by Paul Carrick Brunson

Outside of communication, the ability to resolve problems is the second most important part of marriage.

Every day it feels as if we are bombarded with negative reports about the institution of marriage. So much so that you would think no one is getting married anymore, right? Well, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Last year alone there were nearly 3 million weddings in the U.S.

If the number of marriages is so high, why all of the negative press, you ask? Many experts say other factors are often used to support the “poor state of marriage.” For example: The number of couples who live together without marrying has increased tenfold since 1960 and Americans are waiting about five years longer to marry than they did in 1970.  On top of that, the divorce rate, namely among lower socio-economic groups, is increasing.

Before you make any conclusions, know that there is a silver lining in the recent data reported. Among couples getting married, there is increased stability. More and more couples are acknowledging that it is important to have a level of awareness and skills before entering matrimony in order to remain in matrimony. In 2011, nearly 50 percent of couples received premarital counseling.

While I don’t offer premarital counseling (yet), if I did, these are the 13 subjects I would focus on.

Conflict Resolution Is Key

Outside of communication, the ability to resolve problems is the second most important part of marriage. Having the same values allows for better understanding when working on the big issues — such as how to raise the children.

Marriage Is Not Always 50/50

Sometimes you have to put in the majority of what’s needed in the relationship. Other times, your partner will put in more. This is called teamwork. And it takes teamwork to make the dream work.

Attraction Typically Grows

Don’t worry if you will continue being attracted to your partner 5, 10, or 15 years in the future. According to a recent study I read about couples married for 30 years, most reported being more attracted to their spouse now than at the time of their wedding. (No wonder that Viagra is seeing explosive growth in their 55-65 year old age bracket)

Your Marriage Isn’t Safe from Gossip

Ninety-nine percent of the people you know will gossip about your marriage. Keep your personal business between you and your spouse and that gossip will have zero impact.

Don’t Make Comparisons

It’s very destructive and dangerous to compare your spouse to other people (or worse, celebrities and public figures). Don’t do it, ever.

Marriage Isn’t a Finish Line

I’ll never forget someone telling me (just days before my wedding), “man, you’re getting ready to check out, you’re reaching the finish line.” He couldn’t have been further from the truth. Marriage is the start of another incredible journey in life, not an ending to your happy story.

Good Communication Is Part of Your Foundation

All relationships (romantic and platonic) live and die based on the strength of communication. This is one area that should be honed prior to marriage.

Sex With Just One Person Is Not A Death Sentence

According to numerous national sex surveys, both married men and women report having higher satisfaction and more frequent sex than singles.

Focus On Height Rather than Length

When I tell people I’ve been married for 10 years, I get all kinds of congratulations but I’m never asked about the quality of those years. Society is obsessed with “how long” we do certain things. It is more important to focus on soaring as high as possible together.

Complacency Is Not Your Friend

Straying emotionally or physically from a relationship typically happens when one partner becomes complacent. Keeping your marriage fresh and exciting should be your motto.

The In-Laws Are Not the Enemy

Marriage is not simply the joining of two people, it’s the merger of two families and legacies. Treat it as such.

A Great Marriage Isn’t Conflict Free

If someone tells you they never argue with their spouse, send them back to the insane asylum. Real couples fight. Great couples fight fair.

Kids Are Serious Business

Despite what R&B tells us, becoming parents isn’t as simple as “let’s go half on a baby.” Bringing a child into a marriage will test every strand of your relationship. Be sure your marriage is strong, before even thinking about a baby.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.