First up, a quick disclosure: I’m on my last marriage. Technically, it’s my second marriage, but since I don’t plan on ever walking down the aisle again under any circumstances, I’m confident that this will be my last one.

Second, allow me to dispel any notions that this will be some sordid story about exactly how and why my first marriage failed. It just did. These things happen. Boy meets girl, boy marries girl, it turns out girl has an unhealthy obsession with Madonna, and then it’s all downhill from there.

Irreconcilable differences.
Let me explain.

The importance of music in a marriage cannot be overstated, especially in today’s digital world, where the entire library of every song or album you’ve ever bought follows you around like the memory of that embarrassing thing that happened to you in middle school that likes to pop into your head every night, just when you’re trying - and failing - to fall asleep.

For the record, I’ve made plenty of questionable music choices in my life, mostly involving virtually every album I bought in my twenties. I’d like to chalk it up to my younger self being very mature about trying new things, but I know it was mostly because I was deeply stupid. Most twenty-somethings are. It’s part of their charm.

In my defense, I started my twenties in 1995 and ended them ten years later, as one does, in 2005. If you go back and look at the music that was coming out over those ten years, a lot of my choices weren’t choices at all. Bad music was everywhere. Fo dah summah. Fo dah summah.

I went through a grunge phase just like everyone else did in the ‘90s, and the less said about that, the better. I then entered a brief country phase while I was away at school in College Station, Texas, mostly because, in College Station, Texas, listening to any music that isn’t country music is generally considered to be the primary means by which the devil steals your immortal soul. I also went through what I thought was a punk rock phase, but it turned out that Chumbawamba album I bought was as close to punk as I’d ever get - and, even then, it was really only ever the one song, which wasn’t at all punk - something I realized as soon as I tried to listen to any other song on that album.

All this is to say that I am not above having once liked objectively bad music. We’re all victims of the bad tastes of our younger selves, so I make no apologies for having once bought the single to Aqua’s Barbie Girl. I was twenty-two, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

For my wife’s part, she used to love boy bands. Nobody’s perfect.

She still likes the boy bands she listened to when she was younger, but we all have our quirks. She typically switches them on when there’s housework to be done, which I’ve come to have a kind of Pavlovian response to whenever I hear N’Sync crank up on an early Saturday. Dishes and dusting are in my immediate future.

However, by and large, we both grew out of our terrible music phases, and can now agree on most songs. Sure, there are exceptions, like my ‘80s heavy metal she’ll always skip whenever it comes on Shuffle, or her weird infatuation with James Taylor, but we agree far more than we disagree when it comes to our playlists. We like good music where we find it, whether it’s classic rock, country, R& doesn’t matter. A good song is a good song, and we generally agree on what’s worth listening to.

This, I think, is essential for a lasting marriage. I didn’t have this in my first marriage, which is probably the root cause behind all the trouble I had with it. And, beause I made the mistake of signing up for iTunes Match before I purged my library after the divorce, it's still filled with the painful memories of Fergie and Miley Cyrus, Gwen Stefani and Coldplay...and Madonna.

So. Much. Madonna.

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It is now a commonly known fact that one of the most effective forms or “enhanced interrogation” performed at places like Abu Gharib involves playing terrible music on a continuous loop until someone cracks and reveals to you the location of the hidden revel base on Alderaan. While I don't suspect my ex-wife of intentional torture or anything, the end result was the same. I cracked.

Madonna’s entire discography of auditory horrors assaulted my delicate hearing holes on a daily basis. I'm intimately familiar with the full details of every trivial factoid about her life, and know the complete lyrics to far too many of her songs, which still haunt my dreams. To this day, I break out into a cold sweat whenever I hear the opening synths of Material Girl.

I’m not saying that our conflicting taste in music was the sole reason our marriage failed. We married young, and grew into different people. I’m just saying it didn’t help. It likely formed the cracks into which all the other ugly bits of a dysfunctional relationship flow and expand until the whole thing shatters.

In a healthy, lasting relationship, you should both be able to switch on a playlist without worry or concern for your partner - because, while there might be a few songs here or there that one of you doesn't like, the majority of your listening experience will be mutually enjoyable. If it's not - if you ever find yourself either routinely subjecting your partner to a constant stream of songs they hate, or you're the one being victimized by the dulcet tones of Josh Groban on a daily basis, you're setting yourself up for failure. Life has far too many natural pain points without adding bad music to the list.

With all that in mind, I leave you with the following piece of advice: before you enter into a serious relationship with anyone, skip prying into their text messages and emails, and go straight for their playlists. Whether or not you can endure a lifetime of listening to those songs will tell you everything you need to know about your future with that person.

And if you’re not ready to spend the rest of your life listening to Nelly Furtado, do yourself a favor and back out early. There’s no shame in it, and you’ll spare yourself a lot of heartache - and earaches - in the long run.

Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me
I think they’re okay…