How do you know when you’re ready for marriage? Is it based on age, financial stability, or when one is ready to be selfless? A new study came out that says adulthood doesn’t begin at 18 or 21. It starts at 30. Thirty! And I couldn’t agree more. 

I was 24 when we got married, my husband, Jason, was 25. It was our first time moving away from home and during our first month of marriage, we totally forgot to pay our rent for our apartment. We were living more like college kids with newfound freedom than a set of responsible Mr & Mrs. Our version of love and romance was mostly based on our favorite shows where conflict was usually resolved in the one-hour timeslot. We said our I Dos but didn’t have any clue really what this lifetime commitment had in store. So now, when newlyweds ask me for any advice, here are the top three things I share.

1. It’s not  a 50/50 deal.

“Marriage is a compromise,” they say. “It’s all about meeting halfway.” Not. Halfway is 50/50, which means you do just half of your part in the relationship. The minute you start thinking like this, you and your spouse end up doing “just enough” for the other. It’s more about 80/20 or 70/30—you being the higher number. So when we started to think of doing more for the other, the other naturally reciprocates that type of selfless acts. It’s helped me to think of what more can I do for him, than keeping a list of what he hasn’t done for me. Such a game changer. I can’t change him, but I can surely change me.

2. “In sickness and in health,” isn’t just about the typical cold and flu.

Getting married in our mid-20s, I thought that line “in sickness and in health” meant as we were getting old and gray. In our case, it was more like the age of 27. After experiencing the sudden miscarriage of our first pregnancy of identical twin boys at five months in the womb, my body was in shock and my heart numb with grief. About nine months later, we would receive another curveball. It’s never a good sign when your doctor says “I hope you have good insurance because it’s going to be a long road ahead.” Sitting in his cardiologist’s office, Jason was told he had cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart. Jason was 28, a basketball player, a non-smoker, a non-drinker, with no previous history of heart disease in his family. “In sickness and in health,” I whispered to myself as I sat there, now six months pregnant on our second pregnancy. The next eight years was a long road indeed filled with constant prayers. It meant dozens of hospital stays, tons of medical procedures, and near-death moments which later resulted in a heart transplant, all the while raising two young kids. On some days it felt like we were on a nauseating rollercoaster ride that had no end.

Then just when we thought the ride had stabilized, another drop. About three years ago, Jason’s kidney began to fail. And as God’s grace would have it, we had the same blood type and I was his match. In October 2016, we were literally joined as one. I gave him a life-saving gift: my left kidney. The doctor said I had man-sized kidneys for a petite woman, which was perfect for Jason’s body. Coincidence or God’s design? God is indeed the best matchmaker. Chronic or terminal illness can come at any time in a marriage, no matter how young or how healthy you may be today. And that line in “in sickness and in health” is no joke and will test you like you wouldn’t believe but will also deepen your faith and trust in God like no other.

3. Our love for one another is not enough.

The Bible says the heart is deceitful. Emotions can fluctuate and change the same way the wind can suddenly change course. So if a marriage is simply focused on loving one another and pleasing one another, what happens when your spouse hurts or disappoints you? Jason and I eventually learned that our love for one another is not enough. It’s our constant love for God that saved our marriage. On many occasions when you’re so tempted to do what your heart wants to do out of hurt or disappointment, our love for God is what made us stop and think before making permanent decisions based on temporary feelings. “What will God think of me if I do this or that?” In all situations, it was our reverence and love for Him that kept us in line with His design for marriage. We know that as long as we please Him first, His blessing for our marriage is what will deliver and sustain us, teaching us how to dance in the rain, no matter what.

We celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary a few months ago. Our marriage still has challenges but our prayers are deeper and the rock we’re standing on, stronger. Marriage is hard, but so is life. We don’t get to choose how God will test us; our only choice is how we will react. So many couples try to do it all on their own, relying only on each other to complete them or to sustain them. We wouldn’t be here two decades later if that was our formula.

It takes three to make any marriage work—God must be the constant. His boundless capacity to get us through hard times is what has saved us.

These profound life lessons are what I will pass on to my kids when it’s their time to get married. And before they say “I do” I will remind them to turn the lights off, turn the TV off and to remember to pay their rent.

Marriage takes work. Thankfully, there’s an app that can help! Lasting—the nation’s #1 relationship counseling app—provides accessible sessions designed to help you build a healthy marriage. Download and take Lasting’s free Relationship Health Assessment.

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To My Husband: Thank You For Being A Great Man

9 Truths Newlyweds Should Know About Marriage

Aliw Garcia Pablo

Aliw is a wife and mother of two teens. She is a kidney donor to her husband, Jason.  She is a  Supervising Producer at incmedia.org and has dedicated her life in telling meaningful stories on how God works in our lives.