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Hearing problems

I was looking for adventure and fun when I met Robert through a personal ad nine years ago. I had just gotten my second divorce and thought "why not?" Robert, four years younger than I at a mere 52, is the stereotypical career bachelor. He has two cats, lives within two miles of where he grew up, has a strong sense of family and community and lives in a wonderful cocoon aka, a real bachelor pad. I, on the other hand, am very much the cynical, resigned, menopausal, been there, done that (twice-married and divorced with two children and two step children) woman of the nineties giving credence to the tenet that a completely dysfunctional family begets the same.

Robert and I share a love of solitude and both have a fierce sense of independence. Robert is hearing impaired and almost totally deaf in his right ear. Conversely, I had very high blood during a pregnancy and could not hear myself speak. As a result I began using my vocal chords improperly and have no strength in my voice. I am intimidated when I'm in a noisy room since it's difficult for people to hear me and I feel isolated. Robert feels isolated because he can't hear singular noises amid a cacophony of sound.

So, how do Robert and I communicate? We've worked it out. Sometimes I get tired repeating things with my weak voice so I just don't say anything. Over the years we have developed body language and phraseology all our own and it works. I speak a lot with hand gestures and Robert has begun to read lips so I've found myself putting extra effort into enunciating. Noises that we take for granted that are ordinary background for normal hearing, can be traumatic or nonexistent for someone whose hearing is impaired. Robert had never heard a bird sing until I finally persuaded him to get hearing aids about 5 years ago. When we are together I'm always listening for the telephone ring or other noises that affect his daily life. It's ironic that Robert thinks my voice is normal but that he can't hear it. I know my voice is weak and it's not at all the fact Robert is hearing impaired. We can't always find a middle ground. Robert has to have the TV or stereo cranked up loud enough that the neighbors hear. He knows it's difficult for us so we very rarely watch TV together or a video. I wish he'd get earphones, but he hasn't yet.

Other major differences we've negotiated? How about infidelity? Four years ago, when I began menopause, I became acutely depressed and climbed into a hole and didn't climb out till 9 months ago. There was Robert. And he had a GIRLFRIEND. He felt I didn't care about him and I had no answer as to where I'd been. We'd had no sexual relationship for four years, yet I continued to see and talk to him and spend holidays and important occasions with him and his family.

Nine months later, there is still another woman. She thinks he and I remain just friends. I know better. On some levels Robert feels justified in having the two relationships. I feel it's morally wrong and shows lack of respect all the way around. I think this is by far the largest obstacle in our relationship. It's affected us both deeply. Robert and I never fought before this. He doesn't like to talk about it. I have a growing need to talk about it to gain some resolution and peace.

We agreed to somewhat of a truce. Robert promises the lady will not come to our home community. He visits her at her home. If I spend the evening at his place, he goes downstairs to call her and then comes upstairs into bed with me. It's not a solution. It's been an intricate dance. I know that Robert and I are soul mates and that soul mates don't necessarily always live a happy ending. Perhaps our compromise is to be our way of life. My friends take the feminist attitude that Robert has his cake and eats it too. Our friends accept us as they always have. Robert's parents are bewildered and very upset. They are of the generation that stayed married 75 years and their roots run deep.

Robert will never be out of my life. We breathe together. I look into his crystal blue eyes and see warmth and compassion and love.





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