After careful thought and deliberation, I've decided it is time to bring the Meaningful Marriage column to a close. The last article is planned for Thursday, Dec. 27. During the 12 years I've been writing the column there have been two or three times when I have stopped for a semester or so while on sabbatical leave. But now I think it really is time to discontinue for several reasons.

I'm working on other writing projects, each of which demands time. I have two more books on marriage more than half completed, and I need time to finish. In addition, I have agreed to write a few articles for the LDS Church's Ensign magazine during this coming year and need time to work on them. Speaking engagements, church and community activities also seem to require more and more time. In short, I'm simply overloaded.There are, perhaps, other reasons I have decided to end the column. Let's not say I'm getting older. Let's just acknowledge that I am now among the "chronologically gifted," as we are currently called. There are unmistakable signs that I am not the youthful 38 years of age I was when I started writing for the Deseret News some 12 years ago. Recently I asked my wife, Susan, if she would love me when I became old. She replied, "Yes, I do." In addition, I purchased a book last summer titled "How to Care for Your Aging Parents." The book had many insights. My oldest son, Douglas, asked if I bought it for him.

I really feel I am in the middle-age category. Trapped somewhere between puberty and paralysis. Someone once said that middle age is when the best exercise is discretion. My neighbor told me not to worry about being middle aged. He said I'll outgrow it. Laurence J. Peter notes that middle age is when you're sitting at home on Saturday night and the phone rings and you hope it isn't for you. Perhaps I am there.

Yes, folks, I will hit the mid-century mark next April. Some would like to think that people in my age bracket are over the hill. I disagree. Hopefully, we are just approaching the summit.

During the 12 years I have been writing for the Deseret News, we have seen great changes occur in the United States in regards to marriage and family. I have tried to note some of these trends, much to the delight of some and dismay of others. Among those changes in marriage has been a major shift in what was once a traditionally male-centered marriage to one of more equality between men and women that typifies the contemporary shift in male-female relationships.

Most of the letters I have received from the column have been in general support of what I have written. Occasionally, however, I have been taken to task for something I have written. Such constructive criticism has helped me keep a sharper focus on what I think and subsequently write for the general public to review. While writing for more than a decade, I have come to appreciate the commitment and common-sense approach readers in the Intermountain Area have for marriage and family life.

Back in 1979 when I started writing the column I once used a quote that said, "little dots of ink can make men and women think." It was at that time that I came to more fully appreciate the importance and power of the printed media in conveying thoughts and ideas on items of contemporary significance. I have also gained a great deal of appreciation for the editors and staff of the Deseret News who write daily and not just a weekly column.

So next week's column will be the last. I will give it careful thought and consideration and try to write what I think is the one of the most significant perspectives to have for a meaningful marriage.

Until then, if you have comments, write to 1036 SWKT, BYU, Provo, UT 84602.

Brent Barlow teaches courses on marriage and family at Brigham Young University.