How to Keep a Boyfriend

Seven Parts:Communicating Openly and EffectivelyMaintaining Physical IntimacyMaintaining Emotional IntimacyMaintaining Healthy BoundariesDealing with ConflictRespecting Him as an IndividualRespecting Yourself as an Individual

You have a boyfriend, you like him, and he seems worth keeping around. So now what? Relationships are as different and diverse as the individuals in them, but there are some things you can do to help a relationship flourish. Chief among them: don’t panic and learn to be genuine and caring partner by developing open communication, physical and emotional intimacy, and good boundaries.

Part 1
Communicating Openly and Effectively

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    Ask for what you need. This applies to everything from emotional to physical needs. Don’t assume your boyfriend knows what you want or what you need—it’s an unrealistic and unproductive expectation that will lead to unfounded disappointments and resentment.
    • Expecting your partner to know instinctively what you want is one of the most common and preventable sources of tension in a relationship. If you want your boyfriend to be involved, you first have to communicate your feelings and needs to him honestly.[1]
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    Don’t assume you know what he’s thinking. Instead, just ask. Just as you wouldn’t want to have to read his mind, don’t wait for him to read yours (because he probably can’t).
    • When asking your boyfriend about his thoughts or feelings, try to be as respectful and patient as possible. Don’t be confrontational or accusatory, as it will only make your partner more likely to clam up.
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    Be genuinely interested in him and allow him to be equally as interested in you. Get in the habit of having intimate conversations where you open up to each other and have room to be a little bit vulnerable.
    • Open up about your goals and dreams.
    • Talk about your past, both good and bad.
    • Share things that have meaning for you—maybe a song, a book, a souvenir, etc.
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    Use a specific, concrete communication style, both in your everyday exchanges and in more serious conversations.
    • For example, rather than asking, “how was your day?” ask a more specific question that’s likely to elicit a more engaged response, like “what was the best part of your day?” or “what made you smile?”
    • This is particularly important when discussing your needs. Don’t be vague, be specific. Rather than say, “I wish you listened to me more,” say, “I’d really like for you to ask me about my day.” The more specific you are, the more likely you are to get positive results.
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    Check in with each other about your relationship regularly. Make it a regular practice to sit down with each other and talk about things that are and aren’t working.
    • Establish ahead of time that this will be an open but also a respectful and caring conversation. If something isn’t working for one of you, agree not to accuse or blame the other person but to instead explain your feelings and offer gentle suggestions for change or compromise.

Part 2
Maintaining Physical Intimacy

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    Maintain physical intimacy. Physical touch—kissing, cuddling, holding hands, embracing, and having sex (if it’s sexual relationship)—is important to the intimacy of a relationship.
    • It’s quite common to begin to lose physical intimacy after the initial infatuation phase wears off, which makes it that much more important to pay careful attention it, particularly after you’ve been dating for a while.[2]
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    Discuss what physical intimacy means and looks like for both of you. Quite often, partners will have different ways of expressing physical intimacy, and it’s important that you’re both aware of and attentive to what the other needs.
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    Teach each other how you like to be touched and make it a regular part of your interaction. Knowing what your boyfriend likes—and vice versa—will help both of you feel intimately connected.
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    Never feel compelled to have sex or be physically intimate if you aren’t willing or are uncomfortable in the situation. Agree to communicate openly and honestly with each other about physical intimacy and to respect the other’s wishes if the other person says no.
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    Don’t necessarily place the responsibility for initiating physical contact on one partner (unless that’s the dynamic you both prefer). Be mutually engaged in the physical aspect of the relationship.

Part 3
Maintaining Emotional Intimacy

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    Get to know his friends. Know, though, that you aren’t obligated to like all of them. Find friends of his that you can get along with and spend some time hanging out as part of his friend circle—and ask him to reciprocate as well.
    • If you dislike some of his friends, don’t ask him to give up those friendships unless you have strong reason to be concerned (destructive or abusive behavior, etc.). If you dislike ‘’’ all ‘’’ of his friends, you’ll need to sit down and have an honest conversation about how to compromise.
    • Also talk about allowing each other to hang out with your own friends separately. Maintaining strong friendships while in a relationship is both important and healthy for both of you.
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    Be emotionally generous—with him and yourself.
    • Do your best to make your actions show that you love and value your boyfriend and want the relationship to work. Ask for the same if you feel you aren’t receiving it.
    • Don’t play games and don’t be emotionally manipulative. Be honest and straightforward with your feelings. Ask that he do the same.
    • Forgive him and yourself for honest mistakes.
    • Give him the benefit of the doubt. When an issue comes up, don’t go automatically with your worst suspicions. If, for example, your boyfriend shows up late, don’t immediately assume he’s cheating or doesn’t respect you or wants to hurt you. Instead, ask him honestly why he was late, and, if you have no other reason to be distrustful, accept his reasons. Of course, if he has a pattern of poor behavior and you have legitimate reasons for doubt, don’t dismiss them and do talk to him about it.
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    Don’t cheat or try to make your boyfriend jealous. It should go without saying, but never cheat on or try to emotionally manipulate your partner.
    • If you find yourself so attracted to another person that you absolutely need to be with them, discuss alternate relationship possibilities with your boyfriend or end your relationship with him first.
    • If you find your attention just generally wandering or find yourself wanting to make him jealous, have an honest heart-to-heart with yourself and then with him about what you aren’t getting from the relationship.

Part 4
Maintaining Healthy Boundaries

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    Maintain good boundaries. Recognize and respect that you are—and should remain—two unique individuals. Don’t try to take up space in every aspect of his life, and don’t allow him to take up all the space in yours. Respect and admire each other’s independence.
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    Allow each other to have personal space. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean you have to share all the same hobbies, tastes, and friends—in fact, it’s probably a bad idea. Respect each other’s differences and give each other time to pursue your own individual interests.
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    Be open with each other about what “alone time” means and looks like. Talk to him about how much and what kind of individual time you both need.
    • Remember that your needs may be different and be willing to talk about it and compromise if necessary.
    • Be sure you both understand what you want from your time apart, and be particularly sure you both understand what that time apart means to the other person. Don’t let yourself start to feel that “alone time” means “he doesn’t want to be around me” when, to him, it may mean something quite different—it will only lead to unnecessary hurt and misunderstanding.

Part 5
Dealing with Conflict

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    Know that conflict will happen and don’t panic. It’s a natural part of human relationships, and it doesn’t have to be destructive. If you can learn to fight constructively, conflict can even strengthen a relationship.[3]
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    When a conflict does come up, disagree respectfully. As hard as it can be to stay level-headed when emotions are high, remember that how you react will determine whether the disagreement will help or hurt the relationship.
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    Take a break if a fight gets too intense or stressful. Call a time-out for a mutually agreed-upon amount of time and come back together when you’ve had time to calm down. Taking a time-out allows emotions to defuse and allows both of you to step back and recognize what you’re truly upset about. Sometimes it isn’t what you think in the heat of the moment.
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    Learn to ask yourself what you’re really feeling. Often when we fight, we only allow ourselves to react to immediate events and deal with surface emotions (annoyance, anger, etc.). But in most cases what we’re angry or annoyed about isn’t—or isn’t only—the immediate circumstances but what’s beneath them: fear, loneliness, anxiety, sadness, hurt, etc.
    • Look beyond your annoyance in the moment to find what’s really fuelling that feeling—a past hurt or an underlying fear, for example—and try to recognize what you’re really upset about. Once you recognize the real issue, communicate that honestly to your partner.
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    Recognize that there may even be some things you’ll never agree on, but that if they aren’t crucial issues, it’s okay to let it be. You don’t have to agree about everything, and it can be good practice to respectfully agree to disagree.
    • Remember the difference between important and unimportant differences: disagreeing about which restaurant has the best hamburgers is okay; disagreeing about, for example, how to communicate respect is an issue that needs discussion.
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    When you need to apologize—and eventually we all do—be sincere and kind. Don’t make insincere or dismissive apologies like, “I’m sorry that’s what you think happened” or “I’m sorry you didn’t understand me.” Instead, be genuine and empathetic; you might say something like, “I’m sorry I hurt you. I didn’t mean to, and I’m going to try not to hurt you again.”

Part 6
Respecting Him as an Individual

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    Be fully present when you’re with him. Give your partner your full attention and be an active listener (see How to Actively Listen). And ask him to do the same.
    • To keep the emotional intimacy of your relationship healthy, you both need to be sincerely present for and engaged with each other.
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    Respect your boyfriend’s feelings. When your boyfriend comes to you to vent or share his feelings, recognize that he’s showing you that he appreciates that you’re there for him and is making himself emotionally vulnerable. Honor that gesture of intimacy and listen actively and with care.
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    Accept your boyfriend’s differences. Don’t try to force him to meet a precise set of requirements in exactly the way you want. Be open to who he is and learn how you can support each other in your own ways; don’t try to force each other to be something you’re not.
    • As much as you might want to believe that your partner should perfectly meet all your expectations in exactly the way you want him to, it really isn’t in the nature of how human beings—or human relationships—work.
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    Don’t go into or through the relationship expecting to change him. It’s healthy to let him know your needs and desires and to expect him to make an effort to meet them. But it isn’t realistic or healthy to expect him to become a different person.

Part 7
Respecting Yourself as an Individual

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    Be confident in yourself. Don’t look for a boyfriend or a relationship to make you feel wanted or valued—it’s a recipe for disaster.
    • The more confident you are in yourself, the more compelling you’ll be to your boyfriend and to other people in general. Humans are quite good at sensing when people are insecure or inauthentic, and it tends to be a universal detractor.
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    Place value in yourself rather than purely in the relationship. It will inevitably leave you unsatisfied because no one else can truly make you feel valued—that’s something only you can do.
    • If you place a significant amount of your self-worth in a relationship, you’re entrusting your value to something that isn’t about you—relationships are about two people learning to be, yes, in a relationship with each other. It not only doesn’t make sense to see a relationship as a reflection of your own worth, it will ultimately backfire and leave you irrationally dependent on another person for your sense of self.
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    Take care of yourself both physically and emotionally—don’t rely on your boyfriend to do it. Though he can and hopefully will provide supplemental love and support, he can’t—and shouldn’t—carry the weight of all your physical and emotional needs.[4]
    • Set aside time to physically take care of yourself, whether that means taking a bath, going to the gym, learning self-defense, playing with your dog, playing a sport, etc. When you’re physically well, you’ll be more naturally confident and independent, a highly attractive attribute in anyone, and particularly in a partner.
    • Make time to emotionally take care of yourself. Check in with yourself and how you’re feeling, independent of your boyfriend. If you’re not maintaining your own emotional health, it will very quickly begin to negatively impact your relationship.


  • Don’t try to control him or the relationship. A good relationship is two individuals coming together in a loving and emotionally generous way.
  • It’s a cliché, but it’s true—don’t sweat the small things. If it’s really not a big deal, don’t make it one.
  • Surprise him with a thoughtful compliment, gift, or gesture every so often.
  • Don’t complicate things that aren’t complicated. In other words, don’t over-think.
  • Stay true to your word and keep your promises.
  • Let him take care of you sometimes. If you’re sick, let him do a little bedside nurturing, and let him know that you appreciate the care.
  • Notice and appreciate the great aspects, both big and small, of who he is. Enjoy him as a person!
  • Be yourself. Also, try to understand his perspective.
  • Don't lie to him and don't go flirting with other guys. It'll make him want to break up with you because he will think you're cheating on him.

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Categories: Going Steady