THE SECRET TO A LONG AND HAPPY MARRIAGE
Some 40 years ago this week I played a very small role in a wedding at the Holly Avenue Methodist Church in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. I was the groom. This meant that in order of importance, I ranked, at best, sixth behind:
- My mother-in-law;
- Claudia (my bride);
- My father-in-law, who gave Claudia away on the promise that I would not bring her back to South Pittsburg;
- The preacher who officiated the wedding (who also happened to be my father); and
- Mr. Cagle, the florist.
The great American philosopher Jerry Seinfeld once said that you know how insignificant a groom is in a wedding because the preacher asks the bride simply, “Do you take this man?”
The groom doesn’t even have a name. He’s just this man. In fact, the groom is not even the best man. That fellow is standing beside the groom. Simply by going through the ceremony, the bride has admitted that the guy she settled for was, at best, second best.
Moreover, despite the fact that my mother-in-law’s … er, I mean, my wife’s wedding was a major production, I had only one line, and it was a very short line at that. On cue, I said, “I do!” Well, actually, I had a few other lines, but they just involved repeating what my father the preacher said, as if I were a large tape recorder in a tuxedo.
I am so happy that I repeated those two words, “I do!”
Those magic words led to 40 years with the love of my life, Claudia, and in the process led to three great kids and a lifetime of memories, and the trip isn’t over yet.
One of my favorite comedians, the late Henny Youngman, was once asked what the secret was to he and his wife’s long marriage. He responded, “We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes on Tuesdays, and I go on Fridays.”
Maybe when Henny frequently said, “Take my wife, please!” he meant take her to dinner.
Claudia and I also love to go out to dinner, but we prefer to do so together rather than separately.
But if you ask me the secret to our long and happy marriage, it comes down to one word: Laughter.
My wife and I have been laughing together for 40 years. Our honeymoon was hilarious!
Claudia loves my jokes, even though she has heard most of them many times over the years. Sometimes she even beats me to the punchline. (“Our furniture goes back to Louis the Fifteenth, if we don’t pay him by the 14th!”)
Claudia did not marry me for my looks. If you don’t believe me, you should see our wedding pictures. Claudia looks gorgeous, just as she does now. I look like the late Sonny Bono. I had long black helmet hair and a Fu Manchu mustache. As they say, many men smoke, but Fu Manchu (Claudia has heard that line many times and thinks it is hilarious).
On our wedding day I was not tall, dark and handsome. I was and am still now short, pale, and … well, not ugly, but I could not have been mistaken then or now for Robert Redford. Sonny Bono, yes, but Bob Redford, no.
But I could make beautiful Claudia laugh, and in her eyes, that made me attractive.
Over the past 40 years, Claudia and I have laughed a lot. We’ve laughed on good days and on tough days, and sometimes we’ve even laughed while we were crying.
Like every couple, we have argued from time to time. Big loud screaming arguments. But these arguments have often ended with a joke. “You’re driving me crazy!” “Well, it’s a very short trip!”
So, if you are in love, and you and your mate want a long and happy marriage, my recommendation is … don’t just fall in love. Fall into laughter.
So now, before I take my wife out for our anniversary dinner, let me leave you with a joke from the late George Burns: “I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury!”
Even though my wife and I were married by my father, the Baptist preacher, she still thinks that’s a funny joke.
So Happy Anniversary, Darling. I hope we keep laughing together for years to come, and that’s no joke.