am i too stupid for her?
December 7, 2005 6:27 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend says our conversations suck.

Now, I'm a smart guy (140ish IQ, college educated, high emotional IQ, etc), but realistically she's probably smarter than me- more cerebral, for sure. We are both INTJs. We both like a lot of alone time. When we are together we have a lot of sex. Every day at least, sometimes twice, and even three times a day on occasion. It has been a big part of the way we relate over these last 4 months. I am relatively satisfied with our conversations though they aren't like "WOW!", but I am older (34) than her (26) and I think I realize that you can't get all of your stimulation from your partner- you draw from many sources. However, I have told her as a thought experiment we should abstain from all sex (even oral, anal, mutual masturbation) until next year (about a month) to create a space for some real intellectual foreplay to happen. My theory is that the unfulfilled heightened desire will channel itself into a more meaningful non-sexual relationship. I need help though. We tend to just be all introverted and quiet around each other and then pine for the missed intellectual discourse we could have had. Any and all advice on how to have more compelling conversations would help. I know what she is interested in, but trying to do a survey of the things she cares about and talking about it would not go over well. She dives deep into a topic quickly and would recognize that I only had a surface knowledge. Her background is existenial philosophy, my is fine art and computer science.
posted by pissfactory to Human Relations (42 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Taking time off sex won't work. Take a few nights off each other to rediscover what makes you an interesting person. It'll work. I swear.
posted by jon_kill at 6:32 AM on December 7, 2005

I seriously doubt your method is going to work. It'll probably just make you guys incredibly cranky.

Do you go out to lunch / dinner a lot? I find that my best conversations with my wife are over someone else's good food or in the car on a long drive. Too many distractions otherwise.

Basically you need to become comfortable enough with one another to take risks and throw your ideas out there (even the stupid ones) without fear. Your question title hints that you haven't quite gotten there yet.

(BTW I notice jon_kill is nearly always in favor of the nasty, good man :) )
posted by selfnoise at 6:39 AM on December 7, 2005

With respect, it sounds like you're trying too hard.

The great conversations in a relationship aren't necessarily about anything at all, let alone high intellectual discourse. I tend to think that if you're going to have scintillating conversation in this relationship, it won't be about anything that either of you is expert in; rather, it will likely revolve around a common interest.

I don't think whether or not you're having sex has much to do with that, except to the extent that sexual communication may sometimes replace other kinds of communication when one or both of you is feeling a lack. If that's the issue, then abstaining from a particular session might be worthwhile - avoid the easy pattern. I don't think that translates to avoiding sex altogether though.

So go out and do something together and make even a small commitment to enjoying some activity together even though neither of you has a background in it. As you follow that through, you will achieve greater communication. And have sex too.
posted by mikel at 6:41 AM on December 7, 2005

My boyfriend is an introvert and I have frequently said that our conversations suck. I'm more extroverted and I tend to hang out with a mix of introverts and extroverts. My problem with our conversations, when they suck, is that I feel like he's tossing conversation starters at me as an attempt to be engaged but he doesn't really have his heart in it and so the talks go noplace. He also seems to not be convinced that HE is interesting (I find him fascinating, but it's hard to make him feel fascinating sometimes) so he doesn't like to go on abut himself. This is contrasted with our conversations when he's really into them where he can go on and on about something that interests him and if I'm suitably engaged -- I have an easier time being interested just because he's interested in something -- then we have great conversations. I'm better at the leading questions that get him to talk about himself in a way that moves forward and isn't just some sort of an interview.

So, if you and your gf really want to talk about things, and it's clearly sort of an artificial construct, you can make up discussion rules that might help you find good times and reason to talk, but also make clear that it's an exercise in case things don't go quite right. A few suggestions:

- the easiest way I have to get my bf to open up is to get him to tell stories about himself, like from when he was a kid, or sometimes even from recently. So questions like "What do you rememebr abou the house you grew up in?" or "Did all the seniors skip class on the last day when you were in high school?" will often get him going. More recent event are okay too, esp if they steer clear of the "so how was YOUR day?" topics. We often end our days lying in bed saying to each other "what was your favorite part of today?" or, if the day was horrible "what was the worst part of today?"
- shared events. you can read the same book or watch the same movie and compare notes. Me and the SO do a lot of online noodling and we'll check in with each other every 10-15 minutes "Hey what interesting thing have you just learned?"
- Talk times. We have times when we're both more open to talking. Car trips. Breakfast and dinner times. Taking the dog for a walk. &c.

Also, don't be afraid to have conversations where one of you is clearly the more learned one. Let your g'friend teach you some about existential philosophy, teach her somethign about computers. I think we all like to see our partners talking about/engaged in something that they really care about, so unless all you're really looking for is a hearty debate, or only topics where you can meet as exact equals, I'd try to open up to different topics.

Lastly, if you're on a sex-vacation, I bet you'll get a lot of mileage out of talking about sex. The same way people on a desert island talk about food all the time, let your imaginations run wild even if your hands and bodies can't/won't
posted by jessamyn at 6:42 AM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: Off each other? Like doing something else? I should add that she is an EXTREME loner. She works half-a-day and then freelances... so she has every afternoon off to herself whilst I work. We do tons of stuff apart, but she kinda lives with me now. She just sorta stayed and then started moving in (with little, but sufficent talk about it). For instance... yesterday she was out until 12am. Monday I went out with a friend until 12:30. Tonight she has a meeting and prob. won't be home til 10. Thursday she is in Cincy until 1am. Fri, Sat, Sun I have an all day seminar until 10pm every night. We take time off, aside from cohabitating. But, I know more time apart would help create more desire- and I'm into that. I am a loner too. But then when we get back together I want us to have amazing conversations and connect.
posted by pissfactory at 6:43 AM on December 7, 2005

I would side with jon on this one. Unless you're both Olympic class athletes using every known device and drug to keep going, there is always plenty of sexual downtime for you to talk - and the talk will be as interesting as you both wish to make it. Stopping having sex will usually just add a unwelcome stress factor into the problem. SOme tricks may help, like going out for meals in quiet/interesting places you can talk, visiting places you both would be interested in (you won't find "Moma's Existential Computer Art Exhibit" so you don't want to narrow the search too much) or alternating places/movies/plays/etc one of you want to see.
posted by nkyad at 6:44 AM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: And, oh yeah- on trying too hard. We have laughed about the fact that this is a stupid idea and won't work- tht it will just put us right where we are now while not getting laid and being cranky about it. That's OK, though. It is a game and it feels playful, so we are having fun with it. This isn't that serious. We have a great relationship. I just want more. She wants more. Plus she's feels like the love of my life and I just want to give this a good chance at being compelling enough to last and stay interesting.
posted by pissfactory at 6:46 AM on December 7, 2005

Conversations, really good ones, not the "how was your day?" variety, need shared interests.

That's how it works with people that you're not currently having sex with - that's how it works with your partner. You talk about books, movies, sports, projects, hobbies - it has to be something that you're both interested in.

And it can be small stuff - something you both hope and plan to do together - a trip, decorating your space, maybe planning a family.

It's not about desire, not about the sex. It's about your lives becoming really connected.
posted by cptnrandy at 6:50 AM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: And on the sex and Olymbpic athlete thing. Our sex is usually a copule hour event at least... for instance, we'll wake up in the morning and start having sex and won't crawl out of bed and off of each other until we literally have 15 minutes to get ready and be at work. Or in the evening we'll make out for about an hour and then move into foreplay and sex and that will be like an hour or more. So, if we start in at 11:30 or 12 (which we often do because one or both is out or working alone in another room) or sex can go on until 2:30 or 3:00am and then it's like, shite!, we have to get to sleep for work! So, it does really cut into our talk-time. I wonder if a blog would be a stupid idea. Create a two author blog and we each have to make two entries every day just about ourselves that we would want the other person to know. I think we both would communicate better asynchronously to get things started (we could talk about what we wrote later) and it would be fun and a nice artifact of the relationship.
posted by pissfactory at 6:53 AM on December 7, 2005

I think you're starting with too grand an ambition, and that in a sense you're looking for a shortcut to what is a normal relationship process. Without intending any criticism, it sound like despite 4 months of 'history', the two of you have yet to really begin to learn about each other. I don't mean 'learn' in the sense of 'I know she likes the color green' or 'She knows I like to listen to jazz music' (not that these are unimportant things to know), I mean learn about the inner life of the other person in a way that allows you to have free-flowing dialog that is valuable and interesting to you both.

Start small, and build. "What do you think about [insert topic here]?" is as good a place to begin as any. There are endless topics (and even more endless nuances of topics) that the two of you can discuss. Religion, politics, history, literature, music, cinema and on and on.

You mention that she dives deeper into topics than you - that gives you a natural mechanism for an interesting conversation. Ask active questions, encourage her not only to speak on the topic, but explain her point of view. Apply what you learn in future conversations. Make sure that you're not simply pandering the conversations to her talking points - it sounds like she wants to learn as much about you as you do about her.

Institute a "Conversation Tuesday" (or Wednesday, or Thursday, or whatever) - nice bottle of wine, pleasant meal, go sit in a park (weather permitting, or somewhere with a pleasant if not) and talk.

I have no idea if the absention from sex is going to help at all - I would personally have thought that a healthy, communicative, interesting relationship should include all sorts of expression, physical as well as intellectual, but that's just me.
posted by planetthoughtful at 6:59 AM on December 7, 2005

Man, I think y'all think too much.
My brain hurts just reading about this.
posted by willmize at 7:02 AM on December 7, 2005

I find something in your write-up a bit odd. You mention that discussing her interests "would not go over well" because you don't know as much as she does. Is the displeasure with discussing topics with those less knowledgeable something she has said or implied or are you assuming that this is the case?

I'm a philosopher, my wife is not. Not even close. (I'm not slamming my wife, she is wonderful and can run rings around me in other things.) Yet I love talking to her about philosophy. It is refreshing to talk to someone who isn't in the grip of theory. It is (as I've mentioned elsewhere on Ask.Me) even a boon to my work. If I can talk about a topic with her then I know I'm being reasonably clear and I've got a good grasp on whatever it is I'm analyzing.

It just smacks me as very odd that she would find it somehow beneath her to talk to you because you aren't as expert with the subject as she is.

(Now, just so that I'm not being totally negative.) How about discussing literature, since neither of you are professionally invested in the field you'll likely be starting on a level playing field.
posted by oddman at 7:02 AM on December 7, 2005

It sounds, frankly, like you have no time for each other. Like, all you two do is stuff without each other or have sex. In that respect, NOT having sex may help in that you'll spend the time you do have with each other just talking, rather than having sex.

There're 10 years between me and my bf, so age difference is a factor with us, too, and we're both introverted also (me more than him) - I notice that on the weeks when we have little time together, our conversations don't stray much beyond talking about our days and Aikido (which we take together). When I get him to myself for a few days, like over the weekend, and we've spent a nice day doing stuff together, the conversation naturally gets deeper. You just have to give it some time, I think. It's only been four months for you, and that's not much time for two introverted people to get completely comfortable with each other.
posted by bibbit at 7:05 AM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: We're kind of into creating "scenarios". The absention is just that. It's not really that big of a deal. No different than having sex and not using your hands or talking- it is just creating parameters to keep things from getting stale and boring. The date was arbitrary because it is right around the corner and we are throwing a massive New Years Eve party. Thanks for the ideas and such so far. I even appreciate "you're trying to hard" type of comments.
posted by pissfactory at 7:05 AM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: Also, we definately think too much. We analyze and think to excess about everything, including the relationship. Also, I love talking about the things that she is interested in and having her teach me things. I'm just saying that if I were to try to read wikipedia on Sartre and then try to have a contrived intellectual debate she would see right through it. I think "beneath her" is inaccurate. It is more like our conversations don't "wow" her. It is part because we don't know how to bootstrap conversations... also, I should add that she is distant from everyone. She will drop out from her friends for 3 or 4 months and lament about not talking to them, but not know how to initiate it. Also, I am extremely quiet, guarded, and contemplative. So, this isn't just an "us" thing.
posted by pissfactory at 7:09 AM on December 7, 2005

When we are together we have a lot of sex. Every day at least, sometimes twice, and even three times a day on occasion.

I am older (34) than her (26)

So let me focus two are having inordinate amount of sex and quite necessarily enjoying it , you're a man with a much younger women and a women with a mature man, you have a college education, smart and intelligent and she must be no less then a sexy foxy existenzial philosopher from Tubinga maybe.

You probably have some problems as anybody in life and experiencing some transition phase ? in the relationship
But other then that, excuse me if I felt envious for a minute :) that's a very nice couple you are !!

We tend to just be all introverted and quiet around each other and then pine for the missed intellectual discourse we could have had

Could it be that you two are avid readers, like to learn more and more therefore study with pleasure , but would like to talk to each other more often ..but you feel like sex gets in the way ?

If so I don't think sex is getting "in the way" only because it's (necessarily) substracting time from time you could dedicate to talking..if sex was such a great obstacle, a kind of a barrier or dam, then as soon as sex was removed a flood of talking would occour. But that would occour istantly, almost immediately.

Probably the talking you two will have will not be caused by the reduced sexing, but rather from the realization that you two are both trying to find ways to better get to know each other and just need some time to open channels. I guess this is a rather mature and healthy way to conduct a relationship.
posted by elpapacito at 7:12 AM on December 7, 2005

talking about how boundaries are so blurred you have to make sure we realize 'anal' is under 'all sex' should probably fix everything.
posted by soma lkzx at 7:20 AM on December 7, 2005

Enjoy the sex now. There'll be time enough for talking when you're old(er). There are only so many holes and so many things to put in them and sooner or later 2 or 3 times a day will turn to once a day and then maybe every other day and then you'll have a lot more time to talk about interesting things.

Also, as mentioned, shared experiences are great for conversation. Travel. Take long walks/hikes. Make time to sit and talk without distractions (tv, computer, radio, magazines, etc.).

posted by shoepal at 7:20 AM on December 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

I found that the best conversations with my significant other were about things we share or shared: experiences, friends, and interests. I don't think intelligence or intellectualism equates to being interesting. Some of the most interesting people I have ever met in my life would not be considered intellectual or overly educated. But they were interesting to say the least.

I can appreciate my significant others esoteric knowledge, and don't mind talking about epistomology once in a great while, but I would much rather talk about something more relevant to our lives together and down to earth. Our travel plans to Seychelles. Her crazy brother and his quirky dog. My stupid idiosycracies. The 'top secret' project we are working on. That time at the X-mas party when we ended up underneath the table.

And sometimes, conversation seems overrated. I think communication is the most important factor in relationships, but why do we feel the need to fill the slience all the time? Does a conversational void have to indicate a intimacy void?
posted by jasondigitized at 7:26 AM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: soma lkzx: You'd be surprised how many people don't think of butt-play or a blow job as actual sex.
posted by pissfactory at 7:36 AM on December 7, 2005

I think if your GF says your conversations suck, she probably wants to feel more listened to.
posted by theora55 at 7:42 AM on December 7, 2005

Why don't you just try to learn more about the stuff that interests her? By some existential philosophy books and dive in, discuss it with her.

Or, you could pick an intellectual pursuit that both of you find interesting and learn about it together. How about History? Literature?

I just don't think not having sex is going to make your conversations better, it also sounds like a drag.

Also: 'butt-play'. teehee.
posted by delmoi at 7:44 AM on December 7, 2005

It's just a crutch, but if you're into movies, you might watch a few conversation starters together such as Memento, Mulholland Drive, maybe Fight Club.

Also, a previous girlfriend used to initiate conversations out of nowhere, very bluntly but effectively with:
- "What's your favorite place in the world?"
- "What sports did you play as a child?"
- "What's your favorite animal and why?"

It seemed artificial and transparent, always prompting a grin from me, but it did the job and started a conversation.
posted by LordSludge at 7:48 AM on December 7, 2005

Are you busy all the time? It sounds like the moments you have together is when you're at home. I'm sure there are a lot of interesting conversations you can carry on about your work and interests, but that'll only go so far -- jessamyn is spot-on in that shared experiences are where the great conversation is at.

Take a weekend to go sightseeing (or some sort of winter activity, like skiing if you're in my part of the world). Go see a movie or play before going out to eat, then talk about what you think over a few drinks while waiting for food. If you have some freetime and don't mind being social, find a group to go out with or an organization to join. It'll provide more conversation when you're alone later.
posted by mikeh at 7:49 AM on December 7, 2005

Man, existentialism and fine art are made for each other! Heidegger's got some good work on art, as does Sartre, and a lot of the post-war modernism came out of the same environment as existentialism. From there, there's deconstruction and structuralism (and post structuralism), which deal with consciousness and how we percieve meaning. Artists like Sophie Calle and Meatyard, or in painting Gerhart Richter and Dali directly deal with the same consciousness questions that Existentialism does.
And c'mon, if you don't know about something, ask her. Jeez.
posted by klangklangston at 8:03 AM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: Well... we think we spend too much time together... in fact, we just spent 4 days in New York and got really, really sick of being around each other while we were there. It is weird. It isn't the other one of us per se, just being around someone so much get's old. So, I'm really not sure what the problem is. We most certainly do not want to do more stuff together for the sake of doing it. We are busy all the time. I work full time, go to school full time (almost... 90% time), and do freelance work. She has a part-time job and freelance work that amounts to full time. Plus, she is into other stuff and she is writing a screenplay. Maybe she does want to feel more listened too... she takes a long time to formulate her thoughts and I always interrupt her because stuff just pops into my head and out of my mouth... but I'm aware of it, she knows I am aware, and I try very hard now not to do that or to stop if I do and apologize. Again, thanks for the "conversation" on this...
posted by pissfactory at 8:11 AM on December 7, 2005

However, I have told her as a thought experiment we should abstain from all sex (even oral, anal, mutual masturbation) until next year (about a month) to create a space for some real intellectual foreplay to happen.

Uh, this is pure insanity and will only create problems, not solve them. Don't do this.

she takes a long time to formulate her thoughts and I always interrupt her because stuff just pops into my head and out of my mouth... but I'm aware of it, she knows I am aware, and I try very hard now not to do that or to stop if I do and apologize

Honestly, don't do this and the problem is 90% solved. Conversation is a lot better when you're engaged in a back-and-forth; it's not like when you're playing foosball and your opponent is just about to twirl his guys when you do that cheaty bullshit and pull the ball back towards your side and then BAM! right in the goal because seriously that is dirty as hell
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:17 AM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: Also, this is an complete aside, but tangentially related- she wants to start an intellectual salon. Since we are talking about conversations, do any of you have any experience organizing or attending one? Any links? (See- conversation and ideas are very important to her).
posted by pissfactory at 8:18 AM on December 7, 2005

Since you both seem to be smart, interesting people, I suggest you trade a book. Not something necessarily academic in nature, but something that you enjoy, give to her to read, and something she enjoys, she should give to you to read. For example, when my husband and I started dating, literally on the first date he took me to a B&N's and bought me Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass and shortly thereafter, I gave him a copy of Morality Play. Both choices reflected something about us personally (I'm a Medieval Geek, Morality Play falls into that mold) and gave us a jumping off point for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Medievally Geeky Stuff.

Also, I talk to the TV. I can't help it. That's led to a few conversations over the years. . . . Just don't yell at the TV during LOST.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:26 AM on December 7, 2005

My husband and I took nearly a year to start having actual conversations about abstract things, rather than just learning facts about each other, and gossiping. Because we were having all the sex.

I agree with bibbit. Just give it time. It sounds like you're trying to be everything to each other (and have your own time and be creative and and and...) all at once. Chill out some.

Now I find that mr. gaspode and I talk best about things that neither of us know much about. We learn about new things together. We get interested in a topic and then read some books, watch a documentary, get online and discuss it with each other.
posted by gaspode at 8:37 AM on December 7, 2005

dear factory.. you think WAY too much. despite what it seems like on this thread, relationships that need "working" are usually headed for a demise.
So why do you care if your knowledge of sartre is from wikipedia? Let yourself have NO knowledge of Sartre. Let her tell you about Sartre. Let you read on him together (ouch. Sartre. but i digress.)
Seriously, you don't need all this 'work' to make the relationship flow. Tell her things you like, without worrying about how exactly it relates to her. If she loves you, if she's into you, she'll find those interesting.. and will want to know more - just like you will when she tells you about the things that move her. And, interestingly enough, things you studied might have only a tangential relationship to what you truly care about. You seem to mention the sex you are having all the time. So perhaps you need to discuss porn, not Sartre. Just a thought.
posted by bokononito at 8:39 AM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: Maybe things are more right than I think... we do trade books. We do talk about porn. So maybe I do need to chill. We're just heady, uptight, chronically (slightly) dissatisfied people. I think that ties into the "work" thing. It probably doesn't need work... it could be just fine. People are different- some people do the low key, laid back let it flow while others need more tension and constant stimulation. I'm not sure I would classify either as heading for demise.
posted by pissfactory at 8:51 AM on December 7, 2005

Dale Carnegie. "How to Win Friends and Influence People." I'm reminded of the anecdote in which he spent an evening prompting a woman with questions that allowed her to talk about herself. She later referred to him as a brilliant conversationalist even though she'd done most of the talking.

Most people like to talk. If you want to engage them in conversation, you find a way to let them without letting them. Then, and this is the important part, you remember all the stuff they say, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, and refer to it in future conversations.

Now in this case your girlfriend wants you to talk about yourself, but she will almost certainly use that as a jumping off point for talking about herself. You will trade anecdotes; she will tell you stories that yours reminded her of. You're supposed to remember all that stuff: her stories and how they relate to yours. She undoubtedly considers that a part of the bonding process.
posted by kindall at 9:13 AM on December 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

I think a lot of the problems you mentioned are simply the normal adjustments people make when they start to co-habitate. It takes awhile to find the right balance of together time and alone time (especially for introverts), but as long as you keep the lines of communication open, and no one starts to feel either ignored or put-upon, it should work itself out with time.
posted by junkbox at 9:19 AM on December 7, 2005

I know we're not supposed to do this, but since we're already winding down here (last time I checked, "you think too much" and, in that vein, bokononito particularly, have won) I will ask anyway: elpapacito, where is this Tubinga Maybe you speak of? I have recurrent images of exotics islands filled with naked sexy foxy existenzial philosophers exchanging fluids and ideas hour after hour.
posted by nkyad at 10:49 AM on December 7, 2005

Maybe the real truth is that you are just in lust with each other. When the sex cools down what then?

If you two seriously want to work on this find a third party counselor who can give you an unbiased opinion. Other than that sounds like all you two each have is a sex partner. When people jump into bed at the beginning of a relationship the sex part makes growth in the rest of the relationship stunted. And just because both of you are intelligent and both of you are educated doesn't mean you two are automatically going to be interested in each other's thoughts. To me THAT is what makes a soul mate, not whether one has mindblowing orgasms.
posted by konolia at 10:52 AM on December 7, 2005

When people jump into bed at the beginning of a relationship the sex part makes growth in the rest of the relationship stunted.
posted by konolia at 10:52 AM PST on December 7

thanks for the unyielding wisdom of ancient rape-friendly goatherders konolia

maybe our errant hero should just break up with her now because the relationship is already ruined by premarital sex
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:18 AM on December 7, 2005

Ignore everyone else on this thread, except those that agree with me.

1. Don't change what works. The physical relationship works, don't change it.

2. The key to good conversations is the same no matter who you ask: Common context. To create a common context, you just DO IT. I suggest that you begin reading to each other. It will take work, but is the most binding and rewarding couples thing I've encountered.

For your first book, I suggest Wind in the Willows. This is a children's book that many are familiar with because of a cartoon version or picture book version. Read the book out loud to her. This is a cunning ploy: The book has strongly written characters that face significant moral and interpersonal conflicts... the unwary invariably have strong opinions about the outcomes.

3. It's about her more than it's about you. Movies are a great way to get at this (every couple should have a cannon of films that they use to orient to each other's perspective). Ask this woman, "what movie have you seen that most reminded you of you?" Watch that movie together... and have ready by the end of the movie "the big question" (which in this case should be about whatever surprised you the most about the movie which she thinks is about her.)

Don't expect changes over night. By the time you've read three books out loud (Agatha Christie should be second, The Secret Adversary) and watched and discussed each other's "most about me" movie, you'll be well on your way...
posted by ewkpates at 11:21 AM on December 7, 2005

OC, konolia didn't moralize about the sex, she just offered her opinion on what happens when its a central and primary focus. I don't really care if you hate Christians but don't read more stuff into someone's comments then they actually say.

To the OP: Stop worrying so much about what to talk about and just find a new activity the two of you can enjoy. Perhaps learn a fun card game together, or take a cooking class or join a hiking club. Something that gets you doing the same activity. It might allow you to talk easier while you're doing something else, and it will give you a shared experience for future conversations.
posted by Happydaz at 11:28 AM on December 7, 2005

Eh. Sounds like you're (monogamous) fuck-buddies, not in a relationship. I'm introverted and pretty far along the IQ bell curve too, and I understand the disinclination to talk when it's likely you'll end up having the same conversation you've had many times before, a conversation you've already tapped all the possibilities of, a conversation that has become dry and sterile from too much repetition.

But sexual frustration doesn't lead to intellectual foreplay. Sexual frustration distracts from thought. And while new thoughts can be stimulated by discussion, the real development is almost always, of necessity, a solitary business. The eureka moments can be communicated after the fact, but they are almost always private experiences. And the more intelligent you are, the more tedious explaining eureka moments becomes, for you and the listener.

If you're right that she's more intelligent than you, much of the conversation for her is going to be waiting for you to catch up, or the tedium of breaking down for you what she feels she's already communicated, to be sure you understood its full implications.

I once took a history of science class, taught by an engineer turned historian; I was the only non-engineering student among the students. The prof was explaining the development of water pumping, and casually remarked that the impetus behind the development of pumps was the need to pump water higher than thirty-two feet.

All the engineering students just kind of nodded, as if he'd remarked that water flows downhill or the sky is blue. I didn't get it, and after class I asked one of the engineering students to explain it. The student drew a simple diagram, said something about "vacuum", wrote an equation, and said to me, "see?" I didn't see. When I asked him to explain again, we both became more frustrated. What was obvious to him was do obvious he couldn't see why it wouldn't be obvious to me.

He thought I was asking why vacuum pumps couldn't pump water higher then thirty-two feet. I wasn't (initially) asking that; I was asking why everyone else in class has understood that without further explanation.

Later in the class, when it came time to talk about diffusion of knowledge and intellectual history, I recall asking some questions and making some remarks, based on to me obvious assumptions, that gave the engineering students no little trouble. What was "obvious" to me wasn't obvious to them.

One the prof explained the origins of English engineering contrasted with French engineering, it was "obvious" to me why English engineering was more empirical and the French approach more theoretical, and that dove-tailed, or grew with, or explained, the contrasting English and French ways of funding civil engineering projects. And that in turn, dove-tailed nicely with the more organic English approach to the formulation of legal theory (Common Law vs. Napoleonic Code) and local governance. But to the engineering students, these connections were not obvious, and explaining it without those referents difficult.

Being smart or knowledgeable is something of a prison: you know enough, you see enough connections and implications, that talking to someone who doesn't becomes useless and unfulfilling unless both you and the listener have the and time and patience to explain all the grounding assumptions and axioms and principles that you take for granted. Often, it's far easier on everybody just to state your conclusion rather than discuss. Or to say, come back when you've read this and this and this, and then we can discuss it.

And that makes you reluctant to have the discussion in the first place: you're either come off as incomprehensible or arrogant ("it's this way because I say it's this way") or you get bored trying to ascertain how much your listener knows and where his knowledge ends and then the have the tedium of explaining the rest. Often, it's just not worth the bother to slow down to bring your listener up to speed, because you've got other things to think about.

You want to talk in short concise "poetry" where the listener reads in for himself the allusions and implications and ideally shared assumptions, and you're forced to explain it all in dry, step-by-step prose. Boring and tedious.
posted by orthogonality at 11:44 AM on December 7, 2005

On the OTT: I know of at least one person in Columbus who would be interested in a good salon.
posted by fidelity at 12:25 PM on December 7, 2005

i guess orthogonality may have nailed it or tangentially got could just be a communication problem based on assumptions.

I assume that you know, so when you don't "get it" I feel frustrated... but I don't want to show you I am ... as, I guess you'll react negatively.

All of this buriend into a "I don't get why he/she doesn't get it" felt as if it he/she is not agreeing, while he/she is just not understanding !

As you say you feel that you are less intelligent then her may you feel uncomfortable showing her you "feel" or "are" not that intelligent by asking what (you may be thinking or feeling) are dumb questions.
posted by elpapacito at 1:50 PM on December 8, 2005

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