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How to stay married 40 years (for men only)

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Larry Lough is executive editor of Sauk Valley Media. Contact him via email at llough@saukvalley.com

Readers don’t need to know much personal information about the editor of their newspaper.

But over the years, if they read his column, they learn a little.

Over the past 5 years at this newspaper, the editor has shared a few personal insights.

Loyal readers know that even though his name is spelled L-o-u-g-h, it’s pronounced Law.

They know he has been in the newspaper business for more than 40 years.

They learned last year that he was, as a young reporter, taken hostage during a jailbreak by a killer who had been sentenced to die in the electric chair.

Today you find out that he will celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary tomorrow.

Assuming we can make it last one more day.

STAYING MARRIED for 40 years must be a tough thing to do.

Few couples seem to make it that far.

Society celebrates the marriages that last that long – and longer. We publish the couples’ pictures in this newspaper’s Celebrations section.

Want to know the secret to staying married for 40 years?

Glad you asked.

MATHEMATICALLY, you just stay married for 25 years – then keep it up for 15 more.

When this editor celebrated his silver anniversary in 1998, he wrote a column about it for his newspaper.

What you are reading today is an enhanced version of that column.

The fundamentals of marriage haven’t changed.

BEING MARRIED for 40 years – to the same person – probably isn’t an easy thing to do, but frankly, it hasn’t been that tough.

Fifteen years ago, when wife Jane mentioned to her mother-in-law that we were about to celebrate our 25th, Mom laughed. “Wait ’til you’ve been married 50 years!” she said.

And she knew. At that time, she and Dad had been married 51 years. (My father died a couple of months before their 57th.)

Growing up with such context helps a guy keep things in perspective.

Which seems to be the secret to maintaining a marriage.

IN FACT, WOMEN are just better at that kind of thing than men. If a marriage fails, it’s almost always because the man couldn’t handle it.

Which is why the advice you’re about to read is for men. They need it.

Men, whatever you do, don’t let your wives read this.

Women, do you really want to know men’s secrets? Won’t it destroy the mystery of the relationship? Read at your own risk.

Men, here’s how you help to maintain a happy marriage – for at least 40 years.

1. Marry a woman smarter than you. If you’re like most men, that is a virtual certainty.It will keep you as humble as possible (for a man) and bring some common sense to family decisions, which should never be left for a man to make alone.

2. Compliment your wife. On her looks, on her brains, on her ability to maintain her sanity while living with a man, and at the very least, on her good judgment in picking a husband.

3. Be a good listener. Sometimes this will require that you turn off the TV, even if the score is tied in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and two outs. You can try the mute button, but that’s a risky move.

4. Don’t talk too much. You don’t have that much to say. It’s more important that you listen, take interest, and empathize.

5. Don’t fight. There is no prize for getting in the last word, though men seem to think so. Dad always said. “You can’t have an argument if only one person is talking.” He knew. He was married nearly 57 years.

6. Understand there is no such thing as women’s work. This means you need to do your share of changing diapers, fixing meals, doing laundry, and running the vacuum. With practice, you might even get good at it.

7. Do things together. Not everything, not all the time. But things you enjoy together, and sometimes just things she enjoys. Compromise works both ways.

8. Don’t hesitate to say you’re sorry. Even if you don’t think you are wrong, you should be sorry she’s upset.

9. Keep a sense of humor. Laugh at the world, laugh at yourself, laugh at her. If she catches you laughing at her, say you were laughing with her. If she says she wasn’t laughing, say you’re sorry.

10. Don’t hesitate to say you love her. This will sometimes require that you speak in code so your guy friends won’t say you’re ... well, you know what men say.

Luzz ya, Babe. Happy 40.

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