For almost 30 years, I have written and broadcast tens of thousands of words describing in detail what it is like to be married to a person who must run the whole show. It can be done, and you should know that there is nothing unpleasant about passing one’s golden years in a social environment resembling that of a trained animal.
Marsha and I have a happy marriage because we are compatible. A psychologist might say this is only because my utterly passive ego is content to be subservient to her id. Compulsive organizers and planners can and will tell you what they and you are going to do every day for the next week. It can be fun if you simply buckle up and go along for the ride.
For example: Although I had my shower before my eyes were open this morning, she had to remind me that I had not yet had my breakfast and that I’d better get at the income tax because tomorrow I had to buy new back tires for the car.
As the years pass, you forget how to hang a wash, do dishes or make a bed. Try to do any of these things and you are elbowed aside by someone who can do it better. And after being relieved of the onerous burden of thinking for a few years, your ability to do simple household tasks or make a decision atrophies and becomes no more than a mental appendix.
It has not escaped our attention that most discontent in households is the fault of those who are unable or unwilling to simply say nothing or respond with a smile and a “Yes, dear.” In all our years of marriage, I have not argued with my wife. I state my case and drop it. Before she can get out of the room she usually sees that what I said makes sense and changes her mind. In other words, she is quick to base her decision on reason as long as she is the one who has done the reasoning.
I don’t remember seeing my mother and father argue, so I was never trained in the art of verbal jousting. In later years, I lived next to argumentative neighbors; although their interesting problems almost burned out the bearings in my tape recorder, it was obvious that standing nose to nose in a driveway and shouting does not enhance a marriage.
Having long observed the human condition, I’ve learned that, at home and on the street, after saying my piece it is prudent to simply turn my back and walk away.
For years I watched the daily bickering in a newspaper’s blog. Without saying much of anything, people simply snarled and snapped and chewed away at each other. From my reading, I believe I’ve figured out something you were aware of a long time ago, and that is: Which of two parties knows that he or she has put forth the most forceful presentation? It is the one who doesn’t feel that he or she has to have the last word.
The same thing applies in a marriage: Least said, soonest mended. Marriage is not a political stage where you might have good reason to call a colleague a crook one day and consider him or her for a seat in your Cabinet the next.
Again: The key to a happy marriage is compatibility. You have seen marriages fail between two laid-back people because they are not compatible. Their house is falling down around their ears, there are old lawn mowers and inoperative snowmobiles surrounded by weeds in their front yard and a percentage of their children board with Grandma.
You have also seen marriages between two people who promise each other that they will “share” in the division of labor in their home. Aren’t they the ones who are divorced after two or three years because of irreconcilable differences? The differences being that neither one will accept the responsibility of saying nothing or “Yes, dear.”
If you now have a better understanding of the magic glue that holds together some of the very strange marriages in your neighborhood, you have made my day. Do remember that people who must control others make excellent caregivers for those of us who no longer play ice hockey. Best of all, those who have been married to a controlling partner for 50 years won’t even realize that they are senile and elderly when they do get there.
The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website: