This may sound oxymoronic but one of marriages greatest problems is that it has been overly romanticized. Simply put, people go in expecting way too much. Marriage has been overhyped by movies and television and crammed down people’s throats by advertising mad men for generations. It’s not important to have a good marriage, it’s important to have a good wedding and an entire industry has been built around selling the illusion of the customized, affordable fairytale. From dress makers to catering halls, flowers, tux rentals, DJ’s and of course, diamonds, too much is never enough.
Starting from a young age, females are inundated with the idea that marriage is the ultimate happy ending. I couldn’t tell you how many women I know were influenced at a young age by watching Princess Diana marry Prince Charles. It didn’t matter that within a few years of their nuptials, Charles and Diana were launching tea, crumpets and the royal China at each other’s heads, all that mattered was the dress and the church and horse drawn carriage and the uniforms and all the happy Windsor’s waving from a balcony. Millions of impressionable girls saw it and millions of them wanted it. How many more young ladies were influenced by last year’s Royal Windsor wedding? We may never know until it’s too late. Like moles sent to infiltrate society from a foreign government, they are now laying low, biding their time watching Say Yes to the Dress and Bridezilla marathons until they find the right fella to hoist all of their nuptial dreams upon, dreams that will never, and can never, truly be fulfilled. They marry what they think is Prince William only to find out he’s really Ray Romano.
While females by the millions gathered to watch the Brits put on a bridal show, males around the world gave up a collective yawn. We couldn’t care less. The only thing I remember about last year’s wedding was that the maid of honor, Pippa, I believe her name is, had a nice backside. And there lies one of the major differences between the sexes when it comes to marriage. Young men don’t grow up thinking about marriage. After the age of four when our Oedipal longings wane and we realize we can’t marry Mommy, we pretty much never think about marriage again until our twenties. We’re too busy thinking about sex. Men don’t generally start thinking about marriage until we are in a long term relationship and then a feeling enters our heads that the woman we’ve been spending so much time with just might be normal enough for us to attempt to spend the rest of our lives with. I think women figure this out sooner than men but with divorce rates around 50% it seems that neither sex is very good at deciding what makes a good mate.
One of the problems with marriage today is that people don’t take enough time to really learn about each other. All too often, only after they have already made the walk down the aisle, do the bride and groom look at each other and say, who the hell did I marry? Being a man, I believe it is easier for women to spot and avoid the wrong men. Generally speaking, men cannot hide their faults very well. A guy might be able to pull the wool over someone’s eyes for a while but within a relatively short time, the good, the bad and the ugly will come spilling out. I can only last about five minutes before my inner jerk is revealed. Women are different. Women, when they want to, can hide the unsavory and the crazy for a long, long, time. Call it the feminine mystique, all I know is that I waited ten years to marry my wife and even though I thought I knew all of her peccadilloes and predilections, I was wrong. Every year a new detail is revealed. As Rose said in the movie Titanic, “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.” My wife is more like an advent calendar from the Twilight Zone: whenever one of her long closed little doors opens, I brace myself and ready the crucifix and holy water.
When it comes to love and marriage even our language has changed, love wasn’t good enough anymore. Modern times needed something bigger. Trade in your measly, old timey, love for the new and improved, “true love.” The divorce rate got too high? Well that’s because those true love people didn’t marry their, “soul mates.” I wish I had known ahead of time that meeting my soul mate meant I would be forever plunging the toilet. I don’t know what my soul mate has been doing in that bathroom all these years, but it needs to stop.
Lest I leave out another perpetrator in the crime of promoting bad marriages, where would a million divorced couples be without the well meaning friend whose best relationship advice is to always, “follow your heart”. Your boyfriend Charlie Manson wants you to move with him to an abandoned ranch in Death Valley? Just follow your heart. What could go wrong?
Once the task of following your heart and finding the one person on the entire planet that God magically made just for you is over, the only way to prove your divinely inspired love is a big diamond ring, an expensive dress and a wedding that includes a DJ, a choice of chicken, beef or fish and an open bar (unless of course you’re in Massachusetts, then neither cupid nor Aphrodite herself can help you. You’re stuck paying for drinks.) Finally, after you’ve succumbed to all the pressure, spent a ton of money, said some vows, did the chicken dance and ate some cake. Now what?
Now you both just have to deal. Fight or flight. Is it worth putting up with each other? Does the overall good of the person you married outweigh the annoyingly bad? Couples have to be smart, quick on their feet and willing to make certain accommodations and adjustments in order to keep the peace. I’ve found throughout my marriage that peace brings about happiness which then leads to fulfillment and contentment. At least I hope it does. This isn’t a science but I will offer you a quick example. When my rage filled allegiance to the NY Jets became too much for my wife, she didn’t ban me from watching, she didn’t try to tame me or change me, she simply kicked me out of the house on game days. Now on Sundays, she’s happy I’m gone and I’m happy with the freedom to rage as I see fit. Even though the Jets always lose, it’s a win/win for our relationship. If someone was ever crazy enough to ask me what advice I would give as to what makes a happy marriage, I would offer these six things.
1) Know yourself. Know your faults and work on them. If you do something that bothers your spouse, stop it or make an honest attempt at stopping it.
2) Respect for each other always. Expect it, demand it and call the person out when they show a lack of it. Disagreements will occur. Keep it clean. No hitting below the belt.
3) Humor makes most things better.
4) ABC: Always Be Complimenting. Being nice costs you nothing.
5) Be a little selfish sometimes. Do what makes you happy and you’ll make your spouse happy. No one wants to live with a martyr.
6) Make sure your marriage is strong BEFORE you have kids or they will surely help destroy it.
Oh look at the time, gotta go. Coming dear! Take out the garbage? Yes dear.
Gerry McGuire took his love of history, trivia, comedy, literature, music and film and turned himself into a pop culture quoting, chat machine. He is like Cliff Claven from Cheers if Cliff Claven was stunningly handsome, awesomely funny and unbelievably humble. He fancies himself what the French would describe as a raconteur or what Americans call, a loud mouth. Gerry writes for Milford Living Magazine, sings in the Celtic rock band The Butcher Boys and is a stay at home dad.