What We Share (or Don’t) With Our Partners
How much do you share with your spouse, particularly if it is not your first marriage? During a recent conversation with a friend, she mentioned that she was going to have surgery. Curious and generally concerned for her well-being, I asked her what the surgery was for. She told me “a tilted pelvis.” I laughed out loud. It was the same euphemism I had used with my second husband when I had the identical surgery several years before we were married. It was a minor but rather embarrassing procedure. The only reason I told him anything at all was that I had suffered a major setback from the surgery and was forced to undergo a second “corrective” surgery a few years into our marriage. I asked my friend if she had used the “tilted pelvis” line as well with her second husband, and she confirmed that she had.
Why didn’t either of us disclose to our spouses the true reason for the surgery? For both of us, what came to mind was embarrassment, humiliation, and shame. The adage “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” seemed a far better philosophy than revealing the indignities our aging bodies had inflicted on us.
This tendency not to share extends into many areas. My friend Tom is on his third marriage. One night over dinner and drinks—and without our current spouses—we discussed the fact that we don’t discuss our prior sexual relationships with our current partners. In our younger days, it seemed we and our partners wanted to know everything there was to know about each other’s sexual history. Why is it different now? Perhaps by the time we reach our Silver Sage years, we respect each other’s privacy or, more prudently, we feel that those juicy tidbits from our past have no real place in our present. I honestly don’t think my husband cares to know about my sex life back then. He’d rather sit comfortably in the knowledge that he’s the one I share myself with and rest my head against each night.
Another difficult subject for sharing with our partners is our children from a previous marriage. In my first marriage, we talked incessantly about the kids. But that made sense. We were their parents, and they were and still are, our world. But in subsequent marriages, most adults tend to be cautious about talking to their partners about their children. Of course, by the time most of us are in our second half of life, our children are grown adults or close to it. Several of my friends and clients have expressed that they tell their spouses the “good” stuff about their children (promotions, job information, dating partners, grandchildren if there are any) and tend to leave out the “bad” stuff (debt, fights, arguments, drug or alcohol issues, legal problems, or anything that casts their children in a less than positive light).
The flip side to this is that adult children often do not feel the need to really get to know our new partners. I have a client who told me, “My kids like Larry. He’s a great guy. But they don’t feel the need to invest in him.” Invest? This attitude is not unusual. Many clients and friends have told me over the years that their adult children like their new spouses yet only care about whether he or she partner treats their mom or dad right. They don’t want to get overly chummy or personal with them. In a way this is understandable. Our adult children are so consumed with their own lives that they just don’t have the time or energy left over to engage with or really get to know their mom or dad’s new partner.
What this all leads to is a consistent lack of sharing. Perhaps marriages tend to fail more often the second, third, or fourth go-round because we as couples are simply not invested enough in each other and each other’s children. Personal connections, emotional sharing, exchanging the weird and wonderful help us solidify our bond with each other. Maybe we should stop protecting ourselves so much. My husband said “I’m all in” when he joined my crazy family and embraced my four grown children. How can we be all in if we’re holding back? It’s time to start sharing the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of ourselves and our loved ones and re-engage in the process of human connections. It will make all of our relationships stronger and, as I always say, give us “more people to love.”
Artwork by: Leonid Afremov ( Mexico) “The Marriage of Music” deviantart.com and Wendy Lincicome (USA) “Marriage” deviantart.com