Many clever comments are attributed to Benjamin Franklin, in my opinion this one is the best: "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage," Ben Franklin quoted, "and half shut afterwards."

How can the yet-to-be-married and already-married turn this comment into practical advice?

The yet-to-be-married need Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half shut afterwards to enter into marriage with their eyes wide open. Marriage is a lifetime commitment. Things that look charming and attractive while dating don't necessarily stay that way after marriage. The girl that was so harried that she always had that "lost look" that seemed so cute, will probably continue to always be overwhelmed; after a few years and a couple of children, the "lost look" will start to appear a lot less cute. The boy that seemed so mature because he was very distant during courtship may continue to be distant after marriage as well; if a wife is then looking for a closer and warmer relationship, she will spend the rest of her married life feeling cheated of that closeness.

Notwithstanding all the outside influences that affect us, most people end up with character traits that take after their own family. Checking into what a family of a prospective marriage partner is like is step number one, and it shouldn't be taken lightly. One woman who sat in my office crying that her husband wasn't a father to her sons told me, "I should have known better. His father was so distant and unavailable for his children, but I didn't realize it was important for a man to have a father as a role model." Similarly, the man who expects his wife to be devoted to him because that is the model he grew up with, will be surprised and struggle with a very needy wife. Usually, all he had to do is look into his mother-in-law's behavior before marriage and he "could have known."

There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and I know many people who have overcome a difficult background by taking an objective view on their own childhood and recognizing that they were wronged. Many people, however, who grow up in a "dysfunctional" home don't recognize the dysfunction, and therefore perpetuate it.

Most important of all is that a person looking for a mate should trust their instinct. In the whirlwind of courting and dating things get overlooked. In the ensuing weeks of the engagement things that were just niggling sensations in the back of the mind can become full-fledged worries. Those worries should be discussed with a competent adviser. Some of them may be "engagement blues," but sometimes the subconscious is trying to point out a real problem, that the young adult is trying to ignore in an effort to make this be the "right one."

Premarital counseling can help resolve a lot of issues. The marriage counselor has seen many of the problems and recognizes many of the cues that an in-love couple doesn't. Using the guidance of a counselor may help to draw some issues out and find a practical strategy of how to deal with it.

So much for the first part of Mr. Franklin's advice. The second part is equally crucial. Once married, one should overlook, be tolerant and forget. Overlooking means that not every small thing has to be pointed out and fought about. The old joke about a married couple fighting over how to squeeze the toothpaste—from the bottom or the middle of the tube—isn't such a big joke. People fight and argue about trivial matters all the time. What a silly waste of time and energy!

Just because your mother/ father/ friend doesn't understand why you tolerate x, y or z in your spouse, it doesn't mean that it's harmful to you or your marriage Be tolerant of all our spouses' foibles unless they are truly harmful. Just because your mother/ father/ friend etc. doesn't understand why your spouse does x, y or z or how you tolerate it doesn't mean that it's harmful to you or your marriage.

Forget things your spouse did which you didn't like, and remember the good—and do it religiously. Something that is a perpetual problem must be dealt with, but that which isn't important enough to deal with a professional is not important enough to be harped on and brought up each time there is an argument.

Ben Franklin was a smart fellow. If you want the blessing of a happy home, keep both eyes open before marriage, and one eye closed after.