Archives for posts with tag: marriage

How do you stay married for a long time? It’s not easy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one of every two marriages ends in divorce. (The other one ends in Ohio.)

As someone who has been married forever — in fact, my wife and I recently celebrated what we think is our 332nd anniversary, and it’s really hard to get an appropriate card for that — we know a thing or two about marriage. As a public service, here are our marital secrets:

Secret No. 1: Have no secrets.

Admit that you were the one to finish the last chocolate chip cookie. Share the fact that for the last 17 years you have been an undercover North Korean spy. Tell your spouse that you really didn’t like La La Land no matter what you said immediately after.

Secret No. 2: Lower your expectations.

It’s important to remember that marriage isn’t always perfect. Sometimes there will be bumps along the road and the coffee will spill in your lap because someone forgot to put the cover on the travel mug correctly although I’m not naming names here. So when there are bumps, remember they are almost always your spouse’s fault.

Secret No. 3: Happily-ever-after doesn’t mean life together will be a fairy tale.

Instead of a fairy tale, sometimes married life will be a collection of short stories about people who have much more money than you do. Sometimes, it will be a limerick, usually one ending in a naughty word. Other times, it can be a crossword puzzle clue, like the three-letter ancient name for the city of Tokyo. Occasionally, married life will seem like a 19th-century Russian novel where everyone is named Goncharov or Carolnikov and you can’t tell what chapter you were in.

Secret No. 4: Don’t hold a grudge.

Unless, of course, someone asks you to do the dishes. Then you can say, sorry, I can’t, I’m holding a grudge from the last time you asked me and so my hands are full.

Secret No. 5: Never go to bed angry.

This may mean you have to avoid sleeping for several weeks. Drink a lot of coffee and pop some energy shots. If you get really tired, read a good Russian novel with characters named Goncharov or Carolnikov or watch what’s on Turner Classic Movies at 3 or 4 a.m. That’s when they have the really good ones that no one else sees because everyone else is sleeping.

Secret No. 6: Communication is important.

At breakfast, while sitting directly across the table from each other, be sure to send your partner a text. Check to make sure you’re both skimming similar Twitter feeds. Snapchat with him or her while in bed. Post to each other’s Instagram while you’re driving together to pick up the kids.

Secret No. 7: Show respect to your partner by paying attention.

Excuse me, what was that secret? Could you repeat that? Could you repeat the others, too?

Recently, my wife and I celebrated a numerically significant wedding anniversary. It was numerically significant because to reach that anniversary number I figured I must have gotten married at the age of seven (My wife points out that she, of course, was five.)

Still, having been married so long, we know we are an exception. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 63 percent of all married couples find census numbers impossible to understand.

Nevertheless, many people have been impressed by the fact that we have been married so long, and, remarkably, to each other. And they have asked us how have we done it — what are our secrets, assuming that we have secrets we haven’t posted on Facebook yet or mentioned on our blog or tweeted to the world.

So here they are, our marital secrets.

Secret No. 1: Have no secrets.

It’s about time, after all, that you told your spouse that the box of chocolate chip cookies just didn’t disappear on its own back in ’03 and you are still hoping to find it. (That doesn’t mean, of course, you also have to mention the bag of black Twizzlers that mysteriously vanished Tuesday morning from the pantry.)

Secret No. 2: Lower your expectations.

Marriage isn’t always perfect. Sometimes there will be bumps along the road and the coffee will spill in your lap because someone forgot to put the cover on the travel mug correctly although I’m not naming names here. So when there are bumps, remember they are almost always your spouse’s fault.

If you can both remember that, at least you’ll agree on something.

Secret No. 3: Happily-ever-after doesn’t mean life together will be a fairy tale.

Sometimes married life will be a collection of short stories about people who have much more money than you do. Sometimes, it will be a limerick. Other times, it can be a crossword puzzle clue, like the three-letter ancient name for the city of Tokyo. Occasionally, married life will seem like a 19th-century Russian novel where everyone is named Goncharov or Goncharova and you can’t tell what chapter you were in.

Secret No. 4: Don’t hold a grudge.

Unless, of course, someone asks you to do the dishes. Then you can say, sorry, I can’t, I’m holding a grudge and my hands are full.

Secret No. 5: Be forgiving.

It is conceivable, during a long marriage, that a spouse one day may finally admit to devouring the black licorice Twizzlers, particularly if you are caught with the wrapper under your pillow.

When you accept the apology, be gracious, and make sure to get it in writing that the next bag is yours.

Secret No. 6: Show respect to your partner by paying attention.

Excuse me, what was that secret? Could you repeat that?

Secret No. 7: Never go to bed angry.

Instead, stay up late to see what’s on Turner Classic Movies. This way, you can see whatever they’re showing without annoying interruptions.

I’m on time. In fact, I’m early. In fact, I was here 10 minutes ago.

Where were you?

You’re never on time. You’re never ever early. You are frequently … what’s the word I’m looking for here?

Late.

Now, I’m not naming any names here — except, of course, for the repeated references to my wife, Carol — but there are certain people who just can’t seem to be on time.

They show up for Saturday dinner on Sunday. They hear “see you at 7” as an invitation to “try to get there by 8:15.”

They are the people who will walk out the door at 7:55 for a meeting at 8. Across town.

In Lima, Peru.

They are the ones who are heading out the door to meet someone at 6 but decide to change clothes because “it looks like rain out there” rather than just grabbing an umbrella. But they are also the people who then spend 20 minutes looking for their umbrella but can’t find it because they’ve left it in Lima.

They show up just after the movie has started — and the friend of the hero has already been killed by the guy working for the guy who looks like Kevin Spacey — and decide to sit in the row right in front of you and ask loudly if they’ve missed anything.

The reservation is for 7:30. When you ask, “Are you ready to leave?” they are the people who will respond, “almost,” not realizing that “ready,” as a question, is an either/or proposition.

Either: You are ready to leave, meaning not still looking for your phone or wondering where your blue shoes are. In fact, you have pretty much left.

Or: You still have to find the right shoe, decide that both shoes, as an ensemble, don’t go with the black pants, then find your keys, send a short e-mail while continuing to look for your phone, which now may be in the black pants you are no longer wearing.

You have not left, and will pretty much not be leaving for another 16 minutes.

People who are habitually late are, most of all, people who have timed things out so tightly that if everything goes perfectly right and there is no traffic and the lights are all perfectly green and the perfect moon is in the seventh house and everyone else is perfectly delayed by a sudden outbreak of epidemic giggling, they will arrive where they are supposed to be at exactly the perfect time.

When it doesn’t happen perfectly like that, they blame the giggling.

If you are, in fact, a person who is perennially late, I have a few suggestions.

Wear a watch. Look at it occasionally.

If you’re meeting someone at a particular time, it’s useful to know what time that is. And it’s always better to know that kind of information before the appointment.

Never schedule that appointment with someone like me, who is always early.

This past Thursday, my wife and I celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary, which is, technically, impossible, since I’m pretty sure I’m only about 43 years old.

Nevertheless, we have documents, as well as the same old dirty dishes still piled in the sink, that attest to the fact that we have been married just slightly short of forever.

We do not know any other couple more or less our age that has been together this long. In fact, we do not know any other couple that has been apart this long.  In fact, we don’t know that many couples at all and tend consequently to stay home a lot.

In any case, we cannot remember ever hearing about a couple of our generation who has been married for 44 years — generally speaking, to each other. But that may be because after 44 years, we just don’t remember much of anything anymore. We can’t even remember where we left the dirty dishes.

Nevertheless, we do understand that 44 years of marriage is a pretty significant accomplishment, particularly for people in their mid-40s, and we have started wondering, how have we done this?

How have we accomplished such a feat that has eluded so many others? How have we managed to stay together for so long despite the fact that we have never agreed on what toppings are pizza-appropriate?

We think this is how:

1). We married at a very young age.

I was 7. My wife was 5. Yes, it was an arranged marriage.

2). We never talk about politics.

In fact, we never talk about a lot of things since my wife is usually in another room and can’t hear me when I say I can’t hear her because she’s in another room.

3.) We’ve divvied up the important marital jobs.

I’m in charge of apologizing. My wife is in charge of accepting apologies. 

3.)  We both have a complicated relationship with technology.

I’m the one who doesn’t understand anything to do with computers. My wife can’t figure out a smartphone or a not-so-smart phone.  We work together on not following the microwave directions.

4.) We have the same taste in things.

I like tasting Breyer’s mint chocolate chip ice cream. My wife likes to taste my mint chocolate chip ice cream when I’m not looking and will taste it if I’m distracted by needing to fiddle with the microwave.

5.) While we disagree on some issues — how to spell fuschia, for instance, or how to pronounce fuschia — we agree on the basics, like global warming and never using fuschia in a sentence.

6.) We both have a good sense of humor. Actually, that’s a sense of Good Humor. Personally, I prefer toasted almond. My wife likes the strawberry shortcake. 

7.) We never go to sleep angry. Mostly, that’s because after 44 years, neither of us really sleeps very well anymore.

My wife and I recently celebrated our anniversary. This was a remarkable accomplishment, particularly when you consider that she insists on putting the toilet paper on the roll so it rolls top down and I know that it’s best done from the bottom up.

But of course, that’s what marriage is — continual compromise with a deep understanding and appreciation of the other person’s position, even if I’m doing it the right way and she’s wrong.

Over the years, my wife and I have learned to compromise on a number of issues that she’s been wrong about and that I’ve always graciously acknowledged that she’s been wrong about.

We have, for instance, reached a mutual understanding about setting the house thermostat. I let her actually go downstairs and set it after we’ve both gotten into bed, gotten comfortable and forgotten to do it and she lets me have it set to exactly the temperature I want. That way, we each get something and it’s a win-win situation, particularly if I am asleep by the time she comes back up.

Similarly, when we’re driving around, if she’s driving, she allows me to screech at her that she’s going too slow or too fast and watch out for that car on the left and have you checked the gas lately and why are you braking like that? And when I’m driving, she allows me to play music really loud so I can’t hear anything. Sometimes she even allows me to continue playing the same song three or four times in a row until it drives her completely mad and she needs to change the thermostat.

In still another compromise, I get to choose what kind of restaurant we might want to go out to, and she gets to complain about what kind of restaurant I choose.

It is a delicate balance, and admittedly, it hasn’t always been easy. After all, my wife and I are very different people, with different personalities and completely different shoe sizes.

My wife, for instance, is always late to appointments and I’m always early. This could have been an insurmountable obstacle. But we’ve dealt with this as understanding, empathetic, flexible adults, and compromised by cancelling all our appointments. We haven’t been out of the house in 17 years, but that has also cut down on any disagreements about driving and restaurants.

We’ve managed to arrive at all these compromises over the years through intensive discussions, careful negotiations and the occasional drone strike. We both have understood that when it comes to these compromises each of us would have to give something up. I’ve given up bananas.

It’s why our marriage has worked so well and has endured for so long without any slip-ups. Of course, without bananas, that’s not a problem.

When people find out how long I’ve been married (739 years), they immediately ask how we’ve done it. What are our secrets? How have we overcome adversity? Where do we hide the chocolate?

Since we just celebrated our anniversary (in the traditional manner, by arguing over where we should set the thermostat when we go to bed at night), this seems an appropriate time to offer my personal tips on how to make a marriage work.

These are tips that have been honed by years of being ready to leave the house for an appointment before my wife is ready to leave the house and consequently having had too much time on my hands.

  • Never go to bed mad.

It makes much more sense to get mad before you go to bed, so you don’t have to stay awake for a long time trying to work up a good fit of pique.

  • Compromise is key.

If, for instance, you only have one television and you want to watch a college basketball game and your wife wants to watch the season finale of “The Good Wife,” you should both give in a little, and watch the basketball game because, you know, it’s a really important game.

  • Divide the household tasks evenly.

At our house, for example, I am in charge of dividing the household tasks. My wife is in charge of adding them. We outsource for subtraction and division.

  • Don’t rehash old arguments, even if you are convinced you won them and still have the scorecard to prove it.

It’s much more productive to begin new arguments, which are fresher and crisper, and have a later expiration date and you don’t have to refrigerate.

  • Similarly, don’t recall old arguments, particularly if you lost them, and your spouse still has the scorecard to prove it.
  • Never, ever eat the last Mallomar.
  • Always remember to apologize, even when you clearly have been right, which I absolutely was on March 19, 2003, and then again on Sept. 23, 2009.

And there’s no need to recall those incidents, unless, of course, you can easily work them into the conversation.

 
  • Never forget that marriage is hard work.

It’s not as difficult as, say, writing a blog, but it’s up there with trying to decide whether you should or should not send an error report to Microsoft after your computer crashes..

  • Never say “I told you so,” even if you really have.

Instead, send a text.

  • Watch out for the little things.
  • Watch out for the big things, too.
  • Always offer contradictory advice to your partner that at first sounds really profound but doesn’t really commit you to mowing the lawn on Saturday.
  • Don’t blame the other person for your own failings.
  • If these tips don’t work, it’s my wife’s fault.

 

My fellow Americans, as well as some friends I still have in France, most of whom still owe me an email: I am here today to report on the state of my union.

My union is strong, although, admittedly, we continue to face significant challenges. After 41 years of our union, we still cannot believe we are old enough to have been married 41 years.

The state of my union is strong because we have endured the tough times.

Together, we have worked our way through 10 household moves, two children, the three times I’ve lost my wallet and immediately blamed my wife for it and the six times my wife decided to change her clothes right before we were leaving to go to a party.

We have endured because despite our differences and our opposing views on hummus, we have found common ground: we both agree that most of the time I’m wrong, even when I might occasionally be right.

Through our perseverance, we have a litany of achievements we can celebrate today, including the time we worked together to re-pot the big living room plant, and remembered to water it.

Yet we arrive today at a critical time in our union. Our children are off by themselves and we must now be able to decide who we’re going to nag if they are not around.

It is clear then what is the defining issue of our time: whether or not we use the bedroom ceiling fan at night, and should it be clockwise in the winter and counter-clockwise in the summer? Or maybe it’s the other way around.

I am confident, though, that we can do this and find a way forward if we work together and refrain from leaving the dishes in the sink and the light on in the bathroom.

We can do it because we’ve done it before, even though it’s difficult to remember when, or what I was thinking when I agreed to help clean the humidifier.

But innovation is what our union has always been about. We were, in fact, among the very first unions in our neighborhood to buy Japanese eggplant in the supermarket.

And like the American people, we know what the right choice is.

We know we need to simplify our tax preparation system so that half the medical receipts are not in the meat bin of the refrigerator and the other half in the back of the bathroom medicine cabinet when we have to do our taxes.

Finally, though, none of this can happen unless we lower the temperature in the bedroom. We have to end the notion that the two parties involved in this union must be locked in a perpetual camp of mutual thermostatic destruction.

I pledge that if my wife is cold, she can simply use more blankets.

We must also build consensus around common-sense ideas, like closing the window a little bit more.

Thank you, God bless you, and gesundheit, too.