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le_inferno's avatar

Why does my boyfriend react this way when I try to have a semi-meaningful discussion?

Asked by le_inferno (6174points) June 14th, 2010

My boyfriend is a very intelligent guy. I know he is, but he often fails to show it because he doesn’t express himself very well. I’ve known him for about 4 months, and I don’t feel much of a connection yet. I feel like we haven’t gotten much of anywhere and I don’t know him as well as I should. As I reflect on our relationship, I realize most of our interaction is shallow day-to-day kind of stuff. When we hang out, it’s always pretty superficial. We don’t really ever have meaningful conversations. A couple of times, I voiced some concerns I had about my relationships with my friends, and he simply said, “I got no advice for you dear, I don’t really know what to tell ya.” or “I don’t really know what to say…”. It was extraordinarily unhelpful. I don’t see what’s so difficult about offering me insight and having a conversation. I really don’t know how to get through to him! Is he just being a typical guy and I’m just being whiny, or is there a cause for concern here? Should it be this difficult to establish a connection?

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24 Answers

Coloma's avatar


He doesn;t sound very emotionally in touch, or enlightenend.

If you’re a bright star you will not ever be happy with a dim bulb, sorry to say…but…if he is this shut down now, it won’t get any better.

Decide the type pf person you want and don’t settle for less.

There are plenty of sensitive, articulate and bright men that have an EQ slightly higher than the average dog. lol

jazmina88's avatar

I think he may be typical….....psychology and sociology may not be his strong points.
find some common interests. Is he a good person? That is so important.

list your pros and cons…..and see how he comes out.

le_inferno's avatar

@jazmina88 That’s the thing, he’s great on paper, but I don’t feel like there’s a bond or a strong understanding between us. It puts me in a difficult position because I feel that he’s intellectual, but doesn’t show me that side. Moreover, how would I initiate a discussion that makes us closer? It feels like something that should just happen on its own. Instead I feel like I have to wait for something that might not even be there, like I have to engineer some kind of design just to get to know him. Not all guys are open books, so maybe that’s just what I have to work with.

Merriment's avatar

All I can say is that at the 4 month mark in my relationship with my now husband we were still having marathon talks lasting until dawn. Was he really that interested or just humoring me? I don’t know but I do know that if I had been feeling shut down at that point in the relationship I wouldn’t have married him.

If you are feeling like you have to engineer things in order to get him to be the way you need then it’s a pretty good sign that he, in his natural state, isn’t the guy for you.

Great on paper isn’t all that great unless you are playing paper dolls.

Zaku's avatar

I would (continue to) try assuming he would be open to various types of interesting conversations, and casually start having them with him, and see what comes of it. It will either develop how you two communicate, or get you to see it isn’t going to work. At which point, you might try having interesting conversations with other interesting people, maybe starting with when he is around.

In my own case, I’m a very intelligent guy, but I would tend to get shut down when people I cared about acted unsure of their acceptance for me or what I was saying. If you act fascinated in him and ask him bunches of questions that explore something he’s smart or knowledgeable about (even just himself), what happens?

le_inferno's avatar

@Zaku I plan on trying a little harder to get to know him. I’ve opened up to him a lot…discussed previous relationships with him, for example, but he didn’t willingly reciprocate. He’s always interested in what I share, but doesn’t give back or expand the discussion. I asked him some questions and he responded, but he doesn’t go in depth. He always seems to be in his own little world, not very reflective or introspective. We were talking about our romantic history (mostly I was asking about his); he answered everything willingly, but didn’t ask me anything. He simply said, “Never really was concerned about it, it’s in the past.” I thought that was an odd response. My past is pretty relevant to me, it helped create who I am. I don’t know, things like that just irk me.

Zaku's avatar

Well that is quite interesting. What is he interested in and/or passionate about? What does he really care about? What makes life compelling for him? You say you know he is very intelligent, so there must be something. It can actually be quite interesting to discover that someone thinks very differently from you, and has different interests, especially if you can both avoid making each other wrong and learn from each other’s different ways of thinking. It can be quite challenging though.

judymcb's avatar

I don’t know the whole story, but I can tell you that the minute you say “feel”, in 90% of the men I know, they clam up. Verbage is really important. Try “what do you THINK” or, what would you do? Men are fixers, they need, want, have to fix. Which is wonderful and has it’s place. Maybe he’s just not the right guy for you? You don’t sound over the moon about him, and you deserve to FEEL that way :)

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Ya know what’s funny is that if you regularly discussed your inner feelings with someone else, like a good friend, he would probably wonder why you never discussed those feelings with him.

Guys are screwed up. But women are crazy, so it all evens out.

vamtire's avatar

Sometimes you gotta use methods,I once heard a story that a husband feels useless that he cant help his wife as his wife is extremely capable and does not “need” him, but a pastor suggested him a method,it is to buy his wife a dress that you have to zip from the back and so whenever he wife wants to wear the dress,the wife needs the husband to help her zip!
But of course not too far off like a girl making her boyfriend believe she got into a car accident just to “test” him and immediately after the boy knew about it,they broke up.

Another thing is that it is only 4 months and I knew a recently married couple who walked together for 8 years.Sometimes it is better to know that both of you dont understand each other deeply and take your time to build a better relationship than believing that you know each other well and quickly marrying.
I know of a hong kong celebrity couple who just divorced,at first they can get well together,both side’s parents agreed with the marriage and everything seemed good but as they live together for a long time,they start to understand each other deeply and felt that they should not be together.
I think relationships that last 8 years and you still want to get married ,you guys can live the rest of your life together.

ipso's avatar

@le_inferno wrote: “discussed previous relationships” – Noooooooo. That is the one single topic that can put an image in a guy’s mind that will not go away. Men and women react entirely differently of this subject. Think “damaged goods”. Think of a dented can of soup with botchulism festering inside.

A woman should never discuss a past relationship with any many under 36yo. Hormones preclude it. If he is amenable to it, he might be prematurely mature or something (read: limp). If he asks, if he insists – lie with a knowing smile.

And @judymcb‘s answer ^ is defiantly GA – one of the best answers I’ve seen yet.

downtide's avatar

Men in general (not all men, but most) are very reluctant to reveal or talk about their feelings. 99.99% of male conversation really is just the mundane shallow day-to-day stuff. Perhaps the topics you’re trying to raise are making him feel uncomfortable.

Silhouette's avatar

What’s your hurry? You should still be sorting through the simple stuff. What’s your favorite sandwich? How do you like your eggs? What kind of music do you like? How do you feel about spandex? Sllllloooooowwwww down. Women have a tendency to push for more emotions and this just makes some men withdraw into their protective shells.

If you think he is worth the time, give him more time.

P.S. Introduce him to emotions slowly, too many at once and he’ll panic.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Sounds exhausting.
Try poking him with a stick until he opens up.;)

le_inferno's avatar

@Zaku He’s very into video games, which—I’m sorry—for the life of me, I cannot join in his enthusiasm. He’s constantly trying to get me to play video games, and I gave a couple of them a shot, but it’s just not my thing. Often, when we’re video chatting, he’ll be sitting there playing a game. He’s a comp sci major so he digs technology and the like. We share a taste in TV shows, we both like the Internet (he regularly reads web comics and such), and he’s very into music. Mostly classic rock. We exchange/discuss music from time to time. We both read; he’s recommended me a few books. But again, I feel like these things are pretty trivial.

@Silhouette I agree to an extent, but still, isn’t 4 months a pretty long time? I don’t know, I feel that my past relationships progressed with much more rapidity and intensity than this one. Plus, the hurry is that he’s going to New Zealand on July 5th until mid-November, so I’d like to feel certain in my commitment to him while he’s gone for 4.5 months.

@downtide That’s the thing—I feel like he kind of treats me like one of the guys (besides the kissing, and stuff). He’s not very affectionate in the way he talks to me, he doesn’t take an interest in sensitive topics…. he acts with me pretty much how he acts with his friends. He has no close female friends, so maybe that’s part of it. It’s not like I’m constantly trying to be sensitive and deep and emotional with him.

@ipso When you’re 19–20 years old, isn’t it pretty likely you’re going to be “used goods”? I guess he just doesn’t wanna know, which is understandable. But I didn’t go into sexual detail or anything, just explained how my past relationships affected my life… which I think is pretty important.

downtide's avatar

It seems to be fairly normal for most men to be as you describe. I think the affectionate, sensitive ones are a rarity.

Silhouette's avatar

@le_inferno I’m not the right girl to ask that question. I met and married my man within 5 months of our first date. I have spent the next 31 almost 32 years getting to know him emotionally. I am not qualified to say anything other than I suggest you slow down and don’t try to force him to make an emotional connection he isn’t ready to make deadline or no deadline.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille “Try poking him with a stick until he opens up.;)”

Like a pinata?

Stare all you like but the goodstuffsinside!

Merriment's avatar

Plus, the hurry is that he’s going to New Zealand on July 5th until mid-November, so I’d like to feel certain in my commitment to him while he’s gone for 4.5 months.

Maybe he is holding back because of this same time line. Maybe he doesn’t want to be in a “committed” relationship when he knows he is going to be gone for 4.5 months. Maybe this is the next topic of conversation you should bring up with him.

le_inferno's avatar

@Merriment We have had that conversation. He wants to stay with me through it. I know that he really likes me, he just doesn’t express it well.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Having dated two men who could not carry a deeper conversation to save themselves….with me being an ENFJ…..head for the hills. He may be the _nicest, kindest, sweetest_guy…but if you cannot exchange information about deeper issues….you will be bored out of your mind and frustrated to boot.

Someone above talked about having marathon conversations with her husband….that is what it is about. Not all the time, but being with someone who really “has your back” interested in what makes you tick and asks the important questions to find out.

It doesn’t have to do with him necessarily being an extrovert….it has to do with emotional depth and maturity. I have one friend who is rather quiet and yet has very profound things to share and observations on life that are amazing. He observes people and enjoys talking about his inner life and what he has gleaned from his observations. I learn a lot from him. I like being with emotionally available people.

You sound like you do, too. Don’t sell yourself short. It’s not worth it, no matter how great a guy (or not great) he is.

le_inferno's avatar

@DarlingRhadamanthus Admittedly, I am bored and frustrated. But also hopeful and unwilling to be hasty.

Zaku's avatar

@le_inferno So it sounds fairly typical, as others are saying, though if you want to be able to relate to him in ways he doesn’t relate to, so to speak, he may just not be organized for the kind of communication you want, which as the guys talking about “90% of guys…” and “limp” comments say, isn’t so common and might or might not be workable to get to with such a person. You can keep trying, though. You can try to share with him the things that you care about and find interesting, and see if you can get him interested in any of those. A big part of the obstacle might be your own apprehension about how he is, which might be partly raising his shell. Many men have a reflexive unconscious shell up most of the time, having been trained it’s unsafe to share feelings or open up to people, or just numbing such channels out. (e.g. see the “limp” comment above)

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@le_inferno What does he do that tells you he cares for you deeply and values you and cares about your feelings?

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