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How to Stay Married

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Author’s Note: Today is over ten years since this “article” was first put to paper. Nothing written has changed except I am in year 52 of marriage – imagine, Questions are invited using our Mail Form.

Originally published February 19, 2013

How I’m married 42 years? The fact is a point of complete amazement to me.

Of course the principal reason is that God blessed me profusely with the gift to me of my wife. Of all the other women who could have been she is the only one who should have been.

So many other men out there were similarly blessed but have either traipsed from one tryst to another, aimlessly for decades without knowing why, or ended up alone and lonely, without knowing the greatest gift that could be bestowed upon them in this earth and, in all probability, in the next – the love of a woman.

I met my wife in high school. She was the best friend of my number three sister. I have four sisters. During my wayward youth, my future wife would have literally nothing to do with me. She was so smart.

My father loved her to start.

He really loved her, really with all his might.

In 1965, I was drafted into the Army and eventually joined the Navy. During my enlistment and world travels, my father would send me photographs of this and that. He was a very good photographer. You can guess what his favorite subject was: my wife. From this angle and that. Looking down, from a lower angle… In color and in black and white, in Ektachrome and in whatever –chrome he could find, he would photograph this blue-eyed, strawberry-haired goddess; then, he would proceed to send me the results of all his artistry. After a while I began to get the point: POPS really wanted her to stick around.

So, after my tours in Viet Nam ended and discharge came, I ended back home. There she was. As beautiful a sight as one could hope to find.

My main quest was to find how I could overcome her earlier resistance to me.

Hmm. That was a tough one.

Finally, it seemed to me that she was a very smart lady who understood the value of a bargain. Indeed, her family had been in one business, or another, for a century and more that just I knew about. Here was a woman you could strike a bargain with.

So, one day I began talking with her about a future and what we could do with it. I drew a picture of what I hoped to accomplish of what I hoped we could accomplish. This contract went beyond love, honor and obey. It went to work, respect and devotion.

From that conversation one September day in 1969, my love for her has grown to proportions I would have then thought impossible.

It could have been decades before I realized certain elements required for a successful marriage; or, it could have been some instinctual knowledge acquired from blood or divinity, I just don’t know. Or, it could have been completely beyond anything that I knew, or did, or surmised or guessed that carried on this marriage for four decades. Excuse me but I think if I professed that from the beginning I knew such and so forth, or that I was always in tune with her I would just be repeating something I don’t know to be true. I can only draw you a word-picture of my feelings and emotions about her. I hope that this results in sufficient artistry to provide the level of guidance that is in my intent and purpose for undertaking this effort.

The Estate

Marriage is a state of mind. You can say that everything is a state of mind. It is. But, marriage’s ephemeral existence is purely mental. It has not connection to reality other than children and, as everyone knows, children in our recent history have little value to American civilization. We have killed more than 56 million of them in just the last forty years, or so.

As well, the divorce rates attest to the fact that the welfare of a child do not count even after they are successfully born. Divorce courts prove this. Ripping a family asunder for one flimsy excuse, or another,

Stripped thus to the barest elements, without children or family involvement, millions of marriages yet thrive and prosper. How does this happen? There is a thing I call the marital estate. I know, I know this is a term in broad use in law offices and courtrooms. Probably other places, as well. But, what I mean is that the ephemeral wisp of thought, act and firmament that makes two people believe they belong together is both an extremely fragile thing even while being one of the strongest in culture.

If you consider your marriage to be such a thing – sort of like a “real” ghost or that goblin dragging the heavy chain across the floorboards in the midst of the night then you can begin to cozy up to how I conceptualize the estate of marriage. And, again, I’m not talking about the legal estate but an illogical estate.

Why it is illogical will become more apparent.

Each person’s ego, and how that ego operates within the persona of the person, really dictates most of what happens to that person. If an ego is big, encompassing, demanding, overpowering and such, clearly that person will have difficulty exercising inter-personal relations in a sane and persevering manner. From this I learned early on either I have my big ego or I have my big marriage. The next step for me was to then determine this conclusion required I assign my marriage the same level of importance in many, many ways that I assigned even to myself.

How could this be? I was a living being, alive and working, producing and thinking. A marriage didn’t do that. I was incorporeal yet living, breathing and prospering.

If my ego – me, for all intents and purposes – has a comparative worth to my marriage by deduction I had to conclude that my marriage constituted a being of equal dignity to any dignity I have ever personally had. The soaring release I was given when I finally admitted to myself that I was really part of something that was much larger than I was myself and something that I had helped to create… well, I was so very excited. Really, I haven’t lost that excitement even to this day, some 40 years later.

Early on, many times I had to force myself when I have been confronted with troubles in my marriage, to weigh and assay these elements: I myself have a desire, the reasoning goes, which conflicts with my wife’s, for example. The next question I ask myself is, “Do you perceive your wife’s desire to promote hers or our marriage?” In the final analysis, and after many years of doing this, I determined that there was little difference but that conclusion came only after many years. But early on I kept trying to equate the triumvirate of her, marriage and me in such a way that I could find some rational solution with a balancing of each of the parts in a way that there was some measure of equality.

Eventually I found there was no balance, no equivalence: there was for me only the marital estate.

I put this finding to work every day using the following steps:

  • When asked to do something, I’ll say, “Yes ma’m, right away ma’m.”
  • I go do it then. I don’t wait.
  • When I’m finished, I tell her and add, “What do you want done next?”
  • As there really are very few points worth an argument I eventually stopped. If she thinks that the black car in front of the house is white, then for all intents and purposes it is just that. Surely, in emergencies this doesn’t work but those are few.
  • I say “thank you”. Studies show that couples who are grateful are the ones that last. Always say thank you. For everything she does for you thank her (and Him) for your many blessings.
  • I say every day, at least once, “I love you!”

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