By J. Michael Willard

Willard oil painting: “The Confrontation”

Having tied the knot three times over a half century with the vow “until death do us part” solemnly spoken on each festive occasion, I am obviously the marrying kind.

On reflection, though, I feel the operative phrase is as grim as it is unrealistic and rosy. Still, I honor the institution, sprinting down the aisle with eyes wide-shut.

There are those who will read this and place me in the same category as one Donald Trump, though with much less hair and fewer bankruptcies.

My albatrosses are memories — mostly good, some bad, some in-between — a Goldilocks mixture of thought.

It is nearly a coin toss whether a majority of us can lay claim to such matrimonial longevity as expressed by the vow. Most first marriages are mugged in the thirty-something years.

The latest statistics of folks who enter into marriage — all for what they promise is the duration — fall short 45 per cent of the time, never reaching a “happily ever after” goal.

Something apparently goes amiss between the “I do’s” and the “who the hell gets the cocker spaniel”, not to mention the sometimes nuclear confrontations over kids.

As for me, I hate divorce. I still haven’t gotten over Jen and Brad and that has been oh so long ago.

I confess there have been times in my life I have been a lovable rogue, or at least pretended to be. There have also been times I have been wronged, but perhaps deserved it.

The above paragraph I submit as a legal caveat of contrition, though I don’t wear a shroud of regret.

By the way, second and third marriages are even more snake-bitten with 60 per cent for Number 2, and 73 per cent for Number 3 crashing and burning.

This means I better watch my “p’s” and “q’s”, and pay special attention to International Woman’s Day (Mar. 8 for the uninformed) which is about the second most important holiday for Ukrainians.

Speaking of which, I am 14 years into a blissful marriage with Princess Olga, a Ukrainian. The matchup represents a long tale, and I refer you to my book “Optimistic Alien” for the back story. It is more syrupy than salacious.

The good news is that while many sources refer to an ancient 1980s statistic — that 50 per cent of all married couples divorce — the rate of breaking up is actually declining.

Olga and I have a three decade plus age difference (I was 60 and she not yet 30 when we met), which is, experts say, a toxic spread; or, in Socratic terms, sort of matrimonial hemlock.

But, under blue skies and a headwind, the age span hasn’t seemed to make an iota of difference. Commonality and caring bridge the gap. The rough spots last an eye flutter.

There are also other factors in divorce, of course, but like the biblical 10 Commandments, some are more relevant than the lesser ones at the bottom of those tablets.

Not surprising, injudicious use of Facebook is a culprit. One in three divorces are launched due to online affairs, and social media is the top source of lawyers for evidence of funny business.

But, back to the tape as verified by a half dozen or so sources, though not by the US Government because they, for whatever reason, ceased keeping figures on such in 1996.

While statistics suggest my survival at marriage is about that of a tightrope walker on peyote seeds, I gain some solace in facts which suggest I am, if not normal, also not a sociopath.

In the last hour you’ve been grazing Facebook, there were 100 divorces in America. We are approaching a million (876,000) divorces every year.

The average length of a first marriage that ends in divorce is eight years. However, there have been those that didn’t make it through a week, such as Brittney Spears’ Las Vegas romp.

In this regard, I get a blue ribbon.

My first marriage — to a lady I regard as a saint — was for nearly 30 years. My second vow lasted a decade, and I rarely speak about it.

My third? Well, my fervent hope is that I have that final curtain call before the marriage does. Here, I hope the “till death do us part” is the storyline.

All I know is that with this journey — and that is where I am told the joy resides — it continues to be a great ride, and I cherish four daughters and a son (and five grandkids) from my marriages.

And for sure, I dispute vehemently the saying by a friend in Charleston, West Virginia: “We have automobile plates here which say, ‘Honk If You Married Willard’.”

That is, as the American President would say, “Fake news”

(J. Michael Willard is the author of 17 books, and a partner in Willard Global Strategies. His seventh novel, “Sweet Sofia and the Serial Killer” is due out summer of 2019)

I am a novelist, painter, songwriter and essayist but my day job is elevating the profile of authors, entertainers and business executives.