My brother was married in Thailand on Saturday to a wonderful woman he met here, while they were in grad school.  Since I’ve got some experience with marriage (and divorce), I thought I might impart some single woman advice! (no groaning, please!)  Actually, this advice is for all of us, married or not:

1. Expect Challenges

There is no way to get around it. Life presents challenges we never contemplate. Think of them as normal. Think of the conflict that will naturally arise from a challenge as normal. Every challenge, including those intimate ones just between the two of you will, in the end, bring you closer together. The greatest tool for personal growth and maturity (if you use it appropriately) is marriage.

2. Listen to Each Other. Talk to One Another.

Communication is obviously the key to any great relationship. I just can’t say that enough. I mean open and transparent communication about fears, hopes and desires. Never, ever bury your feelings.  And, if you do have buried feelings (and you do and will) find loving ways to bring them up … don’t shoot each other with them.

3. Ask for Forgiveness.

Ask for forgiveness and respond with forgiveness. Hold hands when you are asking or receiving. It will eliminate any hostility.

4. Stay Intimate

Never take your partner’s fidelity for granted. There will be slow downs in your sex life (kids, illness, exhaustion, stress). Love each other through those times. Don’t make it a guilt session. Stay faithful, emotionally and physically.

5. Never use the “D” Word or say, “I’m leaving.”

Those words and threats are never really erased. You can’t imagine saying or thinking it now, but it may come to mind someday. Keep it to yourself.

6. Celebrate Each Other

Have fun. Be happy for each other’s accomplishments. There’s no contest here.

7. She Needs Love. He Needs Respect

Please read the book by E. Eggerichs, “Love and Respect.” Of course, men need love too, but when a woman doesn’t feel love, she reacts in a way that feels like she doesn’t respect you.  And when a man doesn’t feel respect, he doesn’t want to exhibit love. It is a crazy, dysfunctional cycle and if you find yourself there (and you will), you can jump off and restart.  Remember – There’s nothing wrong with a restart. In fact, throughout your marriage, expect and embrace every one of your restarts.

8. Imagine It.

It’s hard to believe right now, but some day you will be older. Your kids will be gone and it’ll just be the two of you.  It doesn’t matter if you get together at 35 or 65, have a common vision for your relationship.  It may not turn out exactly as you plan, but relationships suffer when there is no picture for where you two want to go.

So, to my beautiful sister-in-law, welcome to our crazy and loving family!  And, to my brother … I love you and look forward to watching the two of you grow together – in life and love. Congratulations!