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What I'd Say to My About-to-Be-Married Self

It's been over five years since my husband and I said "I do." I'll admit we were super young when we got married, but it was the right decision for us. We'd been dating for over five years, and we were ready to begin the rest of our lives together. As I've reflected on our married life, I've realized that we've learned a lot . . . and we're still learning so much. All this reflection got me thinking: what would I tell my night-before-wedding self? Here goes:

1. This marriage thing really will be harder than you expect. I know you've got happy thoughts of sleepovers and decorating and making dinner together—and those are all good things, and they will happen—but I want you to know that you're going to be super irritated about how he squeezes his toothpaste out of the tube . . . and how half of it ends up in the sink. Seriously. Take a deep breath and remember that this is just the beginning. And take a chill pill, too.

2. You are not a homemaker . . . and neither is Jim. And that's okay. You'll pick up tips along the way, and you'll figure it out. In the meantime, have grace with yourself. Some shirts will shrink (thanks for doing the laundry, honey . . .) and some things will go uncleaned for years (hello, office!), but it's not the end of the world. It is what it is. Talk early on about who will do what . . . regardless of what society says men and women should do. Find a system that works for the two of you.

3. You're going to run into tough times. As you grow together, you're going to learn some things about Jim and about yourself that you don't like at all—serious things (not the toothpaste habits from #1). It's okay. Plus, I know you think you're healthy, but you're not. You're quite sickly. You will run into health problems early on. They will be an opportunity to grow—both yourself and as a couple. You'll also hit hardships in career and otherwise. Don't fight the hard times. Heap on extra grace, and trust in God. Remember that God is able to deal with anything and everything. Lean on him for strength, courage, and joy. And pray regularly for Jim to do the same. Learn to cling to one another instead of pushing one another away.

4. Communication really is key. You're used to living separate lives (you have dated long distance for years!!), but suddenly you'll be thrown together . . . all the time. Communicate how you're feeling, communicate what you're doing, and for goodness sake, get a calendar and actually write on it. Set aside regular times for catching up and keeping each other informed.

5. You have to keep the love alive. Yes, even in the so-called newlywed stage. Schedule in real date nights where you talk and share your dreams and feelings. Take advantage of long weekends. Get away and enjoy the car ride to your destination. Learn his love language. Keep trying to make him laugh. Do things together—other than watch TV. Encourage him in his hobbies and in his work. Speak lovingly about him in public. Go out of your way to serve him and show you care.

6. Last but not least, you really are building a new family together, and it's a beautiful thing. Enjoy each moment, don't take a single kiss for granted, share lots of laughs, and don't be afraid to dream big together. And while you can't imagine loving Jim any more than you do right now, believe me: that love will grow and deepen in ways you can't imagine.

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