Marriage in the Palisades

Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Author and Palisadian Wendy Fierstein Offers a Local Perspective

By WENDY FIERSTEIN | Contributing Writer

Big mansions and sports cars are not uncommon in this part of the city. Many people have achieved their material goals.

But do material things bring lasting contentment? I haven’t read any study in the field of science or psychology that says material gains bring lasting happiness.

So what does? Good relationships. Specifically, a good, strong and stable marriage—now that’s an achievement!

Somehow, when you’re alone in a big mansion, it seems empty. There’s the kids—but kids grow up and make a life of their own, they move out, maybe even to a foreign country.

I like to use a garden as a metaphor: A garden requires attention, flowers need nourishment and water so that they have the energy to burst forth their beauty. If weeds are allowed to grow, they eventually take over the garden and the once beautiful flowers die.

In the same way, a marriage depends on how much of ourselves we put into it. We invest so much attention and energy into accumulating material things, building successful careers, finding the best schools for our kids and so on.

If we made the same kind of effort in our marriages, they would thrive. The extraordinarily high divorce rate would reverse itself.

No matter how good we think our marriage is, it could always use a facelift. A relationship is not a static thing, it’s constantly changing.

Unless we are paying attention, our marriage may take the wrong fork in the road and before we realize it, we have grown apart, the passion just isn’t there as it used to be.

Many years ago, my husband and I met this couple, the wife was adorned in sparkling, eye-catching diamonds. She asked me what I did for a living, I told her, “I’m a mediator for couples, I love helping couples recreate their marriage.”

The wife proclaimed, “We’ve been married for 50 years, we could teach you a thing or two.” I thought to myself, I’m looking forward to learning.

During the time we spent with them, I observed a lot of bickering, in fact, endless bickering. Everyone around them felt bad, it was not a pretty picture.

Ultimately, she was right—she did teach me a thing or two. I learned that diamonds, expensive cars and big mansions don’t make people happy… maybe for a moment, but certainly not for a lifetime. Material things provide comfort, but comfort in misery.

A newlywed told me that her parents were divorced, but her husband’s grandparents were kind, respectful and loving toward each other, and that’s what she wanted in her marriage. She was looking forward to learning from her new family.

A strong, peaceful and harmonious marriage, that’s supportive and reciprocal is my idea of lasting contentment. This kind of marriage is not only an amazing achievement—it’s a legacy, one that can be passed down from one generation to the next. Our parents are our role models for better or for worse.

That’s what it’s really all about—paying attention to the most important relationship you will ever have. Everything else (except for the kids, of course) is secondary.

Contributed by Wendy Fierstein, author of the book “You Can Live Happily Married for a Lifetime.” Wendy and her husband have been living in Pacific Palisades since 1988.

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