"Marriage is not just spiritual communion; it is also remembering to take out the trash."
- Joyce Brothers

One of my coworkers is getting married soon, and we're all taking her to lunch to celebrate. She's pretty young, and most of the rest of us have been married for a while. The lady who's organizing the event asked us all to write up some sage marital advice so she could pass our helpful hints along.

At first I sort of blinked at her email, feeling like she'd just asked me for the answer to a difficult calculus problem. But then I thought, "Well, I have managed to stay married for nearly a decade, and nobody's died, become alcoholic, or threatened suicide as a result, so that's got to be a win here, right?"

So, here's what I've sent along to my soon-to-be-wed coworker.

Marriage is always a work in progress, and it always takes care and effort. The most important things are always communicating, always trying to be respectful towards each other, and always being kind to each other. Keeping a good sense of humor helps a great deal, but it's crucial to laugh with your spouse, not at him or her. It's important to encourage each other to do better and to grow as people, but you both need to know you love each other even if you disappoint or fail each other. Don't assume that your spouse surely knows you love him or her: say it, every day.

Building and maintaining trust is crucial. In our culture, we talk about cheating solely in terms of sexual infidelity, but there's so much more to it than that. Cheating is all about breaking promises and betraying trust. For instance, spending money on clothes when you said you wouldn't and hiding the purchases is a kind of cheating. Everyone needs his or her own privacy, of course, but if you find yourself thinking "Well, he/she doesn't need to know about this," that's the time to do a reality check. Keeping secrets and secretly breaking promises drives a wedge of silence between the two of you. Worse, cheating can make a person feel guilt and shame, and that often leads to resentment. Those bad feelings build up and put cracks in a relationship that are hard to repair.

It's better to be brave and have those difficult conversations about your needs and desires and seek compromise instead of hiding things from your spouse. You've chosen each other as your life partners, and you need to feel free to be your most authentic selves with each other, and you need to know you have each other's backs.

Date nights are important. Once you're living together it might seem like intimacy is something that will just automatically happen when you share a bed and table, but it's easy for people to become disconnected because they're occupied with jobs, chores, and other activities. Set aside time for just you and your spouse every week so you can re-connect. The little things matter.