We’ve all been there.
Alone at home, curled up on the sofa watching Netflix, wondering what exactly our boyfriend is doing. Picking up our phone every 30 seconds in the hope that a message will have pinged its way onto the screen.
Being ignored by your boyfriend is really hard. Feeling hurt is the natural response. It makes you feel unimportant, irrelevant, or unloved.
You can’t help but think:
A boyfriend ignoring you is one of the hardest things to deal with in any relationship. Give me anger or upset any day of the week. At least then you know what you are dealing with.
However, there are lots of reasons why your boyfriend may be ignoring you — and not all of them are red flags for your relationship.
Life is complicated and there are a whole bunch of reasons why your boyfriend is ignoring you.
Here is my list of the 9 big reasons he is ignoring you and what you can do about it.
1) He hates talking on the phone
Did you know that telephobia is an actual real-life thing? It’s the fear of using telephones.
I’m not saying that this is a condition that your boyfriend definitely has, but I do know from experience that most men will not use the phone when there is any other way of staying in touch.
I swear some men would prefer to build a fire and send smoke signals than even contemplate making a phone call.
I really, really can’t stress this enough. Some men absolutely hate the phone. He can be the chattiest person alive sitting next to you on the sofa, but put a phone in his hand and he takes a vow of silence like a medieval monk.
This is much more common than you imagine.
Think about the conversations you have with your friends or mum on the phone. You’ll talk about your day and what is going on in your life.
Now, stop for a moment, and try to remember the last time you heard your boyfriend making a phone call.
Chances are that it lasted for less than 30 seconds, and focused on very specific details. I am guessing it went something like:
“Alright mate. Do you want to go out for a drink? Yeah? What time? See you then?”
What you can do:
Make a sign and put it up in your living room: “Men and phones don’t mix”.
Women see phone calls as a way of sharing information about how they feel. Men see them as being about the most basic exchange of the minimal amount of information that you need to have a functional life.
Basically, if he hasn’t phoned you, it could easily be that he doesn’t phone anyone.
Try dropping him a text instead, or better yet wait until you see him. If you ask him why he was ignoring your phone calls, don’t be too surprised when he looks baffled.
2) He wants to be alone
We all have days when we feel tired of people. Where the most attractive thing we can imagine is a locked door, closed curtains, and a bit of peace and quiet.
Being with people constantly can be tiring — especially if he has a job that involves him being sociable all day.
And being comfortable in his own company is actually a good sign. It shows that he is a grown-up, happy with who he is, and feels secure enough not to spend every night trying to sweep you off your feet.
All of us want to be alone sometimes. If you are constantly around other people you need to take some time to recharge your batteries and have a bit of me-time.
Being alone is not a sign of a sad or depressed individual. In fact, more recently scientists are recognizing the true value of solitude. Time alone is healthy in lots of ways — it allows you to be creative, to relax and to develop self-insight.
What you can do:
When people need space, the best thing you can do is allow them to have it. That is about recognizing their needs rather than thinking about your own.
Your relationship will be better for it.
If he is having time out, then perhaps you should do the same. That way, when he is ready to see you again, you will both feel recharged and ready to have fun.
3) He’s avoidant
Men can be avoidant.
We all know the type – a man who feels impossible to quite reach, who has a sad far away aspect to his personality that somehow we believe that we can be the one person to break through
It’s actually pretty damn hot… but completely frustrating at the same time.
These men have been part of our romantic daydreams for generations – think of Mr. Darcy or Heathcliff (the character from Wuthering Heights, not the cartoon cat). They offer us the prospect of intimacy and connection but always remain tantalizingly just out of our reach.
The important thing for you to know about avoidant boyfriends is that while they may appear to the world as confident and aloof, they are scared at heart. Maybe they have been hurt in the past and have developed an armor that will stop them from getting hurt again.
If your boyfriend is like this, then remember that he is putting up barriers not because he doesn’t care. It’s because being cared for makes him vulnerable in a way that feels uncomfortable for him.
Maybe you also need to spend a bit of time wondering why you have chosen a man who puts up barriers to intimacy too. Is getting too close to someone something you are scared of too?
What you can do:
You need to look at the reasons for that behavior, not just the behavior itself.
And one of the underlying reasons is often that men in the modern world are not always clear about how they fit into your life. This is actually where the science gets quite interesting.
Scientists and psychologists have been talking a lot recently about a new theory in relationship psychology called the hero instinct.
What it basically means is that men have a deeply rooted desire to step up to the plate for the woman in his life and protect her. He wants to provide her something no other man can.
This is hardwired into their DNA.
I know it seems kind of silly. Women can take care of themselves. They don’t need a hero in their lives.
But this misses the point about what the hero instinct is all about. While you may not need a hero, men have an in-built urge to feel like one.
The interesting bit is that it’s up to the woman to trigger this instinct in him. There are phrases you can say, texts you can send, and little requests you can make to make him feel like the hero in your life.
And when his hero instinct is triggered, a man is much more likely to commit to being in a deep, passionate and long lasting relationship.
James Bauer, the relationship psychologist who first discovered the hero instinct, provides an excellent introduction to this transformative concept.
4) He’s angry with you
Okay, there’s no point dodging this one – maybe what you are worrying about is true. Your boyfriend is angry with you.
Making our boyfriends angry sometimes is part and parcel of being in a relationship. It’s wildly unrealistic to imagine you can be in a close long-term relationship with someone and never occasionally make them mad.
“When words make noise, silence can talk”
Remember, even though he is not speaking, he is clearly trying to communicate something — he is just using silence to do it.
The problem with him ignoring you though is that you aren’t a mind-reader. At some point, the two of you will have to communicate with actual words in order to understand and resolve the problem.
Fingers crossed, once he has time to think for a while, he will move from the silent treatment to more direct forms of communication, so that you can work it out as a couple.
Perhaps, if you use the time to think for yourself, you will be able to untangle the reasons for his anger.
It’s a bit like losing your car keys. Can you walk back through your day to try and remember where you saw them last?
Try the same thing with your boyfriend. Did anything happen the last time you saw him? Were you unpleasant to him, or did you mock something that you think is silly but which is important to him? Did you try and force a conversation that he simply didn’t want to have?
What you can do:
Remember that understanding his anger is not the same as accepting it.
From your point of view this is about seeking understanding, not taking responsibility. Your boyfriend needs to own his own anger – you might have triggered it, but it belongs to him not you.
Changing the way that you think and act as a response to his anger, or to avoid him getting angry in the future, is not the way to go. It sails dangerously close to him manipulating you.
He might try and use his anger as a weapon, but it is up to you whether that weapon works or not.
If this is the case, don’t sit brooding — be open, honest and direct. Drop him a text. Even if he isn’t speaking to you, you can bet your bottom dollar he will read it. Tell him you want to understand what is going on. Tell him how being ignored makes you feel. Avoid angry or emotive language yourself — just quietly, clearly, calmly point it out.
If all of that doesn’t work, then perhaps you should ignore him right back. Life is too short for endless guessing games trying to figure out why you are being shunned in this way.
It’s meant to be a relationship. Not a game of 20 questions.
5) He has other stuff going on in his life
Sit down. Take a deep breath. Prepare yourself for this. IT MIGHT BE NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. There. How did that feel? Surprising?
I know it is hard to imagine, but perhaps the stuff he is dealing with or thinking through is not related to your relationship. He could be having issues at work, or have a problem in his family that he wants time to think through alone.
We all like to imagine that we are the center of our boyfriend’s universe, but he has a whole world of stuff that has nothing to do with you. Sometimes this will involve something that even seems trivial or silly to you.
I have a friend who dated a guy who flew into a terrible sulk every time his football team lost a game.
At the start, she tried to cheer him up or to explain why it wasn’t really a big deal. After a while though, she realized that although it seemed silly to her, it was clearly important to him. She just left him to it, knowing that the following day he would be his usual charming, funny self.
Of course, the things your boyfriend is dealing with may well be more serious than a lost football game. He might have had an argument with his boss, or someone in his family may be unwell.
For some people, the first thing they would want to do when dealing with something like that is to talk to their partner.
While for others, the thing they really need is thinking time — the space to work out what they feel for themselves before sharing it with others. Perhaps he is one of those people.
What you can do:
All you can do is let him know that you are there when he is ready to talk, step back and wait until he has worked through whatever he needs to work through.
6) He’s cheating on you
I know that this is probably one that you don’t want to even look at but it has to make it onto the list.
Cheating doesn’t come out of nowhere. If it’s what is going on, then chances are you will already have seen some of the signs.
In fact, if you are worrying about it at all, there is probably some part of your brain that already thinks he might have someone else.
What you can do:
You need to look at his behavior as a whole and not just at one part of it. Has he cheated before (and if so, you seriously need to ask yourself why on earth you are still with him)? Has he been acting mysteriously — checking his phone and keeping it on silent when you are together?
Don’t jump to conclusions.
As with most things in life, the best approach is to be honest, open and straightforward. Don’t angrily accuse him — just say that you are worried about it and explain how that makes you feel.
7) He doesn’t feel essential
If your boyfriend is ignoring you, you simply have to dig a little deeper and get inside his mind.
What drives him as a man? What does he want from your relationship?
You may think that men are all about money, sex, food, sports, and power.
Sure, those things all come into play at times. But I think there is a deeper truth that few women are aware of. That men are driven less by external things are more by how you make them feel about being in a relationship with you.
Above all else men want to feel essential to the woman in his life.
This doesn’t mean you have to cling on and suffocate him with attention. What it does mean is that you need to make him feel that he is providing you something that you need that no other man can.
In other words, he needs to feel like your hero.
I mentioned the hero instinct above. It’s a fascinating new concept in relationship psychology that’s generating a lot of buzz on social media at the moment.
The hero instinct is the drive inside a man to live a life full of meaning, to provide for those he cares about, and the desire to earn respect from those around him.
Men don’t necessarily want to be Bruce Willis but they want to do something with their lives that matters and they want to make a difference.
This is especially true for how they approach relationships. They want to protect their woman, treat her right and earn her love in return.
They want to be your hero. And if you want your relationship to succeed, you’ll let him.
What you can do:
You have to trigger the hero instinct in your man.
The best way to do this is watch this excellent free video by relationship psychologist James Bauer. Watch the video here.
James outlines the simple things you can do right now to make him feel more essential to you.
I don’t often buy into popular new concepts in psychology or recommend videos. But I think the hero instinct can help transform any relationship currently on the wrong track. It was a game changer for me and my boyfriend when I first discovered it.
8) You bring him down
All of us like to believe that we are little rays of sunshine that light up the lives of everyone around us. Some sort of cross between Snow White singing with the birds in the forest and Pollyanna.
But we’re much more complicated than that. Sometimes we are fun and happy. Sometimes we are quiet and sad.
This is as true for you as it is for him.
Maybe it’s time to think through what the tone and content of your conversations with him are like.
What you can do:
Here’s a simple test you can do from the comfort of your own home:
Scroll through your phone and look at each conversation you have had. How did they start? Was it with a grumble or a complaint?
Being negative in your communications is much more common than you would imagine. When I have asked other people to look through their past conversations, they have often been surprised by what they found.
It’s perfectly natural to use your relationship as a place to sound off about what is bothering you in your life, who has annoyed you at work or which of your friends is irritating you at the moment.
However, if this is all you ever talk about then don’t be surprised if he chooses to put his phone on mute for a few hours.
Negativity is hard to be around.
Perhaps you should think about consciously talking about positive things – or asking him open questions such as “what was the best thing that happened to you today?”
9) He is considering a break-up
If your boyfriend is thinking about breaking up then he will not be itching to pick the phone up and have that conversation with you.
Men tend to avoid difficult conversations. Sometimes it is just easier to bury your head in the sand and pretend that there is nothing to talk about.
Maybe he even thinks that if he treats you badly by ignoring you then you will make the decision for him — which he will find much easier to deal with.
Again, is this something that you have seen before? Him refusing to tell you something important because he was scared or nervous about how you might respond?
The fact is that relationships do end sometimes. While it is always sad, there are some relationships that should end.
If you are with a guy who is too scared to have an honest conversation with you, then in my book he probably isn’t really the one for you.
In conclusion: what should you do now?
If you have read the list above and ticked them off one by one like a bingo card then you might be thinking that you have a serious boyfriend problem.
It isn’t easy dealing with being ignored. But I want you to remember one thing — that this is about how your boyfriend is feeling and how they behave — not about you.
The best advice I can give is to try and focus on yourself and the things that you can do rather than trying to manage how somebody else feels. If he wants space to think then use that time productively rather than spending it brooding — read a book, or go for a run.
When it is time to have a conversation, then be open, honest, and straightforward. Just because he plays games doesn’t mean that you have to play them too.
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