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15 Things I Would go Back and Tell Myself About Getting Married

08/06/2014 01:04 pm ET | Updated Oct 05, 2014

Some of my children are getting to the age where they are beginning to think about marriage. Of course, I always try to project a few words of wisdom where they seem appropriate without saying too much. Even so, I think that as parents, we almost always say too much. I try to keep it to the point where though I might be irritating, I'm not damaging our relationship. If I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would make sure that I understood 15 different things about getting married.

  1. Marriage, if it's done right, is for a long time. Make sure you're doing something that will make you happy for a long time.
  2. Find someone who is accustomed to dealing with the same types of situations you are. If that's where to go on your next cruise, so be it. If your history has been trying to figure out how to keep the utilities turned on, marry someone who can relate.
  3. As your relationship began to get serious, you were probably amazed that someone so awesome really cared about you. Marry someone who feels just as lucky because you care about them.
  4. Marry someone who believes in being fair. Be wary of those who claim to want things that aren't very important to them, so they can give up inconsequential things when it comes down to compromising. Don't expect your spouse to do things you aren't willing to do and avoid anyone who expects you to do things that they wouldn't do.
  5. It's great if you can both get along with each other's friends and family, but make sure you are both more committed to your own relationship than to other friends and family. (That includes children when and if they come.)
  6. Choose to spend your life with someone that you get along with. Arguments should be infrequent, and even if serious, they need to reach resolutions rather be ignored. You won't get along with each other better simply because you get married. In fact, you probably won't get along as well as you did before you got the certificate.
  7. Both people in a marriage will change over time. A good indicator of how people change can be observed by looking at how they have been changing over the past few years. There's a good chance that change will continue in the same direction for both parties. By looking at both yourself and your significant other, you will have a good idea as to whether you were already growing together or apart, even before you met.
  8. Determine whether or not you could live with someone by observing how they treat the people they currently live with -- that will one day be you!
  9. Make sure you keep your finances in order as you prepare to get married. Don't spend more than you should on the likes of rings, receptions and honeymoons. Few things stress a marriage more than financial difficulties. Don't start off with two strikes against you! Besides... the insides of hotel rooms look pretty much the same in Butte, Montana as they do in Paris, France. (Try to come up for air once in a while, though!)
  10. Choose someone who makes you want to be a better person and make sure that you bring out the best in them.
  11. Think about what your spouse would want when you are trying to make them happy. Far too many marriages have failed because people do for their spouse what they would want done for them. Your spouse isn't you. They don't want what you want. They want what they want.
  12. If you're adopting a pet, all you need is love. A successful marriage is going to take lots more than that. (Sorry, Paul McCartney.)
  13. Everything you realistically expect from a marriage will be more intense than what you imagine. The bad parts will be more difficult than what you expect. The good parts will be better than you can imagine. Know that going into it and take the bad that comes with the good.
  14. Both parties in a marriage make mistakes. Be quick to apologize and even quicker to accept an apology. You don't need to be wrong to be sorry. Move on.
  15. Prepare for marriage with eyes wide open. After you say "I do," keep them half closed.

I have been very fortunate in my own marriage. My wife came from a dysfunctional home. Because of that, she believes that our marriage is worth anything it takes to improve it. Because she is so committed, it causes me to try harder. One person being willing to set the example has really helped our marriage. If you choose to be like my wife and lead in commitment and behavior, it will better your marriage. If not, well, I can tell you from my experience of following my wife: "If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes."

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