Being married changes people. Some couples become closer and happier. Some become distant.

You learn to truly co-exist with someone every day, despite their flaws—and more, despite your own. You learn to work with what you have today, not what you want someday from him or her. You learn to give—and to receive, as well. Your true self starts to reappear from childhood.

Marriages force you to negotiate and compromise—a LOT, no matter you like it or not. After the first two years or so of lovey-dovey soft stuff, it becomes about just wanting to do good for him or her. After the honeymoon’s forgotten, it’s about the comfort, spending time together, not the glamour or the fancy gifts.

The act of getting married’s easy. Staying married’s hard.

A friend’s father-in-law once said, “This got me through a good twenty first years of marriage: ‘You’re right, I’m wrong. I’m sorry, I will change.’ One day, she tells me. ‘Hey, I’ve heard this one too many times.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry, I will change. I’m wrong, you’re right.’ And this has lasted me another ten until today.”

Wisdom in marriage is hard-earned, in stride. Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

1. Marriage is constant work.

Never stop dating. Always pay attention. Keep learning, sharing, laughing with your partner. Treat yourself well and treat your partner even better. Never neglect your looks or words or actions—or your thoughts. Keep working hard to be a better person, lover, partner, chef, bartender and caretaker, janitor and driver. Seek truth, not to be right.

Make sure to listen carefully—the first time, every time. Just get stuff done ASAP, on time. Keep your mouth shut; don’t moan and complain. Be helpful, be encouraging. Get your chores done each day, don’t wait. Know when the storm is coming; it will pass. The morning’s wiser than the night. Resolve your argument before you sleep (apologize!)

2. Argument is just not worth it.

Most of the time, the argument is just not worth it. Pick your battles carefully.

Being right will make you proud one moment, but will piss her off. Bad move. Be smart.

3. Laugh hard.

If you can’t laugh, you’ll die. And if you can, you’ll manage through mundane, profane, the painful and the thrilling.

4. How’s life? How is your wife?

One and the same. That’s one cliche both sexes can agree on.

5. It can be like riding on a roller coaster.

How’s married life? The answer can be different any given day. Today is glorious, tomorrow awful. And so what?

6. Never compare your couple to any other.

This always leads to disaster. Never compare your house, your relationship, your sex life, your wealth or anything else to anyone else’s. That’s the first step to being consumed by fear, jealousy, envy and all the other negative emotions.

Live your own life. Bring out the best in each other and work on your own couple, per your own standards and expectations.

7. Instinct and emotion trump pure reason.

This is the hardest thing for some people to learn and then accept. Sometimes, one spouse is often right despite what may seem wrongful reasoning, irrational demands, emotional appeals. Reason alone is not enough and leads you down wrong paths. Sometimes you really have to listen to your spouse and follow his or her requests, then ask the questions later.

8. Well, do you miss the chase?

Yes and no. Even if you loved to date before, when married, you’ll think twice and three and four times before pursuing another man or woman. Once you invest all your efforts with one person for so long (and actually succeed), why would you want to jeopardize it for a shallow hook-up?

More to the point, if you’ve stopped chasing your wife, you’ve lost a step yourself. If you’ve stopped exciting her with your jokes, actions and ideas, you need fresh material. It’s your job to keep her excited about you and where you’re going together in life.

Your wife is a different woman every day. Make things exciting by wooing her like you want to win her. Try something new once in a while. The same goes for those of you with husbands!

9. Doesn’t the sex get bad?

If you let it, for sure it does. If either of you let things get stale in any part of your relationship—especially this one—it can really bring down the enjoyment factor.

Here’s a novel idea (followed by Orthodox Jews): separate for a few days each month and don’t touch each other at all. When you’re back in the saddle, it’s gooood.

10. Patience isn’t a virtue; it’s earned.

Not just patience with your partner, but with yourself. You have to always work to improve yourself, but progress is never quick.

Patience is the only way you can get past all the frustrations that can pile up when you take two people with different personalities, hormones, cultures, languages, worldviews, types of hygiene, ways or organizing life and so on and put them together in one house.

Meditate, pray, take a walk around the block. Play the long game. Do whatever you have to do to be patient with your partner and with yourself. You will prevail over your foibles and get over the silly things that cause you to argue and become frustrated.

11. Your spouse is always #1.

Not your book, not your job, not your best buddy. When your spouse needs you, you drop everything. Or eventually, he or she will drop you.

12. Never settle or backslide.

Once you do, your relationship starts a slow death. Maintain the high standards for yourself you had when you met—and impressed—each other and fell in love.

Set a goal for yourself

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