Editor’s note: The following is a report on the practical application of Eddie and Tamara George's book, Married for Real: Building a Loving, Powerful Life Together (Abingdon Press, 2012).

Too often, the world presents a fairy-tale image of marriage, and couples find their illusions shattered when they try to experience such marriages in the real world. Married couples might find their relationships shattered along with their illusions if they’re not careful to change their approach to marriage.

The truth is that in this fallen world, no marriage can ever be perfect like those in fairy tales. However, it’s definitely realistic to build a strong marriage in the real world – and God will help you and your spouse do so when you rely on Him to empower you. Here’s how:

Find and polish the true you. Ask God to how you how you can minimize your personal weaknesses and maximize your personal strengths so you can be as healthy as possible when relating to your spouse. Identify the emotional baggage you’re carrying around from past pain, and pursue healing for it so it won’t negatively affect your relationship with your spouse. Reflect on specific aspects of your life in which you’d like to see improvement in order to strengthen your marriage, and write down your thoughts about areas such as your childhood examples and how they affected you, the person you’ve become and why, the current state of your relationships, and what makes you angry or afraid. Then pray about each of those topics, asking God to help you with them.

Invest time into your marriage relationship. Developing a successful marriage requires putting plenty of time into it, on a regular basis. Make it a high priority to spend quality time together often, investing in the bond between you. But also be sure to give each other the freedom to spend time apart whenever either one of you wants solitude, so you don’t become bored or irritated with each other. Engage in good conversations often, and turn off your electronic devices when you do, so you won’t be distracted while talking and listening to each other. Learn how to state and resolve your disagreements so the inevitable conflicts that you’ll face in marriage won’t damage your relationship. Aim to come out on the other side of conflicts still friendly, trusting each other, and in unity. 

Live by faith. You and your spouse should each make your relationship with God your top priority so you can grow into the people He wants you to become, and enjoy the best marriage possible as a result. Work together to grow a closer relationship to God regularly, through activities such as prayer; service; participating in a church congregation; and reading, studying, and meditating on the Bible. Seek God’s guidance for the daily decisions you each make. 

Manage your money wisely. Married couples often argue about money, but you don’t have to if you work together to manage your money wisely. Decide that you will control your money so it won’t control you or divide you as a couple. Choose to spend less money that you earn, so you won’t be in debt. If you’re currently in debt, pay those debts off as quickly as possible and change your spending habits to avoid any new debt. Create a budget that you can both agree on, detailing a plan for spending, giving, saving, and investing. Set both short-term and long-term financial goals together. Encourage each other to find jobs that fulfill you rather than just pay the bills. Trust God to lead you both to the right education and job opportunities so you’ll each be able to do something you love to do and that you’re good at doing, while still bringing in enough income. Seek to fulfill God’s purposes for your life through your work, and encourage your spouse to do the same.

Practice the art of sex well. Develop and maintain a healthy sex life. Keep in mind that sex is about much more than a physical connection between you; it also involves an emotional, mental, and spiritual connection. God designed sex to be the pinnacle of the expression of a married couple’s oneness, so the true art of sex is learning how to develop real intimacy with each other. Don’t neglect your sex lives, because sex is a very strong yearning that needs to be expressed in healthy ways, and depriving each other of sex for long periods of time may lead you or your spouse to express sexuality in dangerous ways, such as by becoming addicted to pornography. Talk openly and honestly about the best ways for you each to express your love for each other through sex, and then try your best to do so. Do all you can do to remain physically attractive to your spouse, such as keeping your weight at a healthy level and maintain good hygiene. Work on your communication outside of your bedroom, since improving your overall relationship will improve your sex life. Regularly show affection to each other in non-sexual ways, so when the time for sex comes, you’ll have already built a warm connection with each other.

Build unity. Work to form a partnership that is greater than the sum of its parts – a marriage union that can serve as the basis of a family that functions well – in which you can each express yourselves, respect each other, and present a united front to others. Ask God to give you a common vision for your married life together. Learn when each of you needs space for support, and then give those to each other whenever needed. You can give each other space in ways like granting time alone or postponing discussions about sensitive topics until your spouse is ready to have them. Ways you can support each other include everything from showing affection through kisses and hugs to sacrificing significant amounts of time, money, and energy for your spouse to go back to school or start a business. Encourage each other to pursue the dreams that God has given you both, and keep in mind that success for one of you is ultimately success for both of you in your life together. Set boundaries to protect each other from people who criticize you, your spouse, or your marriage by minimizing contact with them and focusing on relationships with positive people. Schedule time for rest and recreation together on a regular basis so you can keep enjoying your relationship. 

Adapted from Married for Real: Building a Loving, Powerful Life Together, copyright 2012 by Eddie and Tamara George. Published by Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tn.

Eddie George’s NFL career included four Pro Bowl appearances, first-team All-Pro selection in 2000, two Super Bowl touchdowns, and more than 10,000 yards rushing. In addition, Eddie won the Heisman Trophy while at Ohio State University and has been inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame. He is co-founder and a principal of The Edge Group. He holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Tamara George is a singer, actress, and author. Best known as one-third of the singing group SWV, she co-wrote a number of SWV songs, including “Right Here,” “It's About Time,” and the Top 5 hit “You're the One.” Her television work includes a stint on the show Survivor. Tamara holds a BA in Marketing from Belmont University.

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles. Contact Whitney at: angels.guide@about.com to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer. 

Publication date: August 29, 2012