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A customer told me of a fellow whose wife told him she was leaving him for another man. The fellow's response was, 'Is there anything I can do?' The wife replied, 'Sure, you can give me a couple of weeks to find the right guy?'

I laughed, as possibly you did, at an obvious joke. Then I began to ponder how Sherry and I have been able to stay married thirty-five years.

It is not because we were so mature when we married. I was not quite 20 and she was 18. Nor do I think we have stayed married because we are perfect individuals. I would be the first to tell you 'Sherry is not perfect. Just kidding!

I do believe that there are some things that we have done right. We have utilized some concepts that have helped make our relationship work. These might be of help if utilized by others.

Before I tell you what these concepts are, let me say I'm not a marriage counselor. That might be to your advantage! At least it might keep me from being like the guy who had seven rules for raising kids, and then he had seven kids and had no rules. While there is certainly a place for counseling, there is the danger that advice can be long on theory and short on practical experience. With this in mind, I'll mention a few things that have worked for us.

1. The first concept involves commitment. From the start, we have been committed to making our marriage work. It has never been considered a trial relationship. Even when there are problems, it is assumed we can work them out and that bailing out is not an option.

2. Respect is equally important. Respect means refraining from anything that would cause one's spouse to lose face or to be embarrassed (especially in public). But it also means doing those little things that make the other person feel important and appreciated.

3. Communication has also been a huge part of our marriage. We have always been able to talk it out and it has kept us together, even at times when life has been a roller coaster. Unfortunately, many husbands and wives have walked when they should have talked.

4. Finally, though many other things could be mentioned, independence must be added to the list of things that work in marriage. Even though spouses come to naturally depend on each other for many needs, healthy relationships provide for space 'often. In children, smother love has been known to bring on asthma. In marriage it causes resentment.

As I said at the outset, these are concepts that have worked for us. You could probably add to the list. What we might add to the list would likely be additional manifestations of one common quality 'absolute devotion to one's spouse.

BARBER-OSOPHY: The best advice in the world won't work if we won't.

Copyright 2004, Sumerlin Enterprises.

Terry L. Sumerlin, known as the Barber-osopher, is the author of "Barber-osophy," is a columnist for the San Antonio Business Journal and speaks nationally as a humorist/motivational speaker.

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