Sep. 17, 2013 at 6:48 PM ET
In "Love, Italian Style," Melissa Gorga from "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" shares tips and saucy secrets about maintaining a healthy, happy and hot marriage. Here's an excerpt.
Melissa Getting Married
For my twenty-fifth birthday, Joe treated me to a weekend at the Short Hills Hilton. Anyone from the tristate area knows the hotel. It’s located across from the JFK Parkway from the Short Hills Mall, the ultimate high-end shopping center in the area. As a girl who loves to shop, spending my quarter-life birthday weekend at a four-diamond rated luxury hotel, crawling distance from Neiman Marcus seemed like a fantastic idea! I knew Joe would want to spoil the hell out of me, and I was psyched to let him.
Since Joe had to work on Saturday, the plan was for me to go to Short Hills ahead of him and he’d find me later. When I checked in, the concierge told me that I had a full day beauty package reserved for me. It was Joe’s first gift. I practically swooned when I walked into Eforea, the Hilton’s salon. Candles, the smell of jasmine and cinnamon, warm lighting, the gentle gurgling of the indoor pool. Ahhh, heaven. I thought, This is going to be the best birthday ever. I changed into a soft thick white robe and sank gently into a pampering coma.
A rejuvenating facial. A revitalizing massage. A reinvigorationg scrub and a refreshing aromatherapy mani- pedi. Whatever “re” they had to offer, I got it. Did I want to get my hair and makeup done, too? they asked. I said, “Sure!” It was the first time I’d had a professional do my makeup, and I loved it.
Good thing! Who knew that getting my makeup done would become a part of my daily life for filming and performing?
Toward the end of my day of beauty, Joe called and said he was running a bit late. “I made reservations at the hotel’s steak house for dinner. When you’re done, go to the room and change. I’ll meet you at the restaurant at eight.”
Of course, I was a little bummed he was going to be late.
But, then again, it was hard to feel bad about anything after four straight hours of being rubbed and scrubbed and polished like a gem. Our reservation was in an hour or two. That still gave me time to get dressed pretty for Joe and my birthday dinner.
I went up to the room, opened the door, and there was Joe.
I was momentarily confused. Just ten minutes ago, he had said on the phone that he was only just leaving work. How did he get to Short Hills so fast?
I hadn’t put the pieces of the puzzle together yet.
Joe was on his knees. Candles everywhere. Long stem red roses filled the room. A bottle of champagne chilled in a silver bucket.
Holy s__t, I thought. The details added up to only one thing.
We’d been together for just five months at that point. I was in disbelief on one level, but I knew it made complete sense on another. Two seconds passed between my opening the door, seeing Joe and hearing what he had to say. The moment shines like crystal in my mind, and will last forever. Also, in my mental movie of this scene, I look really good. Thank you hair and makeup people!
“Will you marry me?” he asked.
Is this really happening? Yes, it was. It really was. I was getting engaged. I started giggling, crying, and laughing at the same time. I screamed, “Yes!” He got off his knee, gathered me up in his arms and kissed me.
He said, “I told you I’d put you on a pedestal. I meant it.”
I know some people think that putting a woman on a pedestal means a man doesn’t see her as a real human being. By rising her up, he’s idolizing her, turning her into a Goddess. Right? But you know what? I love being put on a pedestal by my man. Because I put him on one, too. I treat Joe like the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s easy to do, because it’s true. And, the truth is that Joe wouldn’t feel like a man if he couldn’t shower his woman with love and attention.
Oh, I forgot to mention the ring!
How could I forget that?
At some point after I accepted his proposal, he pulled a red velvet box out of his pocket, and opened it for me. A round diamond, over three carats, with trilliants on each side and set in platinum. Joe had picked it out himself. We’d never talked about rings or particular styles. I had never let on about what size and style of ring I wanted. He went with what he thought I’d like. Man, was he on target. I loved it.
I slipped it on my finger. Of course it fit perfectly. He’d measured my other rings for size. My man thinks of everything. The ring hasn’t come off since. Am I really getting married
I kept asking myself. I’m going to be a wife? The girlfriend-type girl was getting a big promotion. It really did take a while for it to sink in. While I was driving, I’d position my hand on the steering wheel so I could see it. I had to make sure it was still there.
I started calling around to find the perfect place for our wedding. Most places I liked were booked at least two years out. I could not believe it. Would we have to wait that long to get married? Then, the phone rang. It was Macaluso’s in Hawthorne, New Jersey. They had called me back to let me know that they had just had a cancellation. I could have the date, but it was soon, in August.
From engagement to wedding in five months? Oh, why not?
It was five months between our first date and engagement. We might as well make it a tradition. So, there I was. The date was set for August 20, 2004.
Some things are just meant to be. Macaluso’s is the perfect place for a big Italian wedding. It was famous for ridiculous amounts of food and the best cocktail hour in New Jersey. And, as you know, we don’t do things small. We invited 250 guests, basically, everyone we knew. People kept on asking me how I was going to plan a wedding in five months, but to be honest, everything just fell perfectly into place.
The one part of the wedding that I knew would be tough was the traditional first dance between the bride and her father.
We had planned it out, so that my brother-in-law, Joey P., my oldest sister Kim’s husband, was going to dance with me. I’ve known him since I was eight, and love him to death. He was like a brother to me, and I was grateful to have him in my life, and to stand in for my father that night. The band played “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey. It was a bittersweet dance. It was the only sad moment at the party, but good sad. I didn’t want to get married without acknowledging my father’s absence.
This is going to sound corny, so brace yourself: Our wedding song was “Endless Love,” sung by Mariah Carey. I know. I must have been going through a real Mariah phase. I still absolutely love that song. Whenever I hear it, it makes me smile.
Another fun part of the night: At midnight on August 21, it was Joe’s thirtieth birthday. I had a huge birthday cake made for him, and when the clock struck twelve, we all sang “Happy Birthday.” Everything was perfect.
Joe, the quintessential workaholic, only had five days for our honeymoon. He let me know that there was no way he could take off more time than that.
I understood and was very happy to do a quick trip to The Atlantis in the Bahamas. I will never forget the first time I called Joe, “My husband,” or when the woman at the check-in desk said, “Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Gorga.” I felt complete.
We returned from our honeymoon, and Joe immediately launched himself back into work. I had just graduated college and started looking for a teaching job. I had quit all my part-time jobs and was excited to start my teaching career. The first interview I went on, I got the job! My own classroom of third graders. I was thrilled. Although Joe was very proud of me, he sat me down at the kitchen table and said, “I want you to follow your dreams and take this job if you really want it. But, what if we want to go on vacation? I don’t want to have to ask your boss for permission for you to take days off. Come work at my office with me, so that we can build this business even bigger together.” Joe had a way with words. And, I knew he was right.
In the end, I was fine not taking the job. Something in my heart said it would be better for us and our future family if Joe and I put our hard-working efforts together.
But, in a blink of an eye, my whole life seemed so different.
Joe worked from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., I was only at the office from 9:00 to 5:00. I found myself spending a lot of time alone in a big house. With more time on my hands, I got to know my next-door neighbor, a sexy middle-aged Jewish lady. She was incredibly well put together. In her forties, she was thin as a rail, and her face was as shiny and tight as a twenty-five year old’s. She dressed beautifully; even to just hang out at home.
Hosting her newlywed neighbor for lunch was a good enough reason to break out her diamonds. I loved having lunch with her. It was hilarious. She would always want to know every intimate detail about our marriage.
Yes, I mean sex. She talked about sex like a porn director. All she did was make dirty jokes and innuendo, and go on and on about how crucial sex was to the health of a marriage. Her husband was a very lucky man!
As she walked me to the door that day, she said, “Melissa, I’m going to give you the only piece of advice you’ll ever need.”
Get monthly Botox shots? I thought.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“‘Be a lady in the parlor, a cook in the kitchen, and a puttana in the bedroom.’ Live by it, and you’ll have a happy husband, a happy marriage, and a happy life.”
It was hysterical. I started laughing. She laughed, too, but insisted, “It’s true! Make it your mantra.”
I mentioned it to Joe later that night. He made a little correction: “Be a lady on the streets, and a freak in the sheets.”
“What about ‘cook in the kitchen?’”
“Maybe that should have been my wedding vows, instead of the quote from Corinthians.” I said. Can you imagine? The priest saying, “And will you, Melissa, be a lady in the parlor, a cook in the kitchen, and a whore in the bedroom, ’til death do you part?” It would have definitely made our guests sit up in their chairs!
Well, I made that vow to Joe in private, and have done my best to uphold it. It hasn’t always been easy. But it’s worked out pretty well for us.
Nine years later, I’m proud to say that I’m the best lady, cook, and puttana I can be. Always room for improvement, though. I aspire to be an even better lady, cook, and puttana in the future. And so should you! (I’m kidding! But not really . . .)
THE FIVE- YEAR CONTRACT
My version of a pre-nup is a five-year contract, I wouldn’t bother with all the details about dividing up dollars. Mine would have only one clause: The couple can’t separate until five years are over, no matter how many fights they have, or how epic the power struggle between them. Based on my experience, it takes five cycles of four seasons to build the foundation of a marriage, meaning the solid structure of values and lifestyle decisions that have to be sorted out. You might think you and your new husband can just sit down with an iPad, and bang out your official policy on the biggies: money, parenting, house work, in- laws, vacations, control of the freakin’ remote. You could promise each other on day one that you will always, for example, spend equal time with each other’s families, or never bring work frustration home with you. But, on day 1,001 you’ll realize that all those plans you made on the iPad aren’t worth a dime. Until you live through the negotiations and bad patches, the hurt feelings and disappointments, you have no idea how the marriage operates. What winds up making you happy might be the exact opposite of what you thought. Or not. The point is, it takes trial and error to become a couple. You can talk about how you’re going to be until blue in the face. But how you’re “going to be” might be a far distance from how you actually are.
Life is messy. Marriage is messy. And it’s always going to be messy. But if you have half a decade of history backing you up, you learn how to clean up those messes faster and better.
There were many times, and many fights, when I wondered if I could stay with our marriage. I was not going to be a doormat. No way. Around the three-year mark, I stopped feeling defensive and was able to see my marriage from a new perspective.
My attitude shifted. By the five-year mark, Joe and I were totally in sync and incredible together, just like our horoscope said we would be. Of course, we still fight. But now, we know how to fight productively (more on that later) as well as how to smooth it over and make up. Now, we can rely on what we’ve learned about each other. We know what pushes each other’s buttons, what to say, what not to say. It took a full five years to get there. Every time a new issue pops up, we get tested all over again (like being on a reality TV show; more on that later, too). If a couple bails on the marriage before they give it a real, solid five-year effort, they wouldn’t know the profound happiness of having come out the other side and the deep love that comes from surviving hard times together. Granted, some couples should break up, especially in abusive or unfaithful unions. But if there’s real love, you can’t give up too quickly. In our culture, we want everything to be perfect right away. But in a marriage, it doesn’t work like that. It takes time to push past ideas and problems that limit the relationship. Those five years are a trial by fire. On the other side of the fire wall, there’s deeper understanding, love, and trust. In fact, I’d say that if you can make it to five years, you can probably make it to fifty and beyond.
Excerpted from LOVE ITALIAN STYLE by Melissa Gorga. Copyright © 2013 by Melissa Gorga. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.