Anyone who has spent any time perusing the blogosphere knows that there are thousands upon thousands of articles out there giving advice on marriage. I’ve certainly read my fair share, so I thought it would be helpful to distill the reflections that I thought were most insightful into one place. In honor of National Marriage Week, here are my four favorite musings on the beauty of marriage.

1.  Take Your Vows Seriously So That You Will Always Have Someone to Tell the Truth To

One of the primary blessings of marriage is that it gives us a lifelong partner to confide in, no matter how unbearable life may become. The freedom that comes with the ability to be completely open and honest with our spouses is a wonderful thing. Jordan Peterson put it this way:

What do you do when you get married? You take someone who’s just as useless and horrible as you are, and then you shackle yourself to them. And then you say, we’re not running away no matter what happens…If you can run away, you can’t tell each other the truth…If you don’t have someone around that can’t run away, then you can’t tell them the truth. If you can leave, then you don’t have to tell each other the truth. It’s as simple as that, because you can just leave. And then you don’t have anyone to tell the truth to.

2. Use Your Spouse’s Criticism as an Opportunity to Deepen Your Love

Best-selling author Dr. Warren Farrell speaks of the critical importance of how we handle criticism from our spouse:

Making marriages better serves everyone. Many couples with children who are legally married are psychologically divorced. Divorces are due less to problems with money, sex or children, and more to each partner feeling that her or his perspectives on money, sex, or children are rarely heard. When our partner airs her or his perspective, we often take it as criticism, and the Achilles’ heel of human beings is our inability to handle personal criticism from a loved one without becoming defensive.

I introduce in The Boy Crisis my “Altered Mindsets Method of Non-defensive Communication,” which has allowed couples to emotionally associate their partner’s criticism as an opportunity to deepen their love. It’s a method I have honed over two decades via couples’ communication workshops… [E]mpathy communication skills need to be part of every elementary school’s core curriculum… This is the most important single global change for love in our families and peace in the world.

3. Sustaining Love Does Not Come Naturally

Dr. Farrell further explains how sustaining love within a marriage does not come naturally, but yet this is an absolute must not only for the couple themselves, but for their children: “…[W]e have a ‘love dilemma’: while ‘falling in love’ is biologically natural, sustaining love is biologically unnatural. For our children to not fear marriage, then, they need to see that their parents have learned how to do what does not come naturally: sustain love.”

So how can couples sustain love? Here is a great compilation of ways to do this in everyday life.

4. ‘Thank you for choosing me.’

This is from “Marriage According to 10 Couples”:

“‘Thank you for choosing me.’ We often spontaneously use this line, communicating how grateful or undeserving we feel to be given such a genuine love. We’ve quickly learned that it is a choice that comes with each new sunrise in marriage, and it’s the deep confidence found in the other’s daily commitment that has moved mountains internally in our first year as newlyweds. ‘Thank you for choosing me …’ They are words we’ll whisper in each other’s ear well into old age; I’m certain of it.”—Angela Hoyer