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Dear Danielle,

Congratulations on your graduation! I have a special gift for you as you look forward to a promise-filled future, diploma in your hand and fiancé at your side. I offer you words of advice from someone who knows you well and speaks from experience.

Be an idealist.

There is no shortage of cynics out there who will tell you that seeking happiness and fulfillment through lifelong commitment to another human being is folly. You know this. Some of them even sat next to you in sociology class.

Of course it’s true that there are more nitty-gritty details to marriage than any unmarried person is prepared to grasp. The fact is, however, that married life is a whole lot worse and a whole lot better than most people realize going into it. You just don’t know any of the details yet.

And that is precisely why I say now is the time for you to be an idealist. It is your duty and your right. Now, before you are married, while you are dating, is the proper time to be romantic and idealistic.

If you can’t be an idealist now, when can you? When you’ve got four kids under five, are living paycheck to paycheck, and struggling to learn the basics of NFP? (Not that any of that is going to happen. Well, OK, it will happen, but it won’t be as bad as it sounds. OK, some days it will be as bad as it sounds, but you wouldn’t trade any of it for anything, you hear me? You wouldn’t.)

The time for idealism is now. Now is the time to plan how you and your beloved are going to share endless numbers of candlelit dinners and write each other daily love poems…because you will do some of that.

Now is the time to plan how you will smile indulgently and snap a picture every time your baby burps or drools…because you will do some of that too.

Now is the time to plan how there will never be cross word in your home, you will discuss politics instead of carpools at the dinner table, you will never use a pacifier or a babysitter, you will disagree only occasionally and always civilly, and your kids will eat only fruits, vegetables, hormone-free meats, and homemade, all-natural, organic, whole-grain, fruit juice-sweetened muffins…because you will do some of that too.

Dream it.

Plan it.

All of it, even if it feels silly.

Just because not everything will turn out exactly as you plan is no reason not to plan it. God intends young lovers to aim high and take pleasure in anticipating the joys that lie ahead. Such idealism lays the rock-solid foundation of love that anchors married couples when some of the more down-to-earth aspects of married life show up and must be dealt with.

They will show up. And you will deal with them. Not always admirably, but more often than not, you will come away from even messy moments a little more grown up, a little more grateful for the gift of God’s grace, and just a little more in love with your man. Not hearts-shining-in-your-eyes kind of in love. A better kind.

You’ll see.

Speaking of that better kind of love, here are some quick tips that will help you get there. Say you’re sorry. Don’t keep score. Make time for fun. Laugh more. Shout less. And learn the fine art of having a glass of wine and just getting over yourself already.

Finally, I want to encourage you to be idealistic when you pray for your future husband. Be idealistic when you pray with him too. That shared idealism will arm you with common goals, binding passion, and abiding faith.

That way, when reality hits, you will be ready. Not because you know going into it exactly what to expect out of marriage, but because you are so deeply committed to one another and to your marriage that you will face every obstacle together with faith and love.

There will be tears. There will be compromises you never thought you would make. But through it all, if you lean on your faith and on one another, there will be love. Though you might be surprised by what married life is really like, you will not be disappointed.

XO,

Danielle



Danielle Bean is editorial director of Faith & Family magazine and Faith & Family Live. She and her husband, Dan, have been married 16 years.

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