Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Craig Groeschel's book, Love, Sex, and Happily Ever After: Preparing for a Marriage that Goes the Distance, (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, 2011).

The desire that you have for a lifelong, intimate marriage is a God-given one that reflects His plan for marriage. But when you look around, you see many marriages that either don’t last or aren’t close and happy relationships.

Despite the divorce and marital tension that are so prevalent, marriages in which spouses live “happily ever after” aren’t just found in fairytales. They do exist – and you and your spouse can enjoy one, if you approach marriage the way God intends.

Here’s how you and your spouse can enjoy a marriage that really is a happy one, today and every day after:

 Find your “one.” Loving Jesus must be your number one priority in life if you’re going to become the kind of person God wants you to become and be able to give and receive love in your marriage the way you should. So reach out to Jesus with all of your heart, devoting the best of your time and energy to pursuing a closer relationship with Him. Place your relationship with Jesus at the center of your life and revolve everything else around it.

Find your “two.” If you’re not yet married and are looking for a spouse, search for a spouse carefully, in ways that honor God. Don’t even consider marrying someone who’s not a Christian because you can’t ever truly be compatible with someone who doesn’t share your spiritual connect with Jesus, and marrying a non-Christian can only bring misery into your life that will grow. Beyond choosing a person who’s a Christian, you should also look for someone who shares common interests with you, whose personality fits well with yours, and to whom you’re physically attracted. Don’t rush the process, and don’t settle for less than God’s best for you simply to marry by a certain time.

Move a relationship with a potential spouse through first gear. In first gear, when your relationship with a potential future spouse is just beginning, work to get to know each other well and build a strong foundation of friendship. Rather than spending time alone, try to spend most of your time together with groups of people. If your discover that you’re not interested in taking the relationship to the next gear, then don’t lead the other person on; be honest about how you feel to avoid hurting that person more deeply later on.

Move a relationship with a potential spouse through second gear. In second gear, as you sense God blessing your friendship, you can spend more time alone together. But continue to guard your heart, and avoid discussing marriage at this point. However, ask yourself questions like: “Is this person becoming more like Christ?”, “Does this person have a strong and growing character?”, “Does this person have the right kind of friends?”, “Is this person responsible – financially, relationally, emotionally, intellectually?”, “Is our attraction increasing?”, and “Are we helping each other grow closer to God, rather than drawing each other away from Him?” If the person you’re dating isn’t helping you move closer to God or isn’t right for you, break up with him or her as soon as you know.

Move a relationship with a potential spouse through third gear. In third gear, you  should discuss the possibility of getting married and explore it with the help of prayer, advice from mentors, getting to know each other’s families, and talking openly about how each of you have been both hurt and helped in life and what dreams each of you are hoping will come true in your lives. Don’t hesitate to break up if God isn’t clearly leading the two of you to get married; it’s better to end the relationship (and grieve and heal) before making a lifetime commitment than to marry when you know you shouldn’t.