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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

The Guys' Guy's Secrets to a Successful Marriage

Robert Manni - Thursday, February 04, 2016


It took a long time for me to get married…a really long time.

In fact, I waited so long that family members didn’t badger me about this sensitive topic during holiday get-togethers. My fate appeared sealed so no one even bothered asking me any more, not even my mother. Although I had never taken the leap, I didn't have a firm stance against the institution. In fact, I looked forward to marrying and experiencing that watershed life stage. But it could only take place with one caveat. It had to feel right. Us Guy’s Guys don’t believe in half steps like starter marriages, whatever that is. Marriage is a sacrament, so unless I went all in, I wasn’t going in at all. Sure, I had a number of long-term relationships with women that I loved. But deep down I never felt right about any of those situations, so I waited and waited and waited. Of course I was at fault for not cutting things off once I knew these relationships were not going any further. I was wrong and both my partners and me paid a price in lost time because of my indecision and lollygagging. That said, I enjoyed all those relationships and did not feel a sense of failure once the window closed. I got dumped every time and you could say I deserved to learn my lessons the hard way.

After numerous forays into the online dating pool, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t getting any younger and if I was ever going to get married, it had to happen soon. There was no panic or anxiety though. I realized that I was mentally, spiritually, and physically ready to take the next step. All I needed to do was meet the right woman for me. And even though I was not dating at the time, deep down I was intuitively aware that I’d get married soon. I just felt it in my bones. One Thanksgiving Day, after dinner I told my Mom I was planning on get married the following year. She was delighted and asked me who was the lucky lady (her words, not mine). I told her I had no idea, but I knew I was ready because I had made room for the right person to come into my life. Six months later I met my future wife. We were engaged exactly one year later to the day and were married very close to one year after that. We are now closing in on six happy years of marriage and are the proud parents of a wonderful little boy. So today, your Guy’s Guy is offering his insights, limited as they may be compared to those who’ve been married way longer than me, on the things that have made my transition to married life joyful and successful.

Drum roll, please…

1. Hold out for the right partner.

This was my most important learning. I paid a price due to my age by waiting so long to get married and having a child. But I feel it was meant to be and ultimately for the best. My heart has never wavered and I have no doubts about my making the right choice. I probably would have been relatively happy if I’d have married one of my former lovers, but would I have the knowing peace of mind a man needs after making the big commitment? I’m not sure about that.

My future wife sent me a card after a few dates with a hand written inscription stating, “I believe in you.” That flipped the switch for me. Sure everything else was working out nicely, but those words every man yearns to hear from his partner. I keep the card tucked in a drawer as a reminder, although my wife frequently reminds me of her sentiments, even when the going gets tough. This made all the waiting worthwhile.

I’m sure some of you singles are questioning my simplistic purview. Finding true love is never easy and it may not happen for everyone in this lifetime. But don’t settle. Loving yourself, making room for someone, and keeping an open mind are the keys to finding the right partner. Remember that if you compromise, will you end up asking yourself if you did the right thing? Will you burn even more time in an unfulfilling relationship?

2. Know when you’re ready and then let go.

As mentioned, I created space in my heart and the right consciousness to allow a new person to come into my life. In retrospect, this was a very important aspect of making my connection. In order attract and bring the right things into our loves we need to rid ourselves of the internal clutter that bogs us down psychologically and create a warm and inviting space for new love to grow. Keep your heart open. It really works in attracting love and in many areas of our lives. Make room for what you want and have faith that you are exactly where you need to be right now. Don’t press. Let it happen.

3. Find someone who shares your values.

Some people think this means making sure you and your partner are simpatico about money and that’s really important, but values are more than just money. Values include many other aspects of partnering including how they treat people and their extended family. And not every couple is in synch with their visions concerning lifestyle, sex, children, family, work, where and how to live, and even politics. If partners disagree on core values, they’ll need to be addressed with clear, honest communication or a chasm will grow.

4. Don’t turn small stuff into big problems.

There are two things on television that I despise—real estate fixer upper shows and those damn housewives. And although my wife has two masters and is the smartest person I know, she loves watching those programs. So what’s a Guy’s Guy to do? After being single for decades I became accustomed to getting my own way all the time, so this created a potential dilemma. This was certainly more of an annoyance than a problem, but some of small stuff can blow up if people do not compromise. I thought about how generous my wife is and realized that she deserves her minor indulgence without my sniping over her shoulder while she watched her favorite housewives in Beverly Hills and Orange County. So on Tuesday nights, I retire to my study and work on my content. The real estate shows can be more of an issue because they are ubiquitous, but I tune them out, knowing that the next installment of ESPN Sports Center is only a few short hours away. Which leads me to…

5. Put your partner’s needs first.

Minor sacrifices as I described above are only the beginning to forging a fruitful marriage built on respect. I urge my wife to take break from our kid and go out with her friends. And I make it my priority to take care of the dishes, empty the garbage, recycling, and do the laundry. After all, she really takes great care of my son and me. I should do more, but I’m spoiled and bad habits don’t die easily. Being mindful of your partner is a process, but we all have to make modest sacrifices for the greater good. Which brings us to our next point…

5. Keep dating your partner.

A romantic brunch (even though I hate brunch), a movie, flowers, or a vacation are obvious ways to keep stoking the romantic fires. So are keeping up with the chores and not complaining. It’s easy to take your marriage for granted and use your partner as a sounding board and psychic dumping ground for the shitty things in your life. Try not to be that guy. You want to share your feelings and concerns with your partner, but try to also include your dreams and aspirations as well as the things you’d like to do together as part of your verbal intimacy. And keep surprising your partner. That includes you too, ladies. Make him feel like Mr. Big now and then, especially after a tough day of changing diapers and being domestic.

I’m scratching the surface to what makes a marriage work. And marriage is not always a picnic. Job stress, money, and sex become elephants in the room if we are not mindful and open to discussions. The most important question to answer is if your marriage is making you happy. If you are not happy, look into your heart and ask why. Then have a talk with your partner and see if you can reclaim the common ground that brought you together. We grow and people change. And not every marriage is going to work. But we want to respect our relationship and give it our best shot.

Marriage can be joyful. It can be fulfilling. If you keep love at the core of your marriage, you’ve give yourself the best opportunity to make it work.

This week’s Guy’s Guys of the Week are Serge and Carol Manni. My dad and mom have been married for 65 years. But they are not always in the same page. However their marriage was built on a solid foundation of love for one another. Thank you, Mom and Dad for teaching me the value of love.

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