After more time married and observing married people,

here are ideas to keep the union happy.

Before you get married, before you plan the wedding, write down all the reasons why you want to be married in the first place and why you want to marry this particular person.

When you get in an argument, share those lists with each other. Review and update the lists on your anniversary.

Get divorced.

If people understood how difficult and devastating emotionally—and often financially—divorce is, they would think more seriously about marriage. So, have a pretend divorce. Who gets what? Talk to people who are divorced. Got a lawyer friend? Get a cost estimate.

Start with the end in mind.

If your goal is to be married for life, then take divorce out of the equation. Vow that every disagreement end in a solution for going forward, not a “get out” voiced by either of you.

Develop common interests.

I’m a writer. I’m well versed (pun intentional) in solitary pursuits and quite happy with them. However, having a variety of things in common that you enjoy doing together is essential—even if it’s sitting in the same room reading different books.

Be social together.

You’ll each have friends you bring to the marriage, but somewhere along the time, get friends together. Keep your world wide by always introducing new and unique people into it.

Agree on the big things like kids and religion and pets.

Politics, who cares? But kids—make sure you either both do or don’t want them. Religion—if you aren’t practicing the same beliefs, set rules on how you will support each other’s perspectives. Pets — dogs, cats, fish, birds, reptiles —which do you prefer and which are your absolute no-can-do critters.

Move.

Okay, for me that’s actually meant relocating house and

Volterra, Tuscany

Stepping out – Volterra, Italy

home, but I mean get physical—get up and get out of the house. Go for frequent walks, take up bike riding or canoeing. Something, but get moving and get into God’s great outdoors and breathe the awesome air together.

Keep laughing.

Have go-to humor on hand for when things get too serious. It could be classic films like Young Frankenstein, or childhood-loved TV shows like The Three Stooges, or—who can resist laughing with the little girl in Monsters, Inc.? It could be comics. I’ll eternally be a fan of “Calvin & Hobbes” and “Garfield.” Maybe for you it’s a comedian who is always sure to make the two of you chuckle.

Have a place you always enjoy visiting.

For us, Washington, D.C., is steadfastly perfect. It’s only a five-hour drive and full of the things we love to share–history, adventure, beauty, great food … our nation’s capitol has it all. Including an easy metro system so you don’t have to argue while driving in the crazy place.

Set respect-boundaries.

Know how far you can each go expressing your opinions and feelings without crossing into the evil land of disrespect.

Realize, always, that marriage is hard.

Living with another person is a challenge. No matter how joined-at-the-hip your union is, you are unique people. You were raised differently and life has formed you into distinct individuals. It is asking a lot to expect to always match up on every issue. Look at those dissimilar things as opportunities to broaden yourself instead of argue with your other half. In the end, you need to find ways for your marriage to win, not for you, as one, to defeat the other.

With friends in the newly married realm to friends married over forty years, I am looking forward to hearing what you will add, critique or debate with me about the above. I’m open. I want to learn from you, so comment away!

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Read: I’m a wife–Whoa!