Welcome Meddleheads, to the advice column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions. You can use this form, or send them via email. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.
I have been in a relationship with an amazing man for two years, but there are serious gaps. No one ever treated me so nicely; he is so caring and loving, to a point of serving me coffee in bed every morning when we are together. He is fun and always laughs at things I say and he really wants to be with me. He seems like a perfect man. The sex is really good, too.
The thing is, when we talk it’s like we speak different languages. He doesn’t understand what I mean, and when he responds, I don’t understand his way of thinking, because it doesn’t have much to do with what I said. It is so irritating and exhausting to always explain what I tried to tell him.
The thing is, when we talk it’s like we speak different languages.
I often feel that he is not focused, because he even has difficulty expressing himself. I know the answer before he says half the sentence. I often feel unsatisfied mentally, because it’s not interesting for me to have conversations with him most of the time. He seems interested in many things just like I am, and we have so many things in common, but when it comes to talking, I get exhausted and sometimes would rather keep quiet.
But I have gotten attached to him, and the intimacy on the emotional level has touched my heart. To add, I have had a continuous crush on someone else because I felt a mental connection with that person. What should I do?
So let me get this straight: you love everything about this guy, except when he opens his mouth. Hmmmm. To put a finer point on it, this man offers a lot of great stuff. He’s kind, affectionate, devoted and sexy. But you have trouble talking with him because he doesn’t understand you, and doesn’t express himself very well.
One thing you need to clarify in your own mind is whether you view this man as intellectually incompatible with you, or deficient. I ask because there’s a difference between saying, We have different styles of communication and this is frustrating versus He seems kind of dumb. Your letter exudes a whiff of contempt, which led me to suspect that you don’t consider this guy to be your intellectual equal.
To me, that’s a huge red flag for two reasons. First, because the central measure of longevity in a love relationship involves your capacity to communicate with your partner. Each of you needs to be able to articulate your fears and desires and needs to the other, and to be understood. And second, because most enduring relationships (and, I would argue, all healthy relationships) require a basic level of mutual respect.
One thing that’s painfully clear here is that you need to be able to communicate this specific concern to your partner — just as you would if you had trouble connecting emotionally or sexually. The “conversation” part of your relationship is hard work; other aspects come more easily.
The truth is, no romantic relationship ever checks all the boxes on your Dream List.
You need to decide whether you’re willing to do that hard work — and not because it will yield the exact lover you want. But because it might yield a relationship you can esteem and cherish with less ambivalence. If that’s the case, you need to make sure your partner is willing to do the same work.
You should also recognize that “intelligence” is an awfully squishy concept when you come right down to it, as is eloquence. Your lover has trouble with verbal communication, but makes you feel deeply loved (and therefore understood) in other ways. I know plenty of happy relationships in which the central source of connection involves emotion rather than intellection.
You also need to be ready to confront the ways in which you contribute to this communication breakdown. It may be that your impatience, for instance, inhibits his ability to marshal and express his thoughts.
If you don’t want do that work, then you should be honest with yourself, and with him, and set off in search of someone (like your current crush) with whom you communicate more effectively — recognizing that you’re going to be giving up a lot of good stuff.
The truth is, no romantic relationship ever checks all the boxes on your Dream List. There is no “perfect man,” or “perfect woman,” at least beyond those retailed by the Hollywood Rom Com.
Every one of us is imperfect, especially in the context of our intimate relationships. The most important question — to crib a bit from our Founding Fathers — is whether you and your guy are willing to do the hard work necessary to form a more perfect union.
Author's note: As I thought about this letter, I kept remembering the Dear Sugar Radio episode we did on Deal Killers. The gist of that episode was that every person has to conduct a self-inventory to figure out what’s essential in a love relationship. Nobody can do that for you, not even the amazing Cheryl Strayed. Feel free to weigh in on Undecided’s dilemma in the comments section below. And please do send a letter to Heavy Meddle, too. You can use this form, or send your questions via email. I may not have a helpful response, but the act of writing the letter itself might provide some clarity. — S.A.
Heavy Meddle with Steve Almond is Cognoscenti's advice column. Read more here.