A Weekly Column

By Joseph Walker



Do you mind if I get a little personal today?

Last week Anita and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. That means I have now officially been married longer than I was not. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it must mean something. Mustn't it?

Anita and I were talking about it the other day (which, it turns out, is what old, long-time married people do - a lot), and we decided that we've learned a thing or two through the years. Don't get me wrong--we don't have all the answers. Not by a long shot. But there are at least 13 things we've learned about marriage--and who said 13 is an unlucky number?

1. Marriage is NOT a 50-50 proposition. It just doesn't work that way.

I mean, exactly where would my 50 end and Anita's 50 begin? The best marriages are those where both partners give 100 percent to the relationship, and neither one worries about who did what for whom last.

2. It can get better-no matter what "it" is-as long as husband and wife continue to work on nurturing their love. Just as a plant needs steady doses of water and sunlight to flourish, a marriage requires regular maintenance with plenty of tenderness, compassion, interest and attentiveness (and it doesn't hurt to occasionally spread a little fertilizer here and there, either).

3. The four most important words in any marriage are "I'll do the dishes."

4. Don't ask for an opinion unless you really want it. And conversely . . .

5. Don't offer an opinion unless it's asked for. Especially with regards to matters of taste, personal appearance and ancestry. But if you're asked for your opinion . . .

6. There's always a nice way to say it. Of course, honesty is important. But there's honesty, and then there's brutality. And there's no room for brutality in marriage.

7. Don't hide the hurts. If your spouse says something that hurts you, talk about it. Much of the time you'll find that the hurt was unintended, due either to misunderstanding on your part or awkward communication on the part of your spouse. Or perhaps a combination of both.

8. You can disagree without being disagreeable. Marriage vows aren't intended to eliminate individuality. Heaven knows I wouldn't want to be married to someone who is just like me. So it's natural that differences of opinion will crop up. That's when the words, "Well, I guess we just disagree" and a quick subject change come in handy.

9. Almost everything is negotiable. While lines must be drawn on this side of the legality and morality, almost everything else is open to negotiation. Don't build barricades around personal priorities. "Happy mediums" can almost always be found-and be really "happy."

10. The two most important words in any marriage are "I'm sorry."

11. It's OK to be the one to give in. In a cosmic sense, it doesn't really matter if you squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle instead of the bottom. So if it bothers your spouse, for Pete's sake start squeezing from the bottom (uh, the bottom of the toothpaste tube, that is). It's only a Big Deal if you make it a Big Deal.

12. The least important word in any marriage is "I."

13. Never forget that you are, first and foremost, a couple. Sometimes parents get so busy being parents that they forget to be sweethearts. It's important to take time for the most important relationship in your family, even if it's just a walk, a phone call or a quick trip to the store. Time together today can mean a happier, more satisfying tomorrow.

Not to mention what it can do in 23 years.

--- © Joseph Walker