Perhaps the solution is to write a Singles Ad.
The idea of taking this unusual step came to me one month ago in a fit of frustration when I realized that my husband of 31-plus years had fallen victim to an insidious condition: Intermittent Husband-Wife Blindness Syndrome, wherein long-married men go through phases when they stop seeing -- and often hearing -- their wives.
(Researchers theorize that this condition is related to Male Refrigerator Blindness Syndrome where men cannot see common food products like ketchup and milk in an opened refrigerator and consequently yell for their mates to "find" the missing item, which is typically located directly at eye level, on the middle shelf.)
My field of research on Intermittent Husband-Wife Blindness Syndrome indicates a paradoxical finding: the more colorful, energetic, opinionated and emotionally-charged the wife, the more likely she is to become invisible to her husband over the course of a long marriage. Rather than deal with a mate who challenges your political point of view, wants to discuss the Israeli film "Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem" for more than 15 minutes, likes to go out dancing and present at Open Mics late at night and sometimes has crying jags in the middle of a perfectly sunny afternoon, it is easier to zap her into beige, press a "mute" button and tune out the kinetic, three-dimensional reality of her.
Let's face it, if you are a long-married husband, chances are that all you want at the end of a workday is to come home to a peaceful place where your mate sweetly supports you, has prepared a delicious dinner and does not feel the need to dissect the mental state of the Germanwings pilot, puzzle over the widespread suspicion of President Obama within retirement communities in Florida, discuss her father's health, deal with a mysterious charge she noted on your youngest child's bank account, brainstorm over an independent project and express surprise over some family matter you neglected to share with her.
The problem is that just as you are craving the prospect of a cozy evening in front of a fire, she has a fire in her belly, mountains to move -- or at least climb -- personal goals to pursue that have perhaps been deferred over the course of the childbearing and raising years.
Yet there is love between you. The prospect of leaving the marriage fills you both with sadness. On the other hand, she finds herself gnashing her teeth with despair. Repeatedly, like the Whos from Dr. Seuss's Whoville, she calls out "We are here! We are here! We are here!" She attempts to state her case and hits a brick wall. She gnashes her teeth some more, convinced that if only she could hire the actress from "Gett" to recite her lines, you would understand her point of view, would actually see her.
This poignant fantasy of mine gave birth to a novel idea: to write a Singles Ads, articulating what I sought in a love relationship, clarifying whom I was at this moment in my life.
One month ago, on a morning such as this one, head and heart overflowing, I wrote such an ad. It began with these words:
Incurably curious, endlessly energetic, creative, compassionate and complex cutie has arrived at the Empty Nest stage of life looking for adventure -- cultural, spiritual, sensual, intellectual, personal, global and more -- and someone special to share it with.
As I wrote, I felt possessed of the power of creativity and hope. As I wrote, I identified what I believed formed the basis of a life-long relationship. I wrote, edited, wrote some more, read what I had written, cried, paused, drank coffee and pressed Save.
Since that day, I have revisited that Word file perhaps a dozen times, making minor changes, feeling suffused with admiration for my idea, thinking of its novelty.
I've also felt scared.
I've been scared by how authentic it is, how naked, how realistic a Singles Ad it seems.
Like the song "Pina Colada," my wish is that when I share it with my husband -- or when we exchange our respective Singles Ads as I have suggested to him that he craft his own -- we will laugh ruefully upon discovering that we are the very person the other has been seeking all along.
But I also worry that I have disappeared because of the disharmony we have been experiencing. This is nothing new; indeed, it is an outgrowth of the very inescapable fact of our essential dissimilarity. Some couples grow apart in the course of a long marriage; the truth of our union is that differences have been present since our very first date. Mostly, we have been admired as a couple for our ability to coexist in dynamic tension with these obvious differences, to find common ground, to build a home and a family.
Whether these indisputable differences prove to be fault lines or quirky architectural features in our otherwise solid -- and admirable -- long marriage is up to us.
I am almost ready to send my husband my Singles Ad. One more time I read this song of myself. I pray that my prose has the power to reverse the curse of having become invisible:
I've been called a force of nature. I do not have a low gear. I am seeking someone who can harness my energy. I am driven by passion and much of my spiritual passion is fueled by my belief in tikkun olam.
The need to talk does not make me needy. The need to deal with problems does not make me negative. On the contrary, I am proud of my ability to deal.
Loyalty is part of my DNA. With me, you will get a red-blooded superhero and partner in crime. I will be your home. I will protect you. You will never have to fight to get my attention. You will never have to gnash your teeth trying to explain yourself. You will not fall asleep in the grip of despair; I will cradle you with compassion and care.
I will go to the ends of the earth for you.
What else? Let's have romance. Let's eat in tiny little bistros and hear music in oddball clubs. Love my parents, kids, family and dogs, understand the life journey I have taken so far. Right now, I am harboring no small amount of sadness. Maybe you are, too. If so, I want to understand the parameters of your pain. I want to love the people you love. I want to laugh and cry together. I want to be better because of you.
It sounds like a sappy song but I believe in the healing power of love. Maybe together we can find happiness and homecoming. That is the ultimate tikkun. Let's make it happen.