How to Stay Together Forever


By Neil Offen

In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s talk about marriage. How do you stay married for a long time?

The fact is, it’s not easy, particularly these days. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one of every two marriages now ends in divorce. (The other one ends in Cleveland.)

As someone who has been married forever — in fact, my wife and I recently celebrated what we think is our 332nd anniversary, and it’s really hard to get an appropriate card for that — we know a thing or two about marriage. So, as a public service, here are our marital secrets:

Secret No. 1: Have no secrets.

Admit you ate the last chocolate chip cookie. Confess that you were the one who left the toilet seat up. Again. Willingly share that for the last 17 years you have been an undercover North Korean spy.

Secret No. 2: Lower your expectations.

It’s important to remember that marriage isn’t always perfect. Sometimes there will be bumps along the road and the coffee will spill in your lap because someone forgot to put the cover on the travel mug correctly although we’re not naming names here. So, when there are bumps along the road, remember they are almost always your partner’s fault because you wanted to take the interstate instead.

Secret No. 3: Happily-ever-after doesn’t mean life together will be a fairy tale.

Instead of a fairy tale, sometimes married life will be a collection of short stories about people who have had much more success than you have. Sometimes, married life will be a limerick, usually one ending in a naughty word. On other occasions, it can be a crossword puzzle clue, like the three-letter ancient name for the city of Tokyo. From time to time, married life will seem like a 19th-century Russian novel where everyone is named Goncharov or Carolnikov and you can’t tell what chapter you are in but still have 800 more pages to read.

Secret No. 4: Don’t hold a grudge.

But keep it nearby if someone asks you to do the dishes when you’d prefer to mindlessly check Facebook. Then you can pick the grudge up and say, sorry, I’m holding a grudge and so my hands are full.

Secret No. 5: Never go to bed angry.

This may mean you have to avoid sleeping for several weeks. Remember to drink a lot of coffee and pop some energy shots. If you get really tired, read a good Russian novel with characters named Goncharov or Carolnikov or watch what’s on Turner Classic Movies at 3 or 4 a.m. No one will disturb you because everyone else is sleeping.

Secret No. 6: Communication is important.

At breakfast, while sitting directly across the table from each other, be sure to send your partner a text. Check to make sure you’re both skimming similar Twitter feeds. Snapchat with him or her while in bed. Post to each other’s Instagram while you’re driving together to pick up the kids or grandkids.

Secret No. 7: Show respect to your partner by paying attention.

Excuse me, what was that secret? Could you repeat it? How about repeating the others, too?

Carrboro resident Neil Offen has written humor pieces for a number of different publications, in a number of different countries. His column appears twice monthly in The Local Reporter.  

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