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Whats the secret of a long marriage? Well listen up

(Kelly is an editor for the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood.)

Now that I've been married for 39 years and 40 days, I'm thinking about calling myself an expert.

It's kind of like when somebody gets to be 100 years old, and the news people flock around and ask dopey questions, like, 'What's the secret of a long, happy life?'

And the old coot grabs hold of that 10 minutes of fame with a grip that won't quit and allows, quite importantly, 'Well, I think if I didn't have a snort of whiskey every night before I went to bed, I probably woulda died years ago.'

Staying married for most of your life is just about as mysterious. Some make it for a long time, some don't. OK, most don't.

Now, before we get too far along here, I need to give my usual disclaimer about the rules at our house for me talking about my wife in the newspaper. It's quite simple: I don't mention her by name, and she doesn't stab me in the middle of the night with a butcher knife.

You laugh, but it's worked so far. Now, where were we? Oh yeah.

I do not expect to use my special powers as a marriage know-it-all for personal gain. Like Superman and Spider-Man, my only intent is to serve mankind.

If somebody wants me to come on TV or talk radio or something, I'm here, and I'm ready to talk. And if my vast knowledge and amazing personal experience can be of use to the rest of you ordinary people, well, so much the better.

Let's take a few questions, just to get warmed up.

What's the secret of a long, happy marriage?

That's a good one. Glad you asked.

First of all, you have to get a partner who is so desirable you will do anything to keep her (or him). I learned many years ago that I was lucky to have the woman who agreed to marry me. In fact, it was a freakin' fluke. I don't know what she was thinking, but I jumped at the opportunity, and I've never regretted it.

When we married, she was an 18-year-old hotty, full of spunk and smart as a whip. I was a year older, but a total doofus. I had a driver's license and a job (thanks to the armed forces), but I really didn't know diddly-squat about anything useful, including how to use a checkbook, buy groceries or what you might consider important survival skills.

The result of that is I've lived the past 39 years in utter fear that this woman would leave me any minute. I'm not proud of it, but there you have it.

How do you make a woman happy?

Another good question, but I would never pretend to know the answer to that. I'm not sure it is possible to make anyone else happy. I certainly can't afford to buy her happiness, so I've had to be cunning and devious.

What I try to do is get her to laugh once in a while. I have an advantage in this respect. She actually thinks I'm funny. Ever since I told her she'd never have to worry about money because my dad invented underwear and I get a royalty whenever somebody puts some on, she has appreciated me. Not because of the potential riches, mind you. She just thinks I'm funny.

Is it true that you should never go to bed mad?

Maybe, I don't know. That's happened plenty of times at our house, I know. I tried getting around it by just not going to bed, but if I get anywhere near my favorite TV-watching chair, I'm going to fall asleep. I can't help it.

How important is it to apologize?

This is big. Really big. I pretty much expect to always apologize. In fact, I carry around a little card, which I pull out at critical times and read aloud to my spouse: 'I'm sorry I'm such an idiot. You were absolutely right, and I was wrong - just like always.'

Then, if I hang my head and look really stupid, she probably won't hit me with anything. Later, in another day or two, she usually starts treating me like nothing bad ever happened between us.

Of course, there's another nighttime ritual I like to credit with our marital longevity, and that's a snort of whiskey.