I want to share a profound truth. To be a Christian is to be a romantic of the deepest kind. It’s to know that true love exists: God Himself is Love. It’s this belief that gives credence to the idea that human love can last a lifetime when its source is Love Himself. Written on the core of our being is a call to love and be loved. And so we do and so we are. Loved infinitely and beyond measure by Love Himself, we are called to show forth and participate in His love.

Many of us are called to live out this love in the vocation of marriage. Some of you, like me, are married now. Others of you are preparing for marriage presently through your engagement, eagerly awaiting the day when you and your beloved are husband and wife. Still more of you are waiting for your future spouse to come into your life but feel a definite call to marriage and family life someday. Others of you are discerning where God is leading you in a current relationship. Wherever you are in life, know that God has incredible plans for you.

So what is it that makes for a strong and joy-filled marriage? There are oodles of lists and advice columns out there, much of it very good and much of it unhelpful or ill-advised. However, since you’re reading this, you must be interested in my perspective and insight, be that what it may. So here are some marriage must-haves. These are characteristics that we can nurture and foster within ourselves as well as in our relationships and marriages.

1. A rock-solid foundation. As I mentioned in the introduction, God is the source of all love. Marriage is meant to mirror His love in a very special way. In order to do this successfully, we must draw from His Love through a marriage centered on faith in Him. Prayer must be paramount since marriage is a call to holiness, for each spouse to bring the other closer to God. You pray and worship together. Faith is central to your life together.

2. Mutual respect and admiration. Marriage is a continual choice to love another entirely. You are committed to a full and faithful love that grows ever richer as you learn more about one another. You love one another with all that you are. Certain enduring qualities led you together in the beginning and new-found qualities attract you even more closely as time progresses.

3. Teamwork. In marriage your lives are connected and you have a common goal. You are striving together, side-by-side. You each have complementary abilities and you utilize these to accomplish both great and small endeavors. Every life has its burdens and obstacles. There will be good times along with the bad. You help and support one another in all of life’s seasons.

4. Continual Growth. Each time you take stock of your relationship, it is in a better place than it was before. In joining your lives together, you become richer than the sum of your individual selves. You both become better versions of yourselves through living life together.

5. Empathy. Men and women see the world in profoundly different ways. You seek to see things from your spouse’s perspective. You support one another in your individual pursuits. You encourage each other.

6. Generosity. The great mystery of marriage is that two become one. This requires a total gift of self, a living of one’s life entirely for another person. You look to the interest of your spouse above your own and your spouse does likewise. One of the most profound and integral expressions of this is the loving acceptance of children from God in parenthood.

7. Trust. Living a life united to another person, trust is paramount. You rely on one another profoundly. You can count and depend on each other. You are both responsible and reliable. Completely and totally committed and devoted to your marriage and to one another, you are faithful and steadfast in all things.

8. Friendship. More than lovers, more than partners, you are also the most intimate of friends, sharing all things and holding nothing back.

9. Communication. You express yourself through words as well as actions and you talk through any tension in your relationship. You are open and honest with one another. You readily offer words of affirmation and praise one another’s good qualities. You admit your faults and failings and forgive those of your spouse. I wrote an entire piece on this here.

10. Love. Real, true lasting love like that described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices at right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”