General Question

chelle21689's avatar

How important is mental stimulation in a relationship?

Asked by chelle21689 (5379 points ) April 23rd, 2011

I met this guy 2 months ago and we’ve been talking almost every night and seeing each other once a week on weekends. He’s a great catch! He’s a gentleman, handsome, a very good guy, responsible, smart with decisions he makes, same views, makes me laugh, adventurous, open-minded, and goes after what he wants. Sometimes we even stay on the phone for hours just laughing and talking about random things.

Here’s the flaw, even though we can have conversation I feel like he doesn’t hold a very stimulating conversation that makes me think and challenges me. He sucks at explaining his perspective and when I ask for his opinion on things he doesn’t know how to elaborate how he feels or why he thinks that way. If he could just explain his perspective and thinking then I would be happy because seeing things from someone else’s eyes makes you learn a lot and think differently.

Is it possible to teach someone how to express their opinions and thoughts? I notice it is a struggle for him and he doesn’t know how to do it. Doesn’t know how to elaborate.I know how frustrating it feels to not know how to explain your view points but some how I learned. I don’t know how I did though, haha.

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36 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I don’t know if I would want to teach someone how to express themself.
Sounds exhausting and I would have little patience for trying to squeeze water out of a rock.

chelle21689's avatar

I just know that I don’t want to stop seeing him. I like being with him but it just makes me wonder how important it is to hold a relationship if we ever decide to take that commitment.

Coloma's avatar

Depends on what you can and can’t live with longterm.

I’m a extroverted, ( not obnoxious ) but high mental energy type and I could not be in a relationship LT with someone who does not stimulate me mentally with a curious and engaging personality. The sum total of a relationship is how well it meets BOTH parties ‘needs.’

I don’t ‘need’ another piece of furniture to dust around. lol

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@chelle21689 -How important is it to you is the question.He doesn’t sound so terrible but if you get bored with the conversation,what fun is that?

nikipedia's avatar

Not sure it’s the best idea to go into a relationship trying to change the guy.

seazen_'s avatar

How old are you guys? There are all kinds of courses for that.

Is it possible to teach someone how to express their opinions and thoughts? I notice it is a struggle for him and he doesn’t know how to do it. Doesn’t know how to elaborate.I know how frustrating it feels to not know how to explain your view points but some how I learned. I don’t know how I did though, haha.

From business communication to good old therapy… there are courses online and there are all kinds of places to go to to learn to communicate better.

Definitely wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me – with everything else going for him.

chelle21689's avatar

Well, the other night we talked for 5 hours and it wasn’t boring LoL… just not challenging. He’s 21 and I’m 22.

I think that what helped me was customer service. I learned how to make conversation with people. Also my ex helped me come out of my shell over the years to talk…he was a huge talker and talked my ear off. I wonder if I can do the same for him.

Like I said, he’s got everything else going for him so just “dumping” him because of this isn’t an option if I’m developing feelings.

Question is, how can I HELP him? I sometimes try to dig a little deeper into his thinking and sometimes it helps. Sometimes he gets stuck LMAO!

CaptainHarley's avatar

After three years, the things that seem like little mole-hills right now about someone will seem like impossible mountains. My advice: figure out what’s important to YOU, then see if he matches the criteria well. If not, cut him loose.

Coloma's avatar

@chelle21689

Listen to us oldsters, we know of which we speak.
If you want a pit bull don’t try to turn a golden retriever into one. Not gonna happen.
Listen to Lucy and me and the captain!

You either totally ACCEPT someone as they are or you pull anchor.
Can’t turn a donkey into a racehorse.
Either love the donkey or pack him off to be loved for himself by another.

lonelydragon's avatar

If you like everything else about him, give the relationship a little more time. He’s young and may learn to express himself yet. It could be that he just hasn’t critically examined his thoughts and beliefs and needs to do that first. Just be patient with him. I sometimes get “stuck” when trying to figure out why I think or feel the way I do about a particular subject, and after thinking about it for a little while I can unusually get unstuck. Perhaps the same is true for him. The best thing you can do is be an encouraging listener.

seazen_'s avatar

Damn – I have to agree with Coloma again. It’s all about accepting someone for who they are – period. But one can learn to express themselves better and help gather their thoughts. Perhaps he’s smart – but awkward – or, maybe he has a form of ADD and needs a little Concerta effort (pun intended.)

Coloma's avatar

@seazen_
I agree with you as well. I’m at that time of life where I don’t want to be in relationships with anyone that has not done a goodly amount of self awareness and personal growth work.

None of us are ever going to be ‘perfect’, but, clueless is not appealing to me at all.

chelle21689's avatar

No, he’s not clueless at all, I just think he has a hard time expressing himself is all.

SABOTEUR's avatar

The quick and dirty of it is…

no, you’re not going to be able to teach him how to express himself. And you won’t be able to overlook his “shortcomings” indefinitely.

It might be advisable for you…as great a guy as he is…to “cut your loses” (for lack of a better term) and find someone you don’t have to educate.

seazen_'s avatar

Maybe you should heed the Bard’s words

chelle21689's avatar

We talk almost every day on average for an hour. The other day we were on the phone for 5 hours. It’s not BORING to talk to him…I always find ourselves joking around and having lots of laughs. It’s just he doesn’t make me THINK.

I mean if there is any stimulation to our conversation for me, it’s when he asks me questions that make me think or bring up a topic versus him giving his perspective and opinion. So in a way there is SOME stimulation but not that much

I don’t see it as trying to change him at all. I just want to know his perspective on things.

Hibernate's avatar

Well you can try ask how he feels with small things.
For instance ask him to explain to you why he likes a band that he likes or things like that.

Start small then you can aim higher.
Get to know him better… what makes him tick :P

chelle21689's avatar

To be honest, he has gotten a lot better at conversation with me this past two months. The first few phone calls were a struggle…and made me wonder if I could even hold a conversation with him and he proved me wrong.

Eh, I like him..I’m not going to walk away from this..if it starts to crumble/fade whatever we have then I guess I should accept it if that were the case. I’m going with the flow

Aqua's avatar

To me it sounds like he has a personality type where he introverts feeling (but that’s really up to him to decide). I would suggest you both look into personality type (Myers-Briggs is what I prefer), and that will help you understand both who you are and why you have certain tendencies and who he is. It will also help you realize that each personality type has strengths and weaknesses and it will help both of you recognize ways to improve yourselves. I would recommend reading Just Your Type and The Art of SpeedReading People.

Sunny2's avatar

The two of you could join some kind of discussion group so he can see how to express himself without your teaching him. Great Books, church oriented subjects, community groups, political groups. Groups that allow free expression of ideas. And you wouldn’t have to do it now. I’m just saying he’s young enough not to have had the experience of expressing his points of view yet, so he still can learn. I don’t think I learned how to do that until I was in my thirties and it took The League of Women Voters to help me.

chelle21689's avatar

That’s interesting.

flutherother's avatar

You could try poking him with a stick and by that I mean offering up a provocative opinion or two about, for example, global warming, euthanasia or animal rights to see if you will get a response. Or you could suggest an interesting book for him to read that might be a basis for discussion, or you could see a film together, one that makes you think, if there are such nowadays. He is probably just not used to expressing his thoughts.

Kardamom's avatar

From my experience most males are much less expressive in the verbal sense than women are. He may be an introverted personality. Which is fine, but if you need more conversational stimulation, you may be headed down a road that you won’t want to stay on.

But the way you’ve described him so far, he sounds wonderful, and the fact that he actually does talk on the phone with you for long periods of time and you seem to enjoy these pleasant conversations, then there is hope.

My S/O used to be quite shy, mostly around everyone else, and kind of still is, but I am a pretty good conversationalist, so he is pretty chatty with me. But I’ll tell you, some of our best conversations are not about politics and art and the state of the union. They’re silly stuff, inside jokes, talk about TV shows and movies that we’ve seen, restaurants that we’re going to try, how douchey certain politicians and television personalities are etc. I know exactly where he stands on religion, politics, child raising, animal welfare etc. But that is because I’ve asked him, and then told him how I feel. But I’ve never pushed my beliefs on him or demanded to know why he thinks the way he does. I’ll just ask him, very gently what he thinks about this or that.

Sometimes you just have to (gently, not forcibly) ask lots of questions and demonstrate by example how you explain (out loud) what you believe. I think a lot of people know in their heart of hearts how they believe, but they’ve believed that way for so long that they don’t even think about why they believe certain things. It can be a little awkward at first for people (especially young people, and especially males) to think about their beliefs, then come up with an articulate verbalization of those beliefs.

But as long as you don’t bark at him, or demand answers, but just gently ask a lot of questions and give him plenty of information on your own beliefs and why you hold them, then he will likely jump into the discussions more and more as time goes by. That’s how it turned out with me and my S/O.

If it turns out that your new fellow has some very different (or opposing ideas) to yours, that might be an indication that you guys are not as compatible as you would have hoped. But on the other hand, there are probably plenty of jellies in here, who have S/O’s that are on the other side of the political or religious spectrum from themselves, but they are able to cordially and respecfully differ on those things.

The love and the like and the desire to be with someone has to outweigh any of the perceived negatives or shortcomings. Also, one person cannot be all things to another person. So you may be able to have a perfectly wonderful, loving relationship with this guy and get some of the other stimulation from friends and relatives and colleagues and teachers.

So give this guy some more time, but practice asking him more direct questions (without coming across as hostile or demanding) and let him know from where you derive your beliefs about all sorts of subjects. He may pick up on the conversational style.

An example conversation:

“You know John, I really love having all of the modern conviences of life, but I often worry about the cost of these conveniences. It concerns me that our dependence on oil is going to ruin our country down the line. If you were the President, or were in some type of position that you could change things, what would your approach to our energy problem be?”

If he says “I don’t know.” Then you need to make another statement and then ask another question like, “I think we need to make some major changes. Do you think it would be a good idea to give tax incentives to entrepreneurs who develop new energy techniques? Or do you think it would be better if we just drilled for more oil in our own country? For me, I think the new ideas route would be more cost effective and efficient in the long run. What do you think?”

chelle21689's avatar

No, I know how he feels about a lot of things like religion, gay marriage, punishing kids, marijuana legalization, etc. but he just doesn’t know how to elaborate why he feels that way. I mean sure I know he thinks gay marriage is okay because it’s none of his business. I guess I could keep going “Why?” well “Why?” until he runs out huh? LMAO

Kardamom you do give good examples. I think I tried one of those where he didn’t know and I did tell him my perspective and give options. Basically I keep the conversation going and interesting. I mean, he does bring up new topics to talk about.

We’ll seeee…...

jerv's avatar

It can be tough. It took me a while to learn to voice my opinions, and it doesn’t help that I am far better at writing than speaking if for no reason other than a lack of time constraints. Also bear in mind that us guys are generally less communicative than most females in the first place. Not always, as there are always exceptions, but that is generally true. It’s the way we are wired.

We also tend to be a bit more straight-forward and don’t get too wrapped up in details and nuances, often to the point where we don’t even notice subtleties. I am particularly bad in that regard, but I think that has more to do with Aspergers than with being a guy; it seems to me that in that regard I am pretty normal and just a bit more extreme as opposed to having a unique trait.

Among those subtle things are feelings. The basics are easy; it’s not hard to convey “fucking pissed off”, but mixed feelings are not always easy for us to convey even to ourselves; if we can’t understand something, there is no chance of us putting it into words.

Now to recommend this question to the woman who has been putting up with me for over a decade in the hopes that she can give a better answer than I can.

chelle21689's avatar

How did you learn Jerv?

For a better understanding of what I’m trying to say. Imagine him getting interviewed for what he does…sayyyy for example snowboarding. I can imagine him answering and giving small comments but not being able to talk and show “personality” if you know what I mean. In interviews usually the person will talk a while. A couple sentences aren’t enough.

gm_pansa1's avatar

Maybe he’s an introvert and doesn’t want to go all out in conversation? Having dealt with someone like this, it drove me crazy. If you’re looking for more stimulating conversations, your best bet is to keep this guy as only a friend and go look for someone else. Though I suppose it all revolves around what you’re willing to deal with and it also depends on how long you can put up with it. Maybe even shove the question as to why he’s like that into one of your talks, and maybe you’ll understand it a bit better. This way, you’ll know what to expect in terms of his poor communication skills? I don’t know…... try it and see, :)

jerv's avatar

Well, I can only give a couple of sentences right now (I am on my way out the door) but I can say that I am still learning over 30 years later.

And for my second sentence, I will say that many guys consider a couple of sentences to be more than enough on many cases; that falls back to “getting into details”, which is something not all guys do unless they are geeking out about a passion of their’s like I do with computers, cars, or games.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Take it from someone who once found a person who was very attractive…but could not hold a thoughtful/deep/insightful conversation. It’s great at the beginning…but as time wears on, it becomes a real drudge. I cannot be with someone who isn’t bright, clever and who challenges me to think about things in new ways. A lot of people are happy just sitting around in silence all the time with someone. A “harumph” is fine (“Oh, that’s just Harry…he loves me…and that’s all I need to know.”) I found myself knitting in circles round myself…because he had no depth and could not talk about anything other than sports and the weather.

Let me explain…a lot of people who are not self-aware are lovely people. But they are boring. What you thought was sweet chit-chat at the beginning becomes tedious when you want to engage in something deeper and more meaningful as time wears on. It’s not that they aren’t intelligent people…if you are expressive and they cannot express it becomes a frustrating exercise. It’s as if you are talking to yourself. Intelligence does not equal interesting. Self-exploration, however, does. It takes courage to figure out what makes you tick, what makes the world tick…and a curiosity about people, places, things…makes for an interesting partner.

The worst part is when you attempt to use metaphor to describe things…and they just don’t get it.

Me: That movie reminded me of when I was a child and things just never looked simple. Did you ever dream as a child?
He: Um….I don’t know. Suppose so.
Me: What did you dream about?
He: Can’t remember…long time ago.
Me: Surely you had some dream you might remember.
He: No, not really.
Me: I always wanted to be a ballerina until I realized ballerinas were tall graceful swans and I was a small, lumpy chickadee.
He: (silence) What do birds have to do with ballet?

Or worse:

He: (apparently upset).
Me: What’s going on? Do you want to tell me why you are upset?
He: I’m not upset. (visibly upset)
Me: Of course you are upset, I can see that….you got upset when we were over at the Sandersons house…and you got quiet.
He: No, I didn’t.
Me: If you want to talk about it, it’s okay.
He: There is nothing to talk about.
Me: Well, you do seem different since Mrs Sanderson brought up that subject about the land acquisition. Is it something about that? Are you feeling okay?
He: Yes.
Me: Okay.

(Still visibly upset…and just blank-faced when questioned. There really isn’t anything wrong…that he feels or senses, even though it is quite evident to everyone else. )

I don’t think it is about extroversion and introversion…I knew an extrovert who could converse for hours about absolutely nothing and when faced with deep questions would draw a complete blank. I knew an introvert who was always quiet and then would come up with the most profound insights at the most unexpected times. Guess which one was the best guest at a dinner party?

Bingo.

Aster's avatar

So he’s no big intellect. I dated guys like that; some turned out to be extremely successful. I tired of them but just to date I see no problem with it. I had fun; it was ok. Then at some point I met an ambitious, deep thinker with an incredible personality who made me laugh until my stomach hurt . It was utterly fantastic. Wow; what a difference!!! I married him and felt like I had married a rock star. until the split.

Kardamom's avatar

@DarlingRhadamanthus Your conversation snippets (and any more that you have) would make a really great scene in a movie or the whole thing could be a really excellent play. It could be called The Difference Between You and Me.

I’ve known people like that and they drove me insane. But I enjoyed reading your examples! : )

CaptainHarley's avatar

Men aren’t noted for “being in thouch with their feelings!” : )

seekingwolf's avatar

Mental stimulation is KEY for me in a relationship.

I don’t buy the whole “well men don’t talk as much so don’t expect them to be articulate.” Well, maybe some jocky men who are lacking in the “upstairs” department, but not all men are that way. It’s up to you to find someone who enjoys good conversation and who stimulates you and vice versa. If it’s important to you, make it a priority when you’re dating someone.

Being an introvert/extrovert doesn’t have a lot to do with it. My boyfriend and I are both “introverts” (neither of us like to party) but we do have deep conversations with each other and friends. We were friends long before we started dating and 4–5 hour conversations has always been the norm for us.

If that’s what you’re into, you need to seek out people who are like that. Don’t date someone with the expectation of “changing” them into a better partner for you. Just move on,

gm_pansa1's avatar

Oh yeah, I forgot about the having to change someone part. If you feel that you have to change the person to better suit you, they’re not for you, and you’re better off looking elsewhere for what you’re looking for. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be or stay friends.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It’s absolutely key to me and I wouldn’t be with anyone that doesn’t inspire me, intellectually. But if it’s not all that important to you and you want to keep seeing him, please by all means continue to do so. Still, if this is something you want for the long term, you will get sick of him and feel trapped.

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