I did not entitle this column: The Secret to a Long, Happy Marriage.
A long marriage need not be happy, and a happy marriage need not be long. We have all heard of happy marriages that suddenly turned miserable.
And I am not going to tell you about Amanda Byrne‘s “secret.” By now this “secret” is the worst kept secret in human history. Still, it is one of the world‘s best marketing ploys.
By now, however, I hope that no adult really believes that wishing will make it so.
In all likelihood, more marriages have ended prematurely because one spouse or the other read about "the secret" and started thinking that he or she did not have to do much more than envision a long marriage.
If we want to be honest, the sad truth is that marriages last longer when divorce is forbidden. Even when divorce is permitted, if it is stigmatized, then marriages will probably last longer.
I am not sure what this says about marriage, but that doesn’t make it less true.
We no longer need worry about what marriage would be like when divorce is forbidden or stigmatized. Today, divorce is another lifestyle choice, so it takes more effort to sustain a marriage.
I did not say that it takes more love. I am certainly not against a loving marriage, but love doesn't last all by itself. It only lasts when you make an effort… not to be more loving, but to be more disciplined, more trustworthy, and more loyal.
Today, with divorce hanging like a sword of Damocles over every marriage, our world is awash with advice about sustaining marriage.
If I dare generalize, most of it says that, as the song goes, all you need is love. I suspect that this belief is indigenous to adolescents. It is clearly not true.
As a relationship develops, love is going to be socialized and domesticated. It cannot remain the kind of consuming passion that it feels like in the first months of your relationship.
Everyone who has gotten beyond adolescence, in body or in spirit, knows this.
People who rely on love believe that they don’t need to do very much more than showeri their spouse with love.
And yet, all the world's love is not going to save you if you go around embarrassing your spouse in public.
Others believe that great sex will sustain a marriage. Even if the sex is great, it is devilishly difficult to know whether the sex is sustaining the marriage or whether the couple is having lots of great sex because it is otherwise happy.
Aside from the fact that the human body loses some of its desire and desirability as it ages, great sex is, strange as it seems, too intimate to form the basis for your participation in a social institution. And marriage is nothing if it is not a social institution.
More than a few marriages have lasted forever without there being anything resembling great sex.
That being said, we all wish everyone the best sex. Only, do not think that it is going to solve all of your problems and guarantee that you will reach your golden anniversary.
The same applies to beauty. As much as we all like to maintain our good looks, time has a say in the matter. It does not seem like a great idea to make your marriage depend on something that will necessarily fade.