Advice: My Distant Boyfriend

Hara Estroff Marano
HARA ESTROFF MARANO askhara@psychologytoday.com
My boyfriend and I have been dating for two years, one year long distance. He used to send sweet texts and make grand gestures. But over the past five months, these actions have almost disappeared. When we do see each other (sometimes twice a month for a long weekend) things are great. We have great communication that enables me to express my concern for our relationship. He says he still loves me, but his inability to express it confuses me. I fear I have taken on his portion of emotional expression. I write him letters and send little gifts in hopes that it will motivate him to do the same. Are my efforts aiding his apathy? Has long distance taken its toll? And is there anything else I can do to bring back the romantic side of him?

Who wouldn't want to keep up a correspondence that regularly brings gifts for doing very little? His lack of communication is likely spurred by a) your overcommunication and b) his involvement in his new environment. Whether his involvements are professional, romantic, or personal, you don't know for sure. As a great communicator, you should be doing more than dumping on him your concerns about the relationship. Better to enjoy conversations in which you ask what his life is like and what captures his interests. To sustain any relationship, and especially a long-distance one, there has to be a mutual sharing of mundane information so partners can connect about everyday events of their lives. You're right to expect demonstrations of caring, although they don't have to be in the form of gifts, which, if they can't be reciprocated, might actually be guilt-inducing—and guilt makes people do strange things. What makes you think that going overboard on communicating will move him to respond in kind? That may be how you function, but you can't project your responses onto others. It sounds paradoxical, but doing too much of the work in a relationship can destroy a partner's motivation to do any. You need accurate knowledge about whether he is still romantically inclined without hitting him over the head with a question. If there is a romantic side to be brought back, then ease up on the one-sided communication. No more gifts. Send only the most perfunctory messages, and then far less frequently. If he is still interested, he will likely notice the drop-off in communication, wonder whether you've lost interest, and take measures to get it back.

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