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Silver Threads: Wedded

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

When the Ides of March came around this year, my husband and I were in Costa Rica, toasting our 55th wedding anniversary with traveling companions and reflecting on our years of, well, wedded bliss (for want of a better cliché).

We’ve never been very sentimental about “occasions,” marking our 50th only by lunching at Commander’s Palace, where Lally Brennan -- tipped off about the event by one of our five guests -- ordered the kitchen to inscribe the date in chocolate syrup around our dessert plates.

But staying married for 55 years is an achievement these days, I’ll grant. Herewith are a few tips:

Stand your ground. When my husband suggested that I might want to let our housecleaner go after I retired, I countered by wondering if he might like to start cutting our grass.

Don’t try too hard to please. The first -- and only -- sandwich I ever made for him had too much mayonnaise on it; he complained. I wondered aloud if he might like to make the next one himself. And so it’s been.

Don’t quarrel over money. Get a job and make some of your own.

Don’t get involved in his business, meaning the one with which he makes most of your livelihood. When I was still a stay-at-home mom, his building company office was in our house, and I was privy through the closed door to many discussions involving a crazy painter and, on a few occasions, complaining clients. I decided to emotionally detach.

Realize that you haven’t married your father -- good advice because mine never would have cared what size and color a new sofa was, and it was a shock to discover that my new husband did and planned to be present at the purchase.

Don’t sweat the small stuff, like who takes out the garbage. We had some friends who did. If it’s convenient, do it yourself. Regard garbage as  a non-issue.

Don’t get indignant on behalf of your teenagers. If they come in past curfew and your husband hollers that they’ve been in a bar -- they’ve probably been in a bar. They laughed about it years later.

Don’t come unglued when an anonymous caller tells you that your husband is having an affair. It once happened to me: She said that his truck -- with the name of his company on the door -- was parked precisely at 8 a.m. every weekday outside her neighbor’s home. Before I could tell her they were partners in a remodeling job, she hung up. The carpenter’s car was there too.

Don’t think you have to do everything together. Joined at the hip isn't a comfortable lifestyle. Watching television as a duo ended for us when most folks began installing two or even three sets in their homes. You don’t have to endure channel surfing or “enjoying” three programs at one time.

If some of these suggestions sound skewed to the feminine-side of couplehood, just turn them around to suit yourself: If she doesn’t like the way you painted the bathroom, suggest that she do it herself next time. Your wife either will do it, or hush up; she's not stupid.

Obviously, just following these words of wisdom can’t make a loving and long marriage. But they help.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]