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By Staff | Jul 23, 2010

My mailbox recently held a letter from a man named Wilfred who mentioned that he is 88 years old. The envelope bore only my name and hometown, but arrived intact and on time. Try that with e-mail.

The epistolary essayist said that he and his wife, who is a mere 87, have been married for 65 years. There aren’t many who can truthfully say that their marriage license is eligible for Social Security.

I wrote back to Wilfred to congratulate him and his wife on 6.5 decades of connubial bliss. I also noted that there are probably some out there who are still saying “Yeah, well. I bet it won’t last!”

Marriage is a dicey proposition at best. Half of all unions end in divorce court while the other half end at the funeral parlor. Neither prospect seems very pleasant.

Supermarket tabloids spew an unending torrent of dreck regarding movie star hook-ups and break-ups. What? You mean to say that marriages made in Hollywood don’t last? Who would have thought?

Much has been made lately about a certain celebrity and the spectacularly nasty end of his relationship with his latest lady friend. I’ve listened to the tapes; the language they contain would make Satan blush.

That sort of behavior is not conducive to sustaining a long-term relationship. My wife and I have been married for 30 years, which, by the standard set by Wilfred and his wife, means we’re still using our training wheels.

But even at this early stage we’ve managed to accumulate some insights regarding what it takes to make it last. Here are a few tidbits:

  • Be prepared to compromise, and to do so early and often. For example, shortly after my wife and I wed – and by “shortly” I mean mere hours after saying our “I do’s” – we confronted a crisis that demanded compromise.

As we pulled into our driveway at 2 a.m., and still in our wedding duds, we detected the reflections of numerous animal eyeballs. Said eyeballs belonged to a bunch of Holsteins that belonged to me. Us, now.

The cows needed to be back in their pen before our honeymoon could begin. I instructed my brand-new bride to stand near the gate and flap her wedding dress to divert the cows as I chased them toward her and, hopefully, back into their pen.

My wife flatly stated that I was crazy if I thought she would do such a thing. So we compromised by me chasing the cows back in all by myself.

  • Be sensitive to each other’s feelings. I recall when my wife was pregnant with our first son. She was quite apprehensive about the whole situation whileI was the epitome of cool calm collectiveness.

This is because I had witnessed dozens of farm animal births and had reached the conclusion that A.) it isn’t that big a deal, and B.) it don’t hurt all that much, and C.) should difficulties arise, there are numerous surgical and mechanical methods that can be used to address them.

My wife didn’t care for my hilarious anecdotes regarding difficult farm animal births and told me so in no uncertain terms.

The birth of our first son was indeed difficult. Being sensitive to my wife’s feelings, I didn’t mention during the height of the crisis that someone had thought to pack the calf puller and that it was waiting in the trunk of the car.

  • Be nice to each other. You wouldn’t think this would need to be said, but it appears that this isn’t the case. It’s sort of like “carry an umbrella when it rains” and “don’t throw a lit firecracker into an open can of gasoline.” Even the most obvious things have to be explained to many people, and some simply have to learn the hard way.

Many seem to hold the belief that marriage is a zero sum game: if he or she does this or buys that, well, by golly, I’m going to do something worse. After what he or she did, I deserve it.

I made an extremely felicitous choice when I somehow managed to marry a woman who doesn’t cotton to that thought process.

For instance, there was a time when I participated in the fine sport of skydiving. Did my wife insist that she also strap on a hunk of fabric and jump out of a perfectly good airplane? No. She was content to watch me from the ground, happily entertaining herself by examining the fine print of my life insurance policy.

Those are just a few of the tips that we’ve gleaned from 30 years of matrimonial merriment. Check back with us in another 3.5 decades and perhaps we’ll have a few more.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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