1. Always put God first. A marriage is like a perfect triangle with God at the top point and the couple at the bottom two points, neither one being more important than another but always equal. When I think about the choices I make in my life, I always ask first if it is something my Father in Heaven wants for me, if I think it is, then I consider how my spouse will feel about it before making a decision.
2. Always put your spouse before yourself. This doesn't mean that you should submit to every need/desire of your spouse, it means that you respect their opinion and feelings before making a decision that may affect the both of you (and isn't that most every decision you make after you get married?) When both spouses follow this guideline, there will always be moments of give and take. There is a balance between getting what I want/need and what he wants/needs.
3. Never stop dating. When we were newlyweds and had no children, every night felt like date night when we were at home. So, we made sure that a night was specified as date night where we got dressed and went somewhere together. Sometimes it was out with friends, sometimes just out for a walk, but always together. Dating was tough when the budget was tight but it always happened. When we had small children at home and my husband was working full time and going to school full time, we knew that we needed a regular reminder that our marriage was first and foremost in our lives. I remember searching for coins in the seat cushions and under the front seat of the car so we could buy a giant soda at the gas station and drive our car to the end of the airport runway to watch the fighter jets take off and land. We discussed kids, talked about our responsibilities and dreamed of the future. Even now with eight children, hectic church callings and a myriad of volunteer responsibilities, we make time to go out every single week and reconnect as a couple.
4. Forgive and let go of the trivial. As I've matured, I've realized that the pile of dirty clothes left on the floor is minor compared to the eternity of our marriage. Sometimes things get said that are unintentionally unkind. Don't be on the lookout to be offended or you will be. Be the first to forgive but don't be a martyr. Make your feelings known and move on. If you are the one who has offended, apologize and try harder to be better. I know the old saying is "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" but it goes both ways.
5. Be intimate as often as possible. ('m not talking only about the bedroom either.) I would hope that no matter your age, your size, or your ability, you will continue to find ways to be intimate with your spouse. Intimacy is the glue to a great marriage. Hold hands, kiss in the kitchen, cuddle on the couch, and always sit next to each other at church no matter how many children are on the bench with you. Non sexual touch might be equally important as intimacy. On a similar note, I appreciate the counsel we were given before our marriage to never
use sex as a bartering tool. For example, "I'll buy you a dress if you will have sex with me." This cheapens intimacy and can lead to feelings of resentment and low self worth. I could go on about this but I'm so grateful for that advice.
We also don't joke about our threaten divorce...ever. Being married is hard work but the rewards are heavenly. I like to think that my marriage is proof that these simple rules can work when both partners choose to live by them. After 22 years, I still try every day to make an effort to be the wife my husband wants me to be and he in turn does the same for me. When we both do that, we end up being the best spouse possible and we are better individuals for it. Marriage is the