1 - Marriage is work - Love stories usually end with the couple heading off into the sunset full of love and lust; however, real life does not work that way. Marriage is fun and good, but what our society doesn't emphasize is the level of work and commitment marriage takes. Two flawed humans joining up to share a life is bound to have some struggles. Marriage is the hardest relationship I have ever had. Partly this is because it is the most critical to my daily life and future. The only way a marriage can work in a healthy way is for both individuals to be dedicated to making that relationship a top priority and a willingness to do the hard work to stay together.
2 - Happiness comes from within - Another fallacy the world offers is the idea that we will meet our perfect mate and live happily ever after. Here is a lesson I learned the hard way. It is not your spouse's job to make you happy. Happiness can only come from within. No one else can make your life happy. Not a spouse, not children. Nothing external including the vices of shopping, eating, drinking or gossiping will ever fill you up. A marriage can be easily ruined if we are expecting our spouse to make us happy. Do the work as an individual to cultivate a happy heart and your marriage will be happier too.
3 - Do not finance a wedding - I would have been perfectly content to pay for a huge wedding on credit. Christian however would not have married me if I had financed our wedding. Instead we had a very modest celebration. Yet, I have zero regret about having a humble wedding. I am actually thankful that Christian had the wisdom to not allow me to dig a financial hole for a one day party. My advice to anyone would be to only have the wedding you can afford to pay for with cash. Again, the world tells us that we deserve a huge expensive wedding. I disagree. Do not add to the stress of marriage by starting with unnecessary debt.
4 - Learn to compromise - Living with another person and making the majority of decisions together is hard. It requires sacrifice and humbleness. Neither of these were strengths I brought into our marriage. I used to believe that compromise just meant that no one got their way. The years have taught me that compromise helps avoid resentments that can erode a marriage. As with anything in life, you have to pick your battles. Let go of things that are not truly important and put your ego on a shelf.
5 - Check yourself first - Give your partner grace. Don't assume that whatever problem or struggle you are facing is external. This is key for marriage but also works well with any relationship. Look to yourself first to see where you are falling short, failing, being selfish, stubborn or just plain mean. Marriage works best when each individual strives to be their best self. Don't blame your spouse. Instead, look at how you can change your heart, attitude or actions to create a culture of love and acceptance in your home and marriage.
Again, I am not a marriage expert, but I am happily married. This was not always the case. It has taken effort, compromise, forgiveness, and a decision to love my husband daily for our marriage to work.