Extra Virgin :: Is Communication Really That Important?
On our long drive home from Florida, I was on social media and noticed lots of people listing the “three fictional characters” that best describe their personalities, so Logan and I made lists of our own. We had lots of fun analyzing each other and thinking through our favorites books and movies until we’d perfected each other’s lists. At some point in the conversation, I texted my friend and this was our conversation ::
Aanna: What three fictional characters would you be?
Maria: Ron Burgundy, Stuart Little and Bilbo Baggins.
Maria: I don’t know. I’m horrible at these things. Did you love thinking about that? *upside down smily face*
Aanna: Oh yeah. Logan and I have been obsessing over it for the last 2 hours.
Maria: Yeah. I was gonna say that’s like a sex game for you and Logan.
Logan and I couldn’t help laughing at ourselves. Our favorite thing do to together is to talk—the first time we met we talked for the majority of a twelve-hour van ride.
Honestly, I have always felt pretty proud of how much we like to communicate, and would argue that it’s one of the best “sex games” out there. :) But a few months ago I read Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel and in it she makes a surprising and controversial statement about verbal intimacy that I can’t stop thinking about ::
…the emphasis on “talk intimacy” is nonetheless problematic, for a number of reasons. The hegemony of the spoken word has veered into a female bias that has, for once, put men in a position of inferiority. Men are socialized to perform, to compete, and to be fearless. The capacity to express feelings is not a prized attribute in the making of American manhood. Dare I say it’s not even considered a desirable one?—at least, not yet. When it comes to loving relationships, “talk intimacy” inevitably leaves many men at a loss. In this regime, they suffer from a chronic intimacy deficiency that needs ongoing repair.
So much of masculine identity is predicated on self-control and invulnerability. Yet I have also observed that these very restrictions lead many men to other venues of self-expression. In the absence of a more developed verbal narrative of the self, the body becomes a vital language, a conduit for emotional intimacy. While much has been written about the aggressive manifestations of male sexuality, it is not sufficiently appreciated that the erotic realm also offers men a restorative experience for their more tender side. The body is our original mother tongue, and for a lot of men it remains the only language for closeness that hasn’t been spoiled. Through sex, men can recapture the pure pleasure of connection without having to compress their hard-to-articulate needs into the prison of words.
The adherents of talk intimacy (often, though not always, women) have a hard time recognizing these other languages for closeness, hence they feel cheated when their partners are reluctant to confide in them. “Why won’t you talk to me?” they plead. “You should be able to tell me anything. Don’t you trust me? I want to be your best friend.” In this setup, the pressure is always on the non-talker to change, rather than on the talker to be more versatile. This situation minimizes the importance of nonverbal communication: doing nice things for each other, making attentive gestures, or sharing projects in a spirit of collaboration. A priceless smile or a well-times wink expresses complicity and attunement, especially when words are unavailable.
Isn’t this an interesting idea? Perhaps we put too much pressure on each other to communicate, and forget about the myriad of ways to be intimate and to express love. I love the idea of trying to accept and celebrate the way your spouse actually feels and expresses love, instead of trying to pigeonhole him into the shape that our society says he “should” be. However, I can’t help thinking that communication really is extremely important, and anyone in a relationship should be willing to be verbally vulnerable with his or her spouse.
What do you think? Is communication the best “sex game”? Or is talking over-rated? Is it unfair to demand verbal intimacy from men (or women) who maybe express their “tender side” in a different way? What are your thoughts?
(Photo by Archer Messenger)