The next step is to pick the right spouse. I married my best friend and truly committed to building a life with him. My dreams became his dreams and his dreams became mine. I was 23 years old for a whole month when I got married. I was in college and living on my own. As a young woman without a lot of experience, it was easy to build a life with my husband because I was building a life. However, even if you are older or not marrying for the first time, you must commit to building a life with your spouse. A marriage is a living being thing that you must take action now to keep alive, healthy and strong.

Pay attention to who your intended is and what he does before you marry. Do not ignore actions that are selfish, petty, controlling or mean. These actions will not simply disappear with the exchange of marital vows. Before I married, I would invite my young sisters to my apartment for weekend visits. I would blow my lunch and treat budget for the week showing them a good time. After hearing about this in a casual conversation, Darren started showing up just before my sisters’ visits with bags of groceries, snacks and treats for my sisters. He would drop off the bags and leave. In this way, he showed he would provide for me. He showed who he would be as a husband. He showed he would be attentive to my needs, that what was important to me would be important to him and that he would be a good provider. Take action now and pay attention to all of your intended’s behavior, do not ignore the signals he gives.

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Next, you must spend your entire married life paying attention to the vows. Those promises to stick together for better and for worse, richer and poorer and forsaking all others,  should never leave your mind. In every marriage, there will be good times and bad times. Disputes, arguments and serious disagreements will happen over the course of time. Friends and in-laws will get on your nerves and try to put wedges between you. You must take action now to work as a team with your husband.

Children, jobs and other family members all must take second place to your spouse. My husband and his mother were very close all his life, he adored her, obeyed her and respected her. Once we were married, I became number one and my desires took priority over every other person on earth, even his mama. You must take action now to make your spouse number one, over all other people in your life.

Trust is important. As stated earlier, in Proverbs 31 it states that a husband can safely trust his heart to his wife. Trust must be in place when you marry. It should not be left to develop over time. If it is not there in the beginning, the marriage should not take place. That trust will strengthen and grow over time as you see time and again that your spouse is trustworthy. I am a lawyer by training, and as a result read everything fully and completely before signing. Even while in labor with my oldest daughter while in law school, I read the consent forms, added things and deleted things. However, if my husband gives me something to sign, I don’t read it, I just sign it. I trust him, period. Take action now to be a person worthy of trust in your marriage.

Sometimes in marriage trust was not there in the beginning or is lost somewhere along the way. To make marriage happy and last, seek out help in books, magazines or professional counselors in order to restore trust in your marriage. Trust is like air or food it feeds a marriage and helps it to live and grow. While it is best never to lose trust, if it is lost, with work it can be rebuilt. If the trust in your marriage has been broken, injured or hurt for some reason, take action now to rebuild the trust.

With these things firmly in place, keep in mind that marriage is a living thing. It must be fed, nurtured and paid attention. For most people, it makes sense to feed children, to provide activities that encourage them and help them to grow into bigger and better versions of themselves. Marriage needs to be treated the same way. Spend time with your spouse, read books magazines and articles on things that you each like. Continue to pay attention to things your spouse cares about. I do not care about baseball, science fiction or Star Trek. However, my husband cares about those things. So, guess what is on my reading list and Google alerts list – yes, all those things. My husband knows  I do not care about any of these things, but, he likes that I keep up with them for his benefit.  Take action now to keep life and interest in your marriage.

Problems, real problems may come with time. These problems may include financial woes, the death of parents, poor health, sick children. These things and more have happened in our marriage. When these things have come and gone during our marriage we were able to weather the storms because we had a firm foundation and knew that we were a team. It has always been our belief that no matter what forces came against us individually or jointly, nothing could defeat us because we are a strong team, a powerful team. Take action now to protect and promote your marital team’s strength, power, and skill.

I am fortunate that things like adultery, abuse, and addiction have never entered my marriage. I do not believe that God called us to enter into marriage to be subjected to these things. If these three things are not deal breakers for you, marriage can only last if these behaviors stop. A marriage is a two-party agreement, it cannot flourish if others are involved, if one party dishonors the other with abuse or if a person is an addict. When those behaviors end, repair, and renewal can begin. If you are in a marriage plagued by adultery, abuse or addiction, take action now to stop those behaviors.

If your marriage suffers from real life problems like erectile dysfunction, do not take it personally. Often, it is not a problem with you, but a problem with your spouse due to age, stress or poor health. Seek out counseling, medical help and work together to find solutions that work for your marriage. Take care not to do or say things that are harsh or cruel. Do not insult your husband’s masculinity. The compassion you show him during this time will be rewarded later. If your marriage is made more difficult as the result of the poor health of one or both of you, be encouraged and work together to either get healthier or find ways to live with the health condition you face. Take action now to remember that you vowed to be there in sickness and in health so honor those vows.

It is important also to keep parts of your marriage private and away from prying eyes. Your mother, sister, and girlfriends do not need to know every time your spouse gets on your nerves. It is important to remember that when you have one of those fights over the right brand of peanut butter, him drinking too much or his poor parenting on Monday and it is all over and forgotten by the two of you on Tuesday, the people you have run your mouth to are still remembering it all on Friday.They will use these memories to undermine your spouse and your husband. It is your job to enhance your spouse’s reputation, not destroy it. In the law, there is a thing called marital privilege which keeps spouses from testifying against each other. You must develop that practice in your marriage. Do not run and tell all your business good or bad to other people. Just as the song says, “what God has for me, is for me,” what is in your marriage is in your marriage. Take action now to protect the confidentiality of your marriage.

One of the most important things that has helped keep our marriage happy after all these years is the part of the vows that say “forget about everyone else and stick together. There is no one in our circles who thinks they can come between my husband and I. Our children know if mom says it, dad will agree. Teachers at school know that if they talk to me, it is as good as talking to my husband about our children. I have nothing to do with people who do not honor and appreciate my husband and his position in my life. He acts similarly toward those in his circles. No matter what the state of your marriage, take action now to put your spouse above all others.
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If you want more information on my ideas and happy marital stories, check out these stories:
1.     The Best Pick Up Line Ever – the story of how we met
2.     Nothing Better to Do – why we got married
3.     Grandma’s Marital Advice – how to keep a husband
4.     Don’t Go To Bed Angry – make up
5.     Beat Him to the Car – accept your husband’s offers to go out

6.     Go to Starbucks – take time for yourself

My husband Darren will be reading this article, so instead of my normal closing, I will say this – Darren you are my best friend, my lover, my husband and my greatest treasure. It has been a joy, a privilege and all things good to be your wife for the past twenty-four years.