With all the writing lately on marriage and happiness, and this being Valentine’s Day, and at the risk of being presumptuous, allow me to share some accumulated wisdom that allegedly has been gained with age and experience.
By Tim Jackson
With all the writing lately on marriage and happiness, and at the risk of being presumptuous, allow me to share some accumulated wisdom that allegedly has been gained with age and experience, and because, after an unnatural number of years together, people always ask “how do you do it?”
Disclaimer: These are highly subjective, meant to implicate no one, nor invoke any individual, or individuals. As they say, this is ‘based on a true story.’
Humor: A marriage without laughter is big trouble. The world can be oppressive, but it is also amazing and outlandish. People are ridiculous. Everybody wants your money. If you’re both still alive and are able to provoke a regular chortle or guffaw, that’s sheer good fortune. Misbehave regularly.
Love: Of course chemistry, admiration, need, respect, communication, and such things are key. But in truth, love is born out of chemistry and shaped through time. Two other opinions: overpriced engagement rings is a ridiculous custom and a little jealousy in marriage can be invigorating.
Sex: I say lust is the core of a good marriage. It’s handy for procreation, but evolves into comic opera. Adultery is a word forced on us by the church. Work it out for yourself.
Friendship: Your partner is often the person who sees you the way you want to see yourself, and is often your best audience. That’s a lot to be thankful for because you may not be as interesting as you think.
Autonomy: You want that partner to be like you. It doesn’t happen.
Patience: If you’re going to stay together for 350,000 hours, then that one hour where you’re really pissed off is pretty insignificant.
Reinvention: If you are lucky, you will both become at least three other people over four decades.
Variety: Predictability is numbing
Curiosity: From a vacation in Rome to talking to the guy who collects bottles from your trash, it’s all fascinating. You are lucky, and you have someone to ask why and how about everything.
The Arts: It generates conversation that isn’t about whether you cleaned the grill, walked the dog, or saw the game. If you don’t read, life is harder. All the better if you see the inside of a theater or museum a lot.
Physical Activity: It helps to regularly, or even occasionally, do anything together until you are feeble: hike, bike, tennis, or yoga until the body rebels.
Vanity: Take care of yourself, and try to look good without surgery. We all eventually end up with, as Phillip Roth calls it, “the external body that time has bestowed,” not to mention that we will “get the faces we deserve.’
Friends: It’s great that so many long-term friendships survive. Others revive, are rediscovered, or revisited. New friends don’t threaten anything. Have your own pals and maybe another best friend because you don’t really tell your spouse everything – I hope.
Family: You marry into one, but it’s not the be-all, end-all. It takes too many forms and, let’s face it, you won’t like everyone. Family happens whether with kids or not, but for us, kids are the best, funniest, most interesting and challenging thing that ever happened.
Compassion: This is the bottom line.
THINGS TO AVOID
Ceremony: To each his own. but I never wore a ring, and we always forget our anniversaries. Wedding parties are nice, but bridesmaids and bachelor parties weren’t part of getting started. Baptism? My kids were not born in sin. Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. Oh, OK. But a bris? Though I hear the tips are good. (rim shot)
Religion: Whatever works for you is dandy because for an atheist this is irrelevant, but pious self-righteousness is unforgivable in god’s eyes.
Wealth: What is it? You’ll never get there anyway, unless you want to spout clichés about real wealth not being about money.
Boredom: Never be bored
Competition: Education and jobs needn’t be a competition. Be a lifelong learner.
Platitudes: Affirmations, aphorisms and sayings and such sound good and mean well, and are helpful once in a while, but they require nothing but hot air. Action speaks louder. Get off Facebook and do something that actually embodies that latest Dalai Lama quote or Move On imperative.