Lessons from 23 years of marriage
For the sake of my son Gideon (age 12), I strain my brain each week to make this column something zany and irreverent instead of soberly persuasive.
I beg his indulgence this week, as I celebrate 25 years of marriage to his mother.
I’m halfway through writing a lighthearted-but-practical book about marriage (“like” my Facebook fan page Tyree’s Tyrades if you wish to receive updates), but I’d like to use this week’s space to share some highlights.
With all due respect to Johnny and June, marriage deserves a stronger beginning than “we got married in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout.” Your significant other should be much more than an object of lust or infatuation. They should be someone you admire, respect, like, trust — a helpmate, conscience, sounding board.
Regardless of which cookbooks adorn your library, you need to understand the role of GRAVY. If you are blessed with high-paying careers, good looks, social standing and steamy intimacy, those things should be treated as the GRAVY of your relationship. If they are instead the bare essentials on which your happiness and self-worth precariously teeter, you are asking for failure.
Get married because you are a basically good person aspiring to do even greater things for the world with a compatible partner. Getting married because (a) “I wanna escape Daddy’s control”, (b) “This’ll show my high school rival” or (c) “There’s nothing ELSE to do in this one-horse town” are all invitations to become wards of the state.
Take your time getting to know your intended. Take off the rose-colored glasses and wait to see the “real them” in a variety of family gatherings, work-related political wranglings, class reunions, funerals, charity functions, run-ins with ex-lovers, etc.
NEVER compromise on your core beliefs. (My persistence on faith issues during our early courtship has been an invaluable foundation for our marriage.) ALWAYS compromise on silly little issues that no one will remember in six months.
Whether you’re religious or not, marriage should be approached as something sacred. Even the most picture-perfect couples can hit rough patches. If you START OUT with an attitude of “My uncle’s divorce lawyer is having a BOGO sale” or “We’ve got a 50-50 chance of making it work,” you definitely have LESS than a 50-50 chance of survival.
Don’t make any major decisions (especially unilateral ones) unless you could conceivably write a 500-word essay explaining them. “Seemed like a good idea at the time” has been the death knell of many a marriage. If you can’t ARTICULATE why it makes perfect logic to sleep with your spouse’s cousin or lie about your birth control or expect someone who has physically abused their last six lovers to behave differently this time — maybe you should apply the brakes.
Learn all of your partner’s buttons. Then have a meaningful enough life that you can fill up your day without having to PUSH any of them.
Never assume your unvoiced gratitude is absorbed telepathically. Seize every opportunity to say a sincere “Thank you” for favors large and small or “I’m sorry” for shortcomings.
If I am permitted another quarter-century with my best friend, I hope to share even more insights on our 50th anniversary, when I’ll be 81 and Melissa will be…um, still young enough to wield a cast iron skillet if I push the “blab her age” button.
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page, “Tyree’s Tyrades.”