s lost his verve for life, it will show up in most if not all of his relationships. Take notice how he shows up in the world.
Is his lack of focus/engagement a pattern in all or most of his relationships? Do you see him engage with focused interest with others? If yes, with who and what is the subject matter? Recognize any patterns emerging.
Active Listening (tuned in, eyes focused, paying full attention) in my opinion is one of the highest acts of love. It tells us we matter, our person truly cares about what is going on within us and we are in a safe place.
When our partner does not engage with us, it invokes opposite feelings like: I don’t matter. He/She doesn’t love or care about me. I’m better off alone or finding someone who cares.
Healthy relationships are built on a solid foundation of equal give and take by both parties involved.
We must be willing to give time and attention to our person as well as receive time and attention in return. When we make our person a priority, we have a much better chance of enjoying a long-term, happy relationship.
Peruse this list to see what might fit for you. I invite you to choose NOT what feels most comfortable or easy to digest, but what rings true in your soul. The first step to healing is to recognize what we need to heal.
You deserve to feel loved, appreciated, respected and cared about in your relationship.
If you don’t feel that way a year and half in, it’s highly unlikely you will feel it 10 years in. No one is perfect. This I know for sure. However, we can find a person who is 85% what we are looking for or someone who cares enough about us to step into his/her best self.
If you have found your answer here today and your partner is willing to work with you, I am very pleased for you! If you decide he is stuck and unwilling to do the work to heal and you decide to move on, I am also very pleased for you.
Either way, you win!
About Kristen Brown
Kristen Brown is an Relationship Healing and Self-Worth Recovery life coach, Author and Speaker. Her deep desire to help others reach their full potential blossomed in adolescence and later became her life’s work after she experienced a profound betrayal that catalyzed a major internal transformation of her self-worth.
Kristen Brown’s neutrality and non-judgment can be felt by anyone who has ever shared space with her. She has been called the “real deal” by many of her clients as she is unabashedly open about her experiences, follies, mistakes and history.
Kristen Brown was raised in Scottsdale, Arizona where she continues to reside with her three beautiful children and her amazing life mate she calls “the gift and result of my healing”.
To work with Kristen is to feel seen, heard and understood like you never have been before! She is a spiritual cheerleader! Visit www.sweetempowerment.com to know more.