It's a dream marriage - we can't stay awake

The brain defines the mysteries of the heart.

The brain defines the mysteries of the heart. (Credit: AP)

Jerry Zezima

Newsday staffer Jerry Zezima Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, a Newsday assistant editor who writes a nationally

bio | email

I don't want to bore you with tales of my marital exploits, although I don't see why this column should be different from any other one, but my wife, Sue, and I are anything but boring.

In 31 years of wedded bliss, we have led the most exciting lives that two people who haven't done much can possibly lead. This includes puttering around the house, sending out for pizza and, the high point of any boomer couple's thrill-packed day, trying to stay awake for the 11 o'clock news.

So when I read a recent study on avoiding boredom in marriage, I fell asleep in a rocking chair in front of the TV and woke up when the news was over. Then I woke up Sue, who was snoozing in an easy chair, and we both went to bed.

The next morning, I went to see the co-author of the study, Arthur Aron, a professor of psychology at Stony Brook University.

For Aron, who worked on the study with Irene Tsapelas of Stony Brook and Terri Orbuch of the University of Michigan, this was his latest scientific triumph. His previous study showed that brain activity in longtime spouses who are still in love is the same as the brain activity in MRIs of newly romantic couples.

"You could take an MRI of my brain," I told Aron, "but you probably wouldn't find any activity."

"That would mean you are still out of your head in love with your wife," he suggested.

It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, that Aron is brilliant. He proved it in the boredom study, which was published in Psychological Science, by finding that "couples need to make their lives together more exciting."

Aron knows what he's talking about because he has been married for 35 years to Elaine Aron, a psychotherapist who is the author of several books, including "The Highly Sensitive Person."

"I'm not bored in my marriage because my wife and I like to go out on little dates," said Aron. "We enjoy doing different things, like finding new places to eat."

"My wife and I do, too," I said.

"Maybe," Aron replied, "my wife and I will run into you and your wife some Saturday night."

If they do, it will probably be at the burger joint that Sue and I recently found. It's actually a neighborhood bar in Patchogue, a few miles from another bar in Port Jefferson that we also frequent.

Finding a new place to have delicious burgers and cold beer has added considerable excitement to our marriage. Just the thought of deciding whether to have fried onions or bacon as toppings, or whether to go with Cheddar or Swiss cheese, is enough to make us giddy with the spark of first love. Then again, it could be the beer.

Still, like many empty nesters, Sue and I have discovered that it's the little things that prevent boredom from creeping into a marriage. That's because, after putting both of our daughters through college and marrying one of them off, we don't have enough money left for the big things.

True, we went to Barbados last year for our 30th anniversary, the first time we had been away together, just the two of us, to a place with postcards and palm trees, since our honeymoon in Hawaii. We vowed to go back this year but ended up staying home and going to a local beach that did not, I regret to say, have postcards or palm trees, although it did have a snack bar.

Now Sue and I spend our exciting Saturday nights either at home watching rented movies and trying to stay awake to the end or going out on little dates for burgers and beer. And if we should happen to run into Arthur and Elaine Aron, the first round is on them.

Jerry Zezima is the author of the forthcoming humor book "Leave It to Boomer: A Look at Life, Love and Parenthood by the Very Model of the Modern Middle-Age Man." Read his blog at jerryzezima .blogspot.com