The secret to a happy marriage
May 26, 2014
by Ivan Raconteur

The arrival of June signals the start of the annual wedding season.

I don’t actually attend weddings if there is any way I can avoid them, but the onset of the season reminds me of the productions I have attended in the past.

It also compels me to offer some friendly advice to those who might be contemplating taking the plunge. It is in this spirit of helpfulness I share the following story about an old pal of mine who had just embarked on his voyage of marital bliss one June day many moons ago.

At the time this story began, I was perched on the back porch on a balmy evening reading an improving book when the telephone rang. I toddled into the kitchen and lifted the instrument.

Without introduction, a voice on the line said “Let’s go get a drink.”

What it actually said was “Let’s go get a (expletive) drink.” The caller, whom I recognized as my pal Jon, was inclined to use salty language to emphasize his meaning. Without waiting for a response, he replaced his receiver with a crash.

I was curious, but not alarmed. Jon and his young bride had just tied the knot a few weeks earlier. I had attended the proceedings, and experience had taught me they were in that awkward adjustment period that comes between the honeymoon and death.

Putting away my book, I hiked the few blocks to the local. When I arrived, Jon was already there. He was seated at the bar moodily draining a bottle of beer. I pulled up a bar stool next to him, and Old Frank, the bar tender, set a beer down in front of me with a cordial greeting.

“Cheers,” I said to Jon, taking a tentative pull on my beer.

He nodded sharply, and continued drinking his beer in silence. I could tell by his expression he wasn’t having a very good evening. I waited for him to compose his thoughts, confident the reason for his call would soon become apparent.

“Women,” he growled with a scowl, finally getting the conversational ball rolling. I would have been surprised if it had been anything else. I waited for him to elaborate.

He uttered a snort that echoed down the nearly empty bar, and then resumed his comments. “How many women does it take to change a light bulb?” he asked.

I indicated I did not know the answer.

“None,” he continued bitterly. “They’d rather sit in the dark and bitch about it.”

After another drink of beer, he explained that he had been in the garage working on his car when his wife came out and made what he considered an unreasonable request. She and her friend had been in the house talking when a light bulb in the kitchen burned out.

Instead of changing it herself, she walked out to the garage and asked him to do it. An unpleasant scene had followed. Jon had told her, in front of her friend, that she was perfectly capable of changing a light bulb, and suggested she do it herself.

I wasn’t married then, just like I’m not married now, which made me a perfect candidate for dispensing advice about the institution of marriage.

“Ah,” I said, realizing he had made a common rookie mistake. “You should never, ever embarrass them in front of their friends,” I explained. “It puts them on the defensive, and no good can come of that.”

I gestured to Old Frank to set up another round.

“It puts me in mind of a story Large Larry told me many years ago,” I said. “When he first got married, he was determined to lay down the law and tell his new wife how things were going to be.”

Large Larry was a mutual friend who lived in our neighborhood. He was considerably older than Jon and I, and he and his wife, Muriel, were as comfortable as old shoes.

“One evening, when they were in the bedroom, Larry threw his pants to his wife and told her to put them on. She pulled them up, and found they were about twice the size she was, and they quickly fell to the floor.”

“‘I can’t wear these pants,’ Muriel said. ‘That’s right! Larry replied triumphantly. ‘I wear the pants in this family, and don’t you forget it!’”

I paused for a refreshing sip of beer and then continued.

“Larry’s wife considered this for a moment, then she slipped off her panties and tossed them to Larry. ‘Put these on,’ she directed. He tried to slip them on, but they were much too small, and he only got them as far as his knees. ‘I can’t get into your pants,’ he said, frustrated.

“‘That’s right!’ she exclaimed. ‘And you’re not going to until you change your (expletive) attitude.’”

Muriel had a salty vocabulary of her own.

Jon had been listening to the story in silence.

“The point is,” I explained, “You have a choice. You can do it the hard way or the easy way. You can be right, and end up down here drinking with me, or you can let her be right, change the stinking light bulb, and have a peaceful life with your new wife.”

Jon opened his mouth as if to say something, then resumed drinking his beer. After a few moments of silent contemplation, he stirred. The scowl had vanished, and a thoughtful look had come over his mug.

“I think I’ll go home and change the light bulb,” he said.

One of the most important lessons a young man can learn about marriage is that if one wants a peaceful life, one must be prepared to change a few light bulbs.

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