when sweet nothings mean everything

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.

In my current relationship, there are no sweet nothings.  And I have had to face the painful reality that some sweet nothings are worth everything.

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…



Filed under dating, general musings, love, relationships, single mom

8 responses to “when sweet nothings mean everything

  1. It is my impression that men say “sweet nothings” mostly because they know that it sits well with women—not because they mean anything by it. (The individual variation is large, obviously.) In other words, the sweet nothings say less about what a man feels for you and more about how skilled he is with women. Looking at the two cases you discuss above, the same theme seems to be present.

    My advice is to look at a man’s actions, not his words. (And by “actions”, I mean his daily-life actions: “Romantic” actions like buying gifts or arranging expensive dates are also often merely signs of how well a man knows his way around women—not how strong his feelings for any particular woman are.)

    • Thank you for that reminder, “Swede”. 🙂

      Yes, you are absolutely and precisely right. I learned the lesson of the hollowness of the “grand gesture” during my marriage, and the strategic employment of sweet nothings immediately thereafter. What I’m talking about here are more the sweet things we say to each other, almost without thought, simply because they spill from our lips based on delight of each other.

      Thank you for your words and thoughts…. The perspective was valuable. 🙂

  2. yes…but then again, there are those men out there who need no priming at all…who have been inspired by the idea that love is more than just and image…it could be something amazing if another person is willing to meet them half way…

    You’re completely right…words are moving…to me, words are just the indicative nature of where I would choose to move next…


    • I suspect few men are as comfortable at the intersection of words and feelings as you are, T. As for me, I think I am willing to do more than 1/2 the work on this count… I tend to retreat, however, when I feel foolish for having done so.

      One thing I did not understand: ” …words are just the indicative nature of where I would choose to move next.” Would you mind expanding on that so that I might understand your meaning?

  3. A very nice post. Taking an opposing view for a moment only, is it reasonable to simply talk to your man and explain this to him. He might not have experience with someone like you or maybe too withdrawn to be open with you. In the former case, he perhaps can learn easily and be what you need without requiring an effort from him. In the latter case, as you have already said, it might not be a good match and there is a long-term. Can you know for sure which without a Deep and Meaningful with him?

    Good luck…

    • Darn it…I get annoyed with myself when I don’t proof-read properly and make sillllyy ttypposs.

    • Thanks for the thoughts, SD. What resonated most was your suggestion that he might not be used to someone like me… There is definitely truth in that, on many levels. After writing this, I had a fitful night full of bad dreams and realized that it is precisely the Deep and Meaningful Conversation that most frightens me with this man. Not sure why, exactly. Hmmm….

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