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'I Do' Forever

By James Watkins
Guest Columnist

CBN.comMy wife and I will be celebrating our thirtieth anniversary tomorrow. Let's see that's 28 years longer than Britney's and J Lo's weddings combined. So, what's the secret? I have in my right hand my suggestions for "Top Ten Secrets to Staying Married Thirty Years."

10. Be sure you have a pre-nuptial arrangement concerning Letterman or Leno, flannel or percale, and over the front top or under the back bottom for the way toilet paper comes off the holder.

9. Lower your standards. Better to go with a real imperfect spouse than a Hollywood illusion. Anyone can appear funny and flawless with a team of script writers and plastic surgeons. And, according to a UCLA study recently reported right here, David Frederick, the study's co-author, told "Health Day News," "While women seek out muscular men for fun flings and view them as more attractive . . . they definitely don't want to marry them. Why? They're seen as being less faithful, less likely to treat them well, and less emotionally sensitive." Whew! I weighed 115 on our wedding day.

8. Be aware that "romantic love" has a half life of about three months. If, like me, you didn't do that well in chemistry, that means if a romance has an intensity of "10" it will degenerate to a "5" in just ninety days. In six months, that "I can't eat, I can't sleep, I can't live without him/her" emotion will have eroded to a 2.5 on the romance Richter scale. No wonder many relationships don't last longer than a season of "The Bachelor." The good news is that real committed love can last a lifetime.

7. Cut loose the lifeboats. If your marriage is sinking, and you've agreed that divorce and first-degree murder aren't viable options, you'll spend your time bailing water and patching holes rather than simply abandoning ship. Which brings us to . . .

6. A marriage counselor is a lot cheaper than a divorce lawyer. (And, according to the American Journal of Public Health, getting a divorce has all the health risks of two packs of smokes a day.)

5. Learn to play the saxophone together. Since this is a family newspaper, let me euphemistically write that all the research confirms that married couples who never played the sax before marriage, make far sweeter music after marriage than those who did. And thirty years of practice with the same partner does produce some really sweet music.

On a related note (pun intended), Dr. Nancy Moore Clatworthy, a sociologist from Ohio State, has been researching couples that have lived together before marriage. She found that live-ins argued more about finances, household matters, recreation, demonstration of affection, and friends, than married couples. Clatworthy also wrote, "The finding that surprised me most concerned [playing the saxophone]. Couples who have lived together before marriage disagreed about it most often."

4. Treat each other as equals: mentally, socially, and spiritually. (My wife is a whole lot smarter than me, but at least she treats me like I have her 3.999 GPA. I graduated "magna cum grace.")

3. Give each other space to pursue their dreams. I'm so grateful that Lois has allowed me to fulfill my dream of becoming an underpaid, unrecognized, unsuccessful writer (I have more than fulfilled that dream). Most women would have said, "Quit dreaming and get a real job!" Plus I am so proud of my wife's accomplishments as an ordained minister and board member of local and national organizations.

2. Reject stereotypical roles. Lois and I are definitely not Ozzie and Harriett, but neither are we Ozzie and Sharon. I played the role of "Mr. Mom" while Lois was in graduate school, but most of our married life we have worked out of our home so Faith and Paul had two stay-at-home parents. We have tried to equally share in decision-making, child-raising and household chores. However, I still haven't convinced Lois that mowing the lawn is an exciting recreational activity that I'm sure she'd enjoy. And she hasn't convinced me cleaning the toilet bowl is as emotionally satisfying as those TV ads seem to portray.

1. A strong common faith. Numerous studies have revealed that married couples that share a love for God have a stronger love for each other. Part of it may be the commandments "thou shalt not commit adultery" and "thou shalt not murder." But several studies show, according to Dr. G. Rekers, this "isn't because of religion-based prohibitions. . . . Church attenders were simply found to be happier with their marriages. Furthermore, it was found that the elevated sense of marital satisfaction among church attenders extended to their [playing the saxophone] relationship, a finding that flies in the face of the prevailing wisdom, which portrays religion as being negative toward [playing the saxophone]."

So, those are my theories. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a saxophone lesson.

(c) 2004 James N. Watkins. Used by permission. For more information about James Watkins visit

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