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Bramson’s Beach & Ballsy Banter: A Marriage Primer


By Bennett A. Bramson

Given that this column will appear on Valentine’s Day, let me start by sharing that I am an expert on marriage.

Over the course of my more than six and a half decades of life, I have spent almost half of those years married. I think that qualifies me for some level of expertise.

Now, before you applaud my marital acumen, let me also share that I have been married to three different women (not at the same time). This, then either qualifies me as a bona fide marriage expert, a failure, or an idiot. (Don’t answer that!)

Each time I find that my asset base is growing too large and I have the capital to enjoy life, I find it necessary to get divorced so I can divest my interests and start over.

Then each time I am single for any length of time, I look in the mirror and say, “Bennett, you’ve been happy long enough. Time to get married again!”

Some say, “why get married again when you can just give them a car or a house and be done with it.” Probably less costly financially or emotionally in the long run anyway. I’ll consider that the next time.

I am a true believer in the institution of marriage, which probably explains why I have been institutionalized three times.

I love the concept of commitment and thus the fact that I have been committed on three occasions makes me a perfect candidate to be committed in the future…perhaps to some other form of certifiable institution.

So, allow me to proffer some simple tips to help build the basis of a solid marriage remembering, of course, that my marriages have never been either stable or lengthy:

1) Realize that marriage is built on a firm foundation often referred to as “a fairy tale.” Given the history of marriage, that foundation is as solid as building your home on the sands of Miami Beach. “I will love you forever,” means until one of you decides to bail. Be realistic from day one.

2) Understand that the greatest asset in marriage is compromise. If you give in too often your partner will complain you are too weak; if you make all the important decisions, your partner will complain you are too controlling. So, what do you do? Hell, if I know. Nothing has ever worked for me.

3) Communication is the key. If you are a male, learn to shut up; if you are a female, learn to shut up. That way everyone wins, and you solve problems through glaring, body language, innuendo, intonation, facial expressions, and consternation. For men, the ability to mind read can be helpful. For women, the willingness to accept the fact he will never change to suit your needs can be helpful.

4) Remember that women want a man they think they can change; men want a woman who they think won’t try to change them. And, never the twain shall meet.

5) When wives ask a question such as, “Does this dress make me look fat?” Consider the response options: a) “Of course not, you look very svelte.” Buzzer! She knows you are a lying sack of crap. b) “I don’t find it flattering – perhaps something else might be a better choice.” Buzzer! You are an insensitive stereotypical male scum. c) “What’s for dinner?” Buzzer! You always avoid answering the question. d) Immediately feign some sort of illness, worse is better (such as a horrible case of diarrhea, Malaria, or Dengue Fever.) Be aware that this a temporary solution and will not alleviate the issue, but simply divert it until a later date and time when you will need to address it again.

Now, if your wives are attractive, sensuous, and sexy women (as mine were), then the final response is: “Why would you even put that on? You are so gorgeous and sexy, I want to attack you and make love to you right now.” They will often be so distracted by this subterfuge that you may actually escape the ultimate pain. Remember, if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance…baffle them with bullshit.

6) If you are a man, learn to dance. Generally, the only two dances men can do are the Horizontal Mambo and the White Man’s Overbite. So, to avoid the ultimate conflict, develop some sort of rhythm and dance skills because at some time in your marriage, a woman (unless they dance like Elaine Benes on Seinfeld) will want to dance (either at an event such as a wedding or Bar Mitzvah) or just go out dancing. And trust me, you can only avoid dancing so long (even at your own wedding).

If you are a woman, learn to enjoy sports. Generally, most men are happy to lie around, on Sundays in particular, like a sloth, with some chips and a beer in hand and watch some sort of athletic endeavor. This mutual accommodation can be a good compromise.

Men: I have learned through experience to give up viewing sports…there’ll be another game the next day, week, month, or year. But, if you give up valuable quality time with your spouse, you may want to contemplate your divorce or suicide options NOW!

7) Become an expert at espionage, misinformation, and distraction. I’m not suggesting lying, deceit, or deception…that always catches up with you.

Just find effective ways to divert, deflect, and diffuse. In reality, this refers back to number 6 – learn to do the dance…of deferring. “You said you would fix that door,” they query. “Absolutely, honey, but I was busy looking and shopping for an appropriate gift for you for (pick the closest one: Your birthday, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, anniversary, kid’s birthday’s, your Mother’s birthday, other innocuous celebration). This will distract from the issue at hand…temporarily. However, if you actually DO the thing you were requested to do, without a major screw-up, then you will win significant style points.

8) Remember that men live in the moment (and if it’s sexual, that moment lasts only a moment, but lives on in a male’s memory forever); women, don’t live in the moment, they live in forever – Like a computer, any of your short-term mistakes will be stored in long term memory for later retrieval. Men and women have two contrary positions on the same event: Men – “I don’t remember that!” Women – “I’ll never forget that.” Be keenly aware to the repercussions of any action which may someday come back to haunt you, no matter how insignificant or small it may seem to be at the time.

9) (This one is serious) When it comes to the kids, side with your spouse in front of the kids (work out any disagreements in private later). Never undermine your spouse with the kids, never play good cop-bad cop and never get locked into specific roles or stereotypes, which lead to one parent or the other always being perceived as the ‘mean one.’

Remember they are your kids, NOT YOUR FRIENDS and parenting is a benevolent dictatorship, not a democracy. YOU (the adults) are the center of the family and YOU COME FIRST, not your kids (Trust me on this one – I’ve done parenting workshops for numerous parents who wrongly believed “My kids come first!”).

10) Because your marriage didn’t succeed doesn’t make you a failure. I’m still friendly with all my ex’s and maintain a good relationship because to do otherwise is counterproductive and destructive. We can’t lead and give advice if we don’t follow the righteous path we espouse to others. For the sake of your kids and your sanity, be kind and gentle to one another after it’s over.

11) Marriage can be fun. All mine had aspects of beauty, joy, laughter, enjoyment, closeness, and intimacy. Embrace those things that make it great; lose the things that cause pain; and learn from the things you can’t change. And, if all else fails…get out!

Here’s to marriage – a WONDERFUL INSTITUTION!

Keep bantering!

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