Once “Perfect” Boyfriend Now an Unmotivated Slug

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Reader’s Question

My boyfriend and I have been together for nearly two years. For the first 6-8 months everything was just perfect. He had a job and seemed very motivated in school, and we were happy together. He seemed so mature in comparison to the men I’ve known in previous relationships.

In the four months since we moved in together, things have gone downhill. He lost his job and has been unemployed for over a year. Although he is eligible to be re-hired, he has put off doing anything about it for months and now shows no signs of looking for a new job. He has also become lazy and unmotivated in school. Often I feel like his mother. I must get him up in the mornings (usually we end up late to school because of how long this takes) and force him to do his homework (normally, he gets so upset about doing it that it never gets done). He he has now been dropped from two classes in school and is not doing well in the others. We argue all the time it seems, and I am in so much stress over his constant procrastination. I don’t know if I should stick it out and see if he comes around to acting like a mature, responsible adult. He is five years older than I — I am 20 and he is 25 — but I honestly feel like I am babysitting him half the time.

I love this man to pieces, but this whole ordeal is becoming too much to handle. What could be the cause of all of this? He tells me he recognizes that he has a procrastination problem, but even though I’ve told him how negatively it has been affecting me and our relationship, nothing ever changes.

I am still young, and I value success and hard work. I don’t want my life to be permanently affected by his habits if we choose to stay together.

Psychologist’s Reply

Your boyfriend could be struggling with some depression or other condition impairing his normal motivation and causing him to act out of character. The other possibility is, of course, that during your initial romance not all aspects of his true character (or his true level of maturity) were yet evident. Regardless of the causes of the situation, the reality is that you will only “enable” a fair degree of dysfunction if you assume the roles of mother, nursemaid, and motivator.

Encourage your boyfriend to seek the help and counsel that he needs to get his life back on track. If in fact he is depressed, there are many effective therapies available to him. Support him for making the efforts it would no doubt take to address the issues of concern. And take care of yourself by setting reasonable limits and expectations as well as avoiding the pitfalls of enabling.

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