Hearts and flowers aside, here are a few basic words of wisdom from someone who knows

There are many ways to look at Asa and Dot Newsom’s milestone this month. The one that impresses me the most is that the day my parents brought me home from the hospital, the Newsoms already had been married 15 years.

So much for the collapse of marriage as an American institution.

“Well, I have to tell you, I never expected to be married for 60 years,” says Asa Newsom with a laugh. “I never thought about it at all. Who would have thought I’d still be alive in 60 years?”

This is the time of year when the self-help magazines and the TV shows and even the daily newspapers are crammed with stories about love, romance and wooing that really cute guy in the other office. Since I happen to think that most of the people involved in those charades know as much about marriage as they know about rebuilding an automobile transmission, I thought I’d ask some real experts.

Like the Newsoms.

Asa, an obstetrician, used to deliver babies at Baylor, and the family has belonged to Wilshire Baptist Church for years. And Feb. 1, they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary (which, for the curious, is the diamond anniversary).

In 60 years, the Newsoms have had to endure not only the huge crises, but the little, annoying everyday things, the soggy hot dog buns and the why do you fold the towels this way when I do it the other way. Or, as the noted philosopher Mike Royko once put it: “It’s not going to be all kissy-face and patty-fingers and the nibbling of earlobes.”

Which Dot has learned first hand.

“Asa still does things that aggravate me,” she says with a smile, “and I’m sure I still might do one or two things that aggravate him. But after a while, that’s all trivia. They aren’t important, not life-changing events, and you learn to roll with the punches.”

Of course, since she and Asa don’t have a syndicated TV show with guests who seem to have the IQ of a couple of turnips, some people may not think that what the Newsoms have to say is important. But it sounds like pretty good advice to me:

• When you argue — and you’re going to argue — do it in private. “We always had those discussions in the privacy of our bedroom,” Dot says. “Our sons (three boys) didn’t see us argue.”

• Don’t be afraid to take some time off from your spouse. “We have a great marriage,” Dot says. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t need a little rest from him now and then. Or him from me.”

• Know what matters, and it isn’t work or success or a big house. “People get so focused on work, they neglect the other things,” Asa says. “You neglect your wife, you neglect your children. And then what happens?”

This, by the way, seems especially pertinent coming from a man whose job required him to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

• Be nice to your spouse, even if you only ask what they had for lunch that day. “You can express your love in so many ways,” Asa says. “You can take the dog out for her. You can wash the dishes for her.”

Having said all of this, Asa is well aware of the challenges modern couples face, the things that didn’t exist when he was a 20-year-old GI in 1944. Life is more complicated today, which means there is more pressure, as well as incentive, to focus on everything but family. And, he says, as society has become more open, there is more opportunity to mess up. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth making the effort, because the results can be so terrific.

Which is probably the only thing Dr. Phil and I would agree on.

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