Almost three years ago, I met a man who swept me off my feet with his words. The sheer romance of his verbal courtship left me breathless. I was astounded and bewildered by the force of his affection for me. In that relationship, I felt wrapped in a warm cocoon of his love, which sheltered and protected me from the buffeting winds of my life at that time.
Later, when the relationship imploded and he was revealed as the liar and the cad that he was, all those precious words felt hollow and empty, and I swore that I never wanted another man who waxed poetic about his undying love for me because the words weren’t worth the air they expended.
Be careful what you wish for.
Don’t get me wrong. The man that I’m dating is nice to me. He tells me I’m beautiful and buys me flowers and takes me to nice places for dinner and spends a lot of time with me and helps me out sometimes when something breaks at my house. But the closest he ever comes to expressing an emotion that concerns me is to tell me that he’s missing me when we haven’t seen each other in days, which is absolutely sweet, but doesn’t give me much information about what I am in his life or his heart.
Now, I certainly understand that different men are comfortable with and capable of different levels of emotional communication, and I can definitely make allowances for those differences. It’s unfair to expect gushing romantic declarations from a guy who is stoic by nature, but even those guys will usually tip their hands, and those spare, tender words are all the more valuable because of their rarity. And I have dated enough of those men to know that sometimes priming the pump is necessary: sometimes the woman has to gently lead them into the emotional territory with which they are so uncomfortable in order to encourage more openness from them. With these men, sometimes you have to be the first to say something — whether it’s that you like them, that you want to be exclusive with them, or even that you love them. But the hope is that once you open yourself up, make yourself vulnerable, they will reciprocate in some fashion and the two of you will begin the delicate dance of creating intimacy. And priming the pump needs to be exactly and only that — if one partner is the one constantly reaching out to the other, trying to make an emotional connection, trying to forge something solid and special between them, it’s probably not going to work for the long haul. I, for one, can only put myself out there a few times before it begins to feel a little sad and desperate and doormat-y.
So what about when there is nothing said? Early in a relationship, it is wise to be circumspect about your feelings, until you’re more certain of the direction in which they are moving and whether you’re comfortable with them heading there. But later on? Well, later on, words build intimacy. They create bonds. They reassure. They weave a safety net that emboldens us to take the leap necessary to eventually fall in love. They tell us that we are on the same page, sharing a joint experience. They chronicle our story together.
And without words?
Without words to check-in, to move things forward, to assuage insecurities, the relationship that was once flourishing begins to wither. Every little action and reaction is subconsciously evaluated for meaning. Assumptions are dangerous, but the words left unsaid gather a power all their own. The silence becomes deafening. And a chasm opens between the couple….
I know, for me, that usually when I am silent, it is because I have nothing to say. I also know that I have never had a man I care about claim that he didn’t know that I cared. When I care, I show it and I say it. So when I’m not hearing from the man I’m with? It is difficult for me to imagine anything other than that he has nothing to say to me.
What is perhaps most amazing is how little it actually takes to make someone — male or female — feel special and adored and valued. “You’re the best part of my day”… “Hearing your voice makes me smile”… “I hate sleeping without you in the bed with me”… “I think you’re amazing”… “You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met before”… “I think I could fall in love with you”…
Sweet nothings…. that mean everything…