As the date to our vow renewal quickly approaches, I look back over the 23 years of our relationship and all the things we have accomplished together. My emotions overwhelm me! It is now that I truly understand why the length of our marriage amazes both singles and married couples alike. They’re always fascinated and want to know our secret.

My husband and I met in 1995, while we were both attending at Newton Co. High School. After dating for a little over two years, we were married May 16, 1997. Many people felt we were too young but we didn’t care. We set out to conquer the Navy, societal and ancestral curses, and most importantly, love. Despite the overwhelming odds, we both subscribed to the same concept of “love was all we needed to succeed” because we both knew true love could endure all!

1. We learned all too quickly, that a good marriage just doesn’t happen overnight.

To have a blossoming marriage you have to work in it just like a garden. And like a garden, which requires time, attention, patience, nurturing and love, your marriage requires these basic fundamentals and so much more to produce a valley of tulips.

We are definitely not relationship experts. However, we will share a few things we have learned over the years (sometimes the hard way) and wish someone would have shared with us prior to and during our union.

2. Never Stop Dating.

Keep your relationship alive, fun and spontaneous. This is very important since you never know when you will be apart from one another and for how long. So you have to take advantage of every moment together. With things as simple as a cup of coffee, a card game, working out together, to take trip on a four day.

3. Fights Don’t Equal Deal Breakers.

Arguing is normal couple behavior; no one is perfect. Today’s couples are too quick to throw in the towel when things don’t go their way. You have to learn to fight fair. Agree that walking away is OK or decide on a code word. So when you can’t come to an agreement this method will allow you to put the discussion on hold and return to it later at an agreed upon time.

4. Be Supportive.

Non-active spouse: Do not argue about the military’s day-to-day order. I can promise, your spouse does not want to be deployed from family, work crazy hours and have special collateral assignments. Active duty spouse: Understanding and compassion goes a long way. Remember your spouse has changed his/her life every two to four years to follow you as you serve because he/she loves you.

5. Know Your Branch.

Be educated about the military community your spouse service. This knowledge will provide you with the tools to be a successful military family. You will understand the rules and regulations required of your family. You will know how to assist, be supportive, be understanding and have compassion during times of stress.

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