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My boyfriend is extremely shy, but can put on fake confidence which is starting to worry me

Tagged as: Dating, Trust issues<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (23 May 2018) 13 Answers - (Newest, 24 May 2018)
A female United Kingdom age 30-35, anonymous writes:

I don't get my boyfriend lately. After being together for nearly 2 years, i feel that I don't really know who he is sometimes. When we first met until about a year, he was VERY insecure, very shy. The type that would hunch over while walking. And even now, when he's around my family or friends he will sit there in silence for the majority of the time. However, after a recent promototion to manager, he has been trying to "put on" this confidence. Since then there's been a couple of phases where he puts on this front, and it's like hes a new person entirely. He did it when he first met my sister's new boyfriend. He was extremely loud, over chatty, and my family thought I had a word with him prior to speak more but I didnt.

I don't know if it was his way of showing he's the first boyfriend of the family, so it was like a dominance thing? And then the second time was our second visit to a travel agent.

In our first visit he barley said a word and sat there letting me do all the talking. So I had a word with him for not showing initiative.

So then on our second visit, he goes over the top again, loud, overly confident, to the point where it almost would have seemed he was flirting with the travel agent. So I spoke with him after and he said "I wasn't flirting, I was just trying to make an effort like you wanted. Plus I knew more of what to say and ask after our first visit". It's like he doesn't know how to be.

My worry with this is, he can obviously act. And put on a front quite well..which worries me a little when I'm not round him. Does he try on this front when hes out with friends? Or round other women? Before I could trust him cos I knew who he was, and I know it's fake, but the fact he can change this extreme, has started to affect my trust.

View related questions: confidence, flirt, insecure, shy

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A female reader, Ciar Canada + , writes (24 May 2018):

Ciar agony auntIt seems your boyfriend's progress in overcoming his fears have exposed some latent fears of your own.

You may want your boyfriend to be more confident but as long as he's 'extremely shy' you have the security of knowing you won't be abandoned any time soon.

You don't have to rely on his good character, sound judgment, or hordes of admiring women to keep a respectful distance, you don't have to work quite as hard to maintain his interest and you have greater negotiating power in this relationship.

And maybe you don't want to admit that to yourself because you think it makes you a bad person. It doesn't.

Put it this way, if I had to sit two feet from a lion without the protection of plexiglass, I would rather the lion be dead than alive and agitated. This does not mean I want lions to die. Just that I recognize which option is safest. That's all.

Maybe if you didn't condemn yourself as weak or selfish for having these insecurities you could more objectively deal with them.

This is an opportunity for personal growth, not a cause for concern.

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A female reader, aunt honesty Ireland +, writes (24 May 2018):

aunt honesty agony auntWho are you to judge him and say what he is doing is fake. Just because it is new and different to what you have saw before does not mean it is fake. He may be gaining more confidence and yes people can go from one extreme to the other. It doesn't mean that he is going to go and cheat on you or want someone different just because he is gaining confidence. You need to trust that he loves you and wants to be with you. You need to gain more confidence and self esteem in yourself.

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A female reader, janniepeg Canada + , writes (24 May 2018):

janniepeg agony auntI think most of us are fake, in a sense, in the workplace, otherwise we won't be able to create customers and make sales. This fakeness pronounced in your boyfriend because he's shy to begin with.

For me, I can go through life without talking and it won't bother me. I talk to survive and to make family members feel comfortable. My mom noticed I opened up but still wondered if I was creating conversations. I told her no, that talking helped me process my thoughts and feelings. I am not faking. In this world of relating, talking is necessary. Most of the time I just prefer silence, that's all. There may be times that being quiet is being himself. You should generously allow him that. There are times he's talkative. Maybe he's truly enjoying himself. It depends on the conversation topic and who he's with. Some shy people aren't quiet all the time. They have rather complex personalities that are tricky to figure out. It makes it exciting when it's hard to predict how they are going to behave next. Maybe he's confident in talking about his job, his expertise and interests. With other topics he has no clue, he would just keep quiet.

It's a bit unnerving when you feel like you don't know your boyfriend. Some people can't be categorized but it's okay. What's important is that you have a good connection and you are both devoted to each other. He could be a late bloomer too. So confidence comes later when he's more established in life. What's happening is that you watched him grow up. When you mentioned trust, I am guessing you are worried that because he's changing, his love for you could change too. That's the insecurity in life because nothing is guaranteed. You can only cherish the moment now.

Should I mention that many of the greatest actors are on the autistic spectrum. They are great at what they do because in real life they had a lot of practice with acting already.

Maybe one question for him is, is he with you because he's supposed to get married one day, have kids, like checking off the list in life, or because he really enjoys being with you? Even if he has a career, a family, does he secretly want to be alone somewhere else? When you are alone together, there's the connection that can't be faked and you should be able to feel it.

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A female reader, Ciar Canada + , writes (24 May 2018):

Ciar agony auntYour boyfriend's behaviour is normal for someone who is finding his way, albeit later in life than most do.

He's going to over-correct now and again. It's not 'fake'. It's just part of the process.

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A male reader, Code Warrior United States + , writes (24 May 2018):

Code Warrior agony auntConsidering that I simply asked you if those were reasons you chose him, your overreaction tells me that I struck a nerve. Also, I've got no problem being judgmental, so that "how dare you judge me" tactic won't work on me. I'll judge however I see fit and I don't expect you to like it.

Believe it or not, I do care about your problem, otherwise I wouldn't have posted.

My post was intended to upset you. Not because I get some cheap thrill out of it, but because I felt that something more drastic was required to wake you up to the reality of your situation. It wasn't just my tone that was different than the other aunts, I pointed out potential ramifications for you as well. Ignore me if you wish, but that doesn't change what his newfound confidence is doing for him. Like it or not, it will affect you. I went through the transformation he's going through, so I speak from relevant experience. It's up to you how that goes.

If you want to waste your time raging at me, well, it's your time. But that rage doesn't change your situation.

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A male reader, N91 United Kingdom + , writes (24 May 2018):

N91 agony auntYou’re way overthinking here.

Your BF has done what was asked of him and you’re wondering if he’s lying to you about other parts of the relationship. What other indications has he given to you to support that theory?

If there’s nothing then you’re risking sabotaging your relationship. Let the man build his confidence, you wanted it after all.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (24 May 2018):

This is verified as being by the original poster of the question

I think some of you are getting the wrong impression of me here. I dont control my boyfriend, I love him with all my being. But to see him change suddenly, worries me with the possibility of him being fake towards me. I don't know, that's why I've been panicking and asking. I do not need to read these hurtful messages especially from Code Warrior, claiming I only dated him because he lacks confidence. You don't know me and I'm with him because I love him, so dont you dare judge my feelings either! I am a semi confident person, not insecure and not over confident. I have just seen a change in my partner and because it's new to me, I don't know how shy men deal with these phases. Whether they can change for better or worse. That's what's worried me and that's why I'm here. I have never even asked him to change completely like most of you implied, I generally spoke with him that one day asking why he doesnt show enthusiasm or try asking the travel agent questions. And by suddenly changing, of course I'll see that as fake, because a shy person can't change that quick. Not that I'm not grateful for him trying, but if someone shy can change so quick, how can I have not worry that he may act towards the relantionship.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (23 May 2018):

Some people fake it till they make it. Many people act confident and build up till they develop a real confidence through practice. Inherently shy people do this, and as they gain experience, their confidence grows.

Doesn't seem to be anything wrong with what your boyfriend is doing-he is making an effort. Now if you doubt him, it may set him back several steps.

I don't know how old your boyfriend is but looking at your age bracket, people in their mid-twenties do grow, change and mature from whom they were even two years ago.

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A male reader, Code Warrior United States + , writes (23 May 2018):

Code Warrior agony auntIt seems like you're not very confident. You're downright insecure. Did you choose him because he was even less confident than you and so was no threat to hurt you? Did you choose him because you could be in control of the relationship and keep him in his place if he stepped out of line? Because that's what it looks like you're trying to do. Only thing is, he's not Casper Milquetoast anymore. He's developing a backbone and putting you in your place and you don't like it. Not. One. Bit.

I wasn't confident as a teen and girls easily manipulated me and many of them had no respect for me. But, when I adopted the "be a jerk" theory of picking up girls during college, and it worked better than any method I'd ever tried before, I spent plenty of time acting like a jerk. Eventually, I became a jerk. I'll tell you this much, I may have been a jerk, but girls stopped trying to manipulate me and I had their respect. At least until they tired of the jerk. Later on, when I learned that the girls were attracted to the confidence exuded by the jerk, I stopped being a jerk and just acted confident. Eventually, I became confident, but, I still keep the jerk around because sometimes the jerk is required to handle unreasonable people.

Honeypie is right to point out your hypocrisy on this issue. You can't ask him to improve and then complain when he does it. He's learning how to be confident. He will be experimenting with it. It will look clumsy. But I'll tell you this much, if you're worried that other women will be attracted to him and that you're losing your trust, then he can't be looking that clumsy.

You have a good reason to be worried. When he finds out that other women are attracted to his newfound confidence, he may want to try with them. If he's a good guy, he won't cheat on you, he'll break up with your first, but, you're definitely going to have to step up your game if you want to stay in it.

Of course, if you're not up to the challenge, you could break up with him. But that would be cowardly IMO. It might kill his confidence too. Do you really want to be that vindictive?

If you really care about him, then you should encourage him, even if that means the end of your relationship. I don't think that will happen unless you keep trying to bring him down and you don't do anything to step up your game. You never know. Maybe if you show him that his new confidence turns you on rather than scares you, maybe your relationship will improve and maybe the sex will even get better.

As they say, time to put your money where your mouth is. Are you up to it, or are you just going to wimp out and take the easy way out? Ball's in your court.

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A female reader, Ciar Canada + , writes (23 May 2018):

Ciar agony auntI too agree with Honeypie.

We gain confidence through experience, trial and error and we do it at an earlier age. Then there are those of us who start to learn this later in life. Maybe he had a difficult upbringing or he's just naturally shy/introverted.

It's like someone who is learning to drive over-correcting.

He's just trying to figure out what works best for him in different circumstances.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (23 May 2018):

Poor boy.

A man is going to flirt with a woman. I and you wish that he wouldn't, but it's in his nature. You either deal with that or you let him go, or you deal with wha he 1st was to you, a shy man!

Shy men don't flirt, shy men let you do all the talk. What could be better for us woman!?

Yet we should never make him feel insecure or bad about his shyness, that's who he is and brings NHS him out of his confidence issues does not mean being a bully to him and then rebuking him when he's trying his little darnedest to keep you happy.

Bless him. Let him remain shy forever more. He's with you isn't he?

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A male reader, N91 United Kingdom + , writes (23 May 2018):

N91 agony auntI have to echo honeypies advice.

YOU asked him to make more effort, he’s done that and now you don’t trust him anymore? Where’s the logic in that?

You knew what he was like when you met him. It’s very unfair and and rude to ask someone to change to suit your criteria. If he’s too quiet for you then find someone who isn’t.

To ask someone to change and then criticise them for it is absurd.

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (23 May 2018):

Honeypie agony auntIt seems a bit unfair of you to DEMAND that a shy person "makes more effort" if he IS a very shy person. And then when he DOES try you get upset too.

Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

Yes, he might be trying to come off as more confident due to a promotion, it might also be that he IS becoming more confident due to it, but it might NOT come out in a natural way yet.

And Ia can see how it's VERY strange to look at someone and see them "slip" into a persona you are unfamiliar with. He is probably trying to figure out WHO he is and HOW he should act. Most people go through that stage in their teens, HE obviously didn't.

Now you ask if he acts like that when out with his friends... HOW are we supposed to know?

You can not TELL him HOW to behave and then be upset when he tries out various "personas" to PLEASE you.

Poor bastard is trying to BE the man you obviously want him to be, instead of just be himself.

Back off and just let him find out who he is and who he can be.

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