"I have learned that only two things are necessary to keep one's wife happy. First, let her think she's having her own way. And second, let her have it." -- Lyndon B. Johnson.

"Let us now set forth one of the fundamental truths about marriage: The wife is in charge." -- Bill Cosby

A week before my wedding anniversary I get an email letting me know my international dream date is here; minutes later, another email arrives letting me know that I had just won an international lottery. Am I a lucky man or what? Little did they know that I won the all important love lottery years ago, when I met my international dream date at a bus stop in Los Angeles and then married her.

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When I took the Husband Oath on my wedding day at a park in Marina De Rey, Calif., and then again three weeks later during a wedding celebration for the Irish relatives, in Killiney Castle in Dublin, I pledged among other things, to do my best to live harmoniously; to pay attention to what my wife has to say, except during major sporting events; to regularly attempt to find the laundry hamper; and to remember most birthdays, anniversaries and Valentines' Days.

I also pledged that if I'm really lost, I'll admit it, and ask directions; that I'll try not to turn my wife into my mother; I'll make a concerted effort to grow up and not act like a baby when I am sick, which would be hard. I know I will never be as mature as my wife; on the maturity scale, women are an average of seven years more mature than men.

Finally and most importantly, I pledged to love my wife unconditionally.

A true test of my unconditional love occurs when my wife surprises me with her "we need to talk" dictum, as she recently did while I was relaxing listening to Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue." Marriages, like life, are made up of rituals and habits and my wife and I have our crazy little verbal tango moments; besides "we need to talk," there's the infamous misinterpreted word or phrase argument.

We need to talk? My brain screams out "uh-oh" and I immediately go from relaxation mode to stall mode, trying to suss out what "we need to talk" about. I had read the "Zen of Wife Maintenance" from cover to cover but there was nothing to help me out here.

"Sure, after `All Blues.'"

"Barry, this can't wait."

"You know, this seems like a good time to spring this on you. We're going to go back to San Francisco for a week! Ever since our last vacation you've said how you wished we could have stayed a week longer, so I went online and found some great deals. I wanted it to be a surprise but I needed to know when you can get time off."

The icy stare tells me this isn't flying.

"I can't believe you did that!"

"San Francisco?, I haven't booked anything yet."

"No, you know."

I have no idea what she is talking about and I'm in the incredibly uncomfortable position of trying to guess what "that" is without revealing other "thats" that she might not know about. Guessing wrong is not an option.

I'm about to call time out so I can regroup and call Dr. Phil to get some love smart advice, when I thought of the old reverse psychology ploy.

"Hon, you can't believe I did that, well I can't believe you said that."

"Said that I can't believe you did that -- are you nuts?"

"No, you know."

Suddenly, my wife's icy stare turns into a mischievous smile.

"I found the red roses and Godiva truffles hidden away on the back porch. That is so sweet of you. I need a hug."

The cornerstone of our marriage is that we are best friends and truly enjoy hanging out with each other. We fight like crazy at times and we drive each other crazy on occasion, but we never stay mad for long; we also make it a point to always fight fair, hold no grudges and never bring up the past during an argument. We let it go and move on.

Ringo Starr said, "There have been bad times, but I don't care how bad it gets as long as it's me and her (wife Barbara Bach)." Amen.

Barry Halpin can be reached at barryhalpin@aol.com