Nov 15 2011
How much time should one spend with another person? How long is too long? When do you run out of things to say? Can you spend 24/7 with someone and still find him/her interesting, funny and exciting?
According to a recent U.S. research, no. According to me, it highly depends on the person you are spending your time with.
A few days ago, Theo and I found ourselves at a boring dinner, with some boring people. As the dull host’s girlfriend hadn’t attended, I thought I should ask and find out her escape secret. “So where’s Martha? How come she didn’t join us?” I said chewing something, trying to hide I was a big fan of her work. “She went out with a friend of hers, you know, she’s doing her thing” he said and went back to arranging the plates on the table. I looked at Theo, annoyed. “How come we’re not doing our thing?” I whispered, feeling left out. Theo turned to our host for some more information. “What d’you mean, man? Is everything ok”? “Yeah, everything’s fine, nothing more to say really. We take nights off from each other, you know? You can’t be with one person all the time, can you”? Theo and I looked at each other. We were definitely the wrong people to ask.
The next day, I read an article in a magazine that said: “Make sure you spend enough time on your own. It is much healthier to spend time with different people rather than one person and in this way you can develop your own interests and grow as an individual, which will then ensure that you will have more to say with your friend or partner, when you eventually meet again. Spending all your time with someone can even harm the relationship, according to a survey. 98% of the people interviewed said that they stop finding the other person funny or interesting after they have spent too much time with him/her. So go out and do your own thing, let him/her miss you, come back and find you have more things to talk about”.
As I was finishing the article, my phone rang. “Hey, do you have a bit of time to talk?” my friend asked. “Yeah, sure, what’s up?” “Nothing much, I was just wondering whether you’d be up for a girls night out this Saturday”. I pretended to think about it for a few seconds. “Not really… Theo and I have plans. Some other time”. “What other time? There’s never another time… You guys are always together”. “I know, we must like each other, or something”, I laughed. “Well I know that, but it’s still not healthy. You need to be seeing other people. You can’t be with each other all the time, you’ll run out of things to talk about”. I thought about what she was saying and connected it to the article I was reading a bit earlier. Immediately I got worried and decided to go for a night out without Theo. “Ok. You’re right. Let’s do it”. “Really? Amazing! It’s gonna be so much fun”! “Ok, great” I said, excited.
I waited for a bit, but nothing came from the other end. “Hello”? “Hey, I’m here”. “Ah, good”, I said, awkwardly. Another long pause followed, where we both tried to come up with something more to say. “Ok, so I guess I’ll see you on Saturday”. “Yeah, see you then”, I replied, before she had even finished her sentence. I hung up and sat back on my chair. My grandma was on skype, so I called her to share my thoughts. “What am I even gonna talk about with these people? We had nothing to say now, and it was a two-minute phone call”… “No, no, you’re looking at it the wrong way. It’s good you’re going out with someone else for a change. You’ll experience something new and come back and tell Theo all about it. And in the meantime, he will have experienced something new while you’ll be away, and he’ll have something to share with you back”. She was right, I decided. And with this in mind, I went to meet someone else than Theo.
Ten minutes in the girls night, I escaped to the bathroom and called my sister for the 20th time in the day. “How’s it going”? “Not good, I’m bored”. “Ok, well listen to this. Apparently Dokey is now a fitness instructor”! I had to burst out laughing with that piece of information. “Amazing”! “Yeah, I know, right? It’s hilarious”. At that point, my dad picked up a phone and joined our conversation. “You’re talking again? What more could you possibly have to say to each other? You’ve been talking constantly for the last 25 years, haven’t you run out of things to say”? We got the message and hung up to let him use the phone.
When I went back to where the rest of my friends were sitting, one looked at me, interested, and asked me what my phone call was about. “I came to the bathroom to wash my hands and you were in a cubicle laughing away. Were you on the phone”? I smiled and nodded. “Yeah, I talked to my sister briefly and she told me something a bit too funny”. “What?”, another friend asked, intrigued. I hesitated, but then went ahead and told them. “Well, this guy we know from where we go camping in the summer… He apparently became a fitness instructor”! Nothing. Silence. They all looked at each other, trying to figure out what they were missing. One took the necessary step. “And that is funny… Because”…? I thought about the best way to answer that. “Well… Because… I don’t know… It just is. A fitness instructor! Dokey, of all people”! Still nothing. The joke just wasn’t doing it for them. Understandably.
All this reminded me of when my best friend and I lived in Athens. One of the mornings I was going to see her, my then boyfriend asked me how we could spend all our time together and still find each other interesting. “You do all your languages together, you go to your dance classes together, then you meet up at home and eat together… Doesn’t it get too much? I mean, I’m not complaining, it works fine for us, you go around and do all these things and then when we meet up we have more things to talk about, you can tell me about your day, I can tell you about mine. But you’ll get sick of each other, the way things are going, you’ll stop finding her interesting, and it’s a shame”. Pointless to say that Eleni and I still find each other extremely fascinating and whenever I meet my ex boyfriend we have absolutely nothing to say.
Which makes me think. Is it me, or does the time you should spend with another person highly depends on how interesting that person is, for you? Isn’t it true that no long is too long, if the other person is Salma Hayek pouring wine down her leg and off her foot into Tarantino’s mouth, but minutes start feeling like centuries if the other person is Juliette Binoche reading books to you, causing you to slowly die a painful death? And isn’t it also true that to be spending 24/7 with someone, chances are you’re finding him/her interesting, funny and exciting, whereas the people you are avoiding during this time, you’re avoiding for a reason?
And let’s face it. If you go out with people that you don’t find half as interesting as your boyfriend, sister or best friend, then nothing that they will tell you, will be worth bringing back home to tell the others. Not only it won’t be a new topic and experience that will have shaped you as an individual, but it will be a waste of time that you will have to then make up for, when you go back to the people that you find interesting.
Which can only mean one thing. That this 98% of the people interviewed for this survey are hanging out with the wrong people. So before you answer any questions and help shape any analysis, and before you start offering advice to friends and relatives, better check and make sure that you’re not hanging out with someone from The English Patient.Share this post
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