What to do when you’re dating a man with no ambition

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

You’ve finally met the man of your dreams. Not only is he striking and chiseled, but he’s also unbelievably well-mannered.

He is the very definition of perfect, right until you realize that he has no ambition in life.

So what do you do?

For starters, you could try any of these 19 foolproof tips:

1) Be sure to differentiate ambition and success

They may seem alike, but ambition and success are two different things.

Ambition is all about achieving something. It involves motivation, drive, and a plan for making these goals come true.

In other words, it’s all about having an eye toward the future.

Success, on the other hand, is measured differently. It’s subjective. Your man may consider his quiet job and simple life successful.

On the other hand, you may associate success with a man who’s loaded.

That’s why it’s important to differentiate which is which. Does your man lack ambition, or does he lack the kind of things you’ve always attributed to success?

2) Know yourself better

Dating someone is not merely knowing everything about him. You must enter the relationship with complete knowledge of yourself as well.

Explains Tiffanie Brown, LCSW:

“What are you willing to compromise on? Which qualities complement your own? What are the core values that you can’t compromise on?”

That’s why T. Brown advises couples to “Get to know yourself as an individual and as a partner. Knowing yourself helps you communicate better, and your partner will definitely appreciate that.”

(Speaking of communication, we’ll explore more of that later.)

3) Understand that there’s nothing wrong with you

You’re not a bad girlfriend (or a golddigger) for wanting a man with ambition. You’re only thinking about your future, after all.

While you are more than able to stand up and provide for yourself, there’s no harm in looking for somebody who can do the same.

This drive is hardwired in human psychology too.

According to David Ludden, Ph.D., there are two explanations for this:

  • Evolved preferences theory. “Women are dependent on men to provide for them and their children, and that’s why they value resources overlooked in a potential mate.”
  • Social role theory. “Women’s preference for resources overlooks is a response to the current social organization rather than a product of our evolutionary past.”

So don’t beat yourself up for wanting a guy with ambition. You’re predisposed to be that way. How you handle your situation, however, is another matter.

4) Explore the root cause/s

Men with no ambition don’t do it ‘just cause.’ More often than not, there are factors that drive them to be – well – not so driven.

For example, he may be stuck in a low-paying job, or he may be deep in credit card or student loan debt.

He may even be struggling with low self-esteem issues.

In other words, his lack of ambition may be due to his current condition.

That said, it’s essential to know if he’s just constrained by his situation – or if he’s just a straight-out person with no job. If you’re dealing with the latter, then you may want to follow these tips.

5) Have a talk

Like discussing the other issues in your relationship, you need to talk about his lack of ambition.

As T. Brown explains:

“Communication is one of the most important parts of a relationship, and one of the hardest. That’s because being open and honest with your partner means being open and honest with yourself.”

When you talk to your partner, make sure to approach it with understanding. That’s why it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the possible underlying factors, as it will help you in your conversation.

Moreover, it will be best to follow psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D.’s tips on having tough conversations with your partner:

  • Don’t avoid the ‘talk.’ Discuss it while it’s still a minor and trivial matter. Shelving the issue for a long may end up escalating it to unresolvable levels. You don’t want that!
  • Avoid ‘but’ statements. Whitbourne explains: “We’re culturally conditioned to expect something bad almost every time someone uses the tone of voice that starts the ‘but’ sentence.” As such, the best way to go is to phrase your statements directly, whether it’s positive or negative.
  • Let him prepare. Whitbourne recommends “providing your partner with an alert that there’s something you wish to discuss.”
  • Stay positive throughout the conversation. “Feeling that the situation is hopeless is an almost certain way to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once you’ve decided that all is lost, you’ll invariably interpret everything your partner says with a strong dose of pessimism,” adds Whitbourne.

As T. Brown puts it: “It all comes down to listening to your partner, and being kind to them.” Don’t forget to validate your man’s feelings!

6) Don’t shut the conversation down

Talking about his lack of ambition will undoubtedly lead to disagreements. That’s fine. What’s important, however, is that you don’t shut the communication down because of the palpable tension.

According to T. Brown, it’s best to “Tell your partner that you’re upset and need some time to cool down and process your thoughts before you talk. This way they don’t feel like you’re disappearing on them, or ignoring their feelings.”

In other words, try to blow off some steam before you resume talking. You don’t want to end the relationship prematurely just because both of you were very angry.

7) Accept the fact that you won’t be able to change him

Some of us ladies view our men as pet projects. We think we can magically transform into motivated worker bees.

Newsflash: most of the time, we can’t change them.

Men are inherently stubborn, thanks to the testosterone coursing through their veins. So they’re going to do what they want whenever they want.

That’s the way they’re built.

So instead of erupting in flames every time you go over his lack of ambition, I recommend you practice radical acceptance.

According to Lachlan Brown, HackSpirit founder, it’s all about “accepting things that you cannot change. It means recognizing that you can’t always fight against things. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let something go.”

If you’re new to this practice, you can read Lachlan’s guide on radical acceptance here.

8) Ask him: is he happy with where he is right now?

I understand that you’re only thinking about your future. But you must consider his happiness as well.

Maybe he’s happy with his current job. He doesn’t have a toxic boss, and he totally adores his co-workers.

Remember, it’s okay not to be career-driven.

As leadership advisor Annie McKee puts it:

“When our work has meaning, when we see an enticing vision of the future and when we have strong, warm relationships, we are emotionally, intellectually and physically equipped to do our best,”

You don’t want him to be miserable by pushing him to a career he loathes.

As McKee explains, “When you work in an environment where you constantly face these destructive emotions, they interfere with reasoning, adaptability, and resilience.”

Worse, it could lead him to “slip into a state where he can’t seem to find his way back to happiness. As a result, he may not be not as effective as he once was.”

Remember: he may be genuinely happy with his life right now, and it’s more than enough for him.

As for your part, the best thing you could do right now is to show him that you’re behind him 101%!

9) Appreciate the differences

You know what they always say: opposite poles attract. You may differ when it comes to the topic of ambition, but it may be for the better.

Explains T. Brown:

“Part of what makes relationships awesome is the differences! Your partner can help you see the world from a new perspective, even if you don’t ultimately change your mind.”

Sure enough, if you’re an ultra-competitive person, you wouldn’t want a boyfriend who’s just as driven. You’ll end up butting heads in no time.

Additionally, your no-ambition partner may have talents or skills that you don’t have – something that sure will come in handy in your everyday life.

Remember: there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel!

10) You can always try to encourage him

Change starts from within.

See, you can’t force him to be ambitious if he doesn’t have the drive to do so. So he’ll continue to be the bullheaded man you knew him to be.

That said, you could encourage him until he becomes motivated enough to do it.

According to Gwendolyn Seidman Ph.D.’s Psychology Today report: “Research shows that encouragement from romantic partners to pursue goals in areas such as career, school, friendship, and fitness makes people more likely to actually achieve those goals.”

Here are some words of encouragement that can help you and your man.

11) Help your partner pursue his goals

Maybe he failed to achieve his ambition because he lacked the right support system.

Maybe your man hasn’t had a partner who was willing to help him achieve his goals. It’s possible that his ex-girlfriend dismissed him right at the get-go, that’s why he decided to retain his laidback ways.

For this, Seidman recommends “Helping them to come up with a specific plan. Focus on goals that are realistic and attainable. It’s important that these plans are specific (apply to job A and B next week), rather than general (e.g., have a new job this month).”

Here are some other tips that will surely help your man achieve his goals.

12) Offer some suggestions

Sure, it’s every woman’s dream to transform a non-ambitious guy into a world-renowned CEO. But let’s face it: there’s a huge chance it won’t happen.

That said, your guy doesn’t necessarily have to be stuck in his old, dead-end job. You can offer career suggestions that don’t necessarily require a lot of ambition.

Vlogger. Content creator. Basically, anything that has to do with his hobbies (snowboarder, skateboarder, etc.)

The best thing about this? Not only are you showing him the support he needs, but he may actually hit the jackpot with your career suggestions!

Don’t believe me? Just look at these figures:

  • In the US, a vlogger can make as much as $83,916 a year.
  • Top earners in the US can make as much as $200,000 a year!

As Marc Anthony once said: If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

13) Do remember to take a step back

There will be times when your partner will resist the assistance you’re trying to extend. (As I’ve previously mentioned, men can get quite stubborn.)

Should this happen, let them be.

According to Seidman, “Providing help that isn’t needed or wanted can be viewed as threatening to the self and may make people feel that their partner doesn’t have faith in them or can make them feel indebted to the giver.”

Taking a step back may prove beneficial for you too. This can give you the time you need to reflect on your situation. Maybe this will help you view the glass as half-full and not half-empty.

14) Avoid being controlling

Perhaps your partner is making his ambitions come true one step at a time. And, if you want this to continue at a leisurely pace, you need to fight the desire to control him.

Avoid being overbearing! I understand that it’s a human desire that gives us the feeling of safety, order, and stability.

But trust me, too much of a good thing is vile.

As Seidman explains it:

“Trying to control your partner’s actions can backfire. When people feel as though their freedom to do what they want is being threatened, they’ll cling to that threatened freedom more—like a child who desperately wants to play with a specific toy simply because it’s forbidden. When you try to control your partner, you’re restricting their freedom.”

15) Remain respectful

It could get pretty annoying whenever your man shuns every kind of help or suggestion you offer. But before you have a complete meltdown, remember this: don’t criticize his choices and decisions.

In other words, don’t be disrespectful toward him.

As T. Brown puts it:

“Respect means that you recognize that your partner is a whole person, and not just a way to get something that you want.”

Remember: respect begets respect!

16) Keep it subtle

If you have a strong personality, then you’re probably itching to help him. And in case you do have the opportunity to do so, keep it subtle.

If you want him to take advantage of your help, you need to make it seem like you’re not helping him at all.

“When the recipient doesn’t realize they’ve been helped, it avoids the potential negative consequences of feeling controlled, indebted, or threatened,” explains Seidman.

Remember: if you’re very forthcoming with your assistance, your man may end up shunning it at the get-go.

17) Give him room to grow

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Likewise, you can’t expect your man to become a dashing millionaire overnight.

As Guy Finley explains writes in the Spirit of Change magazine:

“We can help others reach higher by simply agreeing, consciously, to give them space to go through their changes even when these changes may challenge our sense of self and its well-being.”

He goes on to add:

“We must not only give them room to make the choices that they will, but (we must also) leave them alone to realize and experience the unique results of being who they are. How else can they learn and grow beyond themselves?”

18) Consider the silver lining

Dating a man with no ambition is not always bad.

For one, he’ll shower most of his time with you (unlike your ex-partner, who always doesn’t have time for you.) Also, don’t be surprised if he cooks you a mean dinner every night!

He may actually be able to compliment your lifestyle, especially if you’re one determined go-getter.

Who knows? You may not have to worry about being taken for granted anymore.

And, if you two decide to have a baby, you don’t have to be the one stuck at home. He can take over the helm of the household!

19) If all else fails, go

You’ve done everything you can.

You understood his condition before you talked to him.

You encouraged him, helped him, and gave him room to grow.

Heck, you even considered the silver lining (even though there’s hardly one.)

In other words, you’ve been a stellar partner.

That said, is this a situation in which you’ll be happy? If not, then you may want to leave the relationship.

After all, his lack of purpose in life is more than a valid reason. It shows in his constant boredom, dissatisfaction, and emptiness. Not only does this affect his life at home and at work, but this can take a toll on your relationship as well.

If you think you’ve done everything you can to no avail, then you may want to pack your bags and leave.

Final thoughts

Should you stay or should you go?

If the situation you’re in is making you feel stuck in a rut, I have to be honest with you: you’ll need much more than willpower to change it. 

I learned about this from Life Journal, created by the highly-successful life coach and teacher Jeanette Brown. 

You see, willpower only takes us so far…the solution to transforming your relationship and your attitude toward the man you’re dealing with involves perseverance, a shift in mindset, and effective goal setting.

And while this might sound like a mighty task to undertake, thanks to Jeanette’s guidance, it’s been easier to do than I could have ever imagined. 

Click here to learn more about Life Journal.

Now, don’t expect her to tell you what to do. She’s not that kind of life coach. Instead, expect her to give you all the needed tools for you to succeed in your quest.

Here’s the link once again.

Raychel Ria Agramon

I'm Raye, a nurse licensed in both the Philippines and the US. I also have a Master's degree in Public Management.

Just like helping my patients, I like to empower & motivate readers with research-backed articles.

You can reach me at [email protected]

If you sell your soul can you get it back?

25 reasons you still feel connected to your ex