[wedded bliss]
For Better, For Worse
52 fights later, life together is terrific
by Kelly Knufken

Peter Dazeley/zefa/Corbis

Honeymoon. Romance. Bliss. Adjustment.

Yep, the first year of marriage doesn’t always match one’s imagination. But what if your spouse wrote a tell-all about your first year? More specifically, what if she chronicled the 52 fights — about issues from locking doors to more intimate moments — that accompanied it?

Lawyer Matt Samuel (mostly) took it all in stride when his wife, Jennifer Jeanne Patterson, wrote a book, titled “52 Fights,” about their own marriage’s early days.

For Samuel, the nerves hit about a month before it was published, when he realized his life would be laid bare. While the book leans toward the female audience, Samuel found that it was the couple’s male friends who were fighting to read the tome before their wives. “Of course, they gave me a bad time on some parts, but now I’m actually thrilled that it’s out there,” he says. “It’ll be good to show our grandkids someday.”

As could be expected, he remembered some things differently than Patterson. “I would say, ’I didn’t do that’ or ’I didn’t say it that way, did I?’” Alas, he says, “She’s pretty astute. She usually had it right.”

Does he want the last word on any of those fights she laid out? Wisely, he declines. Still, “I have joked that I should have written a rebuttal.”

Now married four years, they’ve settled into life in the Twin Cities region with their nearly-2-year-old son, Max.

Samuel, a 1994 USD School of Law graduate, represents technology companies involved in patent disputes as a litigator at Fish & Richardson.

As much as he enjoys practicing law, he finds the long hours are tougher with a family. From the beginning, Patterson would encourage him to spend more time working on their marriage. “She’s fabulous that way. She puts the heat on me to get home. She’s so right.”

Samuel wasn’t always so sure about a law career. He’d gotten his undergraduate engineering degree at North Dakota State University. Three weeks into law school at USD, “I was thinking, ’I have no business being here. I’m an engineer.” But he adjusted, made lifelong friends at USD and has a career he loves.

It puts him up against an array of lawyers who continually impress him with the quality of their work and character. “There are a lot of good people doing really good work — creative work to get a good result for everyone,” he says. “It’s not perfect, but we have a pretty good system for resolving disputes.”

And on the personal side, the book helped him see that marriages, too, need a system to work through a couple’s differences. “I think it was a very helpful process for our marriage,” he says. “When we were actually going through it before she wrote the book, I was like, ’Why do we have to go through this or talk about that?’ Now that she wrote it, I see the value in that.”