A frequent challenge among many couples arises when one is feeling very low, in a depressed or negative state that inevitably affects the other partner. The “feeling low” partner may feel a great need to share his/her intense emotions or to have them recognized and validated. The other partner may be worn down by the negativity; unable to identify (and commiserate) with the other’s intense emotions; or possibly resentful of what feels like unfair blame and criticism.
Zoe Heller’s thought-provoking article “How Everyone Got So Lonely” (New Yorker 4.4.22) takes a look at loneliness and the recent decline in sexual activity. The latter part of Heller’s article, from which this blog piece has been excerpted and edited, focuses on robots as a (possibly?) satisfying solution for growing loneliness among people of all ages.
It is a powerful statement about the degree to which we underestimate both the epidemic of loneliness and the challenges of relationship.
In her recent guest essay in the New York Times, Kate Bowler (associate professor at Duke Divinity School and host of the podcast Everything Happens) suggests that the modern bucket list industry is a form of experiential capitalism; with at least a hundred books with titles like 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, it can provide enough activities to “keep people industriously morbid…. Hang gliding. Snorkeling. Times Square on New Year’s Eve and Paris in the spring….”
NYTImes opinion columnist David Brooks writes about the art of connecting, even in time of dislocation. His list of “non-obvious lessons for how to have better conversation, which I’ve learned from people wiser than myself,” are applicable to non-Covid times as well.
In her recent NYTimes article (What if Instead of Calling People Out, We Called Them In?, 11.18.20), journalist Jessica Bennett introduces us to Professor Loretta Ross, who is combating “cancel culture” with a popular class at Smith College.
Ross, an activist of more than 40 years, helped organized a delegation of women of color at the March for Women’s Lives in 1989.
The novel The Darling by Russell Banks (HarperCollins, 2004) is told in the voice of Hannah Musgrave, the ultimate privileged child of the 1960s, a former Weatherman sought by the FBI, widow of a minister in the Liberian government, and caretaker of threatened chimps. The book begins with Hannah’s decision to return to Liberia in her late 50s. “We return to a place,” she writes, “in order to learn why we left.”
The following is Hannah’s magnificent description of aging and of death, as her story unfolds in the book’s opening pages.
The essential strategies that promote peaceful living between partners under normal circumstances are beautifully summarized in this morning’s NYTimes – in the context of coping with the stresses of the current pandemic.
Celeste Headlee, who has worked as an NPR and Public Radio host for decades, knows the ingredients of a great conversation: honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. Author of We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter (2017), Headlee notes that most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand, but rather to reply — a dynamic that is clearly evident in many dysfunctional relationships.