Otherwise perfect relationship missing intellectual discussion
Q: I have been dating a woman who is, save in one respect, the woman of my dreams. She is everything: She is beautiful, generous, kind, great in bed, a great cook, quick to apologize when she's wrong, quick to forgive me when I've been an a--, hard-working, faithful, of fine character and of a loving family. But we have no serious intellectual discussion whatsoever. She wants to marry me, and I often want to marry her, but I cannot make up my mind whether it would be wise to do so.
I've watched our phone conversations grow shorter and more perfunctory, and our evenings out settle into things, like movies and dancing at clubs, that allow us to be together in our solitudes. I've tried to find out more about her interests, and to pursue the details of her work life, but the effort always ends clumsily. I think she has tried the same, but when I asked her about it directly, we had the only really hurtful fight of our relationship.
I know no marriage is perfect, and sometimes I tell myself I'm foolish even for thinking of parting from her. But I miss wit, and subtlety, and anything that might have come from an old book. I'm tired of small talk, of baby-talk, of talking about the weather. How do I judge whether this problem is a deal-breaker?
A: This column, if I'm doing my job, is a conduit for making your own decisions better, not for having them made for you. That's why I'll refrain from pointing out that she's the woman of your dreams, "save in one respect," kind of like Pompeii was the perfect city, save for the volcanic ash.
If you so value easy conversation about complicated things, if your idea of winning the emotional lottery is never running out of things to talk about, then please make that your priority, without apology. Then decide whether life with this woman is the life you want. That's the beginning-to-end approach.
If you'd tried that repeatedly and you don't like the answer, then try the end-to-beginning approach: Imagine that, a few years from now, you meet someone with whom the subtlety, wit and substance come easily. Will you regret having married your lovely, high-quality, hard-working dance partner? Will she regret having married you? Will "everything" still mean something?
And if you've tried that approach repeatedly, too, and don't like the answer, then maybe it's time to stop forcing a different answer.
That's not to say your final reckoning should all take place in your head. Your girlfriend sounds like good people, and you obviously care. You both deserve your best effort to crack through the conversational surface.
Take on a joint project, share good articles you've read, ask what she thinks about X or Y current event. Listen for when she does talk freely, maybe among friends or family. Make her your intellectual pursuit — not with an eye to working this hard for eternity, but instead to find out, to your own satisfaction, whether she has another side and whether it's possible to cross over to it. If your frustration persists, confess it; see if she can lead you there.
If such concerted efforts fail, then you owe it to you both to concede defeat.