This week I had the privilege of conducting a renewal ceremony for a couple who worked hard to get their relationship back on track. Through difficult times, sacrifice, and persistence they were able to win the fight against divorce. Indeed, a celebration was well deserved, and enjoyed.

Similarly, each day soldiers across the world fight to keep our great nation free, and a celebration of gratitude is well deserved. Happy 4th of July everyone and thanks to all who serve to keep us free!

While living in America will never be perfect, it still beats the other choices. We can enjoy benefits and freedoms here that others only dream of. While you can always find a reason or two to complain, you can find many more reasons to celebrate.

Just like living in the USA can bring certain freedoms and benefits, a happy marriage can also bring many benefits. For those who are willing to fight for it, a happy marriage pays off.

Financially marriage may sound expensive, but it actually has many financial benefits. First, you can pool your income. If you both make about the same amount of money, that’s similar to receiving a 100 percent pay raise. And when you split the bills, you can end up spending almost 50 percent less than you would verses living on your own.

Married men tend to earn more money and are more likely to get a promotion compared to single men, and married women usually need to work less hours than single women. Overall, your net worth can increase more than 75 percent compared to a single individual when you consider these financial benefits.

Happily married individuals tend to live longer than singles too. From seeking medical care sooner to eating an overall healthier diet, and smoking and drinking less, a happy marriage helps people stay fit.

Also contributing to overall better physical and emotional health is the fact that happily married people tend to have less stress and depression. By offering each other support, friendship and encouragement, happy couples are more resilient to the pressures of life.

Of course simply getting married doesn’t guarantee anyone these benefits; they’re reserved for those who fight to maintain a happy marriage. Just like living in the United States, if you want the freedoms you have to follow certain rules.

And let’s be honest, obeying the rules of the land takes a bit of work. Every speed limit seems too slow and we all complain about paying too many taxes.

The same stands true for marriage. I have a single friend who never has to share the remote and hasn’t made his bed in over a year. His single life does offer some benefits.

But getting divorced so you never have to put down the toilet seat would be similar to moving out of the USA so you don’t have to pay taxes: one step forward, ten steps backwards.

So to keep love alive you may have to sacrifice a bit. You may go out with your friends less often and you may even have to share closet space. You may have to let someone else drive and even eat a meal that’s not your favorite.

You may have to learn to bite your tongue instead of saying every mean thing that comes to mind. You might have to admit you’re not always right, and you may even have to learn to say “I’m sorry.”

But when you follow these basic rules you’ll not only receive the benefits notes above, but also inherit someone who always laughs at your jokes, no matter how stupid. Someone who warms up your toes when it’s cold under the cover and kills the spiders when you’re too scared.

Someone who loves you just as much when you fail as when you succeed, and someone who will help you measure twice and cut once so you’re less likely to fail in the first place. Someone who knows your secrets, and your faults, and loves you anyway.

You’ll also have a built-in date for the weekend and all those holiday parties. Someone to warm up your car and help you clean the kitchen. Someone to put the kids to bed so you can have a break. Someone to listen when you just have to get something off your chest.

Both marriages and living in the USA will never be perfect. You’ll still get stuck behind the slowest driver in town when you’re running late, and you may even have to spend the night on the couch when your spouse is upset.

But marriages are like little countries, with their own traditions, cultures, and even languages comprised of inside jokes. And when you make the sacrifices, fight for its freedoms, and follow the rules in both, the benefits are ones that simply can’t be beat.

For more tips on keeping your love alive, visit www.panhandlecouples.com.

Remember, couple relationships are easier than you think, but harder than you act.

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