Ask Wendy

I’m Not Getting What I Need from My Boyfriend During the Pandemic

Friday, May 1, 2020
Hey Wendy,

My boyfriend and I don’t live together, so it feels like we’re in a long-distance relationship during this lockdown. And I don’t know how to handle it because I am way more romantic than he is and I can’t seem to get him to do boyfriend things or say the right things to make this okay.

We are very different people, yet have the same goals. So the relationship is good, but I am a hopeless romantic and he is not. He's the kind of guy who's quiet and loves me but doesn't express it as loudly as I do. I told him this and he said he did try but it wasn’t enough for me.

My friend said I should not compromise. But the thought of losing him hurts me. He is a very nice guy and I cannot base the whole relationship on this. The thought of breaking up never came to me until he told me I needed to not have unrealistic expectations. I am confused and hurt.

Andrea A.

Hey Andrea,

This whole staying away from your boyfriend thing is really hard! I feel you, and you are not alone. The pandemic has forced all of us to reevaluate how we stay connected to each other, and it’s a lot harder for some than for others depending on the situation.

So, I agree with your friend: You shouldn’t compromise on getting baseline needs met in your relationship, but I’m not sure you’ve specifically told him what those needs are. Saying you’re a hopeless romantic doesn’t communicate your hopes and desires. Flowers every Friday, a hand-written poem expressing his undying love for you, a song—he doesn’t know if these are the specifics that might make you happy. He doesn’t know what actions are required to keep the “hopeless romantic” in you satisfied.

Instead of comparing your quiet guy who loves you with an idealized version of the guy of your romantic dreams, ask yourself, “Would I rather be alone than be with him?” If the answer is yes, then yeah, break up, don’t settle. If you’re feeling like choosing him is the right answer, though, then you’re not settling if you can express your baseline (read: specific!) needs and he’s willing and/or happy to provide them.

It sounds simple but asking for what we need can be hard. Sometimes it feels like we can’t ask because we think our person won’t or can’t give these things to us. Or we don’t want to be high-maintenance. Or we feel like we can’t put it into specifics. I’ve heard women say things like:

“He doesn’t love me enough.”

“He doesn’t pay enough attention to me.”

“He doesn’t care enough.”

And when I ask, “What would ‘enough’ look like to you?” the response is often a look of confusion.

If you can’t give me a specific, measurable answer to what your “enough” is, your guy essentially has no way to win with you. In other words, if you don’t know, how on earth could he?

So, hopeless romantic girl, think it through. What—specifically—do you want from him? Like, exactly. What’s your “enough”? Is it words? Gestures? Gifts? A song? Zoom calls? How often?

You could start the conversation with something like, “Can I ask you for something I need during lockdown?”

Wait for his “sure” response.

Then say, “To help me be okay right now, would you be willing to ____?” Fill in that blank with what you specifically need: Call me every day. Text me every day. Tell me you love me when we hang up the phone. Start with a couple of things you think he can make good on and go from there.

I understand the confusion and hurt feelings. While this is an emotional time for you, you should know that he is not trying to hurt you on purpose. No one is at their best right now—we’re just trying our best. And this situation will get better.

Good luck!

Do you have a dating, sex or relationship question for Wendy? Send it to Wendy@WendySpeaks.com.