Baby boomer humor essayist Barbara Greenleaf insists that she has been married since the First Crusade. Which she says is why she is often asked, “What is the secret to your longterm marriage?” Writing from Santa Barbara, California, Barbara answered these questions and more in her new book, THIS OLD BODY: And 99 Other Reasons to Laugh at Life. So drawing from the pages of her book, here are her Five Secrets of a Successful Marriage.
Secret #1: Don’t Talk and Don’t Listen.
Never was the saying Silence is Golden more applicable than in a happy marriage. Otherwise, if you talk and your spouse doesn’t respond, you’re ticked off. If your spouse responds and it’s not what you want to hear, you’re ticked off. If you just want to vent and your spouse is determined to solve your problem, you’re ticked off. But if there is no talk, you can both fantasize about the great conversation you just had. Besides, as we get older hearing is an issue, going silent saves us from the “What?” “What?” that can really send you around the bend.
Secret #2: Have a (Bath)room of One’s Own.
As soon as our younger daughter went off to college, I boxed up my husband’s medicine cabinet stuff and carted it down the hall to the second bathroom. This will keep love alive, I thought, because not even Brad Pitt, much less my husband, could be seen flossing every night and still make a woman’s heart go pit-a-pat. For the wife’s part, there are some things only her hairdresser should know. . .
Secret #3: Go your Separate Ways on Food.
Early on in our marriage I established “EMFH.” This acronym stands for “Every Man for Himself.” The advantages of EMFH are: a) I am much more appreciated when I do rattle those pots and pans; b) I don’t have my husband sniffing and supervising as he is prone to do; and c) I get to eat my green kale while he gets to eat the all-white food he craves: potatoes, milk, and vanilla wafers.
Secret #4: Let Him have his Fantasies— As Long as You can have Yours.
My husband secretly covets a tool belt, a ten-gallon hat, and a beat-up pickup truck, preferably with Willie Nelson blaring from the radio. Never mind that he grew up in suburban Scarsdale, New York, and wouldn’t know a lariat from a bungee cord; he’s sure one day it’ll be Home, Home on the Range for him. I, on the other hand, fantasize about becoming a Las Vegas showgirl. Of course they are 6 feet tall and I’m only 5-foot-4, and they have statuesque posture and I slump. But hey, isn’t that what dreams are made of?
Secret #5: Flatter and Forget to Mention.
It’s fine in a courtroom to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If you want to stay married though, that’s not for you. You must pretend your husband still looks great in his college blazer. It will never fit him again no matter how hard he holds in his stomach, but (shrug) if it makes him happy. . . Also, don’t nudge him to get rid of the Post-it Notes on his desk from 1996 while being careful not to draw attention to your wedding dress. This item has hogged the hall closet forever because, frankly, you don’t know where else to stash it and you don’t have the heart to throw it away. As for those love letters from old boyfriends— which you swore to throw out— there’s really no need to mention that they are safely, and secretly, stowed away.
If you follow these five golden rules, I guarantee that you, too, will stay married a half century or more.