It’s a commonly accepted belief that as a romantic relationship takes root, one or both partners gets a little too comfy and switches on to the ‘auto-pilot’. Since, it’s mostly us ladies that notice that gone are the days of candle-dinners, frequent “I love yous”, and quality conversations. So I’m going to gear this post to the lazy boyfriend issue and attempt to propose some possible solutions.
“I don’t want having a girlfriend to feel like a second job!”
This was the statement made by my ex-ex-ex man. Seems logical enough. We hope that a romance is something that will be fun, rewarding, comforting, fulfilling – a refuge from our daily life’s demands and expectations.
Upon a closer inspection, this begins to look more and more like an infantile illusion. What’s wrong with a little effort?
Here’s What’s Wrong
Let’s take your boyfriend as a test-specimen. If he has a job – he puts in the effort in expectations of increasing the rewards (recognition, pay raise, promotion), or if he’s not that ambitious – not to get sacked.
Your boyfriend has interests and hobbies. He practices his hoops to hone his skills on the court. He may play his guitar for hours. He has a memory of an elephant when it comes to the baseball stats, dating to 1920. He allocates time and effort to his non-monetary pursuits in anticipation of increasing rewards (impressing people with his talents = recognition).
But, when it comes to attending to you and the relationship – he seems to slack off. Why? The rewards of a relationships are perceived as ‘fixed’ – if he’s already enjoying your support, affections and sex on steady basis, why allocate greater resources? In fact, he may hope to the rewards to continue flowing freely with no further investment what’s so ever – like a well once dug, will deliver the water.
While to us, ladies, a stable relationship represents… well, stability, which is rewarding in itself. To your man – it’s a pass to relax.
These have the opposite effect on your man. If he slacks of at his job – he’s boss notices and gives him a negative performance evaluation. His morale sours and he starts contemplating a job hop. He tries a new hobby and he stinks at it. The discouragement will likely make him abandon it.
In the context of a relationship – he wants cling to the illusion that he’s awesome just by ‘showing up’ [once in a while], and the negative feedback – what commonly referred to as ‘nagging’, will gradually have the same effect on him: “this is no longer fun”, “costs outweigh the benefits”. His morale sours and discouragement sets in, causing him to show up less and less.
The Proposed Solution
Have you noticed a rewards pattern in the scenarios above? One main reward is ‘recognition’, which floods the brain with fuzzy-feel-good chemicals. Here’s the key: ‘recognition’ = ‘attention’.
To ‘un-fix’ the relationship rewards and make them elastic, all you have to do is direct your attention in the right direction.
If he’s visiting family out of town and said he’d be back on Wednesday. Come Wednesday – he’s a no show, no call, no text. Instead of tracking him down (if only to find out his bus didn’t crash on the interstate), which will inevitably result in “Why didn’t you call me?!!!” [negative attention] – you pay no attention. He’ll surface eventually. When he does – you suddenly have developed ADD.
If he replies with one-word texts (or doesn’t reply) – pay no attention. He’ll contact you eventually. Remember you now have ADD and forgot you even messaged him in the first place. Your future texting habits may also be impacted by your ‘ADD’.
If makes ‘phantom date-plans’, such as proposing an activity without time and date stamp, and does not follow through – tell him, if he wants to ‘hang out’ to let you know when his availability forecast is 100%, with no chance of flaking off for any reasons, even ‘due to the act of God’ [to use the Insurance industry lingo… yes, apparently the distraction of property ‘due to the act of God’ is in the fine print and is not covered].
I guess, I’ll try this for myself and see how this goes… I vowed to myself not to be the ‘nag’, as it seems to be virtually impossible to hold other people accountable. So, I’ll give the deficit of attention a try.