The secret in a picture.

I was sitting next to a highly respected fellow in the community this Sunday, in fact a nationally known speaker, and was talking to him about my recent re-nuptials. He’s an amazing guy with an equally (or, perhaps, surpassingly) amazing wife. They stop by every week after church to have breakfast and a morning cocktail at the place my friends and I also call church. We had befriended them a couple of years ago, and they love to come in and give us heck. In fact, this week his deacon pulled him aside before real church to inform him that the homily would be short that week, so he would be early to his other church. Even the deacon is in on the joke.

He asked us all about Las Vegas, where the missus and I had renewed our vows the weekend before. We talked briefly about that, and then about their own recent wedding anniversary. They had just celebrated their 49th year of marriage. Then, for a while, we laughed about times we’d had on Sundays before and talked about Sundays to come. They also told me stories about some life experiences they had shared along the way. Fantastic.

When their food arrived, I quit bugging them for a couple of minutes so they could enjoy their breakfast. I briefly made fun of her choice of dish, which was almost all egg. She joked with me earlier that her previous week’s breakfast had been an eggs Benedict, but the cook had forgot the egg. Everybody oops sometimes.

After a few minutes of silence I asked the man a question. It was a question I heard many times on my trip to Las Vegas the week before.

I’ll preface it by saying that, while I was in Las Vegas, every time I stepped onto a crowded elevator, full of strangers, I would wait for an appropriate silence and announce to all present why I was in town. It was my 20th wedding anniversary and I had come to renew my vows. It would break the silence and lighten the mood. The cheers were a bonus.

But I would always get asked the question I was about to ask my friend.

“What’s the secret?” a fella on the elevator would say. It was always a fella.

“Yes, dear,” was my pat, joking, response, which always got a round of laughter after a moment of confusion.

I asked this question to the outstanding gentleman sitting next to me at church, on Sunday.

He began to answer when his wife said, “two things.”

He deferred, happily. Yes, dear.

“Number one,” she said, holding up her index finger, “Marry your best friend.”

This I had done. 20 years had been my reward, so far.

“And two, never go to bed mad.”

I have heard this particular adage many times over the years, and it makes sense. If you settle up every grievance, each day, then no anger lingers, and no resentment builds. I told them both that I always know I’m in trouble when my wife comes into the room, after a discussion, grabs her pillow, and leaves. At that point we are either going to bed mad, or I am in pursuit with apologies in hand.

I agree with what she told me. I learned a long time ago to trust the wisdom of those of keen intelligence who are further along the road than I. Invaluable insight.

In the elevator in Las Vegas, after the laughter died, I would tell the man the real secret in my heart.

“Make sure she is happy. Don’t just believe it, make sure of it. And make sure that you are happy, too.”

In any relationship, if we think about our own happiness first, and only, we are creating constant tension. The surest way to doom a love is to put our own needs first. By the same token, if we live to please only our partner, at the expense of our own fulfillment, we are building up toxicity. At some point, resentment will reign.

If you’re searching for love, don’t settle for anything less than your best friend. All the other factors of attraction can change over the years, but true appreciation for a person, and the ability to share every moment with them, will last forever. If you’ve found love, or you are trying to rekindle the one you have, put them first. Then, ensure your own fulfillment, as well.

And try your best to never go to bed mad.

If you do, or they do, and you meet a wall of frustration that seems insurmountable despite all the above factors being perfectly in place, try the other thing.

“Yes, dear” can solve a lot of problems, too. 😉

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