I wish I could type out a tutorial for you today on how to construct the perfect marriage, complete with the list of materials, detailed instructions, and great pictures. But I can’t. In fact, I don’t even know exactly what I’m going to say. I’m not really qualified. I don’t have all the answers, but for some reason, I feel like the Lord wants me to write this today. There must be someone who needs this. Maybe it’s you. Hey-maybe it’s me. I’m not sure, but I woke up this morning thinking of how thankful I am that after 15 years of marriage, I’m still crazy about my husband. We live a less-than-perfect life in a less-than-perfect home with less-than-perfect people, yet somehow, it’s BLISS. But lest I paint a picture of Snow White & Prince Charming and our four little dwarves, let me assure you it’s not always a fairy tale. We’ve learned a lot through the years. We’ve figured out what works for us. Will the same things work for everyone? No. But the important thing is to find out what will work for you & do those things. If you need a place to start, I’m giving you this list of practical things that have helped make our marriage what it is. Here are just a few:1. Put the kids to bed. From the time we brought our first child home from the hospital, we have believed in early bedtimes for kids. In fact, we made it about 12 years before our kids found out that not all kids go to bed at 7:30 at night. And we would have been able to keep it going longer if those darn kids at school had not bragged about staying up until 9:00! I’m guessing their parents would have been much happier if only they had learned this little secret, too. In order to have a great marriage, you have to be able to spend quality time together on a regular basis. Getting the kids to bed early & having time to just sit and talk and catch up on the day is very therapeutic for a marriage. That couple of extra hours to wind down before going to bed is prime time & I’m not talking about the TV line-up. Watch a movie, read a book, surf the internet, or just chat. But, do it together in a kid-free zone. It’s like a date every night, which is what you always dreamed marriage would be, right? And if your kids are older & you can’t put them to bed at 7:30, establish a time that they have to be in their rooms, ready for bed, & allow them to read for awhile. They’ll live. And if work schedules don’t allow for you & your husband to be together at night, find a slot of time that will work for you each day & stick to it.2. Be the funny one. In almost every married couple I know, there is at least one comedian. Sometimes they’re both comedians. But there’s almost always one. In our marriage, it’s my husband. I wish it was me. But, most of the time, it’s him. And the thing about me is, when I’m stressed, discouraged, or maybe just plain irritated, funny works on me. (Warning: This can technique be dangerous & backfire on you if the timing isn’t right, so be careful.) But, a well-timed humorous remark or an inside joke between the two of you can stop a runaway train before disaster strikes. When tensions run high, and all you want to do is prove you’re right, why not be the one who caves? Be strong enough to get your feelings out of the way & turn the situation around before it gets too far. Humor is a great tool for doing this. Be sensitive to his point of view, but sometimes the best way out of an argument is to take the fun bus. 3. You better not pout. Do I really need to explain? There is nothing so annoying as an adult who pouts when they don’t get their way. And yet, sometimes I’m as guilty as the next gal (ahhemm, or guy). We’ve all heard examples of couples who argue about something, then start pouting and don’t speak to each other again for days and sometimes even months or years. This is so not worth it, people. Be the stronger person. Let go of your pride and give in. Be the first to say “I’m sorry.” Those two words can work magic. And don’t forget, every fairy tale marriage starts with a little magic.4. Remember your story & tell it again. My husband & I have a great story. It started with a dare I took 19 years ago and it’s only gotten better every year. My husband loves telling the story over & over to our kids. They love the way he tells it & it’s does them good to hear it. And every time he tells it, it tells me he hasn’t forgotten. That he’s not ashamed to say he’s crazy about me. That he’s doing his part to keep the romance alive. He told it to our friends the other day at dinner and as we were all laughing at his exaggerations & embellishments, all I could think of was how loved he makes me feel. Tell your story to other people. It’s one of the best ways to tell your spouse you haven’t forgotten. 5. Find great couples & let them be your examples. Again, I’m not talking about Cinderella & Prince Charming. I’m talking real people. It’s true that Dave & I started out from the beginning of our relationship with an advantage that not all people have, and that was the great examples we’d seen in the marriages of our parents. We both grew up in homes where our parents were totally in love and still are to this day. This goes along with #4 a little bit, but both Dave & I grew up hearing about our parents’ stories. I heard my dad say over & over that he knew when he saw my mom in the college cafeteria line that he would marry her one day. And Dave heard time & again about how his dad tried to impress his mom with his humor in jr. high by slamming his tie in his locker. And we’ve seen what it looks like for love to last. We’ve seen what “for better or for worse” really means. We know it can be done.If you didn’t have the advantage of living in a home where marriage was happy, don’t be defeated by thinking all marriages are the same. Find a couple you know whose marriage has stood the test of time & learn from them. Let them be an example to you & find out what their secrets are. Be encouraged that people do make it through tough times & come out with a marriage intact. Don’t forget that no marriage is perfect, but finding good examples to encourage you can help you stay strong.6. Get to know the Author. This is the most important advice I could give you about marriage. Everything I’ve written here may be completely irrelevant to you. Maybe in your heart you think your marriage is in trouble & no amount of sweet little tips will help you now. Or maybe you have a marriage your friends envy & you’re not looking for advice. Whatever your situation, this is the one tip you really need to know. The only way to ensure that you have the best marriage possible is to follow the One who created marriage. You must know God before you can fully understand how to have a prosperous marriage and even a prosperous life. Sure, there are countless people who have lived without Him & had successful marriages, but to fully understand what true love is, you have to know Love. Trying to have a great marriage without Him is like trying to drive in the dark without headlights. Maybe you’ll get lucky & arrive at the end safely, or maybe it’ll end in disaster. If you know in your heart that you don’t know Him, let me help.Are you searching for answers? Wondering where to start & how to meet Him? Please contact me. It could be what’s been missing in your life & in your marriage. Let it change today.I hope something you’ve seen here today encourages you in your marriage. As I said before, I’m no expert. I still have things to learn as well. If you have practical advice that’s worked for you, whether you’ve been married 60 days or 60 years, please share it with us. Leave a comment below & tell us what it is. We’re only days away from Valentine’s Day. There’s no better time to talk about love. What do you have to say?{For more great resources on marriage & family, get expert advice by clicking here.}