How to be happy after 30 years
Back in my sweet young days I did a second wedding/30th anniversary in Mosman. When he wasn’t busy growling at the waiters the married for 30 years groom would rise and belt out a gushing speech about the utter perfection of his radiantly gorgeous wife.
I’m sitting between the speakers and the garbage chute which is where you put the photographer. I’m chowing down royally out of respect for the love that Mr Caring down the front is beating his chest over. There were enough prawns to stock a fish market so I was busy and the guest who’d been seated next to me arrived. We did our introductions and he said, with some passion, Arghh, they sat me next to the photographer, I’m nothing. Of course I tried to console him over reaching the social low point of sitting next to me but he was one aggrieved relative so he went on to tell me every possible piece of schmutz he could dig up on our prawn providing, Highland fling performing, dazzled with love host.
Well, I was told Mr Love is All You Need down the front was, as of last week, dipping his pen in the company ink, getting his nookie where you get your cookie and was now right in the middle of his amends. My dinner companion then placed his thumb on his nose and wiggled his fingers in the direction of our host and this was the beginning of quite a few mildly aggrieved at the seating arrangements, wedding guests telling me what was really going on.
It works both ways. Yes, sometimes the groom should be driving straight off to appear on Jerry Springer, and sometimes the bride too, but there’s the opposite.
I’ve listened to countless wedding speeches from parents and those speeches are all about how to be happy 30 years on. And some of it is brilliant. I’ve sat and chatted to the parents finishing their desert for them while the kids are cutting a rug on the dance floor. I’ve heard some very wise parental life tips, source verified by the unfortunate seated next to me back at my table. I’ve also heard many sermons from Catholic priests on the same subject and there are Catholic priests out there with insights to write home about. Hey! That’s what I’m doing now. These guys may be batting for the other team but smart is just the beginning of some priests and yes, one of us did write their book. One day I’ll do a piece on what two Korean war nuns told be about their experiences. I’m still recovering.
This is what I’ve gleaned from my wise priests and still in love parents.
1 Look after your self
Don’t be tempted to sink into that comfortable ooze of relying on the partner for happiness. Or demanding it. Have your own fun. That ability to make yourself happy, to grow into yourself, is like a drumbeat that’s going on all the time and you want to stay with it learning about yourself and getting more and more interesting as a person. Be your own party director, creative department, personal trainer and your self respect will be magnetic. No victimhood here, you’re a mover and a shaker.
2 Back to the second date
This is another anti-complacency one. No matter how much you don’t feel like it, schedule in a little nice. A pattern breaker. Plan the lunch, the flowers, the cuddle, the listening, the encouragement, the life sized statue, anything that’s above and beyond. Once a week? Expect nothing, just do it and see, it’s a kind of slow habit setter where your commitment to nice spreads like tentacles.
3 Know the Enemy
OK, it’s The Shining at home. This will save the day providing there’s two little things going on. You’re in the right place being together and you’ll both put some gusto into this technique. I call this The Woman’s Weekly Technique because it seems so simple and cutesy but it’s more like opening a box of hidden secrets. You make a date, say every Sunday at 7pm. You sit down like the North Koreans facing the South Koreans at the table. Or not. This is good if everything’s fine too. The rule is this. One person says one thing they have decided that will be this week’s request for something to be done for them. Then the partner reciprocates with some request for something for themselves that will take roughly equal effort. The deal is no laughing, no questioning, just do it and meet back in a week for the next pair of requests.
What happens is this. If someone knows that they’re actually going to be given what they want then they give serious thought to what they’ll ask for. And then you know their big one too. Say you’re dealing with The Complaints Master, you’ll find out which of their many complaints is really driving them nuts. If you’re dealing with the cards close to the chest type you’ll find out at last what’s on their mind. And that can be a big surprise. Not always, the usual requests are to talk for half an hour a day or don’t gripe for half an hour a day but some very obscure but heartfelt ones come up too, as in don’t blow your nose in restaurants.
What’s the result of this? Lots. The exercise gets people above the general fog of broigus by focusing. Breaks the pattern. The partner now knows some vital truth that usually floors them. The requests are positive moves and they work much better than complaints. And far and away the most important is it’s practised kindness and hoo boy, that’s the path and the goal in one.
Yes, a big hoorah to those wise priests and happy after 30 years parents of the bride and groom. The big guy up the back with the camera, the schvitz and the many and varied crumbs thought you were pretty good.