A soon-to-be-wed woman on my birth board asked for tips to keep her marriage strong. I'm posting my response here because this will be easier to find when I need a refresher.
Here's what we do when we're doing things really well (sometimes we forget and go back to bad habits):
*Respect one another whether you're in each other's presence or not ~ I see a lot of posts bitching about the husband being stupid, a loser, incompetent with the baby, etc. Venting is one thing, but unless he's doing something illegal, immoral or otherwise dangerous, try hard not to be that kind of wife. Don't let him be the kind of husband who would be mean to you or bash you to others either.
*Have fun together ~ Enjoying one another's company and having some friends in common is vital.
*Have separate interests ~ Don't do everything together.
*Understand that having a baby and getting married will make things more challenging... but know that you'd feel challenged without the baby. It's a little something extra to deal with right off, but not an extra reason to quit early.
*Know that being right doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win. This one is sometimes still hard for me. Pointing out how right you are or how wrong he is might make you feel better for about 30 seconds, but it's not going to solve the problem or keep you close to the man you love.
*Remember what brought you together ~ Times get hard once in a while, sometimes for a long while (that first year was a doozie for Tom and I, and we'd been together over five years by the time we wed), but you two are making this monumental decision because of several reasons. Write them down now while they're fresh and look at your list when you need to. Add to it when you can.
For example, by the time my husband got home last night, I was fried. Not because of anything bad, but I've been potty training our toddler this week (whew!). After we got our toddler to bed, I was supremely annoyed by the sound of my husband dragging his feet on the floor... and then I realized he was just getting to use the bathroom. Neither of us likes public restrooms so much. Tom usually goes from the front door to the restroom in the evening. He'd been home for about three hours when he finally got to go last night. He helped with dinner and the girls, then we ate. Then it was the bedtime routine and then he got a minute or two to himself. So, on my list of more than a million reasons why I love my husband... he waited to use the restroom so he could be with his family on a night when I really needed the help (and yes, I'm so glad I didn't cop an attitude about his feet dragging, even though it drives me up the wall on a good day).
I guess what it all really comes down to is that each of you should try to be the kind of person you'd want to be married to. Sometimes you're going to mess up, and so will he. Hopefully by keeping the other person in mind at all times, those mistakes will be relatively minor and you can continue to grow and love each other.
What advice would you give? Did anyone ever advise you before marriage? Did you heed it?