Rewrite the story of your life. Whether you are discerning marriage or already married, if your life story has been moving in the wrong direction, invite God to write the rest of your story His way. Learn from your mistakes. Confess your sins, and embrace the forgiveness and healing that God offers. Rely on God’s grace to grow. Recognize that your identity lies solely in who God says you are – not in what has happened to you. Break free from the shame of your past by realizing that, while what’s done is done, God can work all things together for good, and you can choose to move into a better future.

Set your priorities wisely. Make sure that you place God first and your spouse second in your life, no matter what the situation. While you should care about good things like your children, career, friends, volunteer work, and hobbies, you shouldn’t devote more time and energy to them than you do to your relationships with God and your spouse. And be sure to eliminate bad things from your life – things that drain your time and energy unnecessarily, like debt or an addiction.

Keep passion alive. The passion in your marriage is likely to fizzle unless you proactively nurture it. Don’t stop pursuing the love of your life after you get married. Be creative about ways to keep the passion alive in your marriage.

Deepen intimacy. Do everything possible to deepen intimacy with your spouse once you’re married. Deal with sin, secrets, and silence that block the intimacy God wants you to have. Practice successful communication techniques, such as making sure your body language and tone of voice matches your words. Be open and honest with each other, sharing your fears, hurts, and dreams. Learn how to listen carefully and compassionately to each other.

Embrace your different roles. Discover and appreciate the different ways God made men and women. Get to know the unique roles He has designed for husbands and wives. If you’re a husband, learn how to lead your family. Take ultimate spiritual and financial responsibility for your family, and protect them physically and emotionally. Remember that leading never means controlling. If you struggle with trying to control your family rather than serving them in love, repent and ask God to help you. If you’re a wife, look to God alone – not your husband – to ultimately meet your needs. Spend more time working on your internal qualities (like your character) than you do on your external qualities (like your hair or clothes). Don’t waste your time on the futile task of trying to change other people. Instead, pray and focus on your own growth. Build your confidence and don’t settle for less than the way you deserve to be treated. Instead of competing against each other, work together to complement each other and enjoy achieving more as a couple than what either of you could achieve on your own.

Build healthy habits. If you develop certain habits before you get married, you’ll likely enjoy the benefits after you get married. Deal with the emotional baggage from your past. Surround yourself with spiritually healthy friends, and ask them to mentor you. Learn how to listen well. Overlook little offenses and unintended hurts, while forgiving significant offenses with God’s help. Learn how to view situations from other people’s perspectives. Practice facing and resolving conflict (which is unavoidable in marriage). Learn how to manage your finances well, getting out of debt and giving generously. Cultivate an intimate relationship with Jesus.

Base your marriage on a covenant. Don’t settle for a marriage that’s based just on a contract, where your relationship is contingent on how well each of you live up to your expectations for each other. Instead, base your marriage on a covenant in which you commit to love each other unconditionally – just as God loves you.