I have told my boyfriend that I feel unloved. His response at first was I don’t know why you feel that way, but after I let him know that he doesn’t show me much affection he agreed and said it’s just the way he is and said he would try to be more affectionate.
We’ve had this discussion multiple times and after each conversation there is not any difference. After reading your chapter on attachment I understand that I’m more concerned about our relationship and he probably has a cool style of attachment. He’s detached and seems to put in less and less effort.
I truly want our relationship to continue and I believe he feels the same way. How can I change this unhealthy attachment to him and develop a healthy attachment? How can I ask him for more affection when romantic gestures do not feel natural to him? And how do I trust he’ll be more affectionate towards me?
Attachment issues can cause the types of problems you describe. In many cases, one person wants more intimacy and affection while the other party is more comfortable with less intimacy. Such patterns, if not dealt with, can lead to a lot of frustration and mistrust in a relationship — a situation where no one’s needs are being met and everyone feels miserable.
To begin with, it’s important for you and your boyfriend to continue to talk about your differences. Both you and your boyfriend need to be able to express what your feeling with each other. Ideally, he should understand that you want more affection and you should try to understand why it’s difficult for him to express affection toward you in a way that makes you feel loved.
If you can both express what you’re feeling and understand where the other person is coming from, it helps. Problems in a relationship are best solved when couples listen to each other and understand what the other person is experiencing.
If you and your boyfriend can talk about the problem in a way where neither one of you feels right or wrong, but both of you feel understood, it can lead to more productive conversations where realistic solutions are proposed, rather than him promising to change his behavior, but then failing to do so.
Each relationship is unique and it’s important for couples to identify concrete actions they are going to take to resolve the problem. Perhaps your boyfriend will come up with three concrete things he’s going to do during the week to show you more affection. And perhaps you will come up with three things you’re going to do when you don’t feel that your boyfriend is giving you the affection you desire (journal about your feelings, meditate, and reflect on the ways that your boyfriend does take care of you).
Essentially, it’s important for couples to understand each other and develop concrete actions that both sides are going to take to resolve mistrust due to attachment issues. These conversations aren’t a onetime event and the problem is readily solved. Rather working through attachment issues requires couples to engage in ongoing conversations where they create mutual understanding and show each other respect and consistently work together to address the problem.
We also provide more advice and strategies for talking about attachment problems in Broken Trust.