So, my question is on compatibility. I have been in 4 long-term (multi-year) relationships over the course of my adult life (I am in my early thirties). My current relationship is almost 2 years old. Historically, I have ended all previous relationships for basically the same concern and I’m close to doing the same in my present relationship due to the omnipresent discontent around poor communication and inability to connect through conversation.
My current boyfriend, similar to my previous boyfriends, is a good person: intelligent, kind, emotionally-stable, responsible, attractive, loyal and committed to the relationship, but similarly, we have major difficulties communicating.
My SO has complained that our conversations are ‘too heavy’ (the last boyfriend said this almost verbatim), whereas I feel conversationally starved. I often enjoy theoretical discussions and bouncing abstract ideas off of each other whether in friendships, professional or romantic relationships. I find that my natural style is to go ‘heavy’, while he enjoys reliving past moments and talking about current events. I’m into the ‘why’, while he is into the ‘what’. As an example, we both enjoy reading and I had asked him about a book he was enjoying that I recommended to him ‘if he found it interesting or had any insights to share’ and he became defensive and dismissed me saying “I’m just reading a book”. He later brought this up as an example of the ‘heaviness’ that I bring to conversations that he dislikes.
More and more, I am finding myself feeling alone and resentful, which reminds me of the beginning of the end in my previous relationships. Because I’ve experienced this disconnect multiple times before, which seems to be rooted from the same origin, I am feeling paranoid that I am missing the boat and that there might be something about my communication style I need to reconsider?
This conversational disconnect with my present boyfriend is related to dysfunctional communication in our daily lives. He is extremely defensive and dismissive around the simplest of subjects, while he says that I am too direct and blames it on my delivery. I now find myself always seeking ‘safe topics’ and walking on eggshells. Truth be told, I feel like we can work on our communication, and he is trying as hard as I am, but, again, the real reason that I am writing to you is because I’m more concerned if it’s a true compatibility issue? And why does this keep happening to me where I feel like I’m missing an intellectual/emotional connection, but valuing the other qualities that a man brings to a relationship? I feel like I’m not seeing things clearly and I so wish that I could turn this off as I’ve begun to not trust my judgment or ability to find a healthy, rewarding relationship.
Thank you for taking the time. —Renee
I remember talking to a college buddy at a mutual friend’s wedding who wondered why I couldn’t just “keep it light.”
I remember friends in LA teasing me that I always wanted to have more substantive conversations while we were watching football on Sundays.
I remember once flirting with a woman at a party when my friend came up to us and said, “Has Evan plumbed the depths of your soul yet?”
It’s always a little rough when you feel out of step with those around you. And which gender is the common denominator in our mutual stories? That’s right: men.
So yeah, Renee, I feel you. It’s always a little rough when you feel out of step with those around you. And which gender is the common denominator in our mutual stories? That’s right: men.
(Ah, gender stereotypes…)
Do these men have a semi-reasonable point? Of course, they do. They don’t want to go deep. They don’t need to go deep. It makes them uncomfortable when you go deep.
They’re entitled to that. And you’re entitled to find a boyfriend who isn’t threatened by interesting conversation.
Just know that there are fewer of them.
I never had a hard time finding women to connect with on this level; it probably explains why I do this for a living. By the same token, my wife (and her family) tends to like to keep things light and surface-y. Post-theater criticism usually tends towards, “I liked it a lot” without much reasoning why or debating the morality of the protagonist. And you know what? While it’s not ideal, it’s okay, primarily because my wife doesn’t stop ME from going deep. I can go on a fifteen minute liberal rant and she’ll indulge me without judgment. That’s about all I can ask.
Your guy, on the other hand, is overtly hostile and dismissive of your chosen communication style, and that’s just not acceptable.
Understand, Renee, there are fewer guys out there who enjoy communication like women do. You can hold out for one of them. Or you can choose among the millions of good, traditional, semi-stoic men who don’t like to talk about feelings, dreams or relationships. But at least these guys (like my wife) accept that you do. Your guy, on the other hand, is overtly hostile and dismissive of your chosen communication style, and that’s just not acceptable.
This doesn’t mean you couldn’t theoretically stand to lighten up and cater to your audience a little bit better. But it does mean you should cut your boyfriend loose right now, unless you want to walk on eggshells for the rest of your life.