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Marriage in popular culture is usually broken down in simple categories: women want it, men run from it. Because of this, it’s hard to get to any serious talk about marriage on either side, especially if you’re a guy being bombarded with images of the unfortunate married man a single guy is supposed to pity, because being single apparently means you have a bevy of single hot young somethings breaking down the door of your bachelor pad every night. But… that… doesn’t… happen… What does happen is a lot of nothing punctuated by a few dates and a lot of clueless shrugging about marriage, commitment and relationships and what these words mean. And because of that lack of information, I, like a lot of folks, had to learn about it the hard way — trial and “oh-my-God-so-embarrassing” error. There’s nothing like practicing your theories on love and commitment on your wife. She was patient and understanding. This is not the case for everyone. Hence, these are the four things I wish someone had sat me down and told me about before I jumped that broom.

1. Communication: Everyone talks about communication and how important it is, but can they actually do it? Do you actually listen or do you just wait to talk? Do you take what others say in consideration or do you just project your own wants and desires on your significant other, then become shocked — shocked — when they have a mind and opinion of their own? You have to talk to each other. Everyone communicates differently. One person’s punishing silence is another’s “They didn’t complain, so everything must be fine!”

2. Sex with just one person is not a death sentence: There is this misconception that single people are engaging in a sexual smorgasbord of delights while marriage is a freaky-time deathbed, when all statistics bear out the opposite. Now, does that mean that sex within marriage is a constant triple X throw-down? No. Your martial sex life is what you and your spouse make it. But, again, if you’re unhappy sexually in your marriage, perhaps you should consult number one on the list.

3. Complacency is not your friend: A wise woman once told me to never start doing something for someone you didn’t intend to keep up for the rest of the marriage. Meaning: If you loved to take your wife out and romance her when you were dating or you loved to talk sweet to your hubby and cook for him before the ring, you can’t exactly turn off the charm and go into “I gotcha! Now watch me fall asleep in front of the TV every night” mode! Every day doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day, but they invented DVRs for a reason. Tape the game and go out to dinner sometimes.

4. In-laws are not the enemy: When you marry into a family, your spouse’s family becomes part of yours. It’s a lot easier to go along with the parents and siblings of your spouse than to neglect and ignore them. Or fight them at every turn. And if the in-laws are demanding, pick and choose your battles. A little smile, a little peace and a willingness to compromise go a long way. Read more here.

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