When I was in grade school, I loved to take long drives with my dad. We’d just enjoy one another’s company and look at the scenery, listening to music on the car radio. Out of the blue one day, I had an epiphany when my dad asked, “Have you ever noticed that all the songs are about love?”
Well, no, I hadn’t. I must have been about eight or nine, and more into more rough-and-tumble fare like Stan Jones’ “[Ghost] Riders in the Sky,” or Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons.”
We never discussed the phenomenon again, but I began to listen and take note. Indeed, in 1948–49 there was a veritable tsunami of tunes like “I Don’t See Me in Your Eyes Anymore,” “The Tennessee Waltz,” “You Can’t Be True, Dear,” “Jealous Heart,” and master tear-wringer Johnny Ray’s “Broken Hearted” and “The Little White Cloud that Cried.”
Love was in the air, and on the air, but it didn’t seem to be making the singers or their subjects very happy. I didn’t dwell on this phenomenon often, however, I was busy growing up, going to junior and then high school, where everyone was broken-hearted over something and wrestling with the eternal teenaged angst. And so it goes on today, for it seems the course of true love still seldom does run smooth. But what has this to do with our current celebration of weddings?
Well, everything, in a way. Like millions of others worldwide, I recently viewed the last episode of Downton Abbey, watching the finale of its six stellar seasons twice. As I read The Guardian’s review that gave a raised eyebrow to Julian Fellowes’ pairings off and “American happy endings” to his sprawling cast of characters, my dad’s comment came back to me; something clicked, and I offer, gratis, this advice to couples planning their nuptials.
Fellowes used a simple device to mend years of familial and below-stairs bickering, venom, and division: he had his characters communicate. Warring siblings, estranged lovers, haughty butlers, they one and all opened up, embracing “with malice towards none” as their standard.
You do the same. Listen. Talk. Listen. You might not be as word perfect as Lord Fellowes, but you’ll be way ahead of the game.