#14 Rules of Engagement

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When I was a kid, my girlfriends would talk about their future husbands: How to find one and get him to marry you. But most of them never looked beyond the tossing of the bouquet and the cutting of the cake.

Jess’s marriage lasted five years. Marla’s went to nine. But Cass crashed out after three. Only Leila and I have made it to double figures. She’s been with her partner for eleven years, and I’ve been with Jerry for sixteen. We celebrated our fourteenth wedding anniversary last December.

When people ask how our marriage has survived for so long, I smile and say love and understanding, which is true. What I don’t tell them about is the shitload of planning aforethought.

Any fool can get someone to marry them, but it takes a lot of nous to stay married. And I’m not talking about the little rules you make up about handling arguments and the importance of giving space, etc. That is short-term nonsense. I always look at the long game, and Leila is one of my success stories.

She is following the pattern I set with Jerry. We met at a millennium party and dated for two years before we moved in together. There followed two years of easy living before he proposed, and we spent the next two years planning the wedding.

On our second wedding anniversary, we decided to try for a child. Sam was born three years later, followed by Charley in 2013 and then Leo in 2016. I was aiming for two to three years between each child.

Our marriage hasn’t always been sweetness and light, but our ability to talk things through, to negotiate and compromise, has weathered the storms. And by sticking to my schedule, we’ve never fallen into monotony or become so bored that we’ve looked for excitement in other people’s beds.

I confess this post-fourteen world is proving to be more challenging than I expected. Leila suggested another baby. I know Jerry would like a girl to offset the holy terrors as he calls our boys. But I’m not convinced that’s the way to secure the next six years. If we make it to twenty, we should be set for life because I have the Empty Nest Timetable to keep our marriage alive after the children leave home.

In the meantime, I may have to go the 50 Shades route. It bridged the gap for my sister. She’s been married for nineteen years.