July 5, 2012

Six Magical Words—The Secret to a Successful Marriage


My wife and I celebrated our 43rd anniversary yesterday. That’s what all the fireworks were about. Because of that, I didn’t have time for a long post, so I threw something together about marriage.

What Makes a Marriage Work?

Since I’ve started writing, a lot of people have asked questions about my background. Once they find out I never finished high school the inevitable questions arise, but when they find out I was married at 17, and have been married to that same wonderful woman for 43 years, even more questions come up. We’ll forget about the education questions; I’ll tackle that another time. For today, let’s talk about marriage.

How Did It Start?

We were young. Let me correct that; we were babies. I had just turned 17, and my wife was soon to be 17. We didn’t think we were babies, but we were. My parents suggested we live at their house, and, even though there was no room, and no one had money, we knew the offer was genuine. But we declined. We were young and full of optimism, and the world would soon be ours. Or so we thought.

I had a summer job laboring for a masonry company and it paid $2.75 per hour. Surely that would be enough to live on. We moved into our apartment on July 1, 1969, and were married three days later on July 4th. We got married on the 4th so I didn’t miss any work, which meant didn’t miss any money.

The Honeymoon

The honeymoon was spent in the apartment. We assumed we’d have a weekend of pure bliss, by ourselves, but that fell apart before it started. At 8:00 in the morning—the morning after we were married—my mother stopped by with my little brother to visit. That night, my two older brothers stopped by to see how good my new bride cooked. I think somewhere during the middle of the day my other brother and sister came by also. My father, being the only sensible one, didn’t show up. I’m surprised my wife didn’t pack the bags then, but she proved to be a trooper and hung around a while.

A Good Base

We didn’t know it then, but that was the start of a long and hard road. We had no idea how hard it was going to be. The week before we “found out” we were getting married, we had been partying with friends. Our biggest problem was earning enough money to spend a week at the beach that summer. Little did we know it would be five years before we spent a weekend at the beach, and twenty years before we spent that entire week we dreamed of.

But we had a good base to work from. Both of our parents had been married a long time, and we were raised in big families where everyone helped one another. Work was not a “job,” to be avoided; it was something you did. Period!

Common Goals

The first part of the marriage was actually the easier part. We were bursting with energy, and optimism, and we were united in a common goal—take care of our kids. When the kids got to be teenagers, other troubles started.

As the years added up, and we grew in different ways, things got tougher. So what kept us together all those years? It would take a lot longer than I have here to get into all the details, but six words sum it up nicely. Six magical words.

I’m Sorry. I was a Jackass.

There. That’s it. Those words don’t sound magical? Believe me they are.
You can’t read them like a script from a low-budget movie; you’ve got to believe what you say. Got to truly believe it.

I’m sorry by itself doesn’t cut it.
Saying, “I was a jackass,” will likely gain you a huff and something akin to “you’re damn right you were.” But no forgiveness.

However, when you look deep into her/his eyes, with a damned convincing “I’m sorry,” and you combine that with “I was a jackass.” Well…that is just disarming.

Now, are you ready for this? The real secret is you both have to promise to do this every time you have a serious argument. You know what happens? The first one to say it, will draw a laugh from the other. I promise. Try it out. You won’t be disappointed.

I know this blog post was short, and not well prepared. If it disappointed you—I’m sorry. I was a jackass.



Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of
Murder Takes Time, and A Bullet For Carlos.
He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 41 loving “friends.”

5 Responses to “Six Magical Words—The Secret to a Successful Marriage”

  1. Hey Jim,

    My wife and I are a long way behind you. 16 years married this Aug 20th. So much of what you say resonates with me. I was a bit older when I got married. 24, but it was a young 24. Roisin had just turned 21.

    I’m here to say that you hit the target with every point except the last one. You never ask a lady to call herself a Jackass.

    You just gotta accept that she’s right 100% of the time. Why? Because mostly she is right – at least 90% of the time and you can forgive her for being wrong the other 10%.

    Congratulations on 43 years of married life – and respect. May you have many more of them ahead of you.

  2. You’re right about the jackass part, Edward. I find myself doing the mea culpas most of the time, but my dear wife has participated a few times too. She’s a prize.

  3. ha ha! Marriage/(life?) advice, in true Giacomo style.

    Good ending. Did make me laugh. 🙂

  4. All true words and great advice.

    We got married young too. 37 years this year. Where did the time go? 🙂

  5. I don’t know where it wen, Maria, but I’d like some of it back.

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