No normal, well-adjusted adult would look to punk rock for insightful advice on maintaining a healthy marriage. Luckily, we’re neither well-adjusted nor adult, so we know that punk is the perfect medium through which to examine what can make or break a relationship. A lot of punk songwriters are extremely sensitive people who have spent plenty of time outside the margins seriously thinking about relationships (or lack thereof) between friends, families, lovers, and/or communities. When you strip away the volume, velocity and attitude and really listen close to some punk songs, you’ll hear powerful words of wisdom that we can all learn from. Now, let’s get started. ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR…
The Ramones “Listen To My Heart”
There are about a dozen Ramones songs that would be perfect for this article but we wanted to pick the simplest one and it doesn’t get much simpler than a two-minute song with only 24 words. Brilliantly concise, Listen to My Heart reminds us to be true to our instincts. And, as a husband, you should take the next step and be completely truthful with your wife about these instincts. When she understands how you feel intuitively, you’ll have a rock-solid relationship based on honesty—and the words of Joey Ramone. (On a side note, if you have kids, DO NOT beat on the brat with a baseball bat.)
Key Lyrics: “Next time, I’ll listen to my heart/Next time, well, I’ll be smart”
Black Flag “Rise Above”
You’re probably wondering what this hardcore anthem has to do with marriage. The answer? Absolutely nothing. It has much more to do with stabbing the giant thumb of oppression with a powerful middle finger. But…there’s still something in this Black Flag classic that can be applied to relationships. As a couple, you and your bride are going to face some serious challenges and if you want to overcome them, you’ll need to join forces and fight back as a team. Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough summon their inner-Rollins and get going.
Key Lyrics: “Rise above, we’re gonna rise above/We are tired of your abuse/Try to stop us, it’s no use”
The Replacements “Answering Machine”
The Replacements’ breakthrough album, “Let It Be,” found the band’s frontman, Paul Westerberg, transitioning from Midwest punk legend to a brilliantly thoughtful songwriter. It’s only fitting that the album ends with a blistering solo track that features Westerberg tearing open his heart. Digging into the pain of missed connections, Answering Machine is an anthem for what couples should avoid—especially in the age of cell phones and social media. It’s easy to send texts, check-in, and “heart” Instagram posts but it’s infinitely more important to put your devices away, look up and connect IRL.
Key Lyrics: “How do you say ‘goodnight’ to an answering machine?/How do you say ‘I’m lonely’ to an answering machine?”
Descendents “Get The Time”
Descendents’ vocalist and biochemist Milo Aukerman wrote this fan favorite about making time for your loved one and what could happen if you don’t. As with everything in life, just follow Milo’s lead. You don’t have to write a song or a chapbook of erotic poetry for your lady but you should always show her serious love and appreciation, no matter how busy things get.
Key Lyrics: “When I get the time/I’d like to sit down and write a little rhyme for you/Just a couple few/I‘d tell you what you mean to me/When I get the time”
Joy Division “Love Will Tear Us Apart”
Okay, we’re cheating a bit here, as most people consider Joy Division to be post-punk. But this song is too important to leave off the list. Probably one of the most profound and realistic songs to be written about a disintegrating marriage, Love Will Tear Us Apart perfectly illustrates what happens when couples start to veer away from one another. When your spouse becomes interested in something new (or seemingly weird), get involved and explore it with her. It could be small (yoga), medium (vegetarianism) or huge (that friendly cult down the street). The more you experience together, even if it’s a bad experience, the closer you’ll become.
Key Lyrics: “When routine bites hard and ambitions are low/and resentment rides high but emotions won’t grow/and we’re changing our ways, taking different roads/Then love, love will tear us apart again”
Hüsker Dü “I Apologize”
A wise man once said, “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” No one knew what he meant, but it sounded profound. He should have said, “divorce means you never said sorry.” Every marriage will have arguments and moments of anger. The important thing is how you recover from these episodes. Take a cue from the Hüskers and admit when you’re wrong. Learning to apologize is absolutely essential if you want a healthy relationship.
Key Lyrics: “Is it something I said when I lost my mind?/My temper too quick, makes me blind/I apologize, I apologize”