“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam. And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva. So tweasure your wuv.”

For those of you who are fans of The Princess Bride, you’ll recognize the quote said by the impressive clergyman during the wedding scene. The movie is funny and quotable. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a classic fairy tale of true love with a beautiful princess, an engaging band of rescuers, and an evil prince.

Growing up, I read all the classic fairy tales with similar storylines. All of them ended with the couple living happily ever after. Isn’t that what we generally want? To live happily with the person we love until death do us part?

Marriage isn’t always happy or fun. Sometimes we don’t like the person we married, and it takes a lot of work to stay together. Marriage can also be the most amazing, funny, and scary adventure with the one person who truly knows you and loves you in spite of all your baggage.

Last November, my husband and I celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary. Here are ten things I learned along the way that I wish I’d known before we got married.

  1. There’s always something new to learn. We dated for three years before getting married, so I thought I knew all about him when I said, “I do.” Turns out, there’s a lot more to learn about each of us if we just take the time to discover it.
  2. Don’t talk like a parent to your spouse. Admittedly, I’m a control freak. I like to direct people’s traffic. And that’s okay when you’re raising children. But it’s not okay when it’s your spouse. Do you ever use these phrases when you speak to your spouse: “You never…you should…you always….if you would just…”? Phrases like that are typically used when parents talk to their children. Many arguments have been started by using a critical, shaming, and controlling parental voice.
  3. Listen with both ears. Having a conversation with your spouse can be difficult. Sometimes I’m listening with one ear while I’m formulating a response in my head. Of course, distractions are everywhere: social media beckons, Candy Crush calls, kids are screaming, household chores need to be done. The truth is it bugs me when I’m talking and the person I’m talking to is looking at the TV or down at his or her phone and murmuring, “Uh-hum.” It makes me feel unimportant and less-than.
  4. Set aside couple time. Make it a priority to spend time together. Depending on the life stage you’re in or your financial circumstances, it can be difficult to afford a regular date night out. The point is schedule face-to-face time with your spouse. Whether that’s eating at a restaurant, having a cup of coffee on the porch before the kids get up or an adult beverage after they are in bed, or enjoying a bubble bath for two. Use this time, free from distractions, to talk about things that are important to both of you.
  5. Boundaries are healthy. There are rules for every part of our lives: speed limits, traffic lights, school rules, airplane restrictions, and office guidelines. So, why shouldn’t there be boundaries in marriage? In our own marriage, we’ve set a few boundaries in addition to honesty and fidelity. We agree to not go to lunch or dinner with a co-worker of the opposite sex. We don’t share our personal issues with a person of the opposite sex nor do we make big decisions without the other’s input and agreement.
  6. Verbalize expectations. I’ve heard friends say, “If he really loved me, he’d know what I needed.” As much as your spouse loves you, he or she cannot read your mind or know your every desire. Talking to your spouse about each other’s wants, needs, and desires is healthy and a great way to ensure your expectations are met.
  7. Timeouts aren’t just for kids. When you argue, your emotions get hijacked. It can be difficult to think clearly or get to the root of the issue. Calling a timeout means you agree to table the argument until you can discuss it calmly. Ideally, this occurs within the next day or two, after you both have thought about why the situation made you mad and are able to articulate that without going into the parental mode.
  8. Know each other’s love language. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages should be required reading for every couple. When you can serve your spouse using his or her love language, it’s a game changer.
  9. It’s okay to fight. I always thought couples with good marriages never fight. But I’ve learned conflict is healthy and can bring you closer as a couple as long as you are fighting fair and working on resolving the reason for the conflict.
  10. Put in the work. I’d love to say I always give 100% to my marriage. If I’m honest, some days it’s 90/10 (mine is the lower number), and other times it’s 50/50. Marriage takes work. Like an orange tree, for it to yield the best fruit, it needs to be sown in fertile soil, watered, nurtured, and pruned when needed.

Recently, I bought an anniversary card that said, “Marriage is like a deck of cards. In the beginning, all you need is two hearts and a diamond. By the end, you wish you had a club and a spade.” Well, take heart because “tru wuv” trumps all.

Getting married takes a lot of preparation and planning that goes beyond the wedding. Join us for Getting Ready for Marriage, a course that will equip you with the necessary tools to confront big issues, including communication, finances, spirituality, and intimacy, prior to your wedding day.