Communicate! That’s what they tell you when you get married. They also tell you to never go to bed mad. I’d call the latter piece of advice pathetic. Over the years, if my husband and I hadn’t gone to bed mad now and then, we would have been miserably sleep-deprived. Who needs that? You can always wake up and start fighting again in the morning, when the day is fresh and you’ve got more energy.
But — communication. It took me a couple of decades to figure out sulking isn’t an especially good mode of communication. It’s like holding your breath. What happens if no one notices? You can spend hours holding your breath or sticking out your lower lip, and it’s extremely demoralizing when no one cares. You end up without enough oxygen and your lower lip gets distended in a very unattractive way. Forget it, I finally told myself, when I regained consciousness. Subtlety is just lost on some people, no matter how hard you try.
The years pass, though, and communications between two people become more challenging. Take, for example, these scenarios:
1) “You want to go outside?” you ask your significant other (SO).
“No, I don’t want to go for a ride,” he says.
“I said outside, not a ride,” you say.
“I SAID OUTSIDE — ”
“Stop screaming at me!”
Well! As you can see from that little example, you have difficulties communicating in your (let’s be generous here) middle years you never envisioned when you were in your twenties and used to joke, “What’s wrong with you? Are you deaf?” every time someone didn’t catch what you said.
But the point is, you are still communicating with your SO, however badly. At least you don’t have those long, tortured silences people who are bored with each other do. No! You are engaged! You are talking! You are talking very loudly! This is good.
2) Similarly, you will come to notice that it’s not sufficient to announce something only one time, even if it’s at the top of your lungs. You will find yourself imparting the same damned information about, say, your hairdresser’s nasty divorce and custody suit at least three to five times before your male SO recalls the seamy details of this vital info.
“I already told you that twice,” you say.
“You did not.”
“Yes, I did. You just don’t listen.”
“What’s wrong with the kitchen?”
But, anyway, let’s not quibble. Even when you’re getting, shall we say, no younger, you can still have fascinating conversations with the person you married oh-so-many years ago. In fact, you find you never run out of things to say. Between the miscommunication and the constant repetition, that old spark, that edgy chemistry of days gone by, is still present and combustible.
Communicate! Often! Loudly!
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)