- Get married young. Be poor. Work six jobs between you. Scrape your life together.
- Know, love and accept yourself. Continue to learn about your spouse.
- Look for stuff to admire about your spouse. Seek awesomeness and you will find it. There’s plenty there.
- See your spouse’s flaws as the flip side of their essential awesomeness. See her flaws as a chance for you to step in and be awesome yourself.
- Stand shoulder to shoulder. In front of the kids, and the rest of the world, your spouse is always right and you stand with her. Keep disagreements between you.
- Let the kids know quite plainly that you love your husband/wife more than them. Nothing personal, but in your house the family comes from Mom and Dad’s love, not the other way around.
- Understand that giving (in the right spirit) is receiving. You can “pour yourself out like a libation” and be totally fulfilled in your marriage. (Prayer is a prerequisite for this step. For you non-religious folks, substitute some practice that allows you to transcend and subdue your own ego, whatever that looks like.)
- Adopt children, foster animals from the pound, take in stray teenagers, invite people over all the time, be that home that tends to accumulate neighborhood kids. Cram your life to the gills and be overwhelmed often. Then you can watch God do some awesome things through your marriage and you can see your sacrament bear fruit.
- Become a marriage geek. Keep up with the research. Read books. Approach marriage as if you’re a professional spouse and you’re bucking for a raise.
- Teach others about marriage. Because, even if you feel sort of like a hypocrite standing up there talking about marriage in theory when you know marriage in reality lately, that stuff sinks in.
- That said, here is the essence of every marriage course we’ve ever taught: 1) You and your spouse are different in various ways 2) Know yourself and accept yourself 3) Know and love your spouse as they are and don’t try to change them 4) Get out of yourself and relate to your spouse in a way that suits them, not you (See prayer prerequisite above)
- Don’t ever stop dating. Do fun stuff together. Laugh a lot.
- Communicate well and communicate often.
- Sex is does not count as doing fun stuff. Sex is communication.
- Get a bunch of others around you who love marriage. If there’s not a couples’ dinner group around you, start one.
- Find stuff to talk about that does not involve kids, gossip, work, money, or household logistics.
- That said, find regular time to communicate about kids, work, money, and household logistics.
- You can do all the above and still screw things up if you do not speak kindly to one another. if you avoid speaking at all and let resentments build up. Sarcasm, yelling, avoidance, and disrespect are all toxic.
Ultimately, like Gene Kranz said, “Failure is not an option.” And like Tim Gunn said, “Make it work.”
Works for us. Twenty-six years of marriage today. To my best friend. Praise God.