It’s January. Our anniversary month. I have learned a lot about marriage over the last twenty-one years that I’d like to share. Here are the things no one will tell you before you walk down the aisle, along with some reasons to hack it out on the days when being single sounds more appealing.

You can have a soul mate.You just have to work at it. Nothing substantial in a relationship comes naturally—most things need time to grow. Time doesn’t happen overnight. You earn your soul mate by baring the most intimate parts of your being and letting him do the same. After so many years, you just know each other better than anyone else. You know the way he likes his socks folded and where he hides his “special” quarters. You memorize his order at various fast food places and automatically pick up cotton boxer briefs and white crew cut socks. You know him. And he knows you. You have a unique connection with each other—an intimate, private bond that only marriage can produce.

He can read your mind. And you can read his too—to a certain extent. You’ve watched him respond for twenty years. You probably know what he’s going to say about your mother coming to visit for two weeks before you even drop the news. You know he doesn’t cry during the sad part of a movie but you also know if you glance up, he’ll be biting his lip. He knows you’ve had it with driving the kids around and offers to pick your daughter up from choir. He sees you’ve had a bad day and stays out of your way afraid your bite will be worse than your bark—after all he’s had experience with both.

Real love walks a fine line between like and hate. Love sticks deep down in your gut, lodged tight in a place not easily shaken. But there are moments, hours, days where he’s at the bottom of your happy list. And that’s okay. You’re in it for the long term. He feels the same way about you when you spend all his “special” quarters on a new rug for the living room, and the dog he told you not to bring home pees all over it.

History is a story that you live together. You make memories together—over years, children, financial struggles, and heart-wrenching crises. I’ve known my husband since I was sixteen years old. I could never give the knowledge of sixteen-year-old me to someone new. My husband lived through the bad years after my parents divorced. He watched me grow and mature, become a mother, and walked the journey next to me when our son fought a four year battle with leukemia. You can’t dump that information on someone new and expect them to comprehend your soul. So stick it out.

It really does get easier. As you walk the road of life and your children grow older, you’re building a bond of trust and a layer of comfort with each other. Twenty years into your marriage, you can look at him and say, “Not tonight” and he’ll know it’s not him but your teen’s emotions you’re struggling with. You can sit down next to him on the couch and hold his hand—just because. You can look into his eyes and say, “I really just need you to say something nice to me today—even if you don’t mean it.” And he will. And he may even mean it.

That’s the beauty of sticking it out. Walking through the bad and embracing the good. The rollercoaster analogy is fair and some years you will see more deep valleys than lofty peaks. But remember, the ride is always worth it in the end.

“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—” (Proverbs 5:15-19 NIV).

Lori Freeland, a freelance author from the Dallas area, holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a full-time homeschool mom, and an aspiring YA novelist. in addition to blogging and contributing to Crosswalk, she likes to hang with North Texas Christian Writers as a Critique Group Leader and Writing Coach, edit for the Faith Team at The Christian Pulse, and attend SCBWI meetings. You can visit her website at lafreeland.com.