Work on your unmet expectations one at a time.  Answer three questions about each unmet expectation you have: "Do I need to change or adjust this expectation?", "Is my expectation fear and reasonable?", and "If I express my expectation, will my spouse find it to be reasonable?".  Change what you can (your own behavior) and release what you can't change (everything else) to God, praying for Him to intervene and trusting Him to help according to His will.  Work with your spouse to create new, realistic, and biblical expectations for the future.  Recharge your batteries through rest, relaxation, and prayer on a regular basis.  Choose to enjoy life even when some of your expectations go unmet.  And remember that your relationship with God through Christ should always be your main focus.  You can expect the best in any situation when God is your source of fulfillment.

Love each other extravagantly.  Seek God's love daily so it can flow through your life into your spouse's life.  Ask God to empower you to lavish your spouse with His love, in ways such as doing chores that need to be done and speaking encouraging words.  Regularly thank God for what He has done for you, and let that habit of expressing gratitude motivate you to express appreciation to your spouse for his or her good qualities and loving words and actions toward you.

Remain committed.  Remember that God's purpose for your marriage is to teach both you and your spouse how to love more deeply and to grow to become more like Jesus.  In order to fulfill that purpose, you must remain committed to the relationship, even when it becomes difficult.  So, every day, seek to learn something new about one another and keep your marriage growing.  Be willing to help and forgive each other.  Praise and encourage each other often with your words.  Stop blaming your spouse for problems in your marriage; take responsibility for your own mistakes and weaknesses, and work on changing your own attitudes and actions.  Deal with unresolved hurts.  Consider joining a marriage support group or getting Christian counseling.  Trust God to restore your marriage to what He intends it to be.

Keep investing in your marriage.  Every day, work to keep your marriage healthy.  Aim to be a constant source of hope and encouragement to each other.  Pray for each other.  Whenever you encounter an issue or situation that you wish would change in your marriage, be willing to change yourself rather than demanding that your spouse change.  Ask God to empower you to make changes in your own life to help solve problems.  Rely on God's love and wisdom to guide you each day.

January 19, 2010

Adapted from As Long As We Both Shall Live: Experience the Marriage You've Always Wanted, copyright 2009 by Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham.  Published by Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., www.regalbooks.com.

Gary Smalley is president and founder of the Smalley Relationship Center, which presents conferences nationwide and provides resources for families and churches. Combined, his books have sold more than 6 million copies. Gary has been a guest on numerous national TV shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live and NBC's Today. He is the coauthor, with Ted Cunningham, of The Language of Sex and From Anger to Intimacy.

Ted Cunningham is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Community Church in Branson, Missouri. Ted is a speaker with the Smalley Relationship Center and coauthor of The Language of Sex and From Anger to Intimacy with Gary Smalley. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Amy, have two wonderful children, Corynn and Carson.