Question of the week, #5

Images-2You say your husband is your best
friend. What is the key to a successful relationship and what advice do
you give your daughters?

This question caught my eye.  Every relationship is different and what worked for us doesn't necessarily work for everybody.  Fred and I have been together for 32 years.  That is a long time. 

There are a few key things.  We have always had the same goals.  Recently when we moved back to our apartment after the flood I was going through a few books that I have made Fred in college.  We were both driven in the same way even back then.  We wanted to take over the world.  Kind of funny reading something today that I wrote at 19 so many years later.  We also enjoyed the same things.  We love to ski, we love to travel, we love staying on top of the music scene and we love concrete.  We have both willingly given up control of certain things and are happy to have the other one steer the ship in those areas yet we make sure that we keep each other up to date on the direction we are going.  We agree on how to raise our children.  All these things have made the road pretty easy. 

There is one thing that I really do believe has been key is our mutual respect for each others abilities.  I stayed home a few different times with the kids and that was a group decision but Fred always knew that if I wanted to, I could play at his level.  That is probably one of the keys to our partnership. He saw me as his equal on every level. 

So what would my advice be to my daughters?  Find someone who challenges you intellectually and has complete respect for everything you bring to the party.  Be with someone who enjoys the same kind of things you like.  Find a real partner not a micro-manager.  Make sure he doesn't mind doing laundry, changing diapers and washing the dishes.  Relationships take work but it shouldn't be that hard.  If it takes that much effort then it might not be the right one.  Your partner should be your best friend. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. Ivan Pope

    “… we love concrete.” I love concrete! I just never hear anyone say that. Respect.

    1. Gotham Gal


  2. William Mougayar

    Yes…Sharing the same values and having a wide common ground is very key to any relationship. It makes that glue really strong.

  3. falicon

    I absolutely love, and agree with, your last paragraph.

    1. SallyBroom

      Totally agree

    2. Donna Brewington White

      I loved that paragraph too — the entire thing, but that in particular. Thanks for turning me onto this post, Kevin.

      1. falicon

        No prob. Gothamgal did all the hard work…I just piggybacked as usual by pointing out the good stuff…but I get the chance so rarely, that I’ll still take the credit. Thanks! πŸ˜‰

  4. Lisa Mogull

    Great advice to anyone of any age. So glad you answered this question — I’ve always admired the strength of your marriage.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      It is marvelous to behold.

  5. Christine

    Great advice. May you have (at least) 32 more happy years together.

  6. Dan Wick

    Loving these posts on Friday. Great, succinct advice.

  7. Guest

    It’s so nice to see this type of advice from someone who has been successful at a relationship over a long period of time. It’s getting harder to find examples of couples that are happy and have been together for a long time. I usually see one or the other, but not both.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      “I usually see one or the other, but not both.” That is so sad, but true.BTW, I think I saw that you have a new business? But alongside Closet Groupie, right?

      1. Guest

        Donna! Sorry I’m just getting to this. I’m actually in your neighborhood right now on the fundraising trail. I wanted to meet you, so hopefully next time I’m here. Can you dm me your email? Would love to catch up. πŸ™‚

  8. pointsnfigures

    Great post. I have the same type of relationship with @LakefrntLiberal 25 yrs of marriage, and two daughters. So far my daughters have been “good pickers”. But one thing I wonder about is if my relationship with my wife would have survived in 1983 if I would have had access to all the social media that is there today. It changes things-but I don’t exactly know how yet. Some people really get hung up on the whole stimulus/response aspect of social media, texting etc. Since I am old, I recall just talking on a corded phone. My wife and I were apart for a year, and couldn’t really afford to go back and forth and actually had to write letters, with stamps. No email then.

  9. LE

    We have both willingly given up control of certain things and are happy to have the other one steer the ship in those areas yet we make sure that we keep each other up to date on the direction we are going. I could write a book on this. But since I have to earn money to pay for date night with my wife I will be brief.Key takeaways: Mentally stable (don’t take that for granted) and reasonable (see below) given the typical conflicts that arise over time.Observing relationships for about the same amount of time as you have (relationships being the ones that I have been in that failed, as well as the one that worked, and giving advice to so many people, and hearing stories) you can’t even begin to realize how lucky you are that you got it right on what appears to be the first try (even though you probably dated others you didn’t do it while money was that important or certainly when kids were involved) and additionally you were both different religions (right?)I think what most unmarried young people don’t realize, that is ones that are in what they think are “good” relationships, is that it is hard to know how your partner is until you get into the real world. The real world is not living in NYC (or elsewhere) with someone and having fun, free time, and enough money to get by and no pressures or family problems. (Did you ever notice anecdotally how people get divorce after a tragedy?)Least important thing: whether you like the same music, movies, vacations, tv shows etc. If a person is “reasonable” and they love you they will be willing to at least try and tolerate your different likes. In fact they will want to do that. That of course doesn’t mean 100% of the time. It means an amount of time enough to feel your feelings are important.In a sense, before you get to this world (making major decisions) you are in a state where you don’t get a chance to work through the conflicts that you will have once you have something to fight about. I would rather have someone stable that is willing to discuss things and hear my point of view (and exhibits those qualities) then someone who is like me.Although there are many people who should never have married the people they did, there are many more people who thought they were doing the right thing and then once married, or once they had children, things changed. Before they had children they were in what I called a “Starbucks relationship”. This is named after people that I met at Starbucks. We all had a great time and they all seemed really reasonable and nice. Why? Because we had nothing to fight or disagree over that mattered. All we did was sit on saturday morning and talk about things in a nice way, jacked up on caffeine to boot. We made no demands on the others, and they made no demands on us. (I guess you could also lump “gothamgal” and “avc” friends into this same state of being. If we disagree with one another we all do so politely because there really isn’t that much at stake so it’s fairly easy to brush off any disagreements.)”If it takes that much effort then it might not be the right one. “One of the hobbies my wife and I share is reading the NYT wedding write ups where I opine over the couples that I think have relationships that will last and those that will fail.”Find someone who challenges you intellectually and has complete respect for everything you bring to the party.”Although I guess it is fairly common for women to seek out men who have intellect, my casual observation is that there are many men who aren’t really looking for that and actually avoid it. I dated a physician for 5 years and now I am married to a (different) physician. I’ve had men tell me flat out that they could never be married to a “smart” woman who earns a decent living. That they want to control a woman and things like that. I know of men who don’t want their wife to work and don’t want their wife to have economic power or control. I’ve seen plenty of cases of that behavior. On jdate I also confirmed this with the amount of professional women who appeared to be having a harder time than others w/o careers and degrees.”Make sure he doesn’t mind doing laundry, changing diapers and washing the dishes.”I have to disagree with you here. When I was single I did the dishes and the laundry and had no problem doing that as well as making myself dinner. (I also clean the toilet at my office.) I did diapers when I was married the first time. And the bottle for the non breast fed child. My wife now though (the physician) insists on making me dinner and doing my laundry and does the dishes as well. She’s totally happy doing that even though I never asked for it, don’t expect it etc. I think the division of labor should be on practical grounds. I take care of some things and she takes care of other things. I don’t expect her to do things that I can efficiently do and she does things that make her feel good. And I do likewise. For some reason she seems to like doing all those things. (I do get a fair amount of take out though since she works strange hours.)I think making a blanket statement and assigning such a high value to “dishes” and “laundry” vs. anything else implies that there is something negative about those activities which there is not. I think as long as both parties are spending relatively equal times contributing then everything is fine. (My wife didn’t lift a finger for our joint tax return nor would I ask her to do that. I would hate to add up the hours that I’ve spent on things that simply wouldn’t make sense for her to do that are simple and fun for me to do).

    1. Gotham Gal

      Equal contribution is key, periodAlso I believe in the institution of marriage. There are bumps and sometimes it isn’t meant to be but work at it before packing it in. I am not so sure this generation is as committed to that

      1. LE

        Re: “but work at it before packing it in”Request a minute ago from a mortgage company with reference to a simple refi on a mortgage (3.25 rate), as a result of a divorce that occurred in 2001:”Copy of divorce decree and property settlement agreement specifying details of child support obligation (all pages req’d please)”This is in addition to all the other hurdles that exist now in borrowing or refinancing…like this:”Written explanation (e-mail is fine) for inquiry appearing on your credit report from 8/21 and 8/31 from RELS CRDT(I believe this is Wells Fargo)”Imagine that. You need to provide a written explanation of an inquiry on your credit report.I got through divorce in about 7 months. I know of several people that took 3 to 5 years to settle with their ex.So in addition to “work at it” it’s extremely important to avoid the wrong situation as well (trite advice but I’m available for a consult for the finer points!)

  10. ShanaC

    This has been on my mind a lot recently. How similar is similar enough? How do you know when meeting someone the likelyhood they will be your best friend?This might be why I hate dating so much.

    1. LE

      “How do you know when meeting someone the likelyhood they will be your best friend?”Relationships are determined not by the positives but by how people deal and react to the negatives. Most people concentrate on the positives way to much – assigning weight to things that ultimately won’t matter.In the end you have to feel good with the person’s personality and demeanor. Things like looks and health will change over time.To me the best way to vet someone that I have found has been having a basic idea that you have a physical attraction (always important obviously) and then having a conversation with them over the phone. The conversation should be one of those “don’t want it to end” type deals. Same with the first date. The person should be interested in what you have to say, and you in what they have to say. Then you can move to the second date. And it should be clear that they will make the relationship a priority. None of this “sorry I’m not going to get rid of my dog” or “sorry I go to my mom’s every Sunday for dinner that’s non negotiable” or “sorry I’m not moving out of NYC” type stuff. Absolutes are a dead giveaway that you will not be a priority and you are not special enough. Not because they are bad or you are bad but because you aren’t special enough to make them make you a priority. So how is it going to work later then? It won’t. My wife is jewish, but I told her that I would have married her even if she wasn’t jewish I felt that strongly about her (and I was raised as you were about that stuff). (Truth be told though I wouldn’t have married her if she wasn’t jewish and was strong into her religion because that would have caused to many problems..)After you clear that hurdle there are a billion other things to isolate keeping in mind and being careful not to assign extra points to something that won’t matter in the scheme of things “I’m turned on by opera singers” etc. “He comes from California”. “She went to XYZ University”.I find all of this fascinating and love to talk about it. Personally I think a good start is to find a man that is interested in gossip and hearing your “bubba mynsas” and actually likes and is sensitive enough to appreciate a woman’s point of view.

      1. ShanaC

        I’ve cleared that hurdle. I’m the “billion other things to isolate” category before you close off the relationship from other people but are still seeing each other regularly. Aka we’re in the “do we make this public and a big deal” category. (ps, yes, since I know you are going to ask, he is Jewish)

    2. Donna Brewington White

      You may not know when you meet someone, but you definitely should know before you marry him.I never liked dating much, either. I so relate. But it is strange how when I met my husband it was so different from any of the other relationships that I didn’t trust it at first. I shared with my best friend — “This is so strange, I don’t have that crazy feeling. It is so peaceful.” I thought maybe it meant I wasn’t truly interested. She responded “Duh, that is what a healthy relationship feels like.” Ha!

  11. ellen

    These are the rational answers to a long and happy marriage, but try telling these things to a young daughter. They think with their heart not with their mind. What they look for in a spouse at 20 is not the same at 30.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Looking for a spouse at 20! Yikes!Mine is 15 and not quite dating. But I realize that the discussions that we are beginning to have about boys and dating are setting the stage for discussions about love and marriage.

  12. Rohan

    Question for next week – Joanne. What money management advice would you have for Jessica, Emily and Josh once they graduate and start earning their own cash? (Philosophy on investing, saving etc etc)

    1. Gotham Gal

      put it in the “question of the week” box and i will answer.

    2. fredwilson

      that’s a great question Rohan. i am looking forward to her answer. i know it will be a good one.

      1. Rohan

        Thanks Fred. Born out of personal need.. hehe

    3. pointsnfigures is a good way to start!

    4. ShanaC

      You should include debt management in this. because student debt just sucks.

      1. Gotham Gal

        it does suck. not sure the answer on that one. you have to know exactly what your monthly nut is on that and calculate that into your budget.

        1. Rohan

          Yeah. I don’t know on that one @ShanaC:disqusThe way I see it.. the best you can do is manage the money you make. If you do it well enough, you will hopefully be able to work through your debt. :-)I’ve practically written off most of my 20s to pay off my debts as a student. Unless you have (really rich) parents willing to fund you, I guess that’s a price you pay for (hopefully) good education.

  13. Wavelengths

    Thank you for sharing your experience. We need examples of strong, enduring relationships between two peers who have been through as many years and as many different circumstances as I’m sure you have been through. You and Fred are very fortunate to have found each other.Reluctantly I feel I have to give an alternate perspective on a statement made by another commenter elsewhere. I know this person has found another person to share life with, and I applaud his and her happiness. I don’t mean to challenge the overall thoughtful and sage advice, but I take issue with this part: ‘None of this “sorry I’m not going to get rid of my dog” …’When getting to know a person who might become significant in your life, I feel it is important to look at examples of that person’s commitment and experience in other relationships, and not just romantic ones. Is the person appropriately nurturing, selfless, and in it for the long haul? How do they treat their children who may have a different custodial parent? How do they treat their dog?About 15 years ago I unexpectedly became a dog owner when I made the “mistake” of taking my 9-yo daughter to visit a neighbor’s puppies. A little black and white puppy toddled out of the litter, headed across the living room toward us, and claimed us. A single parent, I didn’t have time or money to take on another responsibility. But I realized that I couldn’t afford NOT to take on a creature that would add another dimension to our lives.Yes, she was inconvenient. She had to be fed, watered and walked. She couldn’t be left alone with a couple of full bowls and a litter box that would have served a kitty over a weekend. She required attention and consideration each and every day. But the ROI on what we invested in her was huge.A herd dog, she developed a personality that, for me, validated those outrageous stories that “Lassie” portrayed on TV back in the day. I won’t bore you with my own stories, but she developed an uncanny ability to anticipate what we would do next and be prepared to keep us company. She behaved as if it was her mission in life to watch over us.My daughter and I shared her until my daughter moved out and got her “own” dog, observing that it wouldn’t be fair for her to take my companion. And over the subsequent years, my furry friend saw me through unspeakable challenges as I went through personal hardship in the changing economy, and then dealt with health challenges. She was always there, looking at me as if to ask what else she could do to help.After 13 1/2 years, my faithful friend developed a fast-growing tumor on her spine. One year ago today I held my friend in my arms as I said goodbye.I honor my commitments. I love generously. I will be there faithfully, regardless of ticks, worms, tummy upsets, and unexplained middle-of-the-night barking. I have this example in my life.To tell the another side of this same issue, years ago I went to a fairy-tale wedding, tall handsome groom, tiny bride, both so much in love. On their honeymoon the groom informed his bride that she had to get rid of her dog or the marriage was over. She gave away her companion of six years to keep her marriage. That marked the start of a long downhill slide where the husband continued to demonstrate his heartlessness, toward her, and later toward their son. Those of us who knew her shook our heads as we said, “She should have kept the dog.” After 30 long, unhappy years, they finally divorced.

    1. Gotham Gal

      It makes me sad that people divorce after that many years. My guess is they were not happy for a very long time. They stayed together for the wrong reasons

      1. Wavelengths

        Without question. They probably did not even know how to know each other, and the first major issue revealed the chasm that they could never bridge. Tragic for all.

    2. LE

      Reluctantly I feel I have to give an alternate perspective on a statement made by another commenter elsewhere. I know this person has found another person to share life with, and I applaud his and her happiness. I don’t mean to challenge the overall thoughtful and sage advice, but I take issue with this part: ‘None of this “sorry I’m not going to get rid of my dog” …’Let me clear a few things up. The “won’t get rid of the dog” is not a reference to dogs but merely a placeholder for a behavior that prevents seeing other persons perspective or being absolute. I also gave other examples. The idea wasn’t to say that those things aren’t important. Just that I don’t like “deal breakers” (that said of course I probably have my own. Smoking comes to mind as one.)At the risk of sounding like “I have many african american friends” let me state my opinion of dogs since apparently some may have gotten the impression that I am not a dog lover and that is why I used that particular example.When I was a child we bought a golden retriever. As a kid nothing was more important to me than that dog. Maybe a half year after we got the dog my parents decided to get rid of it. I was heartbroken especially when I was told later by my mom that the dog was fighting with the other dogs at the farm that he had been sold to. (For the record I remember to this day all the things about Golden’s and hip problems etc.). Later I managed to manipulate a counselor into believing that one of the reasons I was unhappy back when I was 12 or something was that my parents had gotten rid of the dog. So he told them to buy me another dog and they did (but not a golden.) It was so easy to do that that I used the same general technique later to get out of going to hebrew high school (I was upset one day when my parents didn’t buy McDonalds so when they asked me why I was upset I decided to seize upon the opportunity for something more important than food. And it worked. Never let compassion and a willing ear go to waste I guess is the lesson.)Anyway, later, when I got engaged for the first time my fiance and I purchased a golden retriever. We called the dog “Mac” after the Macintosh (this was 1985). Later we called off the engagement and she got to keep the dog as part of our “settlement” (we had bought a house together even though we weren’t married).I later married someone else and we didn’t own a dog. (We got divorced after 12 years)The woman I am with now that I married had a cat. I was allergic to cats when I met her. We started dating and naturally I was worried about that allergy but we were only dating. As it happens for some reason I didn’t have any problem with the cat I don’t have an allergy to it (I still do to others though). Now I want to get a cat or a dog but she doesn’t want any other pets. So I have to go along with that. My wife is not a big pet person although she did have a cat.The particular example that came to mind (and why I used the dog example) was a woman who I met online that I never even went out with. She told me by phone that her dog sleeps in her bed and that is something that will always happen. I just didn’t like that I don’t think a large german shepard belongs in your bed.As far as the story which you related “On their honeymoon the groom informed his bride that she had to get rid of her dog or the marriage was over” – something sounds missing from that story. Hard to believe that someone would out of the blue pop that issue just like that. Possible of course but you have to wonder the complete back story on that one. The details matter and I wonder what the full details were.

      1. Wavelengths

        I think you and I agree that the fundamental issue here is not about pets per se.I will make a slight mis-quote of Gotham Gal: “our mutual respect for each other …”Respect is a key issue, and I think we agree that arbitrary issues of non-negotiability suggest that the respect for the relationship and for the other person is somewhat lacking.At the example wedding, I sat on the groom’s side of the church. I had known him longer than the bride. But I’d never been in any position to see some of the attitudes that might have been obvious warning signs, if the bride had known how to read them.I remember that those of us who knew them both were shocked that the groom would pull this out AFTER the wedding. Her dog was a “little” dog, perhaps not “manly” enough. Maybe he was insecure in ways that had never been apparent. Maybe he waited until after the wedding because he knew he was “safely married” and she’d never choose to divorce him, so he could get what he wanted. Yes, the groom really make his demand in just that way. Sadly, all of this points to two people who did not share the same type of respect and desire to be mutually nurturing.Regarding your description of the woman on the phone who insisted, before you’d even met, that her german shepherd had a priority place in her bed — I’d suggest that she might have needed to work that out with her own personal counselor long before that became something to discuss in front of a marriage counselor. ;-)But when do you give ultimate weight to the other person’s demand/request? How about, for example, “Honey, my father lost the family fortune by trying to be in business. You have to quit being self-employed and get a Real Job or our marriage won’t work.” Is that a valid request? would the sacrifice to the entrepreneur be too great?While I was composing my comment last night, I got a call from my daughter. She is 23 and coming up on the one-year anniversary of her marriage to her “best friend.” She and her now-husband met when they were 19 and 20. She had a pit bull girl and he had a Rottweiler boy. One of the great trials early in their relationship was the destructiveness of the 100-lb Rotty. Seemed like at least twice a week I was hearing that the couch leg had been chewed off, or the mattress destroyed or the TV bashed in. A giant dog in a tiny apt with two people who had day jobs. Daughter confessed last night that she hated putting up with Rotty, but she knew her bf loved him. Ultimately they reached a mutual decision that for their sanity and the best future for the dog, they would give him to a friend with a large fenced-in backyard and a proven affection for Rotty. They later acquired a puppy who brought a new set of trials, but my daughter pointed out that she and her husband have grown through working on these responsibilities together.When I made my comment about one’s behavior relative to a pet being a reflection of how that person might be in relationship, I was also thinking about my daughter and her husband. Patient, tenacious, responsible, caring, and when something really is not working out, they mutually look for a better solution.Lest you think I’m talking about Barbie and Ken here, my daughter spent her teen years as the epitome of a Goth with a collection of escapades that narrowly skirted disaster, and I wondered if we both would survive. Her husband was born in Brazil, grew up in Connecticut, he practices capueira, a Brazilian martial art and street dance, and they are a heckuva match for each other. Last spring he decided that for a month before they went to visit his family, he would only talk to her in Portuguese, so she’d be ready to communicate with his visiting grandparents. She took it in good humor and is proud of her new vocabulary.I am heartened by anyone who finds a good mate and enjoys the heck out of the relationship. Who knows what the future holds for any of us, but I take it as a good sign that my kid says she loves her husband more now than a year ago, and she never thought that was possible.Thanks, LE, for coming back to enlarge the conversation. I didn’t mean to make this an argument, and perhaps by expanding this, we are serving GG’s blog by adding our own greater insights.

  14. Donna Brewington White

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. Really resonated with “Find a real partner not a micro-manager.” However, I am struck by the sentence: “Relationships take work but it shouldn’t be that hard.” I think this depends on what you bring to the relationship– for some of us marriage would be hard work regardless of the partner. But, in general, that’s a worthwhile thought and one that hope my daughter will employ — and sons too for that matter.BTW, I just found this post thanks to a comment by @falicon:disqus in the comment thread today. Very timely given some of the discussions I’m having with my daughter. She’s 15-1/2 and on the threshold of dating (although boys have been on the radar for a few years now). I find that many of our discussions about boys and dating are precursors to discussions we will be having in the not too distant future about marriage. Sharing this post with her.Adding your Friday questions to my “must read” list and reading the other questions I’ve missed. Love this feature.

    1. falicon

      That falicon guy is everywhere isn’t he? Make sure you warn your daughter about guys like him too! πŸ™‚