David Brooks has a good column today about the value of realism in marriage. Most quotable line: “Love starts in passion and ends in car pools.”
Julie and I laughed at that, because it’s so true. If you’ve done it right, though, love doesn’t actually end in car pools, but rather matures there. Julie and I spent our first married year living in Manhattan, having a ball. It was wonderful, and I’m so grateful we got to live that way. But you couldn’t pay me enough to live it again, not at my age. One of the best things about my marriage is that I was lucky enough to end up with someone with whom it is a pleasure to grow older. We have fun in the carpool line.
I’ve said it in this space before, but it bears repeating. An older friend once said to me that she and her husband noticed one day that all of their friends seemed to have stopped being curious about the world at some point in their lives and marriages. Just stopped. And then malaise began to set in. She said that she and her husband figured that one reason they’ve been able to stay together for so long is that they looked at life as an adventure they could share together. There was always something else to learn, somewhere new to see, some new band to hear, or a new restaurant to try. She wasn’t saying that they live on novelty; nothing is quite as dull as a middle-aged person trying to be 21 forever. That’s not how they’ve ever lived. Rather, I took her to be saying that she and her mate always kept an eye out for the unexpected, and for new opportunities for exploration and delight. I have found that to be true, though I concede that as the years have grown longer, and the children have gotten older, Your Working Boy requires more comfort and familiarity than he once did. Still, you never know when you’ll walk into a bookstore one day and through the portal into another world. That possibility keeps things interesting.
Brooks bases his column on a 2012 blog essay by a clever and wise woman named Lydia Netzer, who offers “15 Ways To Stay Married For 15 Years.” It’s really good, this piece. For example:
5. Be proud and brag.
Let your spouse hear you talking about them in glowing terms to other people. Be foolish. Be obvious. It will mean everything. You will stay married forever.
6. Do your own thing.
Dan races bicycles. I write books. I don’t race bicycles or have any desire to race bicycles. He doesn’t write books, nor does he even read the books that I write. Seriously. And I don’t care. My opinion is that he’s the fastest, coolest most awesome bike racer ever. His opinion is that I’m the bestest, coolest writer ever. We don’t have to know all about cycling or writing in order to form these opinions — in fact knowledge of literature or actually reading my book might damage Dan’s opinion of me as “best writer since the dawn of time.” We can still support each other without being all up in the other person’s stuff. Doing your own thing, having your own friends, being completely insanely passionate about something that the other person has no idea, really, about, is awesome. It allows your spouse to be your cheerleader, uncomplicated by knowledge or personal investment. And it means you’ll always have stuff to talk about, because you’re not overlapping all the time. You don’t have to read the same books either. You don’t have to have the same friends.
7. Have kids.
Kids stop you from being as crazy as you want to be. Because when you have kids, you can’t be that crazy.
I bet Lydia Netzer is about to get really famous because Brooks wrote about her. I hope so. She’s something else. She should have a talk show. She writes at the end:
If you like this post, you’ll love my novel, Shine Shine Shine, published by St. Martin’s Press. It’s a love story!
Julie bought it at once on Kindle. She and Lucas are headed to Alaska tomorrow for a couple of weeks. He’s going to be in the great outdoors — delayed birthday present — and she’s going to be learning a catechesis method, because she’s the bestest, coolest, Orthodox mission-church choir-directing, teaching-organizing chick ever. Besides, after I went to Eagle River a few summers ago, I knew that one day, Julie would have to meet those great people herself.
Anyway, whatever Lydia Netzer says is probably right. Except for No. 2 on her list. “Don’t you try that,” says Mrs. Dreher to me. OK.