What to Do When Your Boyfriend Won’t Stand Up for You


When you think “My boyfriend won’t stand up for me” for the first time, you may feel alone. Here are a few tips for when your boyfriend won’t stick up for you and lets his family or friends walk all over you.

boyfriend doesn't stand up fo rme

Fight Less, Love More

Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship Without Blowing Up or Giving In by Laurie Puhn will help you create immediate, positive changes in your relationship. Getting your boyfriend to stand up for you involves learning long-lasting communication skills that will help improve your relationship.

These tips are inspired by a reader who is struggling with her boyfriend’s refusal to accept that his sister is causing problems. His sister is judgemental, cold, and rude. The girlfriend really wants to have a relationship with her because family is important to everyone involved, but the sister doesn’t respond.





Here’s what a reader says: “I know I’m not ready to give up on our relationship – I know he loves me and I love him more than anything. My friends have told me not to care about what his sister thinks of me but I am afraid that this could possibly never rectify itself and in the end family prevails. I am also afraid that if he won’t stand up to his sister for me, then he will never stand up for me to anyone. I get along famously with his family and adore his mother and grandmother – I just feel very defeated and like I’m not good enough for him when his sister is around. My boyfriend doesn’t stand up for me. Do you think there is anything I can say/do that could help the situation?” Read the rest of her comment on How to Leave a Man You Love – But Can’t Live With.

And, if you have any thoughts on coping when a boyfriend doesn’t stand up for you, please reply below!

When Your Boyfriend Doesn’t Stand Up for You

I think she hit it square on the head when she said her boyfriend may not stand up for her to anyone, if he can’t stand up to her with his sister. This isn’t a “one off” – it’s a way of perceiving and responding to his girlfriend.

Here are a few tips for coping with a boyfriend or husband who chooses his family over you…

Learn how to stand up for yourself

Are your boyfriend’s family or friends are “making” you feel bad about yourself or not good enough to be with him? Then you may have some confidence or self-esteem issues that need to be ironed out. It’s important for all women to be able to stand up for themselves! “I love having a boyfriend but need to be secure on my own first.” ~ Demi Lovato.

That’s not to say your boyfriend is right to let his sister walk all over you! I think men SHOULD stand up for their partners, especially if their partners are hurt by the family’s behavior. But, we can’t expect men to protect us. We have to learn how to protect ourselves.



Relationship Help

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See the family dynamics

You’ve stepped into family patterns that have been going on for as long as they’ve been alive. Their relationships are established, and extremely difficult to change. The relationship dynamics CAN change – there’s no doubt about it – but only if your boyfriend and his family do the work.

Families are complicated, and their interactions are caused by so many different factors. Unless they’re willing to sit down and talk it all through, you’ll never know what’s behind all the behaviours, words, and attitudes. But that doesn’t mean you’re helpless!

Figure out what you can do

What to Do When Your Boyfriend Won’t Stand Up for You

What to Do When Your Boyfriend Won’t Stand Up for You

You can’t force his sister to be friends with you, and you can’t force your boyfriend to stand up for you. You can’t lecture or nag your boyfriend to change, and you can’t pray your problems away. So what can you do? Focus on changing the only person you have control over: you. It’s important thing not to expect your boyfriend to change, especially if he’s in denial or refuses to see his sister for who she is. I think it’s wise to change your expectations of both your boyfriend and his family members.

I think the only thing you can do to encourage your boyfriend to stand up for you is to be honest with him about how you feel. “I feel unappreciated, worthless, defeated, and scared for our relationship when I interact with your sister. I need you to ….” And tell him what you need from him.

If your boyfriend can’t give you what you need (if he can’t or won’t stand up for you), then you have a decision to make: should you stay with him and accept him exactly the way he is right now, or do you take a deep breath and consider your other options?

If your boyfriend won’t stand up to you, it’s possible that he isn’t really interested in taking things further. Read 7 Signs He Wants a Relationship With You to see gain insight into your relationship.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on what to do when your boyfriend doesn’t stick up for you, but I can’t offer relationship advice. It might help to share what you’re going through; writing can bring healing and insight.

For more tips on coping with a boyfriend who doesn’t stand up for you, read When Your Boyfriend’s Family is Ruining Your Relationship.



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27 thoughts on “What to Do When Your Boyfriend Won’t Stand Up for You

  • Lilith

    Well it depends on the situation.
    If he doesn’t stand up in family moments, he might not even notice something went on.

    Example; ‘Motherinlaw made a nasty joke about undercooked turkey’s on Thanksgiving having the same colour as your legs in winter. Boyfriend smiles broadly, thinking you guys are getting along, when in fact, this was a lowblow, because she asks if you have a skindisease later, which he again percieves as affectionate concern.’

    The other reason can be that he is uncomfortable with his family/has learned never to question his family and has a difficulty standing up for you, because of that.
    Example: ‘Fatherinlaw walks in, sees you, says; ‘Ah, you brought your cleaninglady’ after which he loudly laughs and walks off again.
    Everybody knows it’s innapropriate, but he’s going to let it slide, because he thinks that dealing with and confronting his dad about this, will make it worse.
    The effect will be that FIL thinks it’s accepted to make those jokes and will slowly make them worse. And then it’ll be difficult for the boyfriend to find his boundaries back, even if it gets really bad.

    3. He might just be a pussy that doesn’t want to get into trouble for you.
    I remember several occassions in which I was unwantedly fondled in a club, and to which my boyfriend later replied; ‘Ah just ignore ’em.’
    He seemed to be quite careless with anything, whether it be a younger guy that tried dragging me away from a club, a salesman in Greece that grabbed my breasts or his own father, that kept ‘jokingly’ slapping my behind, after which he whispered that he liked my hair.
    If you stand up for yourself in these cases…by either screaming or yelling, or crying or confronting the person. And he does not stand up for you, not even thén. Just stands around, watching you. Dump him immediately.

    Because for the other things, there’s a way to fix that. Family-bonding, paying attention to details, whatever. But as soon as he makes it clear that he is nót going to rescue you when there’s a disaster, you’re done there.

  • Maria

    I’m in a amazing relationship with my boyfriend. We are working on our 2nd year being together. He’s everything you can ask for in a guy. We have so many similarities. BUT… his father and sister don’t like me, and my boyfriend doesn’t stand up for me. His father acts like he does like me. Although he talks negatively about me. Mind you I cook and clean and ice even supported my boyfriend when he was at his lowest. But I’m still not good enough. His sister hates me, calls me names. Yet ive never had a conversation with her ever. She’s one of those stuck up my way kind of girls. And I’m so not that way in very laid back. She picks on me. She’s talked about my weight. Even though I’m the same size as her. I called her a name. And she ran and told her family. So they hate me now. They think I was immature about the situation.. my boyfriend was there during that incident but laughed at her joke. She throws low blows all the time and my boyfriend ignores it. It hurts that I try so hard to be the perfect person for him. But everyone treats me like shit. I’m the outcast. I’ve told my boyfriend about it and he says it doesn’t matter what they say he still loves me. It just hurts that I’m being trampled over and made fun of. I’ve told him many time how I feel but still his sister treats me like crap. And nothing happens.

  • kaitlyn

    so my boyfriend wont stand up for me when his friends talk bad about me what should I do? also hes a hypocrite he yells at me for going to a guys house when I lived with him for a year with my family so hes like a brother to me but then I found out during my spring break he was at a girls house drinking and smoking and yelled at me when I went to the guys house bu he went to her house before I went to his and I didn’t even know he was there what should I do????

  • Kin

    I really need help and hope you can help. Been dating my bf for 6 yrs now hes 54 yrs old. Lives with his mom still. First time i ever met his mom is when she seen me giving him a peck on the lips cause i was leaving and she said that disgusting. Then another time went to his sister kid graduation party. And he was standing behind me with his hands on my hips as we watched the band. Well she had a fit ! Shes ever since been trying to break us up anyway she can. Calls me nasty names etc…its horrible ! Now she got his sister involved to help break us up. Hes been staying at my house last 4to 5 mths. Both mom and sister came to my home trying to take him from me but he stayed with me i was so proud he didnt let them control him. Anyways after lots of tries they finally got him to go. I was so upset and hurt cause easter was next day and planned him being with me then take him to his mom. His sister has taken him from me in past and everytime she does. He dont call or want to speak to me she makes him hate me. I dont know how but she does. Now this time week later i go to his cabin cause seen he wasnt there and i missed him so much. We had a nice time i stayed over night there. Next morning his mom and sister show up and flipped out on him. Told him to stay away from me. Calling me names and he also told her how i just came up and told her were i hide my car. Like tattle telling on me. I couldnt believe it. I love him to death !!! And im so scared hes never coming back to me and im so in love and only want him. His family has land and worth slot so when mother dies there getting tons of money and someone told me probably think im trying to get there money. I dont want ANY of there money. I love him and only want him not money. And im worried maybe she threatened him he wont get any if he dont stay away from me. I never did anything to her to hate me and i dont know wat to do. I cant sleep or nothing im so sick worrying if he will still be with me. Also sister told him she better never see his cwr at my house ever again. Its just crazy.. Csn u help me PLEASE !!

  • Laura Hayes

    Okay I need some help ! Me and my boyfriend has been together a little over a year and we’ve been through everything together. He wants to be a chef and currently works 2 jobs (this whole spring break I’ve seen him twice) I get upset and angry. That I don’t see him enough. A week ago we got into to a fight while he was at work and he was talking to one of his friends about me and how I was making him mad and stuff. Then yesterday I was reading his text with his friend from work and he was saying all of these mean things about me and my boyfriend didn’t stick up for me once even when his friend was telling my boyfriend that he wants my boyfriend to be with this other girl. When I asked why he didn’t stick up for me he said “it was just easier that way I didn’t want to argue with him” but if I say one bad thing about his friend I get yelled at. What should I do I’m so upset about the whole situation I love him so much I feel like I can’t let him go even at the thought of us breaking up it brings me to tears and makes me feel sick

  • Evey

    Hi I’ve been dating my boyfriend for almost two years now and he’s an amazing guy and we love each other really strongly. The problem is he’s Muslim and I’m not and his family doesn’t accept that. He sneaks around to see me, he pretends he’s at work when he comes over to my house. I only get to see him once a week, sometimes less. I’ve never met his parents or been to his house but he’s met my entire family and they already treat him like part of our family. I’ve told him several times that it hurts me that we can’t do things as a normal couple, he always has to hide the fact that he’s with me and it really causes me a lot of pain in the relationship. He refuses to stand up for me and I hate not being included in his life, he wants to chat to me all the time but that’s not a proper relationship to me. I’m with him because he’s a great guy in every other aspect. He bought me a promise ring and always talks about our future together but I have no idea whether he’ll choose me at the end of the day when it comes to that decision because I know his parents will never accept me. It hurts me so much when I can’t be with him or he can’t be with me during important times in our lives. I don’t want to lose this love we have but I don’t know what else I can do. I don’t know if he’ll ever stand up for me.

    • Alexandra

      People seek advice, usually wanting to hear only what they want to hear. In the end, they will do what they feel regardless. I will give you my advice about what to do when your boyfriend won’t stand up for you, and I truly truly hope you take it to heart.
      Number 1- you teach people how to treat you, and that sets the foundation for your relationship forever. It’ is impossible to change the dynamics once they are set. The dynamics stand as this: relationships are taboo in his culture/religion, so seeing you has to be secret. It’s not just about a relationship, western women are eyed as suspicious for many reasons i wont get into when it comes to Muslims.
      I have been married to a Muslim man for 10 years, and my sister is as well. Guess what? I am still a secret to his family. And yes I was in love with him. Love is blinding and allows you to make stupid decisions. Before you waste anymore of your time RUN! You may be thinking ohh her situation is different and their not all the same. My sister is married to a Moroccan man and has converted and wears her hijab etc. and she’s is miserable. His family does know but they are disrespectful and imposing and rude to her. She has lost her identity and is pretty much stuck in that situation. Thankfully for me Im an independent educated women that didn’t have to deal with the Muslim man crap and could walk away. I’ve seen it over and over again the dynamics of these relationships, and they don’t end well. Your better off with a man who is the same culture as you, a boyfriend who will stand up for you. You will be happier celebrating the things your remember as a child with your own children like thanksgiving, Christmas, 4th July etc.
      Understand the religion and don’t jump into it just to make things work with him. It’s not a fair religion. Ive studied it extensively… Take my advice end it while you still have your sanity and youth.

    • Nina

      Be really careful with that guy. Being a Muslim woman, I know that a Muslim man sneaking around to be with you, is a red flag, and he will usually NOT choose said woman at the end. Forget religion, some Muslims even go as far as only marrying within their sub-ethnicity (for example a Pakistani won’t tend to marry a Bangladeshi, and an Afghan won’t marry a Pakistani– their parents won’t bless the union, and the men are so spineless they won’t go against their parents’ wishes) so I can’t stress enough for you to be careful that this guy is not just stringing you along, until his parents set him up with some chick). I have been in that boat before. If you want to talk more or need advice, please reply!

  • Amelia

    My fiance and I have a wonderful relationship there is only one problem. His dad is mouthy drunk who thinks he is always right and every woman is nothing but a cheating and sleezing manipulater who is fake and has a shady side do to the fact that his ex wife left him for another man. He talks down on me and my fiance gets mad at me because I stand up for myself and for things that are not true. I would really like some advice on what to do or how to speak to him about these problems. His dad is a nice man until he starts drinking then it’s like he turns into the devil and thinks everything he says and thinks is always right. I just want to marry the man of my dreams without being put down and talked to like I am a piece of scum under the most disgusting pair of shoes.

  • Jolie

    I want to say this .. I have a boyfriend whom I’ve been with for 9 years. He’s very supportive in some things ..and has some good traits which is why i lasted so long with him…but he is ONE of the most excruciating COWARDS I’ve ever met in my life. He will not defend me even if he was paid high dollar to. He never sticks up for me and never has my back for nothing! He is a bonifide pussy. I constantly have to protect myself AND HIM… I tried talking to him many times but to no avail. And my solution to this is to cheat and find a man that will.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    I admire your courage and strength, Blair! It’s really hard to break up with someone you love (or even like a lot). You stood up for yourself, and you told him what you really think and feel. That’s amazing! Good for you. That is exactly what we should do when our boyfriends don’t stand up for us.

    No, I don’t think it was wrong for you to give up on him. Give him time and space to think — and you take time, as well. You and he may get back together if it’s right for both of you….and if it’s not right, then you won’t reconnect.

    Trust yourself. You did the right thing.

  • Blair

    I recently broke up with my boyfriend because I got tired of his friends saying bad things behind my back and he even told me this in front of my face and it really did hurt me a lot. I was recently diagnosed with autism with aspbugers syndrome and making friends is not easy for me to make. I was unemployed at the time and was trying my best to get a job was money was tight for me. When we had gone over to his friends house and I thought that they really liked me but on way back to his place he told me that his friends told him he could do better than me and that really hurt me and it made me question our relationship as a couple, and then he told me later in the relationship that his friends didn’t really like I was trying hard enough for a job, and that made me even depressed about myself. He told me he really didn’t care what they where saying about but some if it he listened to them about me. I told him why didn’t you stick up for me with your friends and he said does it matter to me. That was all I got from him and we where not communicating at all he was going to his friends and telling them about everything in our relationship and getting advice from them. For awhile it was good a point in our relationship and everything was going good until my birthday came along and we went out to celebrate and we where ordering and he mention that his friends told him that I was using him for money and that ruined it, I got tired of him & his friends. I had never in my whole life been hurt like that and it was very hurtful and I got to thinking that if he can’t stand up at some point in time for me , then he never will. I was the one to lie to him and tell him I didn’t have feeling for him but I did and I regret it, I miss him but he has to change for himself to see how friends played a part in your relationship and ruined it for us. Was it wrong for me to give up on him? I had asked if I could have a talk with his friends and he said no. I really do love him and miss him very much.

    • Mary

      Jeez you did great!!!!

      It’s just that you should have told him WHY you truly broke up instead of telling him that you don’t love him.

      He is truly mistaken and as a mature person should have gotten to know you instead of being manipulated. HE MUST STAND UP FOR YOU.

      By staying silent, he backstabbsd you. this brings the question, WHY his friends said those stuff bout you, it means your boyfriend shared his doubts with them and in order to see your reaction, he just said his friends said so, so he won’t need to defend himself because he thinks that way. U get what I mean?

      This is just a psychological trick, to blame others so that your partner won’t think it’s you who thinks that way.

      I think you did great by breaking up with him, you are obviously not after money and u obviously tried so hard to be the girl to meet expectations. These are the stuff he needs to know, it’s that every move you made was over analyzed and concluded falsely in their head.

      Good job, you don’t deserve to be treated that way.

  • Jade

    I met a guy over three years ago that my ex alcoholic friend was trying to set me up with a looser guy. I was not interested in him at all because he smokes marijuana and is a complete looser. Anyway my boyfriend and i have been together 18 months and this same guy happens to have worked with him. He recognised me and started saying things about me to my boyfriend which aren’t entirely true things like I wanted him and I agreed to have sex with him and that I am bad news and that I used to hang around with some bad people. Well my boyfriend hardly knows this guy and this guy met me once for 5 minutes over three years ago. What upsets me is my boyfriend wants to be friends with this guy after what he said about me. I have been around my boyfriend a lot longer than this guy. He’s not family to my boyfriend or anything he is just a random guy and my boyfriend has coffee with this looser it is very hurtful

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    Dear Daisy,

    Thank you for sharing your story; it sounds like you’re really struggling with your boyfriend’s inability to stand up for you. It’s especially painful when you have a son together.

    I don’t give advice, but it’s important to remember that you can’t change who your boyfriend is. He’s been with his family for alot longer than he’s been with you, and it’s not easy to change those old patterns of relating to family.

    Can you continue a relationship with him, just the way he is now? If nothing changed, would you be able to move forward in healthy ways? If you can accept that your boyfriend doesn’t stand up for you, you might be happier in your relationship with him.

    Not accepting him for who he is makes it difficult to love him fully and completely. It’s up to you to decide if you can accept him….another option is to talk to a counselor, and learn ways to respond to his family.

    May you find hope and healing, love and peace in your family.

  • daisy

    My boyfriend won’t stand up for me.. his family don’t like me . His sister and his dad really hate me thats I think . The other day we when to visit them at there house been a while i havent stop by at.. and the first thing my boyfriend says to me was say hi don’t be rude..? when I walk in no one even said hi or even look at me but every one say hi to my boyfriend and he still didn’t say nothing to his family I felt unwelcome there .. when we were about to leave my boyfriend comes and tells me to say bye to his family I can’t believe him he still wants me to say bye when there no respect … I wasn’t trying to argue with him at them moment but I got so mad at him I have no clue what to do with him ??? His mom alway call him to go visit her don’t get me wrong it ok but all the time tho ??? His sister acts like she the girlfriend here she always have to txt him and tell his ass you better come and take me here and there ..? And I have a son with him and it makes me soo sad that his family is putting me and my baby to the side like we no both and my boyfriend won’t do anything like a man they wouldn’t allow that kind shit .. a real man would stand up in front of his family and tell then that I’m his girlfriend and they have to give me respect .. I think his scared from his own family to stand up for his family we have I don’t know what to do ?

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    Hello Maryanne,

    Thank you for your comments; I’m sorry to hear your widowed boyfriend’s adult married child doesn’t accept you. Worse is that your boyfriend doesn’t stand up for you, and I suspect there isn’t anything you can do to change your boyfriend’s child’s mind or opinion about you. The more you fight it, the worse it’ll get.

    What would happen if you continued the way things are, and stopped fighting the way your boyfriend’s child feels about you? Is his or her feelings such a barrier to your relationship that it can’t progress any further?

    Many happy couples build healthy relationships outside of their family of origin. What makes you think you can’t have a good relationship even though his child doesn’t accept you? Maybe you can’t go to all the family functions….but maybe going to family events together isn’t a huge part of a healthy relationship.

    What do you think?

    • Maryanne

      Thank you for replying. My bf does stand up for me in all cases except with this one. He doesn’t want to ruin the relationship he has with his son or grandkids. He said that we will work thru this. It just hurts, because we are both seniors and just want acceptance. His late wife wanted him to move on & be happy.

      • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

        Maryanne, it sounds like he loves you AND he loves his son and grandkids! He’s a good man, isn’t he? And sometimes the “problem” with good men is that they want to make everyone happy.

        He’s supportive and kind…and he probably doesn’t know what to do.

        Have you read the Boundaries books by Cloud and Townsend? That might be a good way to break through the obstacles. Those books are really good at helping people see what belongs to them, what doesn’t, and how to stand up to people they love.

        If I lose my husband when I’m a senior, I hope I find love again…like you did! 🙂

        • Maryanne

          Thank you for suggesting the books- I will definitely look them up and try to find them! Yes, my boyfriend is a decent family man and he does try to keep peace. I agree with you in that my relationship with him is just that – my relationship with him, and that we should just focus on that right now. One thing that keeps going through my mind is something my boyfriend told me over a year ago about how his son needed to be on board with us before we can move forward. But just the other night he told me that we will get through this-we’ve hit a snag, but we’ll get through it somehow. I’m going to hold onto that thought.

  • Maryanne

    My widowed boyfriend’s adult married child is not accepting me. The remainder of his family has accepted us as a couple without any issues. I wouldn’t want my boyfriend to jeopardize his relationship with his child, and I would never expect him to be put in a position to choose, however it hurts me very much that his child won’t accept me at all, or include me in certain family functions. I am a good person, and the relationship we have is special and we are happy we both found someone again in our lives (we are both widowed). This has been going on for a few years now, and I fear there may never be a positive resolution. What does one suggest in this type of situation? I’m fearing that our relationship won’t progress any further that where it is without the acceptance of his child.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    It’s really hard – if not impossible – to get your boyfriend to change. If he doesn’t stand up for you now, what will make him stand up for you in the future? I don’t know; it depends on him and your relationship. The only think I know is that you can’t force anyone to change.

    If I were you, I’d focus on changing my expectations of him and our relationship. I would stop expecting my boyfriend to stand up for me, and then I’d stop being disappointed when he doesn’t.

    Then, I’d decide if this is the type of relationship I want to have with my boyfriend.

    What do you think?

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  • Susannnah

    I’m on the verge of giving up on my boyfriend. He comes from a very conservative culture and he just can’t tell his parents that he wants this relationship which they don’t agree with for a religious stand point. Maybe he doesn’t. It’s been 4 years since we’ve been together. I feel like I’ve been really patient and supportive but I’m getting no sense of security from him and I’m so close to throwing in the towel. And the thing is what we have is amazing. Either he has no back bone and can only get by on their approval or he just loves the security of his family and culture more than he loves me. Sick and tired.

  • sj

    Having been in exactly the same position with a slightly different situation even after telling my other half nothing has changed.
    Infact he tells me what ive done wrong and NEVER them.
    I find it so out of order and argue with him over it. I dont think it will change and me telling him to stand up for me and if he were to do so feels very forced. so i took it into my own hands and just distanced myself.

    • lolly

      My bf will do the same thing! Saying things like “YOU need to make peace” (when i already have, even though I wasn’t in the wrong) or things like “why didn’t YOU say hello to her” (when SHE didn’t say hello to me either).

      He’s always worried about what I do, and not how i am feeling or what they’re doing. I’M the bad guy – even though when we argue about it, he says that i am getting the wrong end of the stick with what he’s saying.

      It makes me feel third best, and miserable.

  • Laurie Post author

    Thank you for your comments on what she should do when her boyfriend doesn’t stand up for her, Valerie! I agree that it is easier said than done to change relationships and behavior, but sometimes it’s worth the effort.

  • Valerie

    She should tell him what s bothering her. He may not be aware of the situation it wasn’t made clear in the post. You don’t like to go against family yet if he is happy with her vice versa then what should it matter what she thinks. It shouldn’t be a personal issue at all. As for sticking up that should be part of the growing process to be reassured that this guy isn’t a wimp or the gal is going to flake on him. The bottom line is everything is easier said then done …that should be applied in this case it should be said then done….easy as that, don’t tolerate complications from a family member.