Something was off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Hubby still came in the door and greeted the dogs. He gave me a quick smile and said, “Hi.” It became so routine, that sometimes I thought he might kiss the dogs and hand me a biscuit! We just didn’t seem to connect like we used to.
It wasn’t until a younger, married friend of mine called me with some Natural Family Planning concerns that the light bulb went on. I am in the throes of menopause. Poor hubby doesn’t know what to make of me these days. I’m hot, I’m cold. I’m happy, then I am sad. At night it was difficult for him to determine if I was trying to be romantic, or just disrobing due to a hot flash. Things are different.
My husband and I practiced NFP for our entire marriage. We used it to conceive our children, to space our children, and finally to permanently postpone any more children as my health was in serious jeopardy. For years we communicated daily about my cycles, our faith practice regarding fertility, and our family needs and size. Suddenly, that conversation was not necessary. We recognized that without that daily reason for intimate chats, we had neglected the need to talk in general.
The divorce rate among couples practicing Natural Family Planning is extremely low. Many theorize that is due, in part, to the constant communication of the couple. Perhaps that is why even strong Catholic couples struggle a little when they hit the “change of life.” For us, it had created a major shift in our relationship dynamics.
Once we were aware of the problem, we worked on a solution to keep our marriage strong!
Being older means our children are also older. There is no longer a need to plan a night out weeks in advance. We now take advantage of this by going on dates when we feel the need to reconnect. For example, a few weeks ago I had a really productive day and I wanted to tell my husband all about it. Instead of competing with several voices for his attention, we fed the kids and then we went to have soup at a small sandwich shop up the street. We asked one of the older kids to keep an eye out for the others and just went!
We have learned to take our time. We used to rush, well, everything. Our dinner, our conversations, even our intimate time together. We had so many demands on our time and attention and now the demands are often less urgent. Adult children and teens have big problems sometimes, but they can generally wait to discuss them. This means we can slow down and be a little more thoughtful.
Individually we have learned to identify the need to communicate. We actually begin sentences now by stating that we would like to share something. Our presentation of what is on our minds is deliberate, thought out, and planned. It is wonderful to have a thought during the day, or an experience and to look forward to sharing that story with my spouse. Ironically, I have to write it down to remember it, because I have “meno-brain.’
We make communication a priority. Now that we don’t have a daily reason to ‘check in’ with each other, we put energy into finding opportunities to share. Our conversations still often revolve around the kids, but now we regularly discuss our jobs, thoughts, and even our dreams. I am constantly surprised by the things I don’t know about this man that I have spent half my life with. It is like falling in love all over again: we flirt, we share secret thoughts, and we find more out about each other every day.
The discovery of anticipation has returned to our marriage in a spectacular way. We relish the idea of sitting down and sharing our thoughts, our time, and our love. I feel like a newlywed again, and yet enjoy the comfort of the familiarity of this man whom I have loved for so long.
So, the conversation has changed. We have changed, but like fine wine, our relationship gets better (and more valuable) with time.
Copyright 2014, Mary Lou Rosien