Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Marriage Gene

I recently read an article in the New York Times in which research about what it takes to have a happy marriage was detailed. The article posed the question “is there a fidelity gene” as well as “what makes a happy marriage”? The research is seemingly inconclusive, but I do know that a) I am happily married and b) according to the test done in this article, I shouldn’t be, based on my answers. (It was something to do with filling in the blanks in words and of course, I come up with the one that says I have a flirting gene. So what? So does my husband, apparently, who gave the exact same answers that I did.)

Oh, well.

I’ve been married long enough and have taken enough Cosmo quizzes to know not to put too much stock in the results of magazine or newspaper questionnaires. Just this morning, I took a test in a favorite magazine to see if I was left-brained or right-brained when it came to organization. According to the results, I am decidedly left-brained and should have the most organized house on the planet as a result. But just because I say that I like a place for everything and everything in its place, that doesn’t mean that I’m successful on the follow-through. Case in point: as I write this, I’m surrounded by fourteen manuscripts, about thirty pairs of shoes, two empty tape dispensers, and three half-empty cans of hardened paint. Does that sound like a left-brained mind to you?

But back to the happy marriage research. I decided to do my own, decidedly unscientific research into what it takes to have a happy marriage and surveyed some of my girlfriends who are in longstanding, happy unions. What makes a happy marriage? was the question. I told them, they couldn’t say “chardonnay,” because that’s already been taken.

Some of their responses:

“Separate vacations?” (I loved the question mark at the end, because apparently this friend was undecided as to whether or not a) she could say this, b) it was true, or c) both a and b.)

“Find a man who’s honest.” (This from a friend who says her husband will go back to a store to return 50 cents if he has received it in error. Sounds like a keeper. And my separated-at-birth twin.)

“Learn the art of communication.” (Friend who says that her husband, like many men, is unemotional to the point of being “Spock-like.” She has learned to temper her emotions and he has learned to become more sensitive.)

“Compromise…know when to give in…leave the ego at the door. We’re in this together and sometimes you need to give in.” (As far as I’m concerned, that works in theory, as long as he’s the one doing the compromising…I KID!)

“Keep the funny in a marriage not just by doing “fun” things but by keeping a sense of humor and by acting silly sometimes.” (Friend who reported this said it works with kids and pets, too. I haven’t found that to be true, but I’ll keep trying.)

Besides “chardonnay,” I got nuthin’. But I will say that marrying the easiest person in the world to live with (and I’m not talking about me here) definitely helps. As does marrying someone who likes to do the chores you abhor, like emptying the dishwasher, or taking care of outside stuff. There is also the sharing values thing and the ability to watch the television program that the other thinks is scintillating (which is why my husband knows all of the names of the “Real Housewives of New York City” and even knows that one of them isn’t really a housewife).

I have parents who definitely enjoy each other’s company and that, in itself, was the best model for happy marriage I could have. Sure, sometimes my husband thinks he married a woman with the brain and viewing habits of a fifteen-year-old boy based on my movie choices (“Dude, Where’s My Car?” anyone?) but we still prefer each other’s company to anyone else’s. That, and the fact, that we both fail quizzes that test one’s compatibility and adaptability to marriage is really all we need, I guess.

Chime in, Stiletto faithful (and I use that term loosely if you failed the fidelity quiz) with your secrets to a happy relationship.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. The big secret is to be able to put up with a lot and keep your mouth shut instead of criticizing. You can't change him. Look for the good things in your guy. Mine drives me crazy sometimes, but he's my best friend always.


  2. It seems to me that determining whether or not you have a "fidelity gene" is yet another attempt to excuse the behaviour. We are supposedly adults. For pete's sake, be adult enough to own up to your own behaviour. You can make as many excuses as you like, but in the end you made the choice and you have to live the consequences. Frankly, I'm a little tired of people apologizing for their behaviour and then excusing it in the same breath.

  3. Zita,

    You won a download of PIECES OF THE STAR! See sidebar. Email us your email address and we'll send you the download.


    The Stiletto Gang

  4. I don't know that there is a "secret" I've been married for 39 almost 40 years to the same guy. We survived 20 plus years in the army and I even squeezed 3 years active duty in thanks to him lol. No special formula sort of a give and take vent to the 4 walls when he aggravates me and go on with what I was doing.

  5. Respect, going in both directions, and looking for and assuming the best and most, not the worst and least, of your husband or wife and yourself. And then toss on kindness, plain and true.

  6. Ed and I realized early on that our biggest struggle will always be how we communicate. I'm very emotional and he's very logical (yes, he's like Spock, which I think makes me Bones, who's always ranting something like, "Dammit, Jim, I'm not a robot!"). Anyway, Ed's forced to look at where I'm coming from on a gut-level while I have to understand that he's approaching everything from the rational POV. Thank goodness we don't argue a lot; but it's an interesting experience, having to settle down and see things from the other side. It's been good for us both, and it makes us a stronger unit for working it out together. Nice to talk about why couples succeed rather than fail! Thanks, Maggie!

  7. I don't have any secrets, but that we both value the same things and believe in marriage and strong family. There are times when it's tough, but it's worth it.

    I love that you say you and your husband prefer each other's company more than anyone else's, still.