Secret of a lasting marriage?

Love, honor, tenderness, patience, fidelity, respect, carrying out the recyclables without being asked and keeping to a minimum the times you say, “Gee, doesn’t Helen Mirren look terrific after all these years?”

Yes, certainly, all that for sure, but recently it hit me why so many of the couples we know have survived. Answer below. Stay put.

In our little circle we count two sets of Bills and Nancys married more than 50 years. Other steadfast originals include Paul and Tex, Bob and Judy, Sid and Barbara, Howard and Ilene, Walter and Kathy, Jim and Sherry, Anthony and Brigitte, and my in-laws, John and Alice, who win the longevity sweeps with 66 years of wedded bliss. A round of applause, and maybe a decent bottle of something bubbly, please, for John and Alice.

I haven’t checked with each but here’s a safe bet: None could use Instagram if their next pension check depended on it.

Without this vital Information Age expertise, how could we even consider divorce?

Unlike celebrity quarterback Tom Brady, who a couple of weeks ago announced on the Instagram social media platform that his wife, Gisele Bündchen, and he were calling it quits, our hapless gang would have to go old school — awkward conversations, dreary handwritten notes, or just staying out of sight in hopes no one made contact.

“Where’s Ginger?”

“She left.”

“For good?”

“Maybe longer.”

Who knows how many couples our age stayed together just because it was too difficult explaining why they weren’t? No one wants to spend lunch hour at Panera discussing irreconcilable differences and personality conflicts over bowls of autumn squash soup.

“Mary and I would have been Splitsville in 1958 if Instagram had been around.”

OK, there’s nothing funny about divorce, and Brady, I guess, was trying to get ahead of rumors that had been circulating. And let’s take note that Bundchen dispatched her own Instagram message confirming the marriage was ending after 13 years.

Husband and wife were polite, made no accusations and asked for privacy. “ … we wish only the best for each other as we pursue whatever new chapters in our lives that are yet to be written,” Brady said in his post.

Some might ask if announcing divorce to the multitudes tamps down the public’s appetite for juicy details, but that’s another matter. This is a performative culture. Millennials seem ever on parade. Fans of social media are inclined to reveal everything from dinner plans to divorce. Good or bad, that’s how it is. No turning back.

On the same day Brady, 45, announced he and Gisele, 42, were parting, news came that the vintage rocker, Jerry Lee Lewis, 87, died at home in Mississippi. With him was his wife, Judith, Lewis’ seventh.

Isn’t that something, I thought, a different kind of marriage story. The Bradys are unhitching and it’s a media event. Until death, Jerry Lee Lewis quietly remained an indefatigable — to say the least — ambassador for matrimony even though his first attempt at wedlock will be recalled forever as a disaster.

Lewis, you may remember, had chosen his 13-year-old cousin as a bride — a union so alarming that the rising superstar quickly fell to Earth and extravagant hopes of rivaling Elvis Presley tumbled, as well.

Before his abrupt decline, Lewis performed at Brooklyn Paramount — one of those grand 1950s Alan Freed rock ‘n’ roll shows. With some pals, I was in the whooping teenage crowd and, goodness gracious, great balls of fire, did Jerry Lee bring down the house.

You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain

Too much love drives a man insane

You broke my will

But what a thrill

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire!

By the end, he was hunched over the piano, mercilessly slamming the keys, notes exploding like skyrockets around the ornate theater. Kids danced in the aisles — nerves jolted, brains jarred loose, deliriously undone.

For many of us, marriage came not long after. Barely out of our teens, we of that ancient, unplugged generation headed early to the altar. Some — like my wife, Wink, and me — made it work. Other couples weren’t so lucky. Once upon a time, it was nobody’s business but their own.


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