Are good conversations a necessity for a good relationship?
September 30, 2008 4:06 PM   Subscribe

I was a late bloomer. I was painfully shy and didn't date until I was 24. I'm at a turning point of the longest relationship I've had (almost a year). I don't know if I'm in love or not. Or if that's even the right question.

We dated for 6 months. She was the sweetest, most understanding, genuinely wonderful person I've been with. But our conversations never really went very far. We didn't make each other laugh. I think our brains just worked differently.

Another rough spot for us was sex. I had slept with a two people before I met her, and neither were serious relationships. I was irrationally afraid of having sex with someone I really cared about, and so we never got that physically intimate.

We broke up. I started it, but she also felt things weren't quite working. She suggested we could still be friends-with-benefits for awhile. She dated other people, but nothing stuck. We slowly continued our supposedly non-relationship. We started having sex. My feelings for her grew. Over the next 6 months, each time I saw her, she seemed prettier. I missed her when she wasn't around. I was insanely jealous when she dated other people. While our conversations didn't become much more interesting and we didn't magically start making each other laugh... I found myself wondering if those things were really important. I liked just being around her. Did I really need someone who could overthink a plate of beans like I did?

The more I've grown attached to her, the harder it becomes for me to answer that question. I go back and forth wondering if talking and joking is a means to an end (emotional closeness, which seems to be happening) or something that's intrinsically necessary for a long-term relationship, or even just a sign of two people who are right for each other. Am I right to be stuck on this? Or am I just using it as an excuse because I'm afraid of intimacy? Or am I being unrealistic about what relationships are?

She recently suggested only one-quarter-jokingly that we might be able to get back together. It's hard to say that we're not together already. In any case, I know we can't keep on pretending to have it both ways.

I can see answers coming that say "if you can't decide, she deserves someone who can". That may be true, but it doesn't help me. I'm truly torn up about this. So, I look to you guys for advice. Thanks, Mefi.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm going to guess you're under 30, perhaps way under.

You've got a long long road ahead of you, paved with bullshit and heartache and misery and frustration. Those are the things we remember most vividly because pain sticks to us more than pleasure ever will. No matter what happens with this girl, no matter which course you take, it will come with its fair share of horror and madness. And it will happen with any other girl, or no girl, or the next girl, or boy, or whatever.

But does it make you feel good now?
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:25 PM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm no expert in this (far from it), but my intuition is that you need to sort out whether you're attracted specifically to this woman or to the idea of having a girlfriend with whom you're at least partially compatible. Ask yourself if you'd be equally attracted to someone with the qualities you liked who wasn't her; if the answer is yes, then it might be worth it to try dating other people. You'd have the benefit of knowing a bit more about what you're looking for in a relationship.

I don't know if I'm in love or not. Or if that's even the right question.
You don't love someone for the qualities which you like most about them -- you love them for everything they are, good and bad.

We didn't make each other laugh.
FWIW, personally, not sharing the same sense of humor would be a dealbreaker for me.
posted by spiderskull at 4:48 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


We started having sex. My feelings for her grew.

This sounds like cause and effect to me. The problem, of course, is that you're not sure that you want to be with her but the sex is getting in the way and confusing things. This is a classic example of why people warn against casual sex, especially for people who have limited sexual experience. Sexual chemistry does not necessarily equal a good relationship.

I was insanely jealous when she dated other people.

This also seems to confuse the issue for you. It's human nature to want what you can't have. How are you going to feel when she is 100% committed to you and there's no competition involved?

I go back and forth wondering if talking and joking is a means to an end (emotional closeness, which seems to be happening) or something that's intrinsically necessary for a long-term relationship, or even just a sign of two people who are right for each other. Am I right to be stuck on this? Or am I just using it as an excuse because I'm afraid of intimacy?

If it concerns you, you're right to be stuck on it. There's no magic formula for what make a relationship work. I would suggest that you need to have a comfort level with her, not necessarily great conversation or humor (though I would agree with SS that a sense of humor is a deal breaker for me as well). Your significant other should be your best friend, or at the very least, a very close friend as well as lover. Is she? Could she be?

All that being said, I'd suggest getting back together and seeing how it goes with an open mind. I suspect you'll figure things out pretty quickly.
posted by cjets at 5:23 PM on September 30, 2008


Get back together.

Not because it will automatically be happy ever after and roses and True Love, but because you clearly need to explore this relationship and see what develops and let your (currently stunted) feelings have room to grow.

I don't know if it'll work out; no one does. But having a relationship and breaking up isn't a bad thing. It isn't something that should be avoided at all costs. So get back together, and see what happens. Maybe you'll break up in six months, or a year, or five. And that's fine. Maybe you'll fall in love, and know it, and you'll never look back. And that's fine too.

The only option that isn't so fine is remaining as you are and dragging this not-quite relationship out over the years, neither of you really being with each other, neither of you really being with other people, your affections spread too thin and lost in the gaps of this pseudo-relationship you have at the moment.
posted by twirlypen at 6:16 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I go back and forth wondering if talking and joking is a means to an end (emotional closeness, which seems to be happening)

For me (and everyone's different), the importance of talking and joking is in making me want to hang out with someone. I'm drawn to people I can talk to, and bored with people I can't. So for me, too, it would be a dealbreaker, but not in a cognitive "now I reject you" way.

For you, since you find yourself wanting to see her, I wouldn't worry about what you used to think. That is, assuming you also generally feel that things are right. If you do have an underlying feeling that things aren't going anywhere, then I'd trust that feeling.

Talking has a few functions. There's fun party banter, there's talking about your daily lives, and there's talking to work out disagreements. If you're wanting to be with her on a day-to-day basis, I'm guessing the second and third are okay? The first one is partly about having fun (in which case it would be affecting the desire to hang out), but it's also about your public persona and how you socialize in public. If that's what it is, the problem would mainly be present when you try to socialize with others. I could see the "funny" person feeling embarrassed by the other person's "awkwardness" (and vice versa).
posted by salvia at 8:18 PM on September 30, 2008


Part of really hitting it off with someone is being able to talk and influence each other's feelings positively, e.g. making her laugh and smile. Conversation is, after all, our most-used tool for communication. Body language is important too, but if you can't hold a good endearing conversation, it's going to be boring. People naturally are drawn to laughter and great talk.

This doesn't mean acting like a human Wikipedia, by the way.

Intimacy encompasses both body language and oral communication. I'm not saying talk so much you wear her out, nor crack her up every time you two are together, but some element of laughter needs to be worked in there to keep things alive.
posted by curagea at 10:12 PM on September 30, 2008


I'm in agreement with a lot of what the above people have posted. All relationships are unique but you really have to weigh the pros and cons of each decision and then just go for it and take a chance. Sometimes our biggest risks become the best decision of our lives. Other times it becomes our biggest lesson. In the end, whatever you decide make sure you commit to it. The longer you wait to decide the more complicated things will become.


Wish the best of luck to you.
posted by HBomb at 12:41 AM on October 1, 2008


You broke up once, do you really want to do it again?

Think about that.
posted by sondrialiac at 8:12 AM on October 1, 2008


Seconding twirlypen, completely. Get back together. There are still feelings between you, so do it! :)

You don't mention if you had/have common interests, but that can help conversation. Find something that you're both interested in trying or learning about and do it together. You'll get to enjoy each other's company & you're practically guaranteed conversation ("I really can't wait to do shared_activity_X this weekend! What are you looking forward to about it?" "There was something on MeFi about new_common_interest_Y, what do you think?")


The only option that isn't so fine is remaining as you are and dragging this not-quite relationship out over the years, neither of you really being with each other, neither of you really being with other people, your affections spread too thin and lost in the gaps of this pseudo-relationship you have at the moment.

An ex and I spent the summer not-really-together-but-more-than-just-friends-with-benefits. We could see other people (and we each went on a few dates) but it was tough. We ended it a few weeks ago for exactly the above. We cared a lot about each other & could probably maintain our non-relationship for years, but we each wanted more. For a number of reasons irrelevant to your question, a serious relationship between us wasn't going to happen for a while and being together was killing our chances at finding people who we could have serious relationships with. The longer you guys are not-exactly-together, the harder it will be to make a move in either direction. (Trust me on this one!)

I wish you both lots of luck & I hope everything works out for the best.
posted by good for you! at 8:53 AM on October 1, 2008


It doesn't sound like you really know each other that well. You might think you do, but I'm betting you don't.

Get back together. Find ways to really get to the hidden self.
posted by ewkpates at 10:58 AM on October 1, 2008


I can say that, personally, not being able to have conversations would be a deal-breaker. Not making each other laugh would be a huge deal-breaker; I can't even really be friends with someone who doesn't make me laugh.

But I'm not you. I'm not sure that anyone can answer that for you.
posted by Nattie at 1:24 PM on October 1, 2008


I could kind of relate to your situation as when I was 18-19, I was involved in a serious 1-yr relationship with a 26-yr man... who I sadly was never really in love with. But he was the sweetest, most attentive boyfriend a girl could ask for - given he was from the south and I'm from LA. He would always remember important dates, fly out to see me, give me gifts, etc.

However, I felt no chemistry with him. I think he felt the chemistry from his side, but he was too predictable, easy for me. He thought he was funny, but I didn't think he was. We had a lot in common.. but seriously, emotional and intellectual chemistry doesn't come from common interests.

I think you got to ask yourself - do you see yourself in the long term with this girl? Common interests are important to a degree, but it's more important that you know you BOTH can communicate, be on the same level and work out problems? Do you have the zsa-zsa zu feeling when you're together? Or do you think she's stringing you along?

It does sound like you both are a bit young and perhaps, need to explore, date other people before deciding if this is for you both. Trust me, you both have a lot of time to come back together. Just don't invest yourself in too emotionally if she's not on the same wavelength - otherwise you're going to get *really* hurt in the end.

Good luck.
posted by freshsprout at 9:05 PM on October 4, 2008


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