Recently, I received an email from a new bride. She asked me, "Why is marriage so hard? My husband and I love each other, but ever since the wedding, things have gone downhill. Is there anything we can do?" Not knowing the particulars of the "downhill" slide, I thought I'd answer this way……

A wise man once said, "Happy marriages are rare - like blackberries in the snow."

I've never tried to grow blackberries, but I imagine that they don't flourish in the cold weather - just like marriages don't do well when the atmosphere is chilly.

Before I write more, I must tell you that I am not an expert on anything - least of all marriage. In my "young and dumb" years, I learned some hard lessons and have tried to put those lessons to good use as I aged. The fact that my husband and I have been married for more than 30 years is evidence of my learning curve.

I used to watch "The Real Housewives of New York City" and enjoyed seeing Bethenny Frankel - an ambitious young woman with a sharp wit. As far as I was concerned, she was the star of that TV reality series. The other women paled in comparison.

When Bethenny met Jason Hoppy (a guy who grew up in Hazleton, PA), they seemed to hit it off right away. But, in my heart, I knew that their two worlds were going to collide. She was hell bent on "making it" and had an intense drive to succeed. Jason seemed like a nice man, but he didn't have the same passion and intensity.

Of course, they got married and had a baby soon afterward. The viewing public watched as the two of them argued about everything from visiting Jason's parents to filming Bethenny's therapy sessions.

After only three years of marriage, Bethenny and Jason are divorcing. Was it money? Heck, no - they have millions. Was it sex? Heck, no - on that front they were compatible. Was it jealousy? Yes - in part. Jason wasn't happy that his wife made millions. He felt emasculated. Was it family? Probably, part of their disagreement was about Jason's parents. They wanted to see their son and his wife and daughter as often as possible. Bethenny thought differently.

I was sad to hear about the divorce. I am especially sad for Bryn - the little daughter who will now be shuttled between two homes and watch her parents grow old without each other.

Blackberries can be a fragile fruit. They take some care and tender treatment to thrive. Of course, there are wild blackberries that seem to do fine in the middle of the woods. As with blackberries, most marriages are in need of care.

Unless the two married people are living isolated and free in the woods, without too much interference from anyone, married life means navigating the slings and arrows of real life. The everyday world invades your marriage daily - if you let it.

I have seen some good marriages. In most of them, the husband and wife are friends. They enjoy each other's company and look forward to spending time together. They treat each other with respect. You never hear the husband call his wife a "fat cow" or hear the wife berating her spouse as a "lazy bum."

Married partners who are friends do not purposely hurt each other. They strive for a peaceful home that envelops them with comfort and love. Their home and their marriage are like an oasis in a turbulent world.

I would like to think that most marriages are happy. After all, the two people chose each other out of all the other people in the world. There must have been something special that drew them to each other. Sometimes it helps to remember why you married in the first place.

Marriages might be made in heaven, but they have to be lived here on earth. Just as blackberries need to be cultivated, so does wedded bliss.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM [1] OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.