On August 26, 2000, I married the love of my life, Rex. I just knew that my union with him would be the final piece to one giant puzzle of contentment. I knew that in having a solid partner by my side, I would never be lonely again. I would never feel sad, and I certainly would never feel desperate.

I was wrong.

Since being married, I have experienced all the above emotions and more. Why? Was it because my dad died a few years later? Job loss? Unexpected diagnoses for our kids?

Sure, all of the above contributed to my disappointment. But really, if it comes down to hard cold logic, such life events would have transpired anyway. If I’m being truthful, the real reason I felt such frustration in my union was because my husband couldn’t protect me from life’s heartbreak. It wasn’t until marriage that I realized a prince couldn’t save me. Only a king – the King of Kings – could be my knight in shining armor and give me a fairy tale love.

On paper, this sounds amazing! I can see some of you ladies nodding your head. “Amen, sister, the King of Kings! That’s who I’m riding off into the sunset with!” you might mutter. But let’s get real: Many of us want a human hero – a “Jesus with Skin On” – to walk through life with. Will our leading man complete us? Nope. Not at all. But, lest I come off cynical, I fully admit that the right mate can add an incredible amount of joy, support and companionship to our lives. A good partner can help us fulfill our dreams and live powerful, Godly lives.

Here’s 10 tips I have for you that I wish I had known before saying ‘I do.’

1.Don’t Expect Issues to Go Away with Marriage

If your boyfriend gambles now, he’ll gamble when you’re married. Same with your issues.

For me, it was anxiety. I’m a writer. I believe “Neurotic” was stamped on my birth certificate. It was only when I found Jesus that I truly saw a decrease in this department.

2.Kids Don’t Solve Everything

I am so grateful for my babies. They absolutely, without a doubt, are the best thing that has ever happened to Rex and me. But being a parent is a lot of pressure, both on a woman as well as on a marriage. For many years, I was in constant freakout mode over their health. It didn’t make things better when I would transfer this pressure to my spouse. Until I remembered that my babies’ real father is Jesus, not their earthly father, I wasn’t free to parent them with the joy and confidence I do now.

3.Learn to Forgive

I had zero idea that I would have to truly understand what it means to forgive my spouse. I had to get to the point where I stopped harping on him for the wounds of his past so that my present wouldn’t be miserable. I had to let go of the wounds of my past so my present wouldn’t be miserable. Guess what? I haven’t arrived at nirvana here. It’s a daily struggle – but the burden is lighter knowing that the Holy Spirit is with me every step of the way. Slowly (did I mention slooooowwwwllly) I’m learning to forgive both Rex and my transgressions so that our marriage can be more peaceful, trusting and fulfilling.

4.Set boundaries

In order to forgive my spouse with an open heart, I had to protect my heart. Yes, like in sports, to make a goal, you have to defend yourself from the offensive player who wants to knock that ball out of your hands. With people we love – even our spouses – we MUST set boundaries with love to keep our marriage healthy.

5.Marry a Christian

I can’t say again how important it is for you to cast your woes on God, not another human being. If you want less woes, find a man who plays on Team God. If you want a handsome devil who does not care about things of the Spirit, you’ll be dealing with that devil for a very long time.

6. Consider Setting Facebook on Fire

I don’t know about you, but if I see one more picture of an airbrushed couple holding hands at the beach with their perfect smiles and dresses, I’m going to puke all over my keyboard, which is no good for work since… as a writer…I use this keyboard ever day. Why am I so bugged? First off, it’s an irritating fact that many of these couples don’t even LIKE the beach. (I’m offended at the hypocrisy of their engagment photos! I’m also offended at myself who took these photos 15 years ago and RARELY go to the beach with Rex!) Second off, it reminds me how very petty I am to have this reaction in the first place. Thirdly – to defend myself… sheesh! – maybe I have this reaction because Facebook is quite possibly the devil incarnate. “Look at me!” posts posing as “news” can only add to comparison shopping misery.

7. Don’t Make Your Mate Your Idol

I don’t care how cute, kind, smart, funny or amazing he is with your sister’s kids and the neighbor’s puppy. He is not Jesus. He is not your savior. He is a man – a man who will one day fart one too many times over a beer while watching a Simpson’s marathon. Don’t set yourself up for such a tragic fall.

8. Hold Onto Your Girlfriends

Should your mate be #1? Of course! But that doesn’t mean your best friend of 20 years suddenly needs to bite the dust because you’re so busy taking engagement photos at the beach and posting them on Facebook. Make regular time to chat and support her!

9. Dump Non-Supportive Girlfriends

It’s a sad fact that some women will be smiling at your bachelorette party but hating you on the inside. Why? Jealousy, anger, they want your man man?! Who knows. The point is that your friends need to be supportive of your union. When things go wrong in your marriage, and they will, you need mature ladies who will pray you through it, not bring you down to their level of insecurity.

10. Have fun

If you don’t have fun, well, that’s no fun. Why did you fall in love in the first place? Chances are you laughed, dated and dreamed together. Make sure the person you consider for marriage is someone who doesn’t take the world so seriously. Life is hard, so a jovial attitude makes all the difference.

I hope you enjoyed my tips! Got more to add? Leave a comment or share with your girlfriends on Facebook to keep the conversation going! 

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