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In The Beginning

Making sure you have a foundation you can build on

Falling in love is one of the most glorious experiences in life. It feels like a miracle to find that person who makes you even happier and stronger than you are on your own. That person who inspires you to be your best self.

There is no doubt true love is a force of nature, one to be protected, exalted, and sanctified by commitment.

But before you take the step of making vows, you may also want to consider the many hard lessons learned by couples like Joe and I who have been married for decades. These are lessons that can help you avoid pitfalls that can derail even the deepest love.

In my experience, the number one thing you have to know before you get married: yourself.

You must know who you are, why you are like you are, what you want from life and, just as importantly, what you don’t. Understanding yourself, your priorities, and your motivations – the good and the bad – will help you know whether you and your partner are truly right for each other.

Once you fully understand yourself at this stage in your life, you can move on the next foundation of commitment: shared values.

It doesn’t matter if your partner likes a different kind of music, a different kind of food, or has an old friend you don’t care for. More important is whether your partner sees your life together the way you do. Make sure you have similar attitudes in all the important areas: money, faith, children, and family. You need to know that you’re both envisioning the same future and believe in the same goals -- otherwise you may never reach them.

And finally, the thing that all relationships should be based on: respect.

Speak with respect, listen with respect, treat each other with the patience, generosity, and kindness that show respect. This is what will keep love alive, especially through hard times.

I promise you, if you do all three of these things, you will lay the foundations for a happier, healthier, more supportive marriage.

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