If you want a fulfilling marriage, but fear that the relationship’s demands will swallow up your own personal fulfillment, take heart. Experiencing the joy of unity with your spouse doesn’t have to cost you your uniqueness. By learning to become interdependent, you and your spouse can become one without compromising your individual distinctiveness. Here’s how:

Look to the Trinity as your marriage model. Realize that just as God exists in three distinct forms (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) yet is also completely unified, your human marriage can mirror that divine relationship. Know that God wants to use your marriage to help both you and your spouse grow more and more into the people He wants you to become. Understand that, through this process, you each can be transformed into a unity that transcends what either of you can be alone. Invite God to use each of your individual strengths and weaknesses to create a thriving marriage.

Don’t expect marriage to complete you. Instead of viewing yourself as an incomplete person who needs your spouse to make you whole, recognize that, in Christ, you are complete alone. Remember that your true identity is as God’s beloved child, free because of all Christ has done for you. Rely on His unlimited power rather than your own limited resources. Don’t depend on your spouse for what only God can give you. Ask God to show you which of expectations you have of your spouse are unrealistic. Then let those go. Focus on pleasing God rather than just pleasing your spouse. Don’t simply go along with whatever decisions your spouse makes because you’re not sure what your own opinions are; get to know your thoughts and feelings, and learn to be comfortable expressing them clearly. Approach marriage as a union of two complete people, secure in who they are, working together toward a common purpose – to love God and others more and more.

Don’t live separate lives. Rather than seeing yourself as independent of your spouse, recognize that your lives are intertwined and that you each have a responsibility to consider the other whenever you make decisions that affect your life together. Be in close communication with your spouse regularly and make choices that will enhance your emotional connection. Listen to your spouse even more than you speak, so you can come to understand what’s important to him or her, and why. Know that building a life together rather than separately will help you each discover more personal fulfillment than you could experience on your own.

Keep the covenant. Decide to remain committed to your spouse, no matter what, and ask God to help you love him or her unconditionally. Choose to make sacrifices for the sake of your marriage, recognizing that both your own needs and your spouse’s needs are valid. Meet your spouse’s basic needs for belonging and bonding. Show your spouse that he or she can trust you. If either of you has betrayed the other in the past, pursue healing through the process of confession, forgiveness, and restoration. In your sexual relationship, get to know what your spouse desires and think of those desires as well as your own while trying to give your best to each other.

Regularly serve your spouse through acts of kindness (such as making meals and helping with chores and errands) to give him or her the security of seeing your love in action. Humbly recognize how much you continuously need God’s grace; pray about all your concerns and rely on the strength He will provide. Make your marriage a collaborative venture in which you each do all you can to create the best marriage possible.

Give each other grace. Remember how much grace God gives you every day, and let your gratefulness motivate you to offer grace to your spouse. Understand that living in an atmosphere of grace will get rid of destructive emotions like guilt, shame, and bitterness and inspire you and your spouse each to work on changing for the better. Instead of blaming your spouse for problems, accept the person he or she is – flaws and all – and accept responsibility for your own contribution to the problems in your marriage. Realize that trying to change your spouse is futile; instead, pray for him or her persistently, trusting that God will work through His Spirit to bring about real and lasting change whenever your spouse seeks Him. Rely on God’s help to forgive your spouse whenever he or she makes mistakes.

Show appreciation whenever your spouse does something that blesses you. Pray for the confidence to be who you are, rather than pretending to be the person you think your spouse wants you to be. Give your spouse the freedom to be authentic without fear of being criticized for it. Respect and embrace each other’s unique personality and gender differences, and learn how to use those differences to complement each other and build a stronger marriage. Don’t let rigid, traditional marriage roles frustrate you; recognize that there are many ways of doing what needs to be done in your shared household. Think and pray about creative solutions for assigning collaborative roles that take advantage of each other’s interests and talents and don’t place too much of a burden on one spouse over the other. Be flexible enough to change role assignments for a season when each other’s circumstances or needs change.