A week before my daughter Sara got married last year, she asked if I’d say a few words at her wedding about what makes for a good marriage. Sara knew that I’d been married to her stepmother, Norma, for nearly thirty years; that I’d been married twice before; that I’d been married most of my adult life. Surely I had some wisdom to share.

A wise man, I thought, knows better than to open his big mouth about how happily married he is. But I didn’t want to disappoint my daughter, so I agreed. The following night Norma and I took Sara and her husband-to-be out to dinner, and, with my assignment in mind, I reflected aloud on how far Norma and I had come. I said we no longer argued as much about issues we’d once found contentious. Norma agreed with me ­— up to a point. Then she offered an observation of her own. A clarification, you might say. A slight correction. After we got home, Norma and I had the worst argument we’d had in years. We barely talked to each other for the next two days.