12/09/2014 11:57 am ET Updated Feb 08, 2015

20 Things I've Learned From 20 Years of Marriage

Tis the season of marriage proposals on bended knee accompanied by an emphatic "yes!" We need to look no further than the national jewelry advertising campaigns of "Every kiss begins with Kay," "He went to Jared" and Zales, "the diamond store," to know the holiday season is primetime for engagements. My wife Valerie and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this year and while I watch the various lovely commercials from each jeweler, I reminisced about my proposal to my bride and how much I didn't have a clue about marriage when I nervously knelt to take Valerie's hand with a spanking new engagement ring in pocket. I just knew that I loved her, which is a beautiful start, but not nearly enough to make a marriage last two decades.

For all of you contemplating giving or receiving a marriage proposal this holiday season, I'd like to share 20 things I've learned from 20 years of marriage. This list is composed from a combination of personal experience along with stellar points I've summarized studying Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in California. Saddleback recently had a fantastic series on "Awesome Relationships" which featured the insightful and affable founder and CEO of eHarmony Neil Clark Warren. Ok, enough with the preamble here's the list:

1. Love is not just an emotion. Love is also a choice.
2. Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.
3. Tragedy and conflict don't build character as much as they reveal character.
4. Every marriage has seasons (springtime is busy, summer is easy, fall is messy, winter is bleak).
5. Date your mate.
6. Before you get married opposites attract, after you get married opposites attack.
7. Resist the temptation to compare your marriage to others. That's the fastest way to divorce court.
8. If you demand that your spouse must change before you love them, that's not love.
9. Not all friends and family members are good for your marriage.
10. Your decision to stay married or divorce will impact others in ways you can't imagine.
11. The five most common areas of potential struggle in marriage are communication, sex, in-laws, child rearing and money. Much better to discuss these areas before the marriage.
12. Saying I'm sorry is a sign of strength not weakness.
13. Love is spelled T-I-M-E. Spend quality time with the person you love.
14. If you don't understand the impact your past is having on your present, then your past is running your future with or without your permission.
15. In conflict, don't become a skunk or a turtle. Skunks stink up the place while turtles pull into their shells. And by the way, skunks always marry turtles.
16. Similarities are like money in the bank.
17. Make sure there is chemistry, but don't give chemistry too big a role to play.
18. Figure out the 20 most important qualities you want in a marriage partner and the 20 most important qualities you can't stand.
19. Finding the love of your life is an awesomely complex task.
20. Work daily at becoming a better spouse rather than wishing you had a better spouse.

As you consider the Vera Wang collection from Zales, the Scott Kay collection from Kay or the Neil Lane collection from Jared, please first closely and quietly reflect then act upon this list. It just may guide you to the love of your life and help you reach a 20 year wedding anniversary and beyond.

Happy Holidays!