The Jamaicans have a proverb: "Before you marry, keep your two eyes open. After you marry, shut one."

The Comedy Letter offered this piece of advice for a continued happy marriage: "Never try to guess your wife's size. Just buy her anything marked 'Petite' and hold on to the receipt."

One wintry morning a couple were lounging in bed. The wife said, "Let's get the Sunday paper and read it here." The husband yawned and said, "Okay, but which one of us is 'Let's'?"

Writing in Woman's Day, Trish Vradenburg quoted the famous fairy tale line: "Then the prince swept the lovely young maiden into his arms, carried her home to his castle, and they all lived happily ever after."

Then Ms. Vradenburg said, "What I want to see is a federal study of all these princes and princesses seven years after their happily-ever-after marriages. The truth is, life isn't made up of the continual highs found in the initial stages of courtship."

Do you remember Goldilocks? She wanted everything to be "just right," and as you may recall, ended up with nothing. Some marriages are like that. You wanted a handsome prince. You ended up with an angry old bear.

Now, is there such a thing as a perfect marriage? If you define perfection as a house in the suburbs, two productive careers, vacations at fabulous resorts, an ever-increasing stock portfolio, and obedient children and pets, you may find success in your home elusive.

But if your definition of perfection includes respect for your partner's goals and ideals, encouraging each other to grow mentally and spiritually, surmounting overwhelming obstacles hand-in-hand, crying together when the news is foreboding, smiling -- even laughing together -- at the first glimpse of hope, you will be on your way to a successful marriage.

Partners in a successful marriage -- and maybe that is a better term than "perfect" -- will understand what salespeople call the "Calculator Close." You add up the pluses -- the reasons to buy -- on one side, the minuses -- the reasons to reject -- on the other. If the plus side scores the highest, close the deal.

It may be a small plus if you spend hours getting ready for an evening out and your husband says, "Honey, you look great." It will be a large plus if he unloads the dishwasher without being asked.

It may be a small plus if she has your newspaper and slippers ready when you come home in the evening. It will be a large plus if she asks you about your day and is genuinely interested in your answer.

You hate the way your teenager wears her hair, so your husband takes her to the beauty shop. You get lost because you stubbornly refused to ask for directions and she doesn't say, "I told you so." More pluses.

How do you get more pluses than minuses on your tally sheet? Is it just dumb luck, or is there something you can do stack the odds in favor of a successful marriage?

One of the world's most famous bachelors, the Apostle Paul, said there is a plan. "Wives," he wrote, "submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy."

It is very hard for a wife to submit to a husband who is not willing to give himself up for his wife. One night Jesus prayed, "Father, is there any other plan?" Then he submitted to his Father, gave up his will and died. Men, that is how much you must love your wife. That kind of self-sacrificing love will reproduce itself in a wife who places you before herself.

The Jamaicans may be right. Close the eye that would magnify your partner's faults and shortcomings. But if you do close one eye after you are married, be sure that the eye which is open focuses on God.

David Sisler's newspaper column -- "Not For Sunday Only" -- is in its 14th year of weekly publication. Not For Sunday Only is based on news events, sports, popular songs, motion pictures, and personal glimpses. The message is: the Christian faith is an everyday happening -- it is not for Sunday only. The columns are thoroughly researched, and never indicate denominational bias. For reprint permission, or to subscribe to Not For Sunday Only, contact Mr. Sisler at david@mirkids.com.

© 2004 Agape Press.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.