What's the secret to a happy marriage?
April 1, 2013 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Anyone who tells you their rules for a happy marriage doesn't have one.

"Marriages are made of lust, laughter and loyalty - but the three have to be kept in constant passage, so that as one subsides for a time, the others rise”
posted by The Illiterate Pundit (43 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Anyone who tells you their rules for a happy marriage doesn't have one. "

While I would love to be able to credit the author of this article with sublime irony for starting his article with such a self-referantially absurd sentence, the piece is so lame that I must conclude that he actually doesn't know that he indicted his own marriage.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:10 AM on April 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


"The trick is that marriage is played upon a tilted field, and everything flows downhill towards loyalty."

What I find most interesting about this, is that I accidentally hit upon this same premise ages ago, but didn't include the Lust, or Laughter pieces as, at least to my mind, they were so obviously necessary as to not require note.

Loyalty is a tricky thing though, and I've seen a lot of relationships fall apart because of uneven expectations between the participants. So years and years ago, I came up with my Three Rules, and the next person I got into a relationship with is now my wife, and we've been going strong for almost twenty years.

It never really occurred to me that it would be a cyclical thing, but I can appreciate how that works to.

So I guess I'll add them to my advice for friends; Lust, Laughter, and my Three Damn Rules that helps everyone to play nice.
posted by quin at 9:11 AM on April 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Anyone who tells you their rules for a happy marriage doesn't have one.

Bollocks.
posted by grubi at 9:20 AM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some interesting things on Andrew Sullivan on why does marriage deepen love 1, 2. I particularly liked: “Do you love your spouse?” becomes the wrong question; “Are you loving your spouse?” is the right one.
posted by shothotbot at 9:22 AM on April 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Anyone who starts a sentence with "Anyone who" is a laughingstock.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:24 AM on April 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


Another point of view: Esther Perel: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship (TED lecture; may be NSFW).
And in this space between me and the other lies the erotic élan, lies that movement toward the other. Because sometimes, as Proust says, mystery is not about traveling to new places, but it's about looking with new eyes. And so, when I see my partner on his own or her own, doing something in which they are enveloped, I look at this person and I momentarily get a shift in perception, and I stay open to the mysteries that are living right next to me.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:26 AM on April 1, 2013 [20 favorites]


So the endgame choices are: A marriage of hilarity and fucking, but personal indifference; a grim, humorless dirge of duty and procreation; or endless laughter about one's celibacy.

Or: Married with Children, 50s Catholics, or the Smothers Brothers.
posted by cmoj at 9:26 AM on April 1, 2013 [14 favorites]


quin’s 3 rules really make a lot of sense. Years ago my dentist at the time, who lived up the street and appeared to be very happily married, told me (on his anniversary) that he and his wife had the rule that “In the word ‘wedding,’ the ‘we’ comes before the ‘i.’”
posted by LeLiLo at 9:29 AM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


"The trick is that marriage is played upon a tilted field, and everything flows downhill towards loyalty."

As someone who is into his 33rd year of marriage, I agree completely. It all really does come down to loyalty. I'd add a healthy dose of respect, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:31 AM on April 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


Anyone who starts a sentence with "Anyone who" is a laughingstock.

YOU FOOL! Don't you see what you've done?!
posted by mokin at 9:31 AM on April 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


My late uncle's favorite little koan about marriage was, "The most you could ask of [your spouse] is the least that you owe."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:32 AM on April 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


quin’s 3 rules really make a lot of sense.

"3.) If I ever do something wrong, you have to tell me what it is, otherwise you are not allowed to get angry about it."

Wow, so you want to dictate your SO's emotional state?! What are you, the Stalin of marriage gulags?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:34 AM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really enjoyed how he moved from the statement to the supposed proof to acknowledging he had it all wrong and then honouring his spouse for being patient with him as he worked through it.
posted by batmonkey at 9:38 AM on April 1, 2013


Brandon Blatcher --

quin doesn't state tthat the SO can't get angry. The statement is that the SO must communicate what the SO is angry about. It's not about controlling someone's emotions, it's about providing the feedback needed to help make things better or at least perhaps not to do that behavior again. It's perfectly clear if you read the whole thing and don't just cherrypick.
posted by jclarkin at 9:38 AM on April 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


You will never ever know the true secret to a happy marriage.

Because it is secret.

Wake up sheeple!
posted by srboisvert at 9:39 AM on April 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


jclarkin, the hyperbole is a clue that he's just having some fun here.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:49 AM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Happy's the wrong word anyway. The Best marriages are not always happy, simply because they're committed (consciously or otherwise) to working through shit, sometimes very complicated shit. Hard to be happy when you're doing that.

Conversely, if you want "happy", just find someone you're compatible with, who laughs at your jokes, shares your idea of a good time, doesn't cramp your style or in any other way make unreasonable demands. Just don't expect it to last.
posted by philip-random at 9:53 AM on April 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


The Metafilter Secret to a Happy Marriage: DTFMA.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:55 AM on April 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


"... better than a dog, anyhow."

And more trusted than the cat.
posted by Kabanos at 9:57 AM on April 1, 2013


To be incredibly unromantic about it, a lot of this comes down to power. When power is equally shared, it makes sense to require partners to state disagreements clearly instead of becoming angry for seemingly no reason. When there's an imbalance, the less powerful partner's needs are constantly "forgotten", leaving the option of continually rehashing arguments ("being a nag") or silently seething ("expecting a mindreader.") And Gopnik is right about the importance of laughter, but why would it be the case that "the larger sense of what is funny will divide over time"? Couples whose relationship is based on shared interests and intellectual compatibility seem to find their senses of humor getting closer and closer over the course of their marriages. Gopnik's observation seems like it would apply more to asymmetric "she's so pretty and she laughs at my jokes!" relationships.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 10:03 AM on April 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Anyone who tells you their rules for a happy marriage doesn't have one.

Paradoxisterical.

Just as the people who write books about good sex are never people you would want to sleep with ...

Huh? I admit I stopped reading there. I would want to sleep with lots of sex writers. I suppose I'm easy though ...
posted by mrgrimm at 10:41 AM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never thought about the pressure of being a sex writer and then sleeping with people who will have Very High Expectations because of course, you know so much!

I was intrigued by the article premise and then I saw "by Adam Gopnik" and my eyes started involuntarily rolling.

Here's my ten-cent analogy. Feel free to steal it. Or hate it.

Marriage is an agreement you make every day when you get up. "Gonna stay married? Yup."

The day you say "Well..." or "Oh God." instead of "Yup" is the day you get counseling.

If things are going as they should, no problem, you just keep Yup-ing along. But you can never take for granted that they will.
posted by emjaybee at 10:53 AM on April 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Maybe marriage is a cultural institution that succeeds in its contribution to the project of building industrious, cohesive, western societies while failing most of its participants by acting as a straightjacket on the underlying human need for forming persisting, intimate physical bonds with a variety of other people.

OTOH, there sure is a never-ending supply of work in offering optimistic thoughts and recipes for success in fixing an institution that can never be fixed.
posted by crayz at 11:03 AM on April 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I told my dad I was getting married, he only offered one piece of advice, and brother, it's saved my bacon countless times.

"It's better to be happy than right."
posted by davelog at 11:12 AM on April 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


quin doesn't state tthat the SO can't get angry.

So tired of quin's Marriage Rule Defenders, with your fancy jackets and felt hats. One day you'll see the light!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:13 AM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oooo, where do I sign up for the fancy jackets and felt hats?
posted by stoneweaver at 11:22 AM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


crayz: the underlying human need for forming persisting, intimate physical bonds with a variety of other people.

What do you base that on? Maybe there is a study that you can link to, but it seems like people have their own preferences, and assume that this is the way it is meant to be and everyone else is secretly wanting to get to that point. "Oh, that polyamourus woman will find the right person one day and she will change her tune." or "Oh, those monogamous couples are only giving in to societies expectations and denying their true and natural needs."

I know that personally, I have no interest in forming another persisting, intimate physical bond. And I haven't even contributed any $$$ to the Marriage Advice Industrial Complex!
posted by history_denier at 11:33 AM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The secret to my happy marriage is that when she comes home, I look around the house, and I'm like 'Huh! Where did all these extra colors come from?'

But it's a mortgage with a large negative interest rate: the balloon payment at the end is going to be a real killer.
posted by jamjam at 11:39 AM on April 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hey now, those felt hats are very stylish. You can tip them to a bit of a jaunty angle and let everyone know how you roll.
posted by quin at 12:17 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe marriage is a cultural institution that succeeds in its contribution to the project of building industrious, cohesive, western societies while failing most of its participants by acting as a straightjacket on the underlying human need for forming persisting, intimate physical bonds with a variety of other people.

OTOH, there sure is a never-ending supply of work in offering optimistic thoughts and recipes for success in fixing an institution that can never be fixed.


Maybe, but probably not. Or maybe all us married folk are sleeping sheeple.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:35 PM on April 1, 2013


I was intrigued by the article premise and then I saw "by Adam Gopnik" and my eyes started involuntarily rolling.

Adam Gopnik, man. What a waste of The New Yorker's paper.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:44 PM on April 1, 2013


If you really knew the "secret", you'd be typing these comments on your gold plated keyboard. Or your gold plated butler would be typing them for you.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:16 PM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


If anything, more divorces are caused by attempts at erotic rejuvenation than by ongoing mutual bitterness.

Cite please?
posted by headnsouth at 1:32 PM on April 1, 2013


Why the hate? It was sweet. (Seriously, why am I supposed to roll my eyes at Adam Gopnik? Did I miss a cynical memo?)
posted by dejah420 at 2:17 PM on April 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I liked this a lot too. I would like to be better than a dog, anyhow. And I love dogs.

This is a really interesting way to think about things. The comments about laughter really struck a chord. There's that sense of a relief after an argument when you find yourselves laughing together about something and you think, this is going to be ok.
posted by chatongriffes at 3:11 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I should ask metafilter but I have been very curious about Timothy Leary purporting to know what a woman wants (presumably for all values of (woman)) but never curious enough to buy his goofy book.

As for this thread I will offer the rule to happy marriage from one of my oldest dearest closest friends: modest expectations.
posted by bukvich at 4:50 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Marriages are made of lust, laughter and loyalty

Marriages are made of copulation, crying and cowardice.

Marriages are made of fucking, fighting and fleeing.

Marriages are made of a'mour, arguing and abandonment.

love you honey
posted by michaelh at 5:28 PM on April 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Trust. That's what it's about: finding the person who respects you, who laughs with you, cries with you, who cheers for you, who lusts for you, who is always always there for you and who has become an indistinguishable part of you. That's what makes a relationship real and lasting. It's being comfortable enough to trust the other with your soul and being able to guard the other's soul with your life.
posted by mightshould at 6:35 PM on April 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I require of my partner absolute submission and obedience. Our relationship is extremely happy and successful. The reason for that is simple: I can not live without his smile.
posted by Goofyy at 11:37 PM on April 1, 2013


Successful marriages are made of trust, tickling, and truth. Also tango.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:23 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Marriages are made of anger, abstinence and arousal.

Marriages are made of bitching, biting and backstabbing.

Marriages are made of charity, charm and cheesecake.

Marriages are made of daring, dependency and date nights.

Marriages are made of electricity, elasticity, and élan.

Marriages are made of flerovium, francium and formaldehyde.

Marriages are made of gays, gods and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Marriages are made of happiness, hatred and hearing loss.

Marriages are made of inspiration, irritation and ingestion.

Marriages are made of jokes, japes and jackaninnies.

Marriages are made of kleenex, Kill Bill and the KKK.

Marriages are made of lymph nodes, library cards and lap dogs.

Marriages are made of masturbating, masticating and maturating.

Marriages are made of noting, naming and norovirus.

Marriages are made of oiling, oinking and ouija.

Marriages are made of playing, paying and praying.

Marriages are made of quicksand, quidditch and the quickening.

Marriages are made of respecting, reflecting and reckoning.

Marriages are made of silverware, slippers and simpletons.

Marriages are made of tanks, thanks and tranqs.

Marriages are made of unavailability, undeniability and unreliability.

Marriages are made of vaccums, vacations and Voltron.

Marriages are made of weekends, wetwork and weakness.

Marriages are made of xanax, xenadrine and xbox.

Marriages are made of youth, years and yesterday.

Marriages are made of zinfandel, zabaglione and zoolander.
posted by Neale at 2:16 AM on April 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Marriages are made of copulation, crying and cowardice.

Sometimes all three simultaneously!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:08 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Marriages are the management of people's needs vs people's wants in an intimate relationship.
posted by grubi at 8:04 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


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