When He’s Not Putting Your Relationship First

When He’s Not Putting the Relationship FirstDo you ever feel like everything else in his life comes first instead of you?

His friends. His sports teams. His gym. His phone.

It’s not like you expect his undivided attention 24-7. But it sure would be nice if once in a while you heard him say, “No, I can’t do that. I’m spending the evening with my girlfriend.”

How do you encourage him to prioritize your relationship, when there are so many other things competing for his attention?

Good question. But to understand the answer, let’s take a look at one difference between men and women.

You see, relationships occupy a different role in men’s lives than they do in women’s.

Relationships keep men grounded. A man feels secure knowing he can go out in the world to do battle since someone will be waiting for him when he returns.

But, to be successful, he can’t linger too long over thoughts of his lover. He has to muster all his focus, courage, and energy for the challenge at hand. When he fights, he fights alone. That’s because the male mind is compartmentalized.

Love is important to a man. But love won’t keep him at home.

For women, love is home. When a woman is in love, she takes thoughts of her lover with her everywhere she goes.

Love releases energy that makes all her daily activities feel less overwhelming, less effortful. It’s the energy of love she carries with her all day long.

It’s hard to see, then, why men would compartmentalize their relationships when love is such a powerful, positive, and pervasive influence in your own life. But men do compartmentalize love. And that’s very important to understand.

You might picture the different areas of a man’s life as balls he’s trying to juggle. His friends are one ball, his work another, romance another. A man arranges his life by juggling the balls.

You might be with a man who has a short attention span. Whichever ball falls into his hands is the one that gets all his attention. But then it’s time to throw that ball back into the air and catch the next one. He jumps from one focus to another, unable to prioritize.

So what can you do?

Before you do anything, you need to know if this is typical male behavior or the behavior of a man who just isn’t committed enough.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Has he behaved like this with the other things he juggles in his life? Or is it just me?
  • Does he seem to feel anguish when he realizes he’s been thoughtless? Or does his behavior reflect the low value he puts on our relationship?
  • Is he grateful to have me to come home to, or does he take me for granted?

If, in your heart, you suspect he’s not putting you first because you just aren’t that important to him, then do something about it.

You might need to make some hard decisions about whether you’re going to discuss it with him, whether you’re going to leave, or whether you’re simply going to start being less available. It’s amazing how focusing on your own life and interests can jumpstart a man’s commitment engine.

If, on the other hand, you suspect he’s simply being thoughtless, then ask one thing of him…

When he’s with you, he’s with you.

That’s okay if he doesn’t call you when he’s with his friends, or if he has to cancel a date because of work deadlines. But you want his full attention while you’re together.

That’s a reasonable expectation.

He can put away his phone, turn off the game, and enjoy quality time with you with no distractions. He’s an expert at focusing on one thing. When the love ball is in his hands, that focus should be you.

When He’s Not Putting the Relationship FirstAs the name suggests, “quality time” is a matter of quality, not quantity. You’re not telling him you need great chunks of his time. You simply want a slice of time where you’re the priority. Where you can share a sense of closeness and shut out the world.

As little as 15 minutes a day can make a huge difference.

In the meantime, you can take a tip from him. If his friends, hobbies, fitness, and so forth are so important to him, then you deserve to take time for your friends, hobbies, and fitness.

Sometimes, he won’t be the priority of the moment in your life. That’s okay. Because when you do see him, you’ll give him your full attention.

If you need more of his attention, start small. Ask for his full and undivided attention when he has carved out time to spend with you. This will work with (rather than against) his natural male tendency to focus on just one thing at a time.

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14 thoughts on “When He’s Not Putting Your Relationship First

  1. Sola said:

    I see my guy maybe once or twice a month.He is a counselor, has another part time job, plus hobbies. We talk about everyday.He seems to think that makes up for in person contact. We seem closer than a friend of mine and her boyfriend even though we do not spend a lot of time together. I have talked with him about spending more time together, and he just does not have it. He is in mid 60’s and trying to save for retirement. I have known him for 7 years and have been seeing each other for 3 yrs. Not sure if I will ever be more of a priority. Sola

  2. Sierra said:

    Interesting. Two years ago I started seeing him and now I seldom do. When he and I are together we are like we use to be.
    We talk, we laugh and act like we use to.
    He is always busy, he says. But a quick phone call would be nice . At our age 86 and 83, I know our time is short, but it would be nice to do things together like we use to. I have just decided recently, to not expect anything from him. Too bad that it has to be that way. Both of us our health for our age.

    • Tracey said:

      Hi Sierra,

      Believe it or not, what you’re going through is quite common though it’s never fun. So common in fact that James has written many articles and reports on this subject. I want to recommend two reports that may help you!

      The first one is about how to pull your man back after he’s grown distant and it’s titled: When He Withdraws.

      The second one is He Loves Me But He Is Too Busy and is about how to get more quality time with your partner. And isn’t that what we really cherish about relationships?

      I wish you the best Sierra and hope he realizes what a catch he has in you!

      Tracey T.

  3. Judy said:

    It’s funny ( not haha funny) how certain topics just seem to fit the day. I’ve been feeling a bit low on the priority list and then this email pops up!! Thanks for the great insight in how men think so differently than women. Always a good reminder that my guy doesn’t see things the same way I do. Perspective is good!!

    Thank you James

    • James Bauer said:

      Hey Judy. I’m glad this message hit your inbox at a moment when you could make use of it. I appreciate your feedback too.


  4. Cathy said:

    Thank you James! How do you talk about this without sounding needy though? We are both divorced, each have 2 teenagers and full time jobs. We each have 1 child that plays a competitive sport that involves travel. He’s had a new, demanding job for the last year, we’ve been together 2 1/2. There always seems to be something, either of his or of mine that interferes. He seems less concerned about spending time together than he used to. It’s disheartening. I just don’t even know how to approach the subject.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Cathy. That’s a real concern and I’m glad you brought it up. The fact is, we do have needs in relationships. And it’s not healthy to pretend that we don’t.

      The real question is, how can you present your needs to him in a way that activates his hero instinct? How can you frame your desires in such a way that it feels exciting to him to meet those needs? That’s essentially what my His Secret Obsession courses all about. Now it’s up to you to creatively apply those principles to your unique relationship situation.


  5. Sharon Maloney said:

    James, I have been reading your helpful articles and it does help. Can you start including some help for those of us in an LDR??
    Thanks, SM

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Sharon. Have you already checked out the mini-report I did on long-distance relationships? If you are an irresistible insiders member you can access it for free here. Otherwise you can try our membership program with a free trial and download that report. I hope you find it helpful!


  6. Jeanette said:

    I feel like I’m non existent to my husband, he works very hard during the day and then comes home to run the farm. When I ask if we can do something together there us no time for it but if his friends ring and want to go out “yeah no worries I will be there soon”. It hurts. My question is.. What can I do to fix this problem and other problems?? Thanks

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Jeanette. What do you think he gets out of the time with his friends? Is it a sense of freedom? Or maybe a kind of “play” he associates with them but assumes you would have no interest in? Is it a sense of obligation to his friends? What is it that makes him choose that. Start with that question. Then see if you can use that inside information to restructure your request to spend time together. Pose your invitation in a way that taps into what he seems to be getting from those other “escapes” from the daily grind of work.


  7. Elly said:

    This is very powerful and so relevant! And VERY helpful. Now I know that focusing on one thing at a time is just his natural tendency, not something to be worried about. And I do get his full attention when we are together.

  8. Julia said:

    Brilliant as always, James! Thank you for for educating us women – we need it! 🙂 I always take the time to read your newsletters, and, even though I’ve read a ton and done a whole lot of inner work, I STILL find value in your reminders. I appreciate that!

    • James Bauer said:

      Thanks, Julia. You always leave such kind comments. They inspire me to keep working hard.


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