My Boyfriend Is Pretty Self-Absorbed

Question by Reene:

I think my boyfriend is pretty self-absorbed. He is affectionate and loving, but I feel like he doesn’t really see me sometimes. He is very wrapped up in his own world and when I try to talk to him about something that is bothering me it is never the right time; he is too tired, he is trying to watch a programme on TV, he has a headache, ect. I have to be the one to control my emotions and make things right while he can feel however he wants to feel because I am the one that made him feel that way… I love him. I want the relationship to work. I feel I have changed a lot about my self to accommodate him and make things work…. why isn’t he willing to do the same?
Am I the problem? Or is he just too into himself to out anything into our relationship?
Thank you,

Dear Reene,

My instant thoughts on reading your post are that your boyfriend doesn’t really sound self-absorbed to me. He sounds to me like some-one who knows when he is able to give something to others and when he isn’t and then acts accordingly.

Being able to retreat is an extremely important aspect for certain individual’s emotional well-being. Maybe that is what is going on here and nothing more. Giving of yourself only has true value when it is done with energy, vitality and when you are in a place of strength yourself.

You say he is affectionate and loving so there must be many occasions when he does give you what you need…….just not always when you feel you need it. And this probably sounds harsh but isn’t it a little self-absorbed to think he should be at your emotional beck and call no matter how he feels and drop whatever he is doing whenever you decide?

Has he always been this way? Was he like this when you met him? If the answer is yes then why are you trying to change a personality that you fell in love with? The chances are the more you push the more he will retreat. You say that you feel you have changed a lot to accommodate his needs but is that because you wanted to or because he asked you to? If it is the former then yes, he has some obligation to return the support but otherwise he is not responsible for the choices you have made and maybe doesn’t even want them.

It must be frustrating for you if you don’t feel he is there for you when you need him but relationships are not perfect. The reason we surround ourselves with friends and family is because each gives us something different……each helps us fulfill our needs in a variety of ways so that the whole is addressed by several people. It is very rare that a wife/husband/partner gives us everything we need in one package. Nor am I sure that this scenario would be very healthy even if it did occur.

The healthiest relationships are where each half is a complete being within themselves and doesn’t look to the other to give them things they are missing. If you rely on others to dictate your emotions or well-being then there is always the possibility they will let you down. You can’t actually ‘make’ some-one feel anything.

You will often hear people say ‘he/she made me feel bad’ but actually this is never true. What has actually happened is that a person chooses to react in a certain way in response to what some-one else has done. To say some-one ‘makes’ you feel something belongs to the I-am-a-victim school. A non-victim says ‘when you say/do such and such I feel………’. It is taking responsibility for your own emotions and therefore way more empowering.

Of course this over simplifies things – idealizing it – and of course if some-one is being mean it can be very difficult not to be hurt but I am sure you get what I am driving at overall. It is about your own attitude so much of the time.

One of the reasons women have girlfriends is because women are very good at doing the ‘there, there, there’ thing and lending a sympathetic ear to a friend who has had a bad day/ is feeling low etc etc. Of course there are men who can do these things too but men tend to try and fix things rather than just support and perhaps your boyfriend feels he has neither the energy or the ability to ‘fix’ things for you. You should have a read of a book called ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ which explains these fundamental differences between men and women very well and really might help you here.

Of course there is every possibility that he really is avoiding emotional interaction with you by making excuses. Maybe he is a little bit freaked out by you coming across as needy…….maybe he doesn’t feel equipped to help you…….or something else entirely. Perhaps, when he is in the mood to talk you can discuss this with him. Explain to him how you feel about this and try and work out a plan for dealing with it together.

Apologies if I have sounded a bit blunt here at times. Your relationship sounds to me like a decent one, apart from this issue and like it is worth pursuing so the best of luck in making it work.