page contents

Sunday, October 30, 2016


My parents celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary this weekend. Via text, I asked them what's the secret to a happy marriage. Mom indicated that using the phrase "yes, dear" is useful. (Sarcasm? You decide.) My father replied, "honesty and respect." I found this to be surprisingly thoughtful. He said he googled it.

La La Love. (Note the sign.)
While amused by my parents' responses, I often find myself confounded by the institution of marriage. It can catch you off guard in either the most delightful or most upsetting ways. I remember a few weeks before our wedding, my mother said these words to me: "I know how much you love Doug, but marriage is hard. You need to work at it." I nodded, all-knowing, but not really all-knowing. I was still in the la-la stage. It is hard work. But who said hard work is a bad thing?

After 22 years of marriage, I've decided on these truths in regard to marriage:

  • Maintaining a sense of humor is vital.
    Mom mentioned this to me a few times as I was growing up. I get it. One time, early in our marriage, Doug had gone out with his buddies to "Stag Night." After waking up at 4:30 in the morning to see he had not made it home yet, I began a calling campaign. (We didn't have cell phones at the time.) Of course, I was none to pleased as his friends playfully answered the phone with names of non-existent bars like Bob's Bar and Grill. When I finally connected with Doug to "suggest" he come home (NOW), he said he would. Knowing he was only five minutes away, I sat up and waited. And waited. Finally, about thirty minutes later he showed up. As you could imagine, I was livid. He looked at me, wide-eyed, pleadingly and said, "I'm so sorry! But the train went through. Really! The longest train ever." He chuckled. "Shitty timing for a train, heh?" I'm not saying I completely excused him from being out so late, but how could I not laugh about a train coming through as he's trying to hightail it home to his mad wife? Humor is vital.
  • Amalgamation adds dimension.

    There's a scene in Fever Pitch when Drew Barrymore is struggling with the fact that she's becoming someone else after her rendezvous with Jimmy Fallon. (Corporate climber is lured into becoming part of the Red Sox cult. Great flick. Sports and rom-com all in one.) But as long as you don't lose sense of your core values, this kind of transformation is actually kind of cool. As a matter of fact, this anti-athlete of a girl is sitting here watching the World Series. And Doug's not even here. It's a heck of a game even!
  • Food is the great equalizer.

    Having an argument? Stop whatever discussion you're having. Ask your spouse if they're hungry for some meatloaf or ice cream. Nothing brings a couple together like food. Well. Doug might argue there's one other thing that trumps meatloaf. But I'm not sure he's say it trumps ice cream...
  • Keeping score is never a good idea. It's easy to fall into that trap. I did this, so you should do that. But what good does that do? Nothing is ever really equal. But kind and simple gestures pay dividends on their own–without worrying about what you might get back in return. Doesn't it feel nice to surprise him with a pack of Duluth Trading Company Buck Naked Underwear? The smile on his face as he wears the powerful boxer-briefs are totally worth the price.
On that same note, I asked my parents what they got each other for their anniversary when we took them out for dinner the other night. My mom smiled and shook her head. "Well, I didn't get your dad anything. But guess what he got me?" Dad interceded and said, "I got her the most expensive bottle of Pinot Grigio I could find." This shocked me as I considered all the times I helped my father find a gift for my mother as long as it remained within a certain, tight budget. (Sweater from Shopko, etc.) The wine story struck me as a profound moment. There was no keeping score. It was a gesture that was given with kindness and received with gratitude. Those are the interactions that make a happy marriage.

So marriage is kind of hard. Maybe it's the hard that makes it so great. (I totally swiped that line from a baseball movie. Can anyone name it?)
Mom, Dad and me. Early years.