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It was 31 years ago this coming Wednesday that Mark and I promised to love one another for better or for worse. Of course, we had absolutely no idea what those words would mean from a practical perspective. If I had to go back and give my younger self some words of wisdom about marriage, here are some thoughts I’d share:

  • Blending two family backgrounds is harder than you think it will be. Be ready to let go of “what was” and invest in “what is.”
  • We all bring emotional baggage into marriage. The sooner you unpack your bags, the healthier your relationship will be.
  • Counseling is a good thing.
  • In marriage, the little things are the big things. Look for little ways to say “I love you” every day.
  • Every couple is incompatible. You are two different people who have to learn how to blend your two personalities, temperaments and preferences into one relationship.
  • Marriage will either bring out the child in you or will grow you up. You decide.
  • There is no 50/50 in marriage. To the best of your ability, you both need to give 100 percent all the time.
  • You’ll probably need to forgive your spouse about a dozen times a day (and your spouse will have to do the same to you!) You’re two imperfect people trying to live together and often not getting it right.
  • Learn to give a full apology. Don’t stop at “I’m sorry.” Make sure it’s “I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me?”
  • Apologizing is a sign of strength, not of weakness. When both parties can admit when they’re wrong, the relationship strengthens.
  • Blaming has no place in a marriage.
  • Emotional intimacy is the step before physical intimacy. Being honest about your feelings, your struggles, your fears, your hopes and dreams will make things better in the bedroom.
  • Listen to understand, not to prepare a rebuttal.
  • Be a student of your spouse. He or she will be different from you. Embrace those differences rather than considering them “wrong.”
  • Learn what speaks love to your spouse and do it, even if you don’t like that or need that yourself.
  • Date consistently. If the kids are little, get a sitter on a regular basis. If you have no children or they are out of the home, make sure you continue to date and spend intentional time playing together.
  • Finally, keep faith at the center of your relationship. The closer you are to God, the closer you’ll be to one another.

Happy anniversary, Mark. Here’s to 31 more years!

Hearts at Home is a nonprofit organization designed to encourage, educate and equip moms at all stages. Hearts at Home, 1509 N. Clinton Blvd., Bloomington, IL 61701-1813; (309) 828-MOMS; www.hearts-at-home.org.

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