How “30 Rock” helped my boyfriend and me communicate better

My boyfriend and I communicate 25% of the time in words, 25% in farts, and 50% in laughter. Ninety percent of the time, it’s great. The only time we can’t seem to communicate is when I ask him questions like “why do you love me?” and “how do you feel?”

The reason he has a hard time answering questions like this is understandable — while it’s not my story to tell, he doesn’t have an easy time communicating. However, as someone who spends a lot of her time self-analyzing and talking out emotions, this dynamic can sometimes be very stressful for us. He usually answers with, “It’s obvious why I love you, can’t you feel it?” and ends it there. However, it just dawned on me that he has been communicating his answers to questions like this to me, but in his own way. He’s been doing it through the films and shows we watch together.

Films, shows, comic books — stories have always been an escape for him. He’s a comic book writer and when he does research for his work, he cherishes the stories he finds and their effects on people. He’ll have a list of movies and stories to consume right before writing in order to find inspiration from them to create his work. When I watch anything, on the other hand, I’m the worst possible person — I’m a talker. I like to bring in a relevant fact that applies to the movie or analyze how the scene was set up in my amateur way and what that means for the rest of the film. Partially I do this for me, but I also do it to impress whoever I’m with, if they’re worth impressing. I do this with my boyfriend because he’s older than me and I want to show him how knowledgeable I am. However, to someone who seeks out these stories in order to lose himself in them, this behavior of mine, understandably, definitely doesn’t impress him and in fact annoys him to no end.

“When you’re talking, you’re taking away from the experience of watching the movie.”

“But that’s not how I see it! I’m adding to the experience, don’t you appreciate that?”

“No, I want to experience the movie in the moment without any other context. Can’t you respect that?”

Recently, though, we’ve been watching 30 Rock. It’s one of his favorite shows and while I know of its renown, I’ve never actually seen it. I’ve noticed that whenever a character, usually Liz Lemon, does something ridiculous, he likes to look at me, with twinkling blue eyes and a huge grin, and say, “That’s you!” Even though it’s a light-hearted comedy that he’s already seen before, so interjections aren’t as big a deal, this is still strange behavior coming from him. I was confused for a while, but hey, if he was gonna interject then that gave me free reign to do it as well, so I wasn’t complaining.

So when he would make comparisons between me and certain 30 Rock characters, I’d play it off and laugh, neither confirming nor denying our resemblance. I didn’t think much of it at first, but it suddenly dawned on me that every time he does this, he was actually answering the “Why do you love me?” question.

I think in his own way, he’s showing me affection by pointing out his favorite characters’ attributes. They’re sometimes embarrassing traits, like when Liz stuffs her face with pizza, Jenna looks at herself lovingly in the mirror, or Twofer acts pretentious for going to a prestigious school — but they’re also what makes the character relatable and lovable. In his own way, my boyfriend is telling me that despite these “flaws,” he still loves me for me. And when these character’s behaviors remind him so much of me, he’s pulled from the story he loves so much. And when he thinks of me, he just can’t help but talk during his favorite show to tell me that they remind him of me.

I realize now that I shouldn’t feel frustrated when he can’t answer my direct questions. Instead, I should be empathetic to his past and try to communicate on his own terms, too. It might not be the traditional means of communication when you imagine a couple communicating, but then again, we’re all different people with different backgrounds. Maybe one day I’ll be able to help him get through his trauma and he’ll be more comfortable opening up to me than he has ever opened up to anyone else in the past. Actually, I asked him last night if he thought this essay was a good idea and he told me, “I think you should write it.”

He didn’t really answer my question, but hey, that’s a start.

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