Can these conversational hiccups be saved?
posted by bookgirl18 to Human Relations (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
So I've started dating a guy (it's been a couple of months now) and a lot of things about it are going really well. He is thoughtful and interesting and cute. This boy is incredibly incredibly introverted, which is something I knew before we started dating, and in fact, we have had a lot of nice conversations together. I am not generally stymied by his kind of math nerd introversion (his words!), as I can be shy myself and I have dated people all along the extrovert/introvert spectrum, but he is, in fact, the most quiet person I have ever met. (Like, I think I knew him for years before he even said a word to me.)
Lately, though, this thing has started happening when we're talking that's kind of ... bugging me. I will say a thing or tell a story and sometimes he just ... won't respond. For example, a few weeks ago we were talking about our families and he was telling me some pretty personal things about his. I listened and asked questions appropriately (I think). As we continued talking, I told him a sort of personal and quirky thing about mine - namely, that I have relatives in the music industry who helped discover Elvis and many other songwriters. They led dramatic lives full of money and scandal, ripe for a movie or a book (which I'm going to write ... someday.) The reaction was just pure ... silence. For minutes. He didn't even nod or say "Huh" or even acknowledge that I had spoken. It wasn't as if he said something upsetting, he just stared at me for *minutes* and then, eventually, changed the subject. (I've literally never encountered a person who doesn't want to know more about that!)
I've noticed this happening more and more, and not just about weird quirky things. I'll tell a story or mention a news story and there will be a pause that lasts for minutes. Then, he might just change the subject completely or ask me something totally different, as though he didn't hear me or as though I hit upon some kind of subject he can't grok.
The thing is, I don't doubt this person's interest in and affection for me, not one bit. He has demonstrated many times that he is kind and loving and caring. And I knew going in that he is a quiet, introverted individual. I'm not terrified to just sit in contented silence -we have done so at times and that is nice. But it's sort of unnerving to just have someone not acknowledge that you're talking and then just start saying other things. Moreover, he feels comfortable telling me about important things like his family, his friends, his hopes and his dreams, but then never asks me about mine - when I do kind of insert them into the conversation naturally, it's like he just gets totally stymied and doesn't know what to say.
The last time this happened, I got a (completely unprompted) heartfelt email of apology about all the pauses, saying he loves talking to me and that he's "sorry he's so boring." I don't think he's boring and I definitely definitely don't want to make him feel bad about anything! I want to care for my introvert! But at the same time, it makes me feel strange and sometimes sad, like I'm dealing with someone who just, for some reason, ignores certain things I say (even if it's probably more like anxiety and this isn't exactly what's happening). I'm a writer and a storyteller by nature and by profession, and I'm starting to wonder if he even values that about me (if that makes sense). I have so many friends who tell me they love my stories (in fairness, I have a few unusual and interesting ones!) and my storytelling style, and ideally, I'd hope my partner appreciated that about me too, instead of just wishing I'd shut up already.
Mefi, is there any way to address this conversational tic in particular without making this person feel sad or like I want to completely change him? Or is this just a harbinger of long-term incompatibility and doom to come?
Sorry for the length. Thanks, y'all, as always.