Build a strong friendship with your spouse. Even though a fairy tale view of marriage emphasizes the romantic part of marriage, realistically, the romantic attraction between you and your spouse will come and go as your circumstances change. However, the friendship between you two will remain constant, no matter what circumstances you go through together. So focus on building a strong bond of friendship between you. If you’re too busy to spend time to spend together regularly (which is essential for building a strong friendship), then intentionally slow down and make time with your spouse a high priority.

Make informed decisions about sex. An overly romantic notion of sex ignores important facts that you need to be aware of to enjoy a healthy marriage. Instead of pressuring your spouse to fulfill your romantic fantasies and trying to live up to your spouse’s fantasies, get real about all the issues that sex can bring into your marriage. Openly and honestly discuss issues such as contraception choices, fighting threats to your relationship like pornography and affairs, and how to deal with sexual changes brought on by aging and illness.

Be realistic about children. While fairy tales may picture husbands and wives with just the right number of healthy children right when they want to have them, realize that you can’t count on experiencing that in your actual marriage. Be prepared to deal with surprises that this fallen world may bring you, such as infertility, unexpected pregnancies, miscarriages, or children who are born with illnesses or disabilities. Commit with your spouse to rely on God together as you deal with issues involving children.

Build a household together wisely. A fairy tale perspective on marriage ignores the reality that spouses must figure out how best to divide the workload that running a household requires, from chores to errands. Be sure to work the details out with your spouse according to each other’s skills and time and energy levels. Also, learn how to manage your shared finances wisely, including living below your means, staying out of debt, giving generously, saving, and investing. When making career decisions, aim to choose more time together over more money, since time together is ultimately more valuable.

Look forward to growing old together. When you approach marriage like a fairy tale, you usually focus on today’s pleasures rather than thinking ahead. But God may give you and your spouse the opportunity to grow old together. Plan for that time, in case you get to experience it. Build traditions together around holidays and other special times. Encourage and support each other as you each work toward creating a positive legacy to leave behind after you die. Thank God regularly for the time you have together – even when it’s marked by loss or sorrow – and make the most of it.

Adapted from Are You Waiting for “The One”?: Cultivating Realistic, Positive Expectations for Christian Marriage, copyright 2011 by Margaret Kim Peterson and Dwight N. Peterson. Published by IVP Books, a division of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.

Margaret Kim Peterson (Ph.D. Duke University, Durham, North Carolina and M.Div. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts) serves as associate professor of theology at Eastern University, St. Davids, Pennsylvania. She is the author of Sing Me to Heaven(Brazos, 2003) and Keeping House(Jossey Bass, 2007) as well as several articles and contributing chapters to books. She wrote a chapter for Women, Ministry and the Gospel(InterVarsity Press, 2007) as well as a section titled "Marriage" in The IVP Women's Bible Commentary(InterVarsity Press, 2002). Peterson has given numerous lectures and offered courses at conferences, churches and universities on a wide range of topics including healing, hospitality, AIDS awareness and support, Trinitarian doctrine and marriage.

Dwight N. Peterson (Ph.D. Duke University, Durham, North Carolina and M.Div. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts) currently serves as professor of New Testament at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Origins of Mark (2000, Brill). Peterson has also written articles for several scholarly and popular publications including Bulletin for Biblical Research, Ex Auditu, Christianity and Theatre and Prism. He and his wife, Margaret Kim Peterson, have delivered talks together on marriage at Eastern University and North Park University in Chicago.

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at: angels.guide@about.comto send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.