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When Your Boyfriend Has No Ambition or Motivation in Life

You love your boyfriend, but he has no goals or motivation for his future. How do you fully love and respect a guy who isn’t ambitious about work, school, or anything important in life?

These tips are inspired by a reader who asked for relationship advice about her boyfriend. He isn’t ambitious or interested in a future, career, goals or even more than a part-time job. She wonders if her boyfriend’s lack of ambition and motivation will drag her down. She says:

“I am deeply in love and in a relationship with a man who is ten years older than me,” she says on How to Respond When Your Boyfriend Makes No Effort. “Despite the age difference, we have a great time and lots of fun. My biggest problem with him is that I’m in my 20′s and life is just starting for me, but he has NO goals, NO ambitions, and NO passion. I appreciate that he is a hard worker, but he is constantly stuck in dead end jobs at minimum wage. He also has a culinary degree, but chooses to work small construction jobs here and there to make ends meet. I don’t understand him! My boyfriend says he is past the age of dreaming and now he just wants to pay the bills.”


Maybe you see you and your boyfriend in her relationship. Maybe your boyfriend isn’t ambitious or motivated about life — much less his future — and you worry that he’ll drag you down. This reader also says:

“Finishing college and having a career along with a family is my number one priority and something I am working hard for,” she says. “Is my boyfriend’s lack of ambition for life going to drag me down? I understand paying the bills is important, but following your dreams with passion and living life fully is (I feel) is way more important.”

How Do You Love a Guy Who Has No Ambition or Motivation?

The most important thing to remember is that you can’t change your boyfriend. You can’t motivate him to get a better job or make more money or stop playing video games and start getting serious about life. You can’t create goals for him, or encourage him to be ambitious about his life or education.

There is only one thing you can do that might possibly motivate your boyfriend to grow or become more ambitious…and that one thing is to accept him exactly the way he is right now.

Accept your boyfriend for who he is right now; don’t expect him to change

boyfriend isn't ambitious
How to Be With a Boyfriend Who Isn’t Ambitious or Motivated

The more you push your boyfriend toward what you think he should be doing with his life, the more stress you create in your relationship. It’s important to be honest, to tell your boyfriend that you’re uncomfortable with his lack of ambition and motivation. But it’s not productive or helpful to keep telling him that life is meant to be an adventure! You want to motivate your boyfriend, not alienate him.

Change is hard! Your boyfriend won’t suddenly become ambitious or motivated, no matter how much you talk, hope, or pray.

Think about it this way: What was the last thing you tried to change about yourself? I bet it wasn’t easy; personal change is rarely swift and simple. There are probably lots of things you want to change about yourself, but you can’t or won’t or don’t know how. Change takes time, effort, perseverence, and motivation. It also requires emotional, spiritual, and intellectual energy – and you have to really want to change.

So if it’s that hard to change yourself when you’re motivated to change, think how hard it would be to change your unmotivated, unambitious boyfriend! Impossible. Maybe you’ll motivate him to get a job, but you won’t change the fundamental aspect of his personality or character that makes him lack ambition or motivation for future.

You can’t change your boyfriend. You have enough on your hands with your own life! You have your path, goals, plans, hopes and dreams. Focus your energy and attention on your own journey, and allow your boyfriend to walk his own path. Reflect and even pray about your future with him…is he the right partner for you, for a long-term commitment? If your boyfriend doesn’t have goals and you have exciting plans for your life, you may need to rethink your relationship.

Do you think your boyfriend is depressed? Read Is Your Boyfriend Depressed?


Be aware of how incompatible or opposite life goals affect relationships

One of the most important parts of a successful, healthy, happy long-term relationship is compatible life goals. You and you boyfriend need to be on the same page with regard to careers, kids, location, and plans for the future. If you have ambitious dreams and goals but your boyfriend just wants to live a quiet boring life, then yes, your boyfriend will drag you down.

And, you need to remember that your boyfriend’s values, opinions, and character traits will rub off on you. That’s why it’s incredibly important to know who you are and where you intend to go, and not let a relationship stop you from living life fully. Don’t let your boyfriend’s lack of ambition change the trajectory of your life! One day, you’ll regret it.

Ask yourself if this relationship is the best fit for you

unmotivated boyfriend no goals

I was once in love with a guy 11 years older than me, who had no ambition or motivation to do anything but work part-time with the post office. He said he wanted to be a writer, but he never moved ahead with it. My sister gave me bad relationship advice: she said to stay with that boyfriend even though he had no ambition at all. She said he was like a wall in a swimming pool and I was a swimmer; I could “push off” him to achieve my own goals and dreams. He could be my stabilizing force and I could be the star!

But it didn’t work out that way.

Fifteen years later, that boyfriend (who I broke up with shortly after my sister gave me that advice) is still doing nothing with his life. He is in the exact same position as he was back then – he hasn’t even taken a vacation outside his city. I’ve earned two undergraduate university degrees, lived in Africa for three years, started businesses, wrote ebooks, went back to university (I’m pursuing my Master of Social Work at UBC), and gotten married. And traveled, and bought and sold a couple of houses.

Is your relationship the best fit for you? f you’re thinking of breaking up with your boyfriend because he doesn’t have any goals and isn’t ambitious, read When to Give Up on a Relationship.

Remember that you will absorb your boyfriend’s traits

You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. If I stayed with my boyfriend who had vague dreams but no specific plans to achieve them, I believe I would’ve sunk low. I wouldn’t have achieved half the things I did – because we absorb the traits and values of the people we spend  the most time with.

Will your boyfriend will drag you down because he’s not ambitious, or will he be your strongest supporter? Many successful men are married to women who aren’t ambitious in their own right, and yet the men are wildly wealthy and powerful. Being attached to a partner who isn’t ambitious doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be held back…but your boyfriend’s lack of ambition will affect on you. What will that effect be? It depends on you and how determined you are to achieve your own goals and plans for your life.

If you don’t know what to do, read How to Make a Difficult Decision in Your Life.

Listen to that still small voice, your gut instincts

You need to listen to your inner voice. What is your gut telling you about your boyfriend’s lack of ambition? Put all thoughts of love and how much fun you have with him aside for a few minutes, and think objectively about your goals for your future. And remember that following your gut can be painful and difficult in the short term, but it’s better in the long run.

While you’re finishing college, start thinking about what you want to do with your life. You have decades to pay bills, have kids, get married, and settle into a boring routine job. Right now is the time to LIVE and follow your heart! Go have adventures – move overseas, meet interesting people, explore the world, challenge yourself, take risks. Live as though this is your last year on earth…because it could be.

If you’re finding yourself trying to manipulate or “trick” your boyfriend into setting goals or being more ambitious, read How to Stop Being a Controlling Girlfriend.

How Do You Love a Boyfriend Who Isn’t Ambitious or Motivated
When Your Boyfriend Has No Ambition or Motivation in Life

Be there for your boyfriend. Encourage and support him. But don’t let your boyfriend’s lack of motivation or ambition in life detract from your own passions, interests, and excitement for the future!

What do you think – can you have a happy relationship with a boyfriend who isn’t ambitious and has no life goals or plans? Your thoughts are welcome below! If you haven’t written about your boyfriend’s lack of ambition or motivation before, I encourage you to write right now. Writing about your relationship will help you process your thoughts and emotions, and perhaps even help you decide what to do in your relationship.


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39 thoughts on “When Your Boyfriend Has No Ambition or Motivation in Life”

  1. This seems to be pretty relative to me. I’ve been with my bf twelve years almost. We both live each other just so much. Nine of our years together I was a severe drinking alcoholic, but I’ve been sober for almost three after sending my bf to jail with an unwarranted felony that after all this time will be reversed next month. So substance abuse.
    I remember way back I felt a need to move and we did a series of geographic relocations, problems always following. One of my biggest problems has always been my dudes lack of motivation because especially now I am just so over ambitious, I understand it’s unusual. Bit I remember then, being like what are you gonna do? Where are we gonna go? What are your goals? His goals will be a job. Doing stuff on days off. He’s super nice and sweet to me. Just so nice and loving. I truly love him and think he loves me.
    I’m ready to take on the world. My credit is almost good now! I want a car, and a house, or to travel to amazing places. I want to do everything! I don’t know what drives him. I don’t know what he’s passionate about. I just know he loves me very much. I have been asking for the whole time we’ve been together.
    The trust was broken about nice months ago I found he was still drinking and using drugs when he told me he wasn’t. We moved back in together and he was still doing those things. I now don’t trust him to do any drinking and he still does. Not anything like I used to be, but I asked him not to do many times. He still does. What on Earth do I do????? So much stress and anxiety. He won’t try talking to someone with me. He says I’m smarter than Google and lives me for who I am. I guess I don’t love him for who he is? I’m really confused. If anyone could tell me what they think? Is there any way to at least get him to acknowledge to himself that he doesn’t want to accomplish anything much? I don’t think he will because that will mean I’ll leave. I just can’t leave him. We’ve been through so much. But I can’t be around someone who doesn’t do what they say they will or know what they want to do in their life.

  2. I have read all of the previous post and I must say that I agreed with alot of what was said. I’m 47 years old and my partner is 1 1/2 younger than me. I have never dated a younger man and thought at first that it was just a maturity issue. However, we have been in a relationship for 10 years now. As a matter of fact, we are “supposed” to be engaged. (since 2011 – long story)

    There are so many things that I love about him. He is my biggest supporter. He is family oriented and has custody of his children. If I am sick, he is so attentive! We have a great time together! Unless I mention ANYTHING about goals or finances. I make more than he does. However, he lives at home with his mother after a difficult divorce. I know this is typically a bad sign but he stays there so the boys have a female presence and we were supposed to get married so he changed his plans of moving out when we starting moving toward marriage. I know that he is motivated to get married. He just lacks drive. This is the reason that I won’t marry him. I have a lot that I am bringing to the table but he has nothing! He likes to showcase the things that I or his family members achieve. He likes nice things and “titles”. However, he has no plans to work toward his own. I started to regret our agreement for him to stay with his mother until we get married. I was thinking that we could save money but he probably needed that time to grow up. He says that he will pursue something one day. Still, I have not seen him working toward anything in 10 years. (not a hobby, career, or anything) I have grown to resent him. I often find myself looking at him in disgust. He has a bad attitude. However, I notice that it is usually when he is questioned about finances or goals. He pays no bills at this mother’s house and can’t help me if I am in a bind. Yet, he always says he doesn’t have any money. I there is something that I want, I make a plan and work toward it. He always has a reason why he can’t achieve something. I am now wondering if I have wasted all of these years.

    Yet, at the same time, the relationship has also made me evaluate some things about myself. I now understand how important motivation is to me in a relationship. He doesn’t have to be the next President or win a Nobel Peace Prize. However, I need to know that we are both moving forward with life and working toward a better tomorrow. I don’t want to be with a man who is content on riding my skirt tail. (I hear the Beyonce’ song Bills, Bills, Bills right now) I guess I said all of this to say be honest with yourself. You can not change him. It will only lead to regret, resentment, and a lack of respect later. (Although, I will say that I don’t regret my time with him because I do believe that I have still managed to grow and discover some things about myself during this time)

    I ended my relationship with him two days ago which I guess is the reason I was on this site in the first place. I feel like I need to focus on me right now. Perhaps, he will change one day. I don’t know. That has to be a decision that he will make. I just know that right now the relationship is not right for me. Call it too much Hallmark TV, but I also believe that if it is meant to be things will work out or I will meet my true Prince Charming and my current love has set the bar very high (besides the lack of ambition). So either way, it’s a win win situation!

    One last thing, I did notice in some of the post that there was some other red flags for some ladies other than the lack of motivation. I would say don’t ignore these. Some of them were screaming louder than the lack of motivation.

  3. Guy- No doubt about it. It’s hard to watch, even harder to not be able to do anything about it. I’m standing by to root for him.

  4. Holly, sounds like your guys has depression. There is a middle ground between being vain and seeking out material gain and being unable to care for oneself.

  5. Guy- True, having an education or a defined career path are not the most important things in life, but everyone’s story is different. By lack of motivation, I’m talking about his house, aka “bachelor pad”, that I moved into that he is dragging his feet to complete the necessary renovations for resale. Our home is not a home, and there is nothing (physically) that I can do to help. I’ve had all of my belongings in a storage unit for two years while I wait for him to finish the house. We used to talk about moving to Florida or getting the hell out of the state we live in because we are sick of it, but he is showing no signs of motivation. It’s depressing. I hate my job and so does he, but there’s no sense in jumping jobs if we are going to move, as he continues to project six months out every time I bring it up. I am paying for my real estate license on the side until the house is ready and it is costly. He claims that he spends so much in renovations, but I do not see that he’s put much of his own money into it at all. He says that it’s my fault because I do not contribute enough, but I make much less than him and pay half the mortgage, as well as help out where I can. He doesn’t clean around the house and he won’t replace any old, nasty furniture (including towels, bedding or kitchen supplies) because he wants to wait until we move, so I end up buying all the items that he refuses to replace. He doesn’t do laundry. He leaves dishes out all over the house and I am constantly following him around picking up soda and beer cans. He won’t shower or brush his teeth unless I nag him. He doesn’t want to go anywhere unless it’s to a bar with his buddies. He says he wants a family, but we can’t have any of those things we want unless he starts making strides towards our future. I have no idea what to do. My hands are tied. Despite all said above, I love him deeply, but I feel like my days are getting cloudy and I am watching the clock spin everyday. It’s heart breaking. That’s what I mean by motivation.

  6. I am a woman in my 50’s. I was married to a narcissist for 22 years and didn’t know it. We had 4 children together and our children, my faith and his traveling job were vital to the length of our marriage. I have since remarried and have been blessed with a man who puts me and my daughters first. I have learned something very important with my current husband that I wanted to share with you. To be happy in a relationship, you have to be able to see you and your partner as a “team”. With my first marriage, it was all about “him”. I was along for the ride. If a man is devoted to you and you are his number one priority, you won’t “have” to draw lines for time spent together. You won’t have to push him to want more for himself and you as a couple. You are allowing him to live single when he is supposed to be in a committed relationship. Stand up for yourself and cut your losses. You are better off single than with a man who is not going to step up and be a team with you in life but instead someone you have to pull along. Yes, lack of ambition and lack of striving for the best for YOU, and you two as a TEAM is a problem.

  7. Kyanna Anderson, your situation is similar to mine. Can I ask, are you still with him? or did your determination to do better end the relationship? I’m very independant and determind and get bored very easily, in the past i’ve tried to organise holidays with my boyfriend but he never “has the savings”… even though he earns a lot more than me.. so I end up going on holidays alone, because i worked hard to save up and go and do these things.. even if we are to have a night away in a hotel room or go out to an expensive dinner.. I pay and he “pays me back when he has the money”… same with bills and rent… WHERE does the money go if he doesn’t have the savings for these things.. I get so frustrated that I have to be the one that “wheres the pants” and makes all the decisions.. He’s really holding me back.. but i do think “am i asking too much” and to think about the quality time with him… but frankly.. I don’t ‘need’ him.. I could accomplish a lot more without him… but to do it alone… that just sounds lonely and depressing.. do I wait for him to mature and get his act together? or is he just getting a free ride…?

  8. Wow, UK Girl, you need to think long and hard about your values. You sound like such a kind person but, to me, come off as completely naive. The guy has “loser” written all over him! I understand that your family hasn’t conceptualized their values either, so it’s not something you would have learned from them. In fact, our whole culture is clueless these days, (I’m from the US but it’s the same decay going on.). But Life will teach you these things, eventually—if you really want to understand what is weak and what is strong. Go with strong—always. Number one, nurture it in yourself and distance yourself from those that don’t because only internal strength is able to confer love & true loyalty to another.

  9. Im in the same boat as you! Been with my man for 3 going on 4 yrs. I am an engineer and he’s a cook (not certified might i add). He have a lot of potential and we argue a lot about his lack of ambition. I am a very motivated and determined woman. Anything i want i work to get it. If i don’t have it i will put in time and work to have it. I do not know what to do but i feel we are on two different paths. I need some advice bad because i am at my breaking point where i am ready to give up. I been trying to get him to want better for himself for almost 2 years now.

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