Once all the wedding hoopla stops the marriage begins.
Weddings often overshadow a marriage. The endless details about the cake, the band, the hall, the food, the flowers, the gown. I can't imagine what it will be like for Prince William and his bride Kate to settle into a marriage after the giant wedding and reception are over.
In some ways, they're no different than any other couple. They will have to learn how to be someone's life partner and know when to put their spouse's needs and wants ahead of their own.
Here's what I've learned in 15 years of marriage: Consider them 15 Life Lessons for Happily Ever After:
1. You can agree to disagree. No one has to win or lose an argument. You can have different opinions and views and come to honor and even celebrate your differences.
2. When you find you are both stuck, pause and reboot. Leave the loop you're stuck in. Go for a walk. Wash your face. Listen to some music. Take a breather. Do something to reboot yourself and the relationship.
3. Take the aerial view. How important is this in the scheme of the entire marriage? Can you extend your view of the person to see all the good they did last week, last month, last year?
4. Remind each other, "We're in this for the long haul." That got us through a year of cancer treatments. A marriage might have some rough moments or months. Keep telling yourself and each other, "We're in this for the long haul." Recommit to those wedding vows.
5. If a relationship has to be secret, you shouldn't be in it. If you can't tell your spouse about the lunch you're having with an old lover, cancel the lunch date.
6. Withholding the truth will hurt you both. Honesty isn't just about telling the truth, it's also about not withholding it. Don't withhold information that is important for your spouse to know.
7. If you don't ask, you don't get. Speak up for what you want. Don't expect your partner to read your mind on Valentine's Day, your birthday or even on Tuesday. You won't get everything you ask for, but if you don't ask, you've already given yourself a "no."
8. Use your words, and use them kindly. Edit yourself. If you think an unkind thought, it doesn't have to tumble out of your mouth. You aren't a gumball machine.
9. Enhance each others lives. Every morning, ask yourself: What can I do to enhance my partner's life? My husband brings in the newspaper every day to me. Small, but sweet. I pick him up sushi or a coconut bar for a treat.
10. Listen without your toolbox. Sometimes people want your presence, that's it. They don't want you to fix the problem, they want you to listen and understand. That's all. Sometimes that's everything.
11. Lead with love. Is what you're about to say kind, loving or helpful? If not, maybe it doesn't need to be said.
12. Ask yourself: How important is this? Will it matter in five minutes? Five months? Five years? Most of us trip over the small stuff. Release and relax.
13. When you're wrong, promptly admit it. Take the high road. Admit to your part. Clean up your side of the street as soon as you see that it needs sweeping.
14. Any time your feelings don't match what just happened, your childhood button just got hit. In any marriage there are six people, you and your spouse, your spouse's parents and your parents. We bring U-Hauls with us into the marriage. Deal with your past or it'll deal with you. Unpack the U-Haul once and for all. Get counseling if you need it. Release the past, the unresolved issues with mom and dad.
15. You are CEO of your own joy. Don't put the burden of your joy on anyone else. Light your own inner sparkler. No one can snuff it out but you. Feed your own soul and you'll never go hungry.