Do you want to come home to your marriage? If you feel close enough to your spouse that you can trust him or her with your heart, you're blessed. If your marriage feels distant, though, you're not alone.

Too often, the close connection God wants married couples to enjoy becomes strained and broken. Couples can try to repair the damage by applying wise principles to their marriage, but no advice or newfound skills will make a difference unless they feel emotionally safe, close, cherished, and respected together. It's that strong emotional connection that truly motivates spouses to build a healthy marriage.

Here are some ways you can build a strong emotional connection with your spouse:

• Recognize the longings of your hearts. Realize that, even in the midst of your fighting, both you and your spouse yearn to be seen, understood, and valued. Understand that both of you are longing for the other to be a trustworthy person who will be emotionally available and respond in a caring manner.

• Overcome the obstacles to a safe connection. Don't settle for an emotionally distant marriage; know that there is hope for your marriage to change. Working with your spouse, review each of your schedules and build in time for each other regularly. Recognize how your past affects your current relationship. Understand the ways in which you were hurt and what vulnerable places you now have, so you can seek healing for those issues and not blame your spouse for them. Talk about your daily disappointments and the little ways you each (often unintentionally) hurt each other, so these small things don't build up into big things that will come between you. Work on resolving the big issues of disagreement in your marriage. Try to actually be there for your spouse whenever he or she needs you. Seek to understand and respect the differences you and your spouse have in your families of origin and your lifestyle preferences (such as getting up early or staying up late).

• Build trust. Be reliable, so your spouse will know he or she can count on you to be honest, dependable, and on time. Let your spouse know that, no matter what, you will always care for and value him or her. Be genuinely interested in doing what's best for your spouse and your marriage.

• Be emotionally available. Make sure that your marriage is a top priority in your life. Give plenty of time and energy to your relationship. Whenever you find yourself harboring resentment against your spouse, pray for God to help you forgive and reconnect.

• Respond sensitively. Be approachable. Genuinely listen to your spouse without judging, criticizing, or problem-solving. Make sure your spouse knows that you care about his or her thoughts and feelings.

• Clarify why your spouse acted in a certain way. Ask questions to get more information so you can better understand what's bothering your spouse, and why. Then discuss the issue, offering comfort and constructive suggestions for how to do things differently.

• Give physical affection. Regularly touch, hug, and kiss your spouse. Be in close physical proximity whenever you can.

• Don't be afraid to fight. Realize that it's healthy to directly air your hurts with each other, if by doing so, you use your anger to bring about valid and constructive change. At the end of a healthy fight, you should feel more connected than you did before, because you've each had a chance to honestly wrestle through an issue with a partner who cares about finding a solution.