Jonathan Jackson: My 5 Truths About Marriage

Jonathan Jackson: My 5 Truths About Marriage
Jonathan Jackson.

By Jonathan Jackson

A few years ago I was out having a meal with my sweet daughter and she asked me: “How many girlfriends did you have before you met mommy?”

I almost dropped my glass.

I’ve come to love these little talks with my only daughter, Leah, the only girl of my three children.

The whole point of going out that day, like many others, was to build a relationship strong enough that she would feel comfortable asking me anything. And that’s just what she did.

“Let me tell you about love,” I answered. “Once you fall in love, you forget about the past.”

I met my wife, Marilyn, while in graduate school at Northwestern University.

Twenty years and three children later, asking her to marry is the smartest thing I’ve ever done. As the son of civil rights icon, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Jacqueline Lavinia Jackson, my siblings and I have lived a very public life. While Marilyn’s parents have been influential patrons of their New York community, theirs has been a decidedly private life.

Nothing about the public side of my life interested Marilyn from day one. She was always acutely interested in my hopes and dreams, and with her innate kindness and quiet confidence, she captured my heart.

Any married person with a few years under their belt will tell you it is hard work, and that’s true. And my advice to my daughter to forget about the past is part of that work. Here are more tips that have helped me over the years.

1. When you find the person you want to be with, it’s important to leave things in the past.

I observe and talk to people searching for a relationship quite frequently. Many of them carry a lot of psychological baggage they’re all too willing to share with potential partners. Not every experience is good, so I don’t understand why people seem intent on dragging the memory of those bad times into a new situation. Not everyone can handle the extra weight.

2. Be the first to forgive.

Someone has to be willing to say sorry first. Someone has to be willing to forgive first. Someone has to be willing to forget what the disagreement was all about. Misunderstandings do arise and disagreements do happen; you must have a general attitude that no one thing will be a deal-breaker.

3. Don’t go in for the kill.

You don’t have to have the last word, keep making your point or insist on being right. That’s what “the kill” is. You might be right but your relationship will be dead.

Jonathan Jackson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, singer Dionne Warwick, record producer and founder of Motown Records Berry Gordy and Chairman and CEO of the Los Angeles Sentinel Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. attend The 16th Annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit - Day 1 at The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

Jonathan Jackson his father, Civil Rights icon Rev. Jesse Jackson, singer Dionne Warwick, record producer and founder of Motown Records Berry Gordy and Chairman and CEO of the Los Angeles Sentinel Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. attend The 16th Annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit – Day 1 at The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

4. Keep it 100—give 100%.

I often hear people talk about how marriage is a 50/50 proposition.

This false notion plants seeds of resentment because, in truth, you’ve got to meet people where they are and be willing to grow with them. That means 50/50 might be a good formula — for divorce.

A better bet would be for each person to give 100%. There may be times your partner is sick or unhappy with their job or something else is on their mind; you’ve got to be all in all the time. On the days when I can do as many things as I do, like driving the children or making dinner or whatever, I just do my best because I feel as if she’s always done so much more than me.

I know she gives me her best, so those old traditional roles have no weight in our relationship.

5. Marriage is a verb.

The joy of marriage is your spouse loves you enough to give you the benefit of the doubt. Moreover, my wife has taught me that it isn’t what you say but how you say it. She’s helped me to communicate and understand that ultimately, marriage is a verb, like love.

It’s something you do.

Jonathan Jackson is on Facebook.
Event: We are thrilled that Jonathan will be a part of our 5th Annual relationship panel, He Says/She Says, at The Black Women’s Expo on Saturday, April 9, at 1 p.m. See you there!

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