Still standing by my tips for a successful marriage after five years

Five years ago our friend and former newspaper colleague Molly McGowan married her college sweetheart Jamie Gorsuch. Both are Elon University grads who met as first-year students. At the time I wrote a column with my own tips for success in marriage — not that I’m an expert or anything, just very fortunate to have a great life partner in Roselee Papandrea. On the five-year anniversary of Molly and Jamie’s wedding I offer these tips again. Much of what I wrote then is unchanged with one exception. Roselee can’t help but watch her programs streamed via tablet. That’s just how it is. And still every night I go to bed knowing that my life improved a thousand-fold the day I married Roselee Papandrea. May Molly and Jamie say the same. I’m pretty sure they do.

People sometimes ask precisely how and why a wonderful woman like my spouse wound up hitched to someone like me. It’s one of those things that on the surface simply doesn’t compute — much like the concept of TV mixed with news.

I’ll admit, it’s a fair question. After all, my spouse is exceptionally intelligent, perceptive, capable, professional, lovely and kind. She has empathy out the yin-yang. Did I mention she’s easy to look at, too?

And me, well, not so much.

In fact, when we met I was a reprobate rock and roller with one foot in the grave, the other not quite in the gutter and the occasional sort-of facial hair. These were my claims to fame.

So when I get the logical question regarding just what in the heck the former Roselee Papandrea actually saw in Madison Taylor back in 1995 when we met I tell them this: “We have nothing in common except that we’re exactly alike.”

Probably the smartest thing I’ve ever uttered by mouth so I continue to say it. I’ve done so since the day we got married in 1997. It means that even though we don’t always like the same TV shows, deep down, we share the same goals and values. Frankly, you can’t find a better way to choose a spouse.

Molly and Jamie

Here are a few more things I’ve learned about marriage over the last nearly 17 years. Now I’m passing them along to Molly McGowan — former Times-News reporter — and her longtime boyfriend Jamie Gorsuch who married Saturday in Burlington. Call these the 16 Simple Steps to Succeed in Marriage Without Really Trying.

Here goes . . .

No. 1: Marriage is a partnership. Neither benefits over the long run if only one gets his or her way all the time. Ultimately, you have to give in order to get. And the getting is a rich reward.

No. 2: Develop hobbies or interests of your own. Sharing common interests isn’t nearly as important as sharing common values.

No. 3: Never miss an opportunity to identify your spouse as “exceptionally intelligent, perceptive, capable, professional, lovely and kind.”

No. 4: Listen, always.

No. 5: Then listen some more, but pay real attention this time.

No. 6: There are no short-term goals in a marriage. It’s the ultimate marathon. People who go into it not understanding this really aren’t listening to the literature warning about “Until death do us part.”

For example, chances are both of you have mannerisms, habits or expressions that are part of who you are but on some level annoy the bejeebers out of the other. Chances are also high that all of these have not been clearly identified as yet. Learn to understand the ones you can live with and those that might eventually drive you up the wall and onto the roof where wailing into the night might ensue. When it’s the latter, gently nudge your partner but avoid the urge to badger or judge. Usually, they’ll get a subtle message and act accordingly. Might not happen all at once, so be prepared to wait. Hey, I eventually quit smoking so anything’s possible.

It took five years.

Bottom line, don’t sweat the small stuff. When the big stuff lands, you’ll know it.

No. 7: Ultimately one partner winds up doing a bigger share of the work than the other. In 95 percent of all cases, it’s the woman. This is the natural order of things. Men should respond by feeling at least a little guilt about it.

No. 8: If in doubt, let the woman drink her wine.

No. 9: Pro football is not an acceptable excuse to get out of a family event on Sunday.

No. 10: Never forget important dates, birthdays, anniversaries and the like. While your mate might not profess to care one way or another if you remember, they’ll darn sure wonder “why” if you don’t.

NOTE: For what it’s worth, Valentine’s Day should never be considered an important date, but remember it anyway if for no other reason than it keeps about a quarter of the U.S. economy afloat each winter.

No. 11: If in doubt, let the man drink his beer.

No. 12: Always remember to say thank you for the little stuff one does for the other, especially the little stuff.

No. 13: Talking louder is a poor replacement for listening harder.

No. 14: Never go to bed angry at each other. You will almost certainly wake up that way, if you get any sleep at all. And you’re married now and need all the rest you can get.

No. 15: Only place one TV in your home and discourage the practice of watching programs via laptop computer. It’s important for couples and families to share experiences, especially those of seemingly little consequence such as television. Watching TV separately will lead to eating separately and later even more important things done separately.

So even if your mate watches a horrifying show — think something like “Real Housewives of Fuquay-Varina” or “Puck Dynasty: The Real Hooligans of the NHL,” it’s his or her horrifying show and that in and of itself is reason enough to watch it right along with them. Remember, there is a reason your mate might like this program. Understanding that will only help you know your partner better.

But feel free to complain about it — just know when to stop.

No. 16: And that thing about listening, never forget it.

Best wishes guys.

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