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Happily Ever After

Tips on how to navigate a marriage—whether you're a newlywed or an "oldywed"

Just a few days from now, our oldest son, Ben, will marry the love of his life, Becky. I haven't been asked for much input on the day's events, which is probably a good thing. I have been told I have no coherent advice on how to plan a wedding. (This after suggesting pant suits for the bridal party, and a wedding cake adorned with cocktail franks.)
I do think, based on 24 years' experience, that I can offer my son a few bits of advice on how to navigate a marriage. So in no particular order, here goes.

* Praising your wife in front of other people does wonders for her self-esteem.

* If you give a compliment, mean it.

* Criticizing your wife in front of others, even in jest, is always a bad idea. Always.

* Sometimes, she doesn't want you to solve the problem. She just wants you to listen. I know, I don't understand it either.

* Don't fall for that line of garbage that says marriage is a ball and chain. Think about the people who tell you that. They would give anything to have what you have.

* Sometimes, impractical as it seems, it's better to spend $500 on a trip than $500 on furniture. Provided you have the $500.

* Credit card debt is a monster. Don't fall for it, even for the short term.

* Don't keep financial secrets from each other. They do not remain secret.

* Live on less than you make. In fact, learn to live on one income. Swim against the tide.

* Tithe. Not only does it honor God, it also brings focus to the rest of your money decisions.

* Before attempting even the smallest plumbing job, know where the whole-house water shutoff is located. Just sayin'.

* Finding a recreational activity you love doing together will change your life. Especially if it's cheap or free.

* Laughing together is even better for you than exercising together.

* A cheap, used car gets you to exactly the same places in the same amount of time as a new car does. Except when it breaks down.

* Don't be so afraid of hurting the other's feelings that you never really talk about how you feel. It took five years of marriage before I finally told your mom I didn't like grape jelly, which she'd been putting on my peanut butter sandwiches every day.

* If you're in a store together, be careful about saying you like an item. You are likely to receive it as a gift.

* Bubble gum is not an advisable electrical fastener.

* Wanting a pet is a lot more fun than owning a pet.

* Don't be too embarrassed to talk about sex together.

* Praying together every day might be the most intimate thing you can do. Even more than sex.

* Pray together before any big decision and most small ones. The ultimate decision is far less important than the fact you are praying together about it.

* Be stewards, not consumers.

* Moving every few years is a good way to take stock of how much unnecessary stuff you have.

* Observe a no-TV week once in a while. It'll still be there when you get back … and there still won't be anything worth watching.

* Find regular times of quietness, both together and alone. Watching a Cubs game doesn't count.

* Do not attempt exploratory surgery on a broken dishwasher. You can call the appliance repairman now or later. Save years of humiliation. Call him now.

* Hold your career with a light touch. It's not who you are, it's only what you do.

* Focus outwardly. Together, you two can impact your community and your world. Don't settle for simply entertaining yourselves.

* Find a good church and get involved. Don't just be spectators. Churches have enough of those.

* If you wait until you feel confident and ready to have kids, you will never have kids.

* "Honor your father and mother" applies at all ages. And it's not just for their sake.

* Talk together, often, about your hopes and dreams. Don't laugh at hers.

* When you fight, fight fairly and cleanly. No yelling, no escalating, no pouting.

* Approach each day with a thankful heart. It's a freeing thing to realize that no one owes you anything. First Timothy 6:6 says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain."

* Your wife is an amazing gift from God. Treat her that way.

* No marriage is bulletproof. Guard it with everything you have, and entrust it to God.

Jim Killam teaches journalism at Northern Illinois University and is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Lauren, have been married 25 years.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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