With all the writing lately on marriage and happiness, and this being Valentine’s Day, and at the risk of being presumptuous, allow me to share some accumulated wisdom that allegedly has been gained with age and experience.
By Tim Jackson
My wife and I just hit just 45 years together. With all the writing lately on marriage and happiness, and this being Valentine’s Day, and at the risk of being presumptuous, allow me to share some accumulated wisdom that allegedly has been gained with age and experience, and because, after an unnatural number of years together, people always ask “how do you do it?”
Disclaimer: These are highly subjective, meant to implicate no one, nor invoke any individual, or individuals. As they say, this is ‘based on a true story.’
Humor: A marriage without laughter is big trouble. The world can be oppressive, but it is also amazing and outlandish. People are ridiculous. Everybody wants your money. If you’re both still alive and are able to provoke a regular chortle or guffaw, that’s sheer good fortune. Misbehave regularly.
Love: Of course chemistry, admiration, need, respect, communication, and such things are key. But in truth, love is born out of chemistry and shaped through time. Two other opinions: overpriced engagement rings is a ridiculous custom and a little jealousy in marriage can be invigorating.
Sex: I say lust is the core of a good marriage. It’s handy for procreation, but evolves into comic opera. Adultery is a word forced on us by the church. Work it out for yourself.
Friendship: Your partner is often the person who sees you the way you want to see yourself, and is often your best audience. That’s a lot to be thankful for because you may not be as interesting as you think.
Autonomy: You want that partner to be like you. It doesn’t happen.
Patience: If you’re going to stay together for 350,000 hours, then that one hour where you’re really pissed off is pretty insignificant.
Reinvention: If you are lucky, you will both become at least three other people over four decades.
Variety: Predictability is numbing
Curiosity: From a vacation in Rome to talking to the guy who collects bottles from your trash, it’s all fascinating. You are lucky, and you have someone to ask why and how about everything.
The Arts: It generates conversation that isn’t about whether you cleaned the grill, walked the dog, or saw the game. If you don’t read, life is harder. All the better if you see the inside of a theater or museum a lot.
Physical Activity: It helps to regularly, or even occasionally, do anything together until you are feeble: hike, bike, tennis, or yoga until the body rebels.
Vanity: Take care of yourself, and try to look good without surgery. We all eventually end up with, as Phillip Roth calls it, “the external body that time has bestowed,” not to mention that we will “get the faces we deserve.’
Friends: It’s great that so many long-term friendships survive. Others revive, are rediscovered, or revisited. New friends don’t threaten anything. Have your own pals and maybe another best friend because you don’t really tell your spouse everything – I hope.
Family: You marry into one, but it’s not the be-all, end-all. It takes too many forms and, let’s face it, you won’t like everyone. Family happens whether with kids or not, but for us, kids are the best, funniest, most interesting and challenging thing that ever happened.
Compassion: This is the bottom line.
THINGS TO AVOID
Ceremony: To each his own. but I never wore a ring, and we always forget our anniversaries. Wedding parties are nice, but bridesmaids and bachelor parties weren’t part of getting started. Baptism? My kids were not born in sin. Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. Oh, OK. But a bris? Though I hear the tips are good. (rim shot)
Religion: Whatever works for you is dandy because for an atheist this is irrelevant, but pious self-righteousness is unforgivable in god’s eyes.
Wealth: What is it? You’ll never get there anyway, unless you want to spout clichés about real wealth not being about money.
Boredom: Never be bored
Competition: Education and jobs needn’t be a competition. Be a lifelong learner.
Platitudes: Affirmations, aphorisms and sayings and such sound good and mean well, and are helpful once in a while, but they require nothing but hot air. Action speaks louder. Get off Facebook and do something that actually embodies that latest Dalai Lama quote or Move On imperative.
Tim Jackson is an assistant professor at the New England Institute of Art in the Digital Film and Video Department. His music career in Boston began in the 1970s and includes some 20 groups, many recordings, national and international tours, and contributions to film soundtracks. He studied theater and English as an undergraduate and has also has worked helter skelter as an actor and member of SAG and AFTRA since the 1980s. He has directed two documentaries: Chaos and Order: Making American Theater about the American Repertory Theater, and Radical Jesters, which profiles the practices of 11 interventionist artists and agit-prop performance groups. His a third documentary, When Things Go Wrong, about the Boston singer/songwriter Robin Lane, with whom he has worked for 30 year, screens with a Q&A and live performances at the Regent Theater in Arlington on April 4th. You can read more of his work on his blog.