Marriage is for life, don't screw it up
Back in college, I remember an old guy giving my friend and me some advice on women (and finding the right one):
1. If you want to find the right woman, pray for her. 2. The spoken word can never be retracted.
The first one made sense, and I ended up meeting my wife at church (right before graduating from college). The second one I didn't really understand, until I got married. You say it, you own it. And if what you said was wrong, then apologize and mean it.
My wife and I are actually celebrating our twentieth anniversary this week (away from the kids for a whole week). We were hoping for wine-tasting in Napa, but the forest fires scared us away. We've never been to Tennessee before, so here we are. (Nashville really isn't our cup of tea though.) Matt, I asked for your advice on this a few weeks ago, so I thought I'd offer you a follow-up: We're hitting Maker's Mark tomorrow afternoon. I married the right woman: She likes bourbon.
Pray for your wife, pray with your wife, and just let her know that she matters to you, in the little things and the big. And make it obvious that you'll always be fiercely loyal to her.
And for any red flags (like being a Patriots fan, or listening to Taylor Swift), consider some pre-marital counseling.
We married at nineteen and they said it would never last. Sixty years later and I still love to watch her sleep when I wake up first in the morning.
I wouldn't presume to tell anyone how it worked for us - it would take a book. There were tough times where it could have fallen apart, but she always had my back when I needed someone there and I always tried to do the same for her.
Advice I have have given my sons (they don't always listen to me).
1. Marry a women who has a lot of female friends. The chances are more likely that she can be the kind of person who will always be a friend to you as well.
2. If you want to know the kind of person your future wife will be in 25 years, get to know her mother. My wife's mother was a sweetheart.
That is all.
Great advice. I'm just going to add now that my husband and I have accompanied three of our four parents into old age, dementia and death, that you should take the long view about kids. Babies and toddlers are annoying and a lot of work. I stopped at two; my husband at one. We're a blended family and we blended early enough that the kids think of each other as brothers and sisters-not steps. We know that there is a G-chat where they mock us, express concern about us, and share info about our various eccentricities and failings. Rather than be insulted, I'm honored that they are paying that much attention to us and if we lose it, they will be there.
My only regret in life was that I wasn't willing to have more kids when it was an option. I didn't think parenting was much fun until my kids were able to curl up with a book and not bother me for an hour. That being said, you don't know how great it is to see kids grow up until it's too late to start another kid.
Have at least one more kid than you think you can handle (says the woman safely past childbearing). When you are old and unreasonable and sick, it's not fair, but mostly that will fall on one of the kids--whoever happens to be nearby and a daughter (cough). But she needs somebody to vent to and who understands just how crazy her parents are.
Like I say to all of the "child free" people: who's gonna push your wheelchair?
Great piece. Will add what the missionary who married my husband and I almost exactly 27 years ago said to us during our ceremony, "When you look at each other, remember how good God was to create someone who loves you." Obviously, have not forgotten it.
I was sad to discover, however, that the man who married us ended up facing a divorce of his own many years later...which I mention only to acknowledge time and chance happen to us all.
"Lastly, good luck, and don’t get spooked. Yes, being happily married takes a lot of work. But being miserably married takes a lot more."
I can heartily agree with that last sentence. Nineteen years in a chaotic marriage with a troubled person takes a toll on a person. So I add a bit of my own advice to your excellent column: Don't get involved with anyone who has more problems than you do.
And read John Gottman's book, "Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work."
Great read, Matt. And now, to quote my friend and colleague, Schwartz, from the timeless classic "A Christmas Story":
'Listen up, smartass...!'
I'm hereby commissioning you to recommend a 12-song Gillian Welch Playlist. I loved her in the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, but gradually lost track of her oeuvre and succumbed to the frequent Gen X lament of Too Many Great Musicians, Too Little Time. Which is a nice way of saying I am, at the moment, too fckng lazy to put together my own playlist, so I'm just going to crib yours. Thanks!
Divorce hit the hubs and I hard, not our divorce but our parents. We vowed we would never do that to our kids. Thirty years and three kids later, we are still going strong. I'll add another piece of advice....stay fit. Not only will it keep you healthy, it will also help maintain that chemistry....rawr!
Dang it, I rushed through the answers. My apologies. I wrote a little book for my chillren titled “Marriage Roulette”, way back when they were contemplating lifetime commitments. I did some research back then and discovered why my first marriage failed and the current one is thriving. Mutual respect was the key. 😎
Maurois really say that? What does it mean?
All good advice - especially the laughter! My go-to for young marrieds is “grow something together.” It doesn’t really matter what it is, but there is something about seeing a living thing thrive under your shared care that feels special and important.
Matt, is that you? I think you have hired a ghost writer, not doing a very good job of imitating your style or topic choice.
Taking a break from Slack Tide for a while, can’t feel the vibe right now.
The nine magic words for husbands:
You were right.
I was wrong.
Please forgive me.
Nice to read something that's not about politics. Oh, wait. The subject was marriage, wasn't it? Strike that.
For better or worse, I've been in office as a husband twice. I didn't have to campaign too hard the first time around...high school sweethearts aren't usually too tough of a race. Pretty much won it in a landslide, though I suspect my future father-in-law and a couple of others cast their votes with something less than enthusiasm for a number of reasons, some of which weren't completely without merit.
The most memorable moment of my first swearing-in ceremony was when the priest officiating at the occasion leaned over my kneeling bride and myself just before the vows were to be taken, and then whispered in my ear (the one farthest away from my bride), "And now the axe falls." (Seriously. I'm not kidding.) He was an older guy and was an old hand at this kind of thing, and for an instant I wondered what he knew that I didn't. But I went ahead and took office anyway, receiving what would turn out to be the best marital (or pretty much other) advice I'd ever get, delivered from my new wife's paternal grandmother at the after-party.
A small, physically frail, near-ninety rock of a woman whose soul and spirit - tempered by a lifetime of hard work and toil - were as tough as a ten-penny nail, and of whose temper and disapproval I (and most who knew her) lived in fear, this lady's word and opinion was nothing much short of law in those circles. And as I was dancing with my new wife late into the gig, I saw a well-put-up gray head of hair slowly bobbing in and out at not much more than shoulder height among the thinning number of partiers. She made her way out across the floor, and we stopped dancing and stood with our arms around each other's waists when she approached. She looked up at the two of us with her normal stony and oft-severe countenance, then smiled a smile that would melt the coldest s. o. b. that contained even a single drop of human DNA, her eyes brightly glistening behind her wire-rimmed granny glasses. She shook a bony, unsteady finger in our faces and simply said, "Be kind to each other." She then lowered her finger, but not her heartwarming smile, and repeated the words a little more gently with a little more gleam in her eye...
"Be kind to each other."
She reached up and put one gentle, craggy hand on my shoulder as she reached over to take her granddaughter's hand in her other, continuing to smile as she looked us both straight in the eye, nodding her head just slightly for emphasis. After a moment, and without another word, she turned and slowly made her way back. She had been in office in the institution of marriage for well more than 5 decades before term limits took her fellow office holder and left her on her own. As they would me just over 2 decades and an eyeblink after that moment.
By some great stroke of luck, or more likely the grace of God, in a completely unanticipated 2nd campaign some years after leaving office the first time, I again took the oath, though without any cryptic commentary from the no-nonsense-git-'er-done Presbyterian from my new bride's church who was officiating this time around. And the after-party was much smaller, with only congrats and well-wishes offered and no advice. But that was just fine, since it was the second time for both of us, and we'd both learned a thing or two the first time around. And the most important advice had already been issued to me long before then concerning discharging one's duties once assuming this role. And I'm a believer in paying it forward, so I'm offering it here to both the initiated and uninitiated alike. I'm well aware that it's often far easier said than done. But...
Be kind to each other.
No matter what.
Thanks Matt, as someone of one failed marriage ( and I really tried), your piece is pretty much what I believe the right ingredients are. I learned by not only their absence in mine, but his refusal to not only not be able to listen or say he was sorry, but, refusing to when it came up in marriage counseling. He was sure there was no reason to, as he didn't do anything wrong, and it was my fault.
( In his defense, he learned from me, and changed and treated his second wife ( whom I really like) a lot better. And even apologized for some of the egregious things he did.)
I think I am going to share your ideas with someone close to me as to how I see a successful relationship/marriage.
Also, you are soo funny and I enjoy that a lot...love the small hands thing ( maybe because I have small hands...lol)
we can never get enough sugar or enough of your writing. as for marriage keep trying until you get it right.
My husband and I have been married for 25 years. I’ll add to the other comments that a simple hug can go a long way. Also, I hope you didn’t make your wife pay to subscribe to your substack. Lol