Even though this was written for my nephew and my niece (Mark & Holly), it still has a lot of good ideas about marriage whether you are Catholic or not.  So, with that in mind see what you think.

While Carol and I are no experts when it comes to living a great and wonderful Catholic life, there are some things that will make your marriage and your lives successful.  Successful marriage is not so much a matter of finding the right person, but being the right person. The challenge …is knowing when to bend and when to stand up for yourself.  It takes a pretty flexible pair of people to make this work. Love is essential, but you also need to be friends.  Not just casual friends, but best of friends.  You need to be friends who keep secrets with each other and not from each other.  And your faith in God and your religious involvement is what holds everything together and makes your marriage, not only able to be endured, but also one of joy and happiness.

Most marriages go through three stages: the honeymoon, disillusionment, and true love.  In the honeymoon stage you ignore each other shortcomings and faults because you are so utterly in love with each other.  As your puppy love fades, children are born, and everyday events invade your home and personal being, we all have a tendency to see each other’s shortcomings and start to question as to whether we made the right choice.

We start to focus on ourselves rather than each other and we may think about the “greener” grass on the other side of the fence.  This disillusionment phase is the first big test of a marriage.  If a couple can see each other, blemishes and all, and commit to “being the right person,” not trying to change the spouse, the couple moves into a more mature love.

Being the right person doesn’t mean always being right.  It means being flexible enough to love each other through disagreements, hard times and suffering.  It means becoming more generous, more patient, and more tolerant.  It’s only having to withstand these trying times that one truly understands the vows taken on the wedding day, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”

The sacrament of marriage becomes real when our love for each other is tested, when forgiveness replaces anger, and when it is shared in the sacrificial love of Jesus on the cross.

Here are 10 tips to remember about marriage:

Be ready to accept differences

The differences between people can be endearing.  Strive for strength in numbers.  Think of making decisions as a couple and realize that your way is not always the right way.

Disagree without being disagreeable

Communication is the mainstay of any long lasting marriage and it gets harder when there are decisions to be made, especially decisions that find you on opposite sides. Remember, when one partner wins the argument, he or she still has to live with the loser.

Daily make your spouse your best friend

Try committing to giving your spouse one compliment a day—that’s a way toward ongoing encouragement and love. On a daily basis, look for the good, the talents, and the favors that your spouse does for you.  It helps to make each other feel more positive about themselves and the people around them.

Be on the same page financially

Try to consider what your genuine needs are as a family.  Many people work for more and more stuff that doesn’t really fill their soul with happiness.  Strive for the balance in what you obtain in life and remember that the greatest gift is God’s love.

Create for similar values

Good communication can’t compensate for lack of common core values.  Couples don’t have to agree on everything, but they must have similar priorities in life.  Concentrate on what values you share and admire about each other.  Your deep and abiding love relationship with God and his teachings are the foundation that you build your values on.

Celebrating love

Our culture is all about sex, but what most married couples crave is intimacy.  The physical act of sex becomes even more powerful when it unites our emotions, minds and spirits.  Making love means being loving throughout the day. Sharing vulnerable feelings and interesting discussions is just as important as the physical act of love.  A habit of attentiveness assures our beloved that our affection is more than momentary.

Find balance

It’s important to find the balance among work, family and personal time.  Income is necessary, but not if you are never home.  Many couples are home together, but remain disconnected from each other.  Family and personal time with each other keeps the emotion bills paid in full.  Do not let greed become your god.  Also, when doing jobs around the house, they should be performed according to skill, interest and time—not gender.

Keeping your relationship strong through your children

Having a child is one of the greatest joys of marriage. Children pull virtues like patience, generosity, and responsibility out of us.  When your love expands to include another person, it reflects the creative impulse of God, our creator.  The best thing a parent can do for their children is to love their spouse.

Expect the challenges

Lives like marriages are full of challenges, but remember that with hardships comes accomplishment and a greater self-worth.  With commitment for each other all obstacles can be overcome.

Don’t forget the other trinity

The sacrament of marriage is the union of couples with God.  Couples are called together to seek God together. Learn to pray together.  Marriage is a way to follow Christ, who laid down his life for us, as we would do for each other.