My problem is this: he has little, if any, interest in my research. He loves that I am a researcher, and he is hugely supportive of my goals and ambitions, but he has no interest or curiosity in the subject matter itself. My academic side is a big part of my self-identification, and because sociology and comm majors get a lot of flack from the “hard” sciences it is important to me that the person I end up with respect what I do. He rarely asks about my research, and if I tell him about it he doesn’t ask any in-depth questions. His excuse was that “I don’t know anything about what you study,” to which my counter is, if you care about someone you show interest in what they’re doing, whether or not you understand it. I deeply value that he is in a different field than me and I love that I can learn about it from him, and I would like my partner to be able to do the same with me.
I told him last night, “I get the impression that anything I could teach you, you wouldn’t have any interest in learning.” His response was: “You teach me deep things about myself” and that he values me for different reasons than I value him. However, this is not the intellectual dynamic I was hoping for and it honestly hurt me very deeply that he is not interested in learning about my life passion. (I also thought his response was rather self-centered.)
I know that only I can decide whether this is a deal-breaker but I wanted outside perspectives. If my research was not such a huge part of who I am I would be able to brush it off, but honestly, our conversation shook me to the core and I don’t know what to do now. — Science of Love
You’re right; only you can decide if this is a deal-breaker or not. But what you’re deciding is whether your boyfriend’s lack of interest in your major/ life’s passion is enough reason to leave him and you don’t even know for sure that he isn’t interested in your major. Have you considered that he simply doesn’t know enough about it to ask questions or doesn’t know the right terminology to ask them in a way that makes sense (or to understand you)? For example, I know a little more now about baseball — and, specifically, the Yankees — than I did when I first met Drew, but I would have been very hard-pressed to have a conversation with him beyond the most basic of ideas or ask questions beyond, “Who’s winning?” or “How much longer is this game going to go on??” five and a half years ago. Through a lot of patience on Drew’s part — including accepting that I’ll never be the kind of fan that he is and that’s OK — and a little effort on my part, I now know enough to not only follow the sport and engage in conversations about the team, but actually get into some of the games from time to time.
What did Drew do to help me get to where I am — in a place where I can at least somewhat share in his passion of the Yankees? He took me to games (and didn’t complain if I wanted to leave an inning or two before the end). He didn’t overwhelm me with statistics or boring trivia. He picked the best, most interesting parts to share with me. He connected the Yankees to something I was fluent in — celebrity gossip — as a way to engage me. He explained things in a way I could understand — as if he were teaching the rules of the game or introducing the members of the team to someone who had never heard of baseball before. He thanked me for making an effort. Plus, some of the Yankees are pretty hot (What’s up, Robinson Cano?), so that helped, too.
So, my advice for you is to make your passion fun for your boyfriend. Try to connect it to something he loves and understands. Use analogies that make sense to him. Use terminology he’s familiar with. Basically, meet him halfway and if he doesn’t show up at that halfway point, then think about whether this is a big enough issue to leave him.
It may be that you simply need to be with someone who is fluent in your language of science communication and that’s that. A lot of people are like that. It’s one of the reasons so many of us end up with people who work in our own industry (the other main reason, of course, is that we meet more people through work than anywhere else). Sharing passions is a huge component to a successful relationship, and maybe your boyfriend won’t ever share this particular passion with you. But perhaps there are other equally important passions that you do share. Think about what those might be before you decide to MOA and consider whether they would be worth giving up to find someone else who talks science comm as well as you…
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow me on Twitter.