How to Be With a Boyfriend Who Isn’t Ambitious or Motivated

You love your boyfriend, but he has no goals or motivation for his future. Here’s how to be in a relationship with a guy who isn’t ambitious about work, school, or anything important in life. I was inspired to share my tips for a reader who asked for advice about her boyfriend. He isn’t ambitious or interested in his future job or plans. She wants to know if he’ll drag her down.

“I am deeply in love and in a relationship with a man who is ten years older than me,” says Delana on How to Deal With a Depressed Boyfriend. “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! He says he is past the age of dreaming and now he just wants to pay the bills.”

If you and your boyfriend have different goals in life (or he has no goals and you’re ambitious about your future!), then you may see yourself in Delana’s relationship. She 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 his lack of passion for life going to drag me down? I understand paying the bills is important, but following your dreams and personal journey (I feel) is waaaay more important.”

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.

How to Be With a Boyfriend Who Isn’t Ambitious or Motivated

The more you push your boyfriend towards what you think he should be doing with his life, the more stress you create in your relationship. And it’s not productive or helpful stress; your “encouragement” will backfire.

Instead, there is only one thing you can do that might possibly motivate your boyfriend to grow or succeed…and that one thing is to accept him exactly the way he is.

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

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, perserverence, and motivation. It also requires emotional, spiritual, and intellectual energy – and you have to really want to change.

boyfriend isn't ambitious

How to Be With a Boyfriend Who Isn’t Ambitious or Motivated

So if it’s that hard to change yourself when you’re motivated and you want to change, think how hard it would be to change your unmotivated 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 unambitious or uncaring about his 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 journey, and allow your boyfriend to walk his own path. If he isn’t ambitious or motivated now, you don’t have to abandon all hope for the future. If your boyfriend doesn’t have goals, you don’t necessarily have to end the relationship – unless you’re angry and frustrated because your boyfriend doesn’t have time for you because he’s focused on unhealthy or foolish friends and activities.

Know how important compatible life goals are in a relationship

One of the most important elements to 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.

Ask yourself if this relationship is the best fit for you

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 some bad 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 absorb your boyfriend’s traits

You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.

unmotivated boyfriend no goalsIf I wouldn’t stayed with my boyfriend who had vague dreams but no specific plans to achieve them, I believe I would’ve sunk low with him. I wouldn’t have achieved half the things I did – because we soak up 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.

So, 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 have an effect 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.

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 anbitious, read How to Stop Playing Mind Games in Your Relationship.

What do you think – can you have a happy relationship with a boyfriend who isn’t ambitious and has no life goals or plans? I welcome your comments, but I can’t offer advice. If you haven’t written about your boyfriend’s lack of ambition before, I encourage you to start writing! Writing about your relationship will help you process your thoughts and emotions.

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15 thoughts on “How to Be With a Boyfriend Who Isn’t Ambitious or Motivated

  • Laurie Post author

    Thank you for sharing how you feel about your relationship! It’s difficult to know what to do when you’re in a relationship with a boyfriend who isn’t as motivated or ambitious as you are…especially when you love him. You want to be in a relationship with him, but you also want to explore life and life big! I totally get it.

    Here’s one way to decide what to do: what will you regret more, when you look back on your life? You can’t have it all at the same time, so you have to choose. What do you know deep in your heart – what do you need to do, to fulfill your dreams for your life?

    • Sarah

      Thank you! I know my future means more to me than anyone ever will, but it’s just figuring out when to call it quits.
      Like when do I stop thinking ‘this will be a problem’ and leave before it is a problem

  • Sarah

    I have similar problems with my other half. I love him and he’s supportive and we have fun together but he has no motivation at all.
    I’ve spent the last few years going back to education that I missed out on due to being seriously ill when I was younger, and I start university in September. I want to do a placement year, a master’s, and one day a PhD. I want to up and move somewhere new, travel, do everything!
    My boyfriend on the other hand, has had the same dead end job since we met. He has complained about it since we met, but doesn’t try to get another one. He says he wants to design games but won’t go back to education to get the relavent qualifications. He went to uni before we met, and dropped out in the last 3 months of his final year!
    I feel like he’s going to hold me back and I don’t know what to do

  • Tanya

    Being lazy and lacking ambition is completely different. As humans, we work, some of us work harder and being lazy is nice sometimes.
    I’m seeing someone right now that is a hard worker, but not as ambitious as me, but he as other qualities that make up for it. He communicates pretty well.

    • Tanya

      You also have to remember, you can’t get everything out of a relationship! And before you start pointing fingers, look at your own flaws.

  • Philia

    Hi Laurie,

    Thank you for sharing this kind of topic. This is the most realistic writing that I’ve read so far about lazy boyfriend.
    You are right that I can’t change him and I need to accept the way he is. The problem here is I find it hard to accept his lazy character. This is the biggest problem overall 🙁

    Because for me, the lazy character will affect the other aspects of marriage life, for example because you are lazy, you’ll earn little money. And how come we can go for marriage? In my country culture, husband has a bigger responsibility than wife especially in paying bills. So, if you earn a little, how can you pay all the bills? Me? As a wife? I don’t really want. I work to help my husband, not to replace his position with the responsibility too.

    He is smart actually, open minded and has a kind heart. This is why I fell for him. I’m dating with him almost one year by now. If only, he isn’t a lazy man, he is perfect for me 🙁

    He isn’t ambitious too. He is 37. He never go overseas, he doesn’t have bachelor degree, he doesn’t have car or house, just old motorcycle.

    He is also weak and doesn’t have strong will. He sometimes always get headaches. When he get headaches, he doesn’t go to work.
    When he has nothing to do, he will sleep or read novel all day long rather than doing something productive to improve his other skill.
    If he has a lot of work for just one day, he will feel very very very tired, like he has a lot of work for a whole week!! I just don’t understand.

    True, breakup isn’t a solution for me. Ever tried it once, but I came back for him.

    I can’t figure it out right now, what I am supposed to do. I am just unhappy.

  • Liz

    My boyfriend and I are in our 30’s. At this point in life you are way more realistic. And of course, I look at myself to see if I’m the one who wants more then I should or, realistically, can have. My boyfriend is un-moveable. And I love him, he’s comfortable. But un-moveable in that everything is too dangerous, too expensive, and un-attainable. My friends would tell you I’m a gypsy and really not scared of much. I’m a bit of an adventurer having wandered the US and Kenya, and pursued many goals and careers others don’t. He says I need to encourage him, and that is part of the problem from his perspective. But when I see an opportunity for him to pursue what he says he wants. I tell him do it now, let’s get this done, you can do this. But there is always a problem, a reason it was to hard. And, as always he says I didn’t encourage him. I don’t know what he means by encouragement. I just wonder if we are too different. I feel like we fit. I trust him and that is very, very hard for me to find. He wont even enquire about things like opportunities, because he always sees a problem with why it wont work out. He is always unqualified. Even when I know on paper he is. And since everything is too expensive. I can’t even ask him to go on a hiking trip with me, dinner is hard enough, and he never has time. He is exhausted. I love adventure. I like home too. But I want to do and see all the things, and I know he can’t do it with me. Should I just suck it up and learn to be more independent? He’s a good guy. I’m 30 and almost 31. If I can just not let his fear rub off on me, and ignore the negative things he says, then maybe I can still achieve my dreams. He’ll be at home waiting. Maybe that can work too. I just feel like I’m not strong enough to do it “alone” with out him helping me. But is that wrong? The only other thing is, I don’t feel in love with him like I’ve loved others. He’s not a smooth talker; He doesn’t philosophize with me, and make me feel smart and funny and beautiful. But it doesn’t have to be about me. What is it suppose to be about?

    • Rosa

      Hi Liz… I’ve just found this thread after yet another conversation with my other half, telling me he hates his current job but not looking for a new one. We updated his CV 3 weeks ago after a year of misery and yet not one application sent out!!! What I see to be encouragement – when I say he should have more confidence in his abilities, he says is me picking at his faults… can’t win!!
      We sound like we are in the same boat, both in how we are as people and how our other halfs see the world… except for the being ‘in love’ bit. I really am in love with my other half, he does make me feel special and we do philosophise with each other. I hope in the past few months you’ve come to a decision about your relationship or are happier. I know that the ‘in love’ part is the only think keeping be with my other half, don’t we all deserve to feel like that?

      • Mel

        I feel thesame way as you have just described…my partner is hardworking and does try, but whatever it is he’s missing, self esteem, something…he’s just struggling financially and I am in a similar situation to him-don’t make much but I earn more than he does and am applying for new jobs whereas he makes excuses and says he has to play it safe/wait for bank loan to be paid off before he can leave or his bad work history. He’s been at his current workplace doing difficult split shifts for 2 years-the whole time I have been with him, surely thats long enough for a slightly better job to consider him. when I try to talk about jobs he says he doesn’t want to work at a job for money and will barely talk to me. Ideally I’d like to not have to either, but it takes a lot of work to get to that point and I am not quite sure if he really gets it/is just dreaming. He’s does care I contribute more and trys to help out when he can and gives me rides to work and shows up to his job and works hard while he’s there. . but it makes him tired and moody. I had lots of jobs like that, until 8 months ago where I got into something easier but now I want to shift gears again and start progressing in my career-i’m sick of not having enough money. it’s totally killing the romance and we bicker all the time because im so frustrated as his apparent refusal to deal with reality. part of me feels liem i should leave him, and part of me thinks i need to encourage and inspire him more -which is what he seems to want but i don’t understand…it shouldnt be up to me do get him to do whats necessary in a nice way. he cant even afford to take basic care of himself like afford to eat properly-so i feel sorry for him and compromise my own life! at my wits end. he works split shifts and its hard work so i can see why he hates it which is why i dont see why he wont do anything to leave, like refuse to write cv or look or apply for anything at all.

  • Laurie Post author

    Dear Hollie,

    There is nothing you can do to motivate your boyfriend to go to college, get a degree, or figure out what he wants to do with his life. The more you push him, the more pain both you and your boyfriend will feel!

    You can’t change him. If he’s not ambitious now, he may never really care about starting a career or getting a job he’s passionate about. Or…he may discover an interest he can build a career from, or he may decide to get a college degree in something after all!

    If you want to have a peaceful, loving relationship, then you need to accept your boyfriend the way he is. You can’t change him, motivate him, or make him ambitious. Your job is to motivate yourself and make yourself into the woman you want to be — keep pursuing your plans and goals for your life! Focus on your own path, and let your boyfriend find his.

    Here’s a question for you: Is it possible that this relationship isn’t the best fit for you?

    Sometimes we love people who are awesome in many ways, but we’re just not meant to be together because of different or conflicting goals. It’s a difficult decision. You need to decide if you can love your boyfriend for who he is right now — without any ambitions or goals for his life. Don’t try to change him, for you’ll only cause yourself and him stress. You won’t get anywhere, and you can’t force him to be someone he’s not.


  • Hollie

    I am still in high school; however, I have a long distance relationship that is going great and I love my boyfreind to death. This boyfreind has been in and out of trouble lately; but in his defence, he does not have anyone to guide him. I am very active in my plan for the future and I am constantly talking about it with him. He motivates me and tells me he is proud of me while pushing me to do my best. Although, he has no plas for himself and says he is not smart enough for college. And to be completely honest, I dont really see him doing anything either other than working in an art or music field. Again, he downs himself about college. He does not see himself being successful in doing anything and I do not know how to motivate him to go to college, get a degree, or even know how to help him figure out what he wants to do. We have been together on and off for 4 years. Help me??!!

  • Lani

    so, im in high school, about to graduate. looking at schools, which i have an appointment this week to a trade school. & my boyfriend doesnt go to work, or ever go to school and im in regular school going to get my diploma & hes going to get his GED. He got mad at me when i was talking on the phone with the representative to the school i want to go to for some reason, basically he was trying to tell me that i was trying to rub it in his face, or that im better than him somehow. shouldnt he be proud of me? and motivate me like i do him?
    i told him that he can do anything and i will help, his family isnt there for him, so why should he get mad at me for trying to motivate him and wanting the best for him? im waiting a few months.. but i feel like im waisting my time. & thats not something i want to do. i get my little paychecks save a little and spend the rest mostly on me and him. and i dont want to do that anymore if hes not going to do nothing with his life.
    i give him massages, always giving him the works if you know what i mean! and i just feel like i should be doing those things to a MAN; who works hard for what he gots.
    i dont know what to do.. i feel like it might come together because we had a talk about it and hes going to get his GED. but i cant be with someone who wants to be a bum and live off of everybody else i like expensive things and i dont want to depend on others.
    someone respond, id like to talk, and i need some advice.
    i would appreciate it.

  • Laurie

    I can’t tell you if you should leave your boyfriend because he isn’t ambitious…but you have to remember that he will not change. Well, maybe a miracle will happen and he will suddenly start wanting to achieve the same type of goals as you do, travel, and work overseas! But I wouldn’t count on it.

    He is who he is. You are who you are. The only person you can change is you. Do you want to adjust your goals to suit his lifestyle and future? Or, can you accept him for who he is and still pursue your own goals?

    Also….all relationships get boring. It’s part of getting to know someone really well and building a life together! The thrill leaves. But this doesn’t mean you should leave him.

    It sure does get complicated, doesn’t it? That’s why I always vow never to give advice!

  • Stacy

    I have a boyfriend who works two jobs as a cook and plays video games all the time. He has no motivation to achive a career. I, however have goals to work overseas, travel and live overseas. How can i do that if i stay with my boyfriend? He has no goals of his own and our relationship is boring, he doesn’t excite me anymore so should leave him? We’ve broken up before and got back together. We’ve been together for 4 months now.

  • Bryan

    Yes it does. It is also possible that you will be stagnant if you stay with the no ambition guy. It will give you financial and emotional problem in the future, specially if you two have bigger responsibilities. The suggestion of staying away with that no ambition guy although you love to be rude, but if you have dreams in life, stay away from anything or someone that will pull you back.