By Tina Arceo-Dumlao

Some popular movies, songs, and television shows would have us believe that marriage is a fate almost worse than death, often referred to as a trap, the end of the happy life or a one-way ticket to endless misery. But marriage can be the exact opposite, believe it or not.

Instead of a trap, marriage can free us to become better people. It may be the end of the carefree life but also the beginning of a more meaningful and fulfilling existence. If you decide to have children and become parents, it adds another dimension to your relationship. Instead of misery, marriage can indeed lead us to our real destiny on earth, the reason for our being.

Last Dec. 11, 2011, my husband and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary and we like to believe that we are as happy now as we were that day in 1993 when we became man and wife in the eyes of God, if not more.

And so the young and restless colleagues and friends who are about to get married ask me, how do you keep the marriage happy and fulfilling?

Here are a few tips based on what worked for me these past years.

Pick your battles. Not everything is worth fighting over just so you can say you’ve ‘won’ an argument. Fight for the big decisions you really believe in such as what kind of a parent you’d like to be or where you’d like your children to go to school, for instance, and just agree to disagree on others. You win some, you lose some. Compromise is at the heart of any working marriage.

Decide on money matters as early as possible. Assuming that both of you work, it is best to have separate individual accounts and then maybe a joint account for joint expenses. You’ve earned your money, so you’ve certainly earned the right to spend it the way you wish. But of course, agree to share in big expenses, just so you won’t end up paying for everything yourself while your spouse spends on luxuries.

Fix the schedule for the holidays. One of the major sources of heartaches is the holiday schedule. Talk about where you want the family to spend Christmas and New Year’s or even Sunday lunches or dinners. Once that’s fixed, there will be less haggling over where to spend these important dates, and less whining over “but we always go to your family.”

Respect ‘alone’ time. It’s not healthy for any relationship – even marriage – to be perpetually in each other’s pockets. We are individuals, after all, with needs and wants that cannot always be met by your spouse. So go out with friends, have a weekend alone, or just go somewhere you can recharge. It’s not a crime. Remember, there is a you, there is a he or she and there is an us.

Don’t try to change your spouse. We all have our quirks: some are annoying, some are cute. Don’t try to get rid of each and every one of them just to fit your notion of what a spouse should be. Nobody is perfect. Not even you, so don’t expect your spouse to be perfect. I always tell the romantics out there, if you were annoyed by one habit before you got married, chances are you will still be annoyed years later. So can you take it?

Lastly, share loads of laughter.  There’s nothing like laughter to cure any ills in a relationship. I always say, if you can laugh about practically anything and everything with your husband or wife, then you’re on your way to a fulfilling journey together that will hopefully last as long as you both shall live.

Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash