Love you,Always and forever.

June marks the beginning of the wedding season. Social media accounts will be inundated with pictures of engagements, bridal showers, and weddings. The top three celebrations in the Haitian culture are baptisms, communions, and weddings. Weddings are a big deal to every woman who daydreamed about her Prince Charming since her Catholic grade school days. She also received admonition from the women in her family that she “must learn how to cook” because, one day, she will get married. So, most young girls have the seeds of marriage planted in their hearts long before they even had their first kiss.

Weddings are like family reunions. Aunts, uncles, and cousins you haven’t seen in years come out not only to celebrate these special occasions but also to enjoy the festive food, including Banan Peze, Griot, and Diri Djon-Djon. And, let’s not forget the most prized multi-tiered white-frosted yellow cake with pineapple filling that still tastes good even after a week has passed.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine shared that she just got engaged. Within the span of one minute, her facial expressions showcased many emotions – from excitement to anxiety, from happiness to worry. Finally, a look of concern settled on her face. I am very intuitive, and I prodded her to tell me how she truly felt inside.

She asked me a question that I get all of the time from other women: “Do you have any advice?” I understand the apprehensiveness. I was once in her shoes; I didn’t know what to expect despite reading all of the marriage preparation books.

I’ve been married for several years now, and any couple who has been married for more than a day could answer her question. I thought of five things I wished I had known. I’ve learned that after the celebration is over, one is faced with a new reality, a new responsibility. You can only learn certain lessons after you go through the experience. Hopefully, these five pearls of wisdom will help any woman be more prepared for marriage, which is a lifelong commitment that celebrates true love.

1. Put God first, and everything else will follow.

God should be your source and the first person you go to for everything you need whether it is joy, happiness, healing, money, etc. Once you do, everything falls into place. No one – not even one’s loved one –  should be the primary source of your happiness. Try to always maintain a wellspring of happiness within your heart that doesn’t depend on anyone else but God to fill it up.

2. Don’t compare your relationship with anyone else’s.

You will find that when you ask people, “Do you have any advice?” They will often say, “The first year of marriage is always hard.” Disregard their opinion. They probably heard it from someone else who had a miserable first year.

We often forget that words have power. Google “Emoto Water Experiment.” When you do, you will discover that a scientist by the name of Dr. Masuru Emoto performed multiple tests and experiments observing the effects of human thoughts, words, and intentions on water. He noted that when water was exposed to positive words or music, it formed beautiful crystals. When the water was exposed to negativity or ignored, it formed grotesque crystals. We are made of 60% of water. So, don’t let anyone else’s negative experience taint the journey you are about to embark with your loved one. The first year is what you make of it. You get out what you put in.

3. Never speak badly of your spouse in public.

This is a big no-no. I don’t care what he does – burps, picks his nose, etc., just don’t talk about his weakness to your friends. Don’t even tell your family (unless he is abusive). When you’re married, you are now one. When you speak badly of him, you are actually speaking badly of yourself. You are a reflection of each other in the eyes of your friends and family. Refrain from speaking or even joking about your spouse’s weakness. You are meant to build up your spouse, and not break him down.

4. Listen to Your Spouse

When he says something, listen. Pause and listen. I mean really listen. We have two ears for a reason: to listen twice more than we speak. Your spouse is human, too; he has needs and feelings. When he says that something bothers him take that into consideration. Try to be accommodating.

5. Love Is Not A Feeling
Finally, you will learn quickly that marriage involves sacrifice. There are days when you will “feel” you have fallen out of love with your spouse. But, please remember that those are just feelings. Feelings are superficial – they come and go like a cool breeze in the summertime. You can’t rely on them.

Real love is not a feeling. It’s a commitment. Love requires action. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do that matters. If love is not accompanied by action, it’s not true love.

Here’s another assignment: “Google, and read ‘1 Corinthians 13.’” Wherever it says “love,” insert your name, and see if you are really loving your spouse. If not, you have some homework to do. Love is patient. Love is kind…. Are you patient? Are you kind….?

Cindy Similien-Johnson is the founder of CSJ Media Publishing, and author of the bestselling e-cookbook series and popular cooking classes, "Cook Like A Haitian." She's also the founder of the women empowerment grassroots initiative, Goal Chic.

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