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My wife and I have been married for 37 years. We've gone on date nights every single week.

Craig Stoltz   

My wife and I have been married for 37 years. We've gone on date nights every single week.
  • My wife Pam and I have been married for 37 years.
  • For us, the best gift we can give each other is attention, so we go on dates every week.

Malcolm Gladwell said that to become an expert in something, you have to do it for 10,000 hours.

My wife Pam and I have been married for 37 years. That's 13,404 days, or 321,696 hours. Even after accounting for the vast number of hours spent sleeping, working, pursuing solo interests, zoning out on TV, and doom-scrolling, I'm still well above the 10,000-hour threshold. And while Gladwell's theory has been debunked, that's a lot of time spent together.

At 67, I've spent more time of my life with her than without her. So, I feel like I am an expert in being married for this long.

Following, then, is my expert advice. Strictly speaking, it applies only to being married to Pam, but I hope it is sufficiently generalizable to other situations.

Always go on a date night

When Pam and I look at our credit card bills, we always say something like, "Wow, did we actually spend that much on dinners last month?" The answer is inevitably yes, we did. But date night is the best investment we can make in our marriage. It's like couples therapy but with drinks and appetizers.

We run through our days, our week, and all associated topics: jobs, our kids, their kids, our spotty commitments to physical fitness, the latest X-rays, the shower needing caulk, how we probably don't need another drink, and so forth. We stay current and connected.

The greatest marriage gift isn't jewelry or even an airline upgrade. It's attention. Date night is mutual attention. We both look forward to Thursday nights. I wonder how many hours we've spent on date night? Maybe I'm an expert in eating at restaurants, too.

Get a financial advisor

I know, it's expensive. But no matter how much marriage practice you have, money has a way of setting fire to the matrimonial dumpster.

For a long time, we used a financial advisor who had no formal training and seemed to have no clue what he was doing. The guy was a fool. Which is to say, our advisor was me. As retirement approached and big decisions loomed, Pam and I started facing off over financial decisions. Always a perceptive one, she questioned the precision of my cryptic spreadsheets and enigmatic yellow stickies, and the accuracy of my actuarial assumptions, which I got from Google. Intense bickering occurred. It was time to bring in professional help.

The greatest benefit hasn't been to our finances — did I mention a financial advisor is expensive? — but to our marriage. We now have a rational, professionally vetted source of financial truth. He's got us on a reasonable glide path to retirement and beyond. That's a huge relief. We still have disagreements, but at least we have trusted numbers to hang our decisions on.

Anticipate death

We talk about death. I know this sounds morbid, but if we beat the actuarial estimates, Pam and I have about 20 summers left. Forty birthdays, 20 for each of us. Maybe a 100 trips away if my lumbar fusion holds and you count long weekends. A hundred plays and shows. Forty get-togethers with my old college friends. Twenty anniversaries.

These calculations don't make me sad. They fix the mind. They make me want to ensure each of those occasions is happy and spent with the right people. When family obligations intrude on my grand plans to get away and do something fun with Pam, I may grouse, but I usually accept the family option. And when I strap on my CPAP at night, I feel like I made the right decision.

When people say my wife and I are "lucky" to have stayed married for 37 years, I'm reminded of a saying attributed to Arnold Palmer: "The more I practice, the luckier I get." At 67, I've practiced being married to Pam quite a bit. But yes, I'm also a lucky man.


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