What Makes a Marriage Last – A Behemoth

What Makes a Marriage Last by Marlo Thomas & Phil Donahue is one of the best books you’ll EVER read about… well, it’s in the title… what makes a marriage last.

It’s a heavy, big and powerful book, packed full of couples who know a thing or two about marriage, and frankly, a delightful read from beginning to end!

Who’s in it? Oh, just people like…

  • President Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter
  • Elton John and David Furnish
  • Bryan Cranston and Robin Dearden
  • Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan
  • Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest
  • Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos
  • And the list goes on and on…

Thomas and Donahue, being no slouches in the marriage department themselves (they’ve been married 40 years), play off each other beautifully and in turn, set the stage for each of the couples they interviewed to share practical, heartfelt, and often funny stories about how they have survived and thrived.

As someone who was married 20 years (the first time) and 20 years-and-counting in my current (second and final) marriage, I also know a thing or two and the words of these celebrated couples rang so true to me.

Can I distill the words of 40 couples into a blog post? No. You should get the book. 🙂 But I will say a few things about some stuff that jumped out at me.

Our modelling matters. Our parent’s marriages matter and their parent’s before them. Sometimes, divorce is simply not an option! <<< I would say this was the case in both my husband’s and my Family of Origin (FOO) and for that reason, it’s surprising that either of us divorced. (The story of my divorce is all over this blog and my husband’s story is not mine to tell. All I can say about both is that we have, hopefully, learned some things. We’re certainly older and wiser.)

Fighting matters. All couples have fights. How you resolve them can make all the difference.

As if on cue, something happened this morning that illustrates perfectly the way my husband and I fight. I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but we literally argued over text *while he was in a zoom meeting with his entire team and the boss*. Bad timing, much?

I’ve asked his permission to share it, of course, and he agreed.

What you need to know first is that we had a nasty oil spill in our kitchen. Sesame oil, to be exact, and it was accidentally (of course) tipped over in the great “shove the groceries in the cupboard” debacle of yesterday. Who knows which one of us did it. Doesn’t even matter, does it? <<< Must stop here. I am a blamer from way back. It matters. I’m working on it. I digress.

My husband wakes up before me and goes downstairs to get our coffee. He notices the circle of… what is that?… oil. Ugh. He does his best to clean it up and figure out where it came from. Oddly, the culprit, the sesame oil bottle, was tightly closed but laying on its side, dripping oil. So, there ya go.

When he brings me my coffee – and yes, he brings it to me EVERY morning (huge sign of a loving husband, wouldn’t you say?) – and tells me what’s happened. He says he’ll do a proper clean-up later in the day.

I think about it for two seconds and realize that … um… I am not working and he IS… so… *I* should be the one to clean it up.

I go downstairs to do it.

He is on a zoom meeting with his colleagues, which he is every Tuesday morning. He turns to say he’s on mute and not worry about making noise.

I go about the cleaning and I’m almost done when I notice that the countertop I’ve been putting the bags and stuff on has oil on it. He probably did the same thing himself when he was cleaning earlier, I thought. What I said was: “Oh my God. You didn’t clean the counter after you put oily things on it?” To be honest, I was getting more irritated by the second. Thank God he was on mute.

“I don’t know. It’s probably my fault,” he says. This doubly annoys me because it’s not a “fault” thing… or is it? See above.

Then, a moment later, he says, “No, I’m talking to Sheryl.”

“What? Thanks for telling me I was on mute,” I say before stomping upstairs, sweaty and annoyed. Very passive-aggressive of me, if I don’t say so myself, I mean in hindsight.

I text him, he texts back… and this is how it goes:

  • Me:
    Because you were not on mute *as you told me you were* we both now look bad. I’m so not happy!
  • Hubby:
    I was on mute. [The boss] saw my lips moving. I only unmuted to answer her
  • Me:
    And you couldn’t have told me that while I was still down there and complained about not being on mute. Omg! Seriously. Way to make things worse.
  • Hubby:
    That’s bullshit
    I only unmuted to answer and muted again right away
  • Me:
    That’s not what I wrote. I wish you would’ve told me you were muted when I complained that [the boss] and everyone heard me. I get it [now]. You [were] on mute the whole entire time.
    Also, I should’ve waited until your meeting was over to clean that. Sorry about that!
    Covid problems.
  • Hubby:
    I know. I’m sorry
  • Me:
  • Hubby:
    Thank you for all your work.❤️
  • Me:
    No problem. You’re already working hard and didn’t need another job on top of that.

And so ended our argument. And that folks, is about as bad as it gets. And I – for one – am incredibly thankful, coming from a first marriage fraught with screaming. Just ask the kids. Ugh.

In the days of 24/7 Covid living… yeah, we’re bound to have some bumps. I’d say we’ve done fairly well.

All the couples in this book have done fairly well, too… and you will see some familiar scenarios play out as they answer the questions (the same questions were asked of each couple with room to elaborate, of course), along with learning about how they met and married, and of course their secrets for success.

As an added bonus, Thomas and Donahue share lots about their lives and marriage through the pages, as well, anchoring the whole book. And “anchor” is a good word choice because remember how I said the book is heavy? I meant literally. It’s honestly HUGE (600 pages, give or take).

As you can tell, I love it. I recommend it. I’m sending it to a newly married couple I know. I’ll let Amazon figure out how to mail the behemoth. <<< And I mean that in the nicest way!

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