Your boyfriend spends most of the time playing on his PlayStation and drinking cheap beer. He has, like, a dozen pizza boxes sitting around and you’re honestly not sure who paid for it all because he’s always broke. If this sounds like your guy, he needs to grow up—here’s how to help him get there.
Gather your thoughts. It might help if you gather your thoughts on paper before talking to him. Think about what it is that really bothers you and why. Are you annoyed because his apartment is always dirty and you guys always chill at your place? Are you hoping he’ll get a better paying job because you see yourself buying a house with him in the near future? Make sure you clarify your own desires before you talk to him about what you want from him.
Let him know what it is you don’t like. Instead of storming over to his apartment, conking him on the head with an empty beer bottle you found on the floor and screaming “Grow up!” at him, plan a time to sit down and really talk. Find a time when you’re both relaxed and won’t have any interruptions for a while. Sit at the kitchen table and make sure you convey that this is a serious and important talk. Don’t whine, nag, or be hysterical. No name calling, yelling, swearing, or blaming. Just keep your voice in a calm, even tone. Use “I feel” statements. Let him know why his behaviors bother you.
Communicate what you want from him clearly. It’s not enough just to tell him what you don’t like. He won’t know what to do instead unless you tell him. Here’s an example. “Jeff, I really hate it when you leave pizza boxes all around your apartment.” In a dude’s eyes, he’s going to think, OK, cool, I’ll just stack them up by the door. Is it his fault that he didn’t take them out to the dumpster? Not really. That’s on you—you didn’t communicate your needs clearly. Make sure you add in the extra step of saying, “I’d really appreciate it if you took the pizza boxes down to the dumpster every time you have your friends over.” It may sound stupid to you, but trust me, he’ll catch on a lot faster if you spell it out from him. And I know what you’re thinking: shouldn’t he know to take the pizza boxes to the dumpster? In an ideal world, yes, but I’m sure you do things that annoy him too. Cut him some slack and see if he steps up to the plate.
When it starts working, give him positive reinforcement. When he starts taking steps towards accomplishing the things you’ve asked of him, don’t criticize how he’s doing it. Instead, heap on lots of praise and let him know how happy you are that he took your conversation seriously and he’s doing the things you asked. It’s just like training a dog! Positive reinforcement is the way to go.
Pick your battles. If he’s doing everything you asked but he forgot to put the toilet seat down, take a deep breath and remember to pick your battles. You’re not asking him to be perfect, you’re just asking for him to commit to a few things that will help your relationship and your future. No one’s perfect, including you.
Set your own boundaries. Decide what you can and can’t live with. Maybe you can live with the pizza boxes at his place, but you can’t live with him if he leaves them around. Or maybe you can live with him if he’s messy but you can’t live with him if he refuses to get a better job. Think long and hard about what you want and then stick to it.
Decide on the consequences of your boundaries and stick to them. If you don’t want to be with a guy who refuses to grow up, don’t. Leave him instead of waiting around and expecting him to change because he won’t. If you can’t live with a slob, don’t move in with him and expect him to suddenly be clean. You’ll be disappointed and you’ll both be miserable. Do yourself a favor and find a guy whose lifestyle is more compatible with yours.