Workworkwork? Work work! Work. Work? WORK!
September 22, 2010 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Mr. Meese and I have been together for 5 years, but I've just moved 2000 miles away from him. It sucks. One complicating factor is that we're now both working constantly -- ten to twelve hours a day -- and when we talk to each other on the phone, we don't talk about anything but work. What else can we talk about?

We're both in the same profession, which means it's really easy for us to get sucked into long, long work-related conversations. But, I'm already working so much that, by the end of the day, I'm completely sick of work. My whole life is workworkwork, so I don't want to just keep talking about it. I definitely want to talk to my significant other, but it just gets so tiring when it's all about work.

It's not enough to say "Let's change the subject." Like I said, we're both working a lot, and so what I have on my mind is... work. Once the conversation turns to work, it's hard for me to think of what other subjects there are to talk about. It's a vicious, downward spiral: the more we talk about work, the harder it is to come up with something else to talk about.

It's also true that the faults in our conversations is due to a fault in our lives: we're working too much. But that really can't change right now. There are reasons why we're both working so much (one of them being.. we now live 2000 miles from one another). So, our lives must remain work-centric, but I really don't want our conversations to stay this way. (By the way, we don't have this problem in person. It's cropped up just as we try to get used to talking to each other over the phone as opposed to just, well, living with each other.)

So what are some ways for us to get out of the work-centric spiral that our daily conversations become? I don't care if you suggest over-the-phone games, or types of conversation starters, or ways to think of some other subject after saying "let's change the subject." Anything that can help me zap us out of the WorkWorkWork thought process and into something else will be appreciated.
posted by meese to Human Relations (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You could both agree to read the same book simultaneously (as in, between phone calls). Then you could talk about the book.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:27 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Instead of using the telephone to have a "conversation", why not use that time to do something together?

Watch the same movie / TV program & go all MST3K via Skype; play some sort of online game & chat about it; anything to make that time something to look forward to, rather than a chore that you feel you have to do to keep the relationship going.
posted by pharm at 6:28 AM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I run out of things to say very quickly, and this was a problem when I lived on the other side of the world from my gentleman friend. My solution was to keep a tiny notebook and a pencil with me at all times, and then note down interesting thoughts, conversations, events that happened at work, etc and glance at it before phoning. If you start with non-work talk, it'll be easier to continue chatting naturally instead of announcing that it's time to change the subject.
posted by tavegyl at 6:28 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I feel you. We're not long distance, but there are a lot of similarities between where our life is right now, and your.

Mr. Padraigin travels a lot for his job and one of the things I always ask him about when we speak on the phone is what he ate. It's personal, it's light, and it gives me tiny insights into what he does when he's not around.

Also: phone sex?
posted by padraigin at 6:31 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

You guys should plan a vacation. You'll need to see each other and get away from the crazy work schedules. The trip might not be happening for quite a while, but you can spend lots of time making decisions about where to go and what to do when you get there.

Even if you're just daydreaming together about a vacation it would be something to both look forward to and to keep your conversations off of work topics.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:33 AM on September 22, 2010

Never ask him how his day went. Since you both work so much, that is bound to cause a work related answer. Instead, ask him "Tell me something good". That prompts a different answer many times.

Share experiences. Someone mentioned watching the same movie. You can actually sync your viewing of Netflix streaming if you both have an Xbox 360. Go see a movie at around the same time. Then call each other afterwards to talk about it. Play Trivial Pursuit over the phone.
posted by inturnaround at 6:34 AM on September 22, 2010

I used to have a roommate who would ask me when I got home (usually after a 16 hour work/class day) "what's the best thing that happened to you today?" It was a good conversational opening gambit, and it might work for you.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:38 AM on September 22, 2010

Maybe you could try more IM or video chat instead of phone calls? Sounds like you might not have time, actually, for lots of the great, creative suggestions above for joint activities--you're coming home tired every day and haven't done 12 random things which will be interesting to talk about, haven't read a new interesting book, etc.

If you just have a chat window open while you go about your evening routine, you'll get some of the "hanging out" interaction and might not feel compelled to stay on the phone as long, which means once you have nothing to talk about but work, you can just say goodnight.

posted by _Silky_ at 6:42 AM on September 22, 2010

My mom and stepdad played chess via letter while he was in Vietnam. There are a handful of similar games (that don't depend on cards, basically) like Monopoly and Life.

I read once that the Kennedy family (Joe, Rose, and kids) had assigned reading before dinner. Not a whole book but an article or something. You could both listen to the same podcast on the way home from work and talk about that.

Each of you could be assigned to come up with three topics to talk about on alternating days (he gets Monday/Wednesday/Friday, you get the rest) with notes on each.

You could take turns reading poems aloud to each other. Or random Wikipedia articles.

You could gossip about all the wacky AskMe questions you read on your breaks, or describe the latest Cake Wrecks entries to one another (only one gets to look!)

You could try talking about work but do it all in Pig Latin (or actually learn Latin together.) You could each work on awesome homemade birthday gifts for one another and, in defiance of tradition, talk about your progress.

I think the key is to head towards something rather than away from work. Your work should not consume the twelve hours you are not there. Whether you have a Skype window open while you cook dinner or you take up World of Warcraft together, the point is that you're having fun and interesting times together, despite the distance, not that you're avoiding talking about work.
posted by SMPA at 6:56 AM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

You could watch TV or movies together. Check out When Harry Met Sally, in there one of the themes is that the characters stay on the phone and watch Casablanca, and argue about the ending. You could do the same thing, just DVR Glee or Chuck or CSI or whatever and then watch it together, just like you were sitting next to each other.

Also, seconding phone sex. Take turns telling a fantasy you want done to you. Or whatever.
posted by I am the Walrus at 7:19 AM on September 22, 2010

Are you doing Skype with a webcam? All of the above on the webcam.
posted by Elsie at 7:59 AM on September 22, 2010

Nthing the phone sex. And when you aren't having phone sex, talk about awesome ideas to make the phone sex better. Then talk about plans for coming up with awesome ideas to make the phone sex better.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:29 AM on September 22, 2010

When hubby (then boyfriend) and I lived 3000 miles apart for 8 months, we talked about all the tiny things that you just experience together when you live together... What's for dinner (and where), funny stuff that happened at dinner/gym/restaurant, what the crazy neighbors are doing, local news, etc. We work together as well - while we didn't keep work topics off-limits, we didn't allow it to take over the conversation.

Most importantly, we made it OK for one of us to say that we don't have much else to talk about right now and we need to go to bed/work/eat/workout. You don't want to end your conversations with one or both of you feeling guilty...that will make the phone calls a chore.

We also made it one of our highest priorities to see each other often (we only missed two weekends) and when we were together we tried to make it as normal as possible, rather than a special event. We didn't want to move back in together and find ourselves irritated because we weren't used to dealing with "normal life" together.

All that said, it's still a tough situation...
posted by jshort at 9:21 AM on September 22, 2010

I've got to say, if they're exhausted from work, phone sex doesn't seem so plausible. And suggesting AskMeFi is just a sneaky of way of trying to join in.

Hard to see how the same thing will work every day without seeming rote. Perhaps once a week discuss a joint entry into the New Yorker caption contest?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:43 AM on September 22, 2010

If you both read the blue, pick something off there to talk about- preferably something neither of you know anything about or have never before devoted a passing thought to in order to make it as difficult as possible to bring the conversation back around to work.

I'm all for watching a movie or TV show together- although my favorite is to be on skype so you can see the other person, but communicate through text only; the audio delay is eliminated, you can type while watching and listening, and typing reactions to something doesn't spoil or distract the other person. With LDRs I enjoyed getting to read all the little reactions that can be typed to read as we watched, but he'd never interrupt to say if we were watching in person. Showtime or HBO series are good because they tend to have fewer eps per season, you can watch an ep every day or two for a couple of weeks. Same for BBC.

On the fun side, start a swear jar, only the penalty is for mentioning work, not cursing. The money goes towards sending a small gift of your choice to the other person.
posted by variella at 10:10 AM on September 22, 2010

Occasionally opening a video Skype connection and leave it open for a while as you go about whatever else you're doing might feel a little more like living together. You'd have the opportunity, walking past the camera, to chat for a couple of minutes on the way by. Cooking dinner? Do it "together". Eat "together". One cleaning house while the other reads? Do that "together". You could have more of the casual interaction you'd been used to with less pressure to actually find "something to talk about".
posted by TruncatedTiller at 10:13 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Scrabulous (or whatever it's called these days) over Skype.
posted by heffalump at 6:42 PM on September 22, 2010

Read a book at the same time and talk about it as you progress together.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:00 PM on September 22, 2010

Actually, a friend of mine was in a LDR for quite a while and her fella read to her over the phone. She really loved it. Seconding the "Tell me something good" suggestion for additional conversation.
posted by kristi at 8:50 AM on September 24, 2010

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