2021-09-13 How to love

It’s dark outside. We’re sitting on the red couch. She’s reading a book. I’m typing on the laptop. Somewhere outside, cars growl. The city is falling asleep.

I’m reading replies to a post about work and love and people not talking to each other.

In the evenings, I’m usually watching TV in the background with a laptop on my lap as I start off some tasks for tomorrow and wrap up the days events with a nice typed up reflection of what was done and what needs to be. My partner chats with me, draws out some sketches on her pad, and we mumble about the program we’re currently watching and I’m silently tapping away at the same time basking in the her warmth as well as the glow of the TV. – Work, Life, and Love, by ~tetris

It’s not working out. They fight. It breaks my heart. There are good replies to this post, on the same page, and elsewhere on the net. I wish programmer person tetris all the best. This is not easy. I think everything I could have said has been said in one of the replies.

The post did make me think about me and my wife and how we spend time together, and the things we want from a relationship, a life together.

Claudia and I have been together nearly 30 years. We met in high school. We grew up into adults together, adapted ourselves to each other. It wasn’t easy at first. I’d say the first two years were the hardest. We had to let go of ideas we had brought into the relationship from our families and the stories we read, the movies we watched. There is no telepathy; communication requires words. How to talk, how to argue, how to express feelings. Nothing came naturally.

I remember her calling me after school, wanting to talk for an hour. I couldn’t understand it. Hadn’t we seen each other in school? What was there to talk about? I understood so little.

We lived apart from each other for the first fifteen years. We liked our independence. We spent a day or two per week together; that was enough. I thought of it as spending “quality time” together. We would not spend time with each other unless spending time with each other was the entire point. There was no “let’s each do our separate thing in the same room”.

When we moved in with each other, that was something we had to learn. One of us was restless. What’s the plan, she’d ask? One of us was happy with books and computers. I need some time for myself, I’d say. We had to learn to spend time alone, together.

As I’m typing this, she sits next to me, reading her book.

We need both quality time together, and time alone together. We need to talk about work. It’s not quality time, but this is how we know each other. We need to know what worries the other; the people they spend so many hours with at work; the things they are doing. We need to talk about the news. If we don’t, I fear we’d drift apart. Sometimes we talk while we cook; sometimes we talk while we eat; sometimes we talk while we water our plants. We have a lot of plants.

I often think about the end. When the end comes, will I go in peace? The list of the top 5 regrets of the dying keeps haunting me.

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. I wish I had let myself be happier. – The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

To be true to myself. To not work so hard. To express my feelings. To stay in touch with my friends. To let myself be happy. I’m working on it. I’m doing pretty good on the first half, I’m struggling with the second half. Let’s talk about the middle part: love.

For me, love is everything. Without love, I don’t know what I’d do. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. All I know is that I’m prepared to struggle for our love. It feels strange to say this because we have been so extraordinarily lucky, I haven’t had to actually struggle for love. Perhaps it’s an indication of my fear that all things must end. The number of couples we know that have managed to keep their love alive for decades is forever dwindling. We are surrounded by divorce and separation, and in my bones I feel that this is what I want to avoid at all costs – without actually knowing how to do it. So I focus on the small everyday things. I tell my wife that I love her, that I love to hold her. If there is a simple way to make her happy, I do it: I prepare breakfast for her, I walk her to the station in the early morning hours. I listen to the things she tells even though I might not care too much for the topics because I want to know what she’s thinking. I want to listen to what she tells me no matter what it is. And when she asks me what’s on my mind, I tell her, knowing that she doesn’t actually care about programming and computers, but trying to convey a picture of the things that trouble me, the things I’m trying to do.

I often feel our relationship is a careful dance on eggshells. We are both easily hurt by careless words, easy to anger. Therefore we are always careful when we speak. We avoid shouting and fighting because we are both so touchy. It works out to our advantage, I guess.

As you can tell, I’m not great at giving relationship advice. I hardly know what I’m doing myself. Perhaps the most important point is that I care, even if I don’t know what I’m doing. When the going is easy, when things are coasting along, I sense the fear inside me, and I try to make sure that we’re good. I don’t want to be caught in stormy waters unprepared.

I suspect humans have a tendency to explain their luck with talent. The rich did something and now they’re rich, so obviously the thing they did has made them rich. They earned it. We made an effort to keep this relationship going, so obviously our efforts have made it possible. We earned it. Or perhaps it’s all about being lucky and there’s no explaining it.

I have no idea. I hope it all works out for you.


thank you for writing this post. these subjects are sometimes difficult to talk about, particularly for us computer types who like things to be properly specified. affairs of the human heart rarely are, but peering through the mist together, collectively, and with one’s other half can help us see what is there.

– luke 2021-09-14 06:13 UTC

Yes, indeed. I also appreciate reading diverse perspectives.

I sometimes feel that I might have benefited from talking to people half way between me and my parents, or maybe a more talking and listening culture for me and my parents. So that’s my contribution: approaching fifty, I speak with the benefit of hindsight. 😀

– Alex 2021-09-14 16:56 UTC

I found your post and it really ressonated with me. It made me reflect on my life, and the things I could to live it to its fullest — how can I be happier, how can I be a better friend and better partner? Thank you so much for writing it.

– Beto Dealmeida 2021-09-14 18:57 UTC

Thanks for sharing. You gather here a lot of what I feel during introspection. In my own experience I worry about “time alone together” being in effect too much time alone.

– anonyth 2021-09-19 05:28 UTC

Yeah, we need both time alone together, and quality time together. Generally speaking, I’d say worrying about is a good sign. It’s a sign that you care. And talking about it often helps. Perhaps your partner will say, “Hell no! I love this. What gave you this idea, have you been taking relationship advice from the Internet again?” Then you can both laugh and keep on doing the things you do. Or perhaps your partner will say, “Hum, yeah, maybe. I don’t know. I do sometimes feel like we’re both living alone together, each in their bubble.” And then you can make plans to set aside time for a trip, a concert, a hike, a game, some activity you both enjoy, give yourself the opportunity to spend quality time together.

– Alex 2021-09-19 10:53 UTC

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