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Words you can love by

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VIEWPOINT

By RALPH HARDIN

Evening Times Editor W ell, if Valentine’s Day is supposed to be all about being with the ones you love, this past Sunday’s weather certainly made it easier with the ice and cold. All bundled up with no place to go, it’s better to have a snuggle buddy.

Valentine’s Day is always doubly special for me and my lovely wife. We don’t go all crazy with the gifts or anything, but it does always come the day after our Wedding Anniversary. This year was our 28th anniversary and our 29th Valentine’s Day. In fact, I asked her to “go with me” on Valentine’s Day (is that still a thing?) in 1992 and we were married a year later on the 13th of February in 1993. Somehow, she’s put up with me ever since.

It wasn’t love at first sight … at least not for her. For me, I can say in all honesty, it was at least “smitten at first sight.” I don’t know how many people can honestly remember the first time they set eyes on their future spouse, but I do, I do, I really, really do.

It was July of 1990, and I was working at Kroger (the old one that’s a Sears, Family Dollar, Chinese food place now) and she and her mom and sister came in to stock up on groceries, having just moved to town. I, being a teenage boy, noticed them walk in and was able to plan my next few bagging exploits so that I’d casually find myself their “bag boy.”

I did all my usual goofy teenage boy “cool” stuff while placing all their stuff in paper and plastic sacks and then proceeded to continue to be “cool” while hauling their overstuffed shopping cart out to their van. I even made like a “runway guy” as they left waving my arms and giving them directions. Again, pretty “cool” stuff.

The kicker, of course, is that as they were leaving, my future wife completely embarrassed by my antics (but surely thinking about how “cool” they were), looked at her mother, who then reassured her, “Don’t worry, you’ll probably never see that boy again.”

Ha, ha, ha, haaaa!

So, yeah, I don’t know if I can call myself an expert on marriage. Sure, 28 years is a long time, but I will not sit here and lie and say I’ve always gotten it right. In fact, there have been times that I’ve screwed up badly enough that I’m kind of surprised she’s still here. It’s a blessing that she and I have been able to work it out, because I don’t think I could have done any better all those years ago and I certainly wouldn’t want to have to try the mid-40s dating scene with all the “cool” things I’ve got going for me now.

I will say this, though … I have definitely figured some things out in those 28 years. I’ve picked up a few nuggets of wisdom that have made things work. And while, again, I’m no expert here are a few of those nuggets: “Don’t go to bed angry” is one of those thing everyone says, and I can confirm through first-hand trial and error that the saying is completely true. I can assure you that it is better to stay up until 3 a.m., even on a work night, hashing out whatever it is that’s got you cross, than it is to stew overnight and either pretend it’s over or pick up the fight.

Listen, listen, listen. This might be the toughest lesson I’ve had to learn. I’m so smart (just ask me) that any time my wife would come to me with an issue, I’d have all the answers she’d need (snap) just like that. The only thing is, she wasn’t looking for answers. She was just looking for someone to listen. As a side note to that, it might sound completely insignificant, but there is a definite difference between “You know what you should do?” and “You know what you could do?”

Be honest. OK, this was the hardest lesson I had to learn. There’s a reason Shakespeare opined, “What a wicked web we weave when we practice to deceive.” I assure you it’s true. And I don’t mean in a “Does this dress make me look fat?” sort of way. Go with your gut on that one. I mean being open and honest about everything from financial issues to emotional problems to what you do and don’t want him or her to find out. They always find out, I promise.

And lastly, just say what you want for dinner. I used to joke that if my wife and I ever got divorced, it would be over the question, “Where do you want to go eat?” I don’t tell that joke anymore. Here’s a tip: Instead of “What do you want for dinner?” ask, “Hey, what about spaghetti for dinner?” or even better, “Hey, I was thinking about making spaghetti for dinner. Is that OK?” If your significant other has a preference, it’s on them to express it. If not, problem solved. If they offer an alternative, just go with that. Either way, no argument.

You can thank me later.

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