What is the secret of a successful marriage?
If you said whiskey and a bullet to bite down on, go to the back of the line. You'll soon be joined by weepy-eyed men who answered "man cave," "separate houses" and "dead mothers-in-law."
Stephen King had a character in one of his books say that silence is the secret. The idea of talking about problems -- advocated by folks like Dr. Phil, who deals with dueling partners in one-hour increments before sending them back home with a copy of his latest self-help book with which to strike each other over the head -- usually leads to one or both parties saying the wrong thing, which risks further aggravation and estrangement. "Estrangement," as defined by Merriam-Webster's, is "the state or condition of sleeping on the couch or in the garage for two or more nights simultaneously."
I've found that compromise -- defined by some cynics as a situation where both parties lose -- is the best state of affairs for matrimonial bliss. My wife agrees, as long as she always wins the compromise.
We compromise a lot, especially when it comes to movie selection. In the past, we've had an agreement where she picks movies on any day of the week that ends with "y." This is because on our second date -- back in the time before surround sound and stadium seating, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth -- I took her to see "Texas Chainsaw Massacre III," which I find as life-affirming and beautiful as some people find "The Sound of Music." She's never let me forget it.
Because of this decades-old lapse in taste, I usually must wait until the movies I want to see come out on home video, where she sleeps or texts through them on the couch.
Lately, however, in a rare admission of compromise on her part, we've been taking turns, which is how I saw "Man of Steel," "Pacific Rim" and "Star Trek: Into Darkness" in theaters over the summer.
Her recent choices include "The Heat," "We're the Millers" and "The Internship," all of which were fairly good, except for "The Internship," which was so bad I barely remember seeing it. This rare admission of enjoyment is how these things go in our marriage. If I say I liked one of her choices, it suddenly becomes one of my choices, meaning she gets to pick the next one. I apply the same reasoning to the few selections of mine that she admits are bearable, which aren't many.
Oddly enough, just as some longtime couples start to resemble one another, our tastes in movies are starting to merge. How else to explain that "Mud," a movie starring Matthew McConaughey, one of my wife's favorite actors (especially when he appears without a shirt, which seems to be a contractual requirement), was my choice, while "White House Down," a big, dumb action flick starring Channing Tatum about terrorists blowing up the White House and the Capitol building, was hers.
Could we be heading toward a time when she selects titles like "Nightmare on Elm Street Part XXVII" and I'm agitating for "Matilda" or "Confessions of a Shopaholic"?
Doubtful. She drew a line in the sand and said no to "The Lone Ranger" this summer, and she's already said that I'll be watching "Thor: The Dark World" by my lonesome. The only compromise in these cases will be whether going to the movies solo counts as my "turn," meaning she gets to pick the next one.
I think I know the answer, and while I'd like to argue the case, in this situation, again, Stephen King is right and Dr. Phil is wrong.
Chris Schillig is an Alliance area educator and journalist. Contact him at email@example.com or twitter.com/cschillig