The secret to a happy marriage

Many times over the years I’ve been asked how I get away with some of the comments I make in my column about marriage in general and my marriage in particular. I usually answered with a smart-aleck comment normally insinuating that my wife hasn’t listened to me in years so why would she read anything I write or something way more clever than that.

The fact is I always felt free to make those comments because I write very much the way I talk incoherently but with heavy sarcasm, so I never really wrote anything that she hadn’t heard or would be surprised to hear me say. So I thought.

The fact is that most of my attempts at humor are either self-depreciating or aimed at a public figure who is not likely to sue me. When I picked on Sandra or our marriage, I always tried to do it in a way that made me look like the moron, which has never required a lot of creativity, and I’ve always gone out of my way to never be cruel when teasing her about her conspiracy theories, driving habits or her seemingly inexhaustible patience with me.

About that inexhaustible patience ... it seems that I may have overestimated that just a bit.

The trouble with communication within relationships is that like trying to see the forest while standing in the trees, repelling pirates with a saber or dancing with fat people; it’s difficult to be effective when you’re too close.

Too often I have used this forum to lament about the tortures of having to endure “relationship” discussions with Sandra. Not long ago I suggested that men should attempt to remember the names of their eighth grade football team to provide the illusion of rapt attention during such discussions ... for the record, that’s a really bad idea.

Somebody once said that if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth. I don’t believe that for a minute; the truth might be hard and it might be ugly sometimes but it’s always the truth. Likewise BS is BS even if you serve it on a plate with fries and a coke. I do believe that nonsense repeated can alter perception and that perception can become reality.

That’s either real deep or a bunch of gibberish but either way, don’t stop me now because I’m on a roll!

The hard and ugly truth is that sometimes guys like me, that is to say shallow emotional dwarfs, don’t have the best emotional communication skills ... no really ... it’s true! It turns out that publicly declaring that the key to a good marriage is lowered expectations and feigned sincerity then mocking your wife’s attempts to have serious conversations with you in the local newspaper is not conducive to healthy marital communications.

Who knew?

The hard ugly truth is that any grown-up should have known and if I had paid attention, even I would have known ... not to say that I’m an adult…my audacity only goes so far.

So I was wrong, lowered expectations and feigned sincerity are not the secret to a good marriage. The fact is that I have no idea what the secret to a good marriage is ... those of you who are regular readers of this column can’t be surprised by that. Sandra certainly wasn’t.

I suspect that there is no real secret to a happy marriage; I suspect it has more to do with commitment, honesty and trust than secrets…but like I said, I really don’t know. Taking marital advice from me is kind of like taking political advice from Anthony Weiner ... a very bad idea.

Marriage remains a mystery to me, as I’m sure it is to all shallow emotional dwarfs. I can’t think of anything else I have done for so long and still have no idea how to do it, though Sandra might suggest other things that fall into that category.

I’ve been married twice for a combined total of 32 years and I was only in the Navy for a little over 21 years and I was a much better sailor than I am a husband. I wonder why that is? I suspect it’s because I’m much better at drinking beer and telling sea stories than I am at expressing emotions.

Then again ... it could be that shallow emotional dwarfs make lousy husbands.

Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist.


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