In Marriage, Communication Gets Tougher As You Get Older

by Bill Brenner on February 16, 2012

I’ve never been good at the Valentine’s Day thing. Maybe I’m fulfilling the male stereotype, or maybe it’s because I feel more pressure to express myself. I do fine with written words. In person is another thing. When the holiday passed I Iet out a big exhale.

Mood music:

The fact of the matter is that I have a lot of love in my heart right now. I don’t need a holiday to feel it, though Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to express it. And as my cousin Faith put it, there’s nothing wrong with setting aside a holiday for the good things in life, like love.

I’m in love with Erin more than ever. She gives her family everything she has and props everyone up when they’re having trouble standing on their own. She makes the kids’ Halloween costumes from scratch every year. She started a successful freelance business from nothing. The person she is makes me want to be better still.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve gotten much better at communication. In fact, I’ve gotten worse. So has Erin. This shouldn’t surprise any couple that’s been together for a lot of years. When you have kids everything becomes about them and it’s easy to forget that the family started with husband and wife.

Some married couples stop talking about these things and drift apart. Erin and I have decided it’s time to face the issue head on. Not because we’re mad at each other, because we’re not. Ours is not a marriage in trouble. But we know that when a couple stops communicating long enough, the relationship can deteriorate. Since we love each other, we’re not going to let that happen. Pure and simple.

We’re accepting that as we get older, we need more maintenance. That goes for how we talk to each other and how we connect on a spiritual level.

We’ve both changed a lot. That has contributed to the communication challenge.

Recovery over addiction, fear and anxiety has been a miraculous, beautiful thing. I thank God every day. But when a man changes, a whole new set of problems arise.

It’s a confusing, frustrating thing when your spouse acts one way for a bunch of years and then, suddenly or not so suddenly, ceases to be the person you married.

I’d like to think I’m still the guy she married in the most fundamental ways. My heart and most of my passions haven’t really changed. But as the priest who married us said: “You marry the person you think you know, then spend the rest of your life getting to know each other.”

As far as that goes, I’ve been a moving target, tough to nail down.

Erin used to get anxious in big crowds. Now she’s a lot more at ease. She used to struggle to show patience toward my often dysfunctional family. She’s better at that now than I am. The prospect of public speaking used to rattle her. Now she’s got a couple talks behind her and many more ahead. While all that internal growth goes on, she gets more beautiful by the day. She’s always been beautiful. But lately it distracts me. Call me sappy, but there it is.

Still, those changes, while awesome, require me to rethink how I communicate as an older spouse.

And so goes this adventure called marriage. Truth is, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Besides, as my friend Linda said the other day, love endures.

love

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

lindyjayne February 16, 2012 at 4:51 am

I agree. Erin is an amazing example of patience & fortitude. She has traits that other women can only dream of. Kudos to you both for staying in & rolling with the changes. As you know… well… as I know… not every couple survives the changes.

Sharon August 8, 2012 at 10:41 am

Much good knowledge here.

Tom Stamulis October 30, 2012 at 9:24 am

Bill,

Thanks for sharing this obvious truth that seems to always get lost in today’s world. I appreciate how you and Erin are willing to share your experiences to help others.

Melissa October 27, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Great article Bill, you outline some deep perspective on the evolution of marriage!

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