Editor’s note: The following is a report on the practical application ofJimmy Evans' and Frank Martin's book, Lifelong Love Affair: How to Have a Passionate and Deeply Rewarding Marriage (Baker Books, 2012).

God created marriage to be a blessing to husbands and wives alike, intending it to be a lifelong love affair. But the state of marriage in the world today is so bleak that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, and many people are so afraid of going through marital problems that they’re choosing to avoid marriage altogether.

If you’re married, your own relationship may be one of the many that’s strained or even broken by the pressures of living in our fallen world. But no matter what problems you and your spouse are dealing with in your marriage, it’s still possible for you to enjoy the blessing of a passionate and deeply rewarding marriage. You can have a lifelong love affair with your spouse if you follow God’s principles for healing your relationship and rekindling the romance between you. 

Here how:

Give your marriage to God. Surrender your marriage relationship to God, and invite God to do with it what you could never accomplish on your own. Let go of your own plans for your marriage and pray for God to use your marriage to fulfill His good purposes. Shift your focus away from your own desires and toward God’s plans and your spouse’s needs. As you look where God wants you look – beyond yourself – you can rely on the strength He will give you to start rebuilding your marriage.

Embrace your differences. Married couples often fight about their differences, and “irreconcilable differences” is one of the most common reasons for divorce. Yet God – who made you and your spouse each with distinctive differences – can help you both use those differences to complement each other. Ask God to help you both accept the differences between you, embrace the new possibilities that your different personalities can bring into your lives, and grow closer to God and each other in the process.

Move beyond the small story to the greater story. Recognize that your marriage is about much more than just the small story of you and your spouse sharing your lives together; it’s about a much larger story of the great work God wants to do through both of you in your marriage. Your marriage is a covenantal relationship that can show everyone who knows you what God’s love looks like in action.

Pursue God’s dream for your marriage. God’s great dream for your marriage is for it to reflect you and your spouse’s relationships with Jesus and show the people around you how true love and commitment should work. When it does so, your marriage will have great power to inspire people and draw them closer to God. So view your marriage from God’s perspective: as a gift that can bless not just you and your spouse, but others as well.

Pray about God’s vision for your marriage. Take a few days to go away on a retreat with your spouse to seek God’s guidance for your marriage. In prayer, confess and repent of your sins, talk about the big issues in your marriage, and ask God to tell you and your spouse what He wants you to accomplish as a couple during the coming year. Listen carefully for God’s responses, and write down the messages He communicates to you and your spouse. Every year, go on another vision retreat together.

Communicate with love. Since communication is the main way that you and your spouse connect, it’s essential to communicate in healthy ways. The better you learn how to communicate, the stronger your marriage will become. Create a safe emotional atmosphere between you, in which you both can be completely open and honest with each other about any topic. Talk with each other often and intentionally. Speak to each other with kind words and a caring tone of voice. Carefully listen to each other. Touch each other regularly in nonsexual, affectionate ways, such as hugs and holding hands. Ask God to give you a team spirit so that you yield to each other when necessary to resolve issues that cause conflict in your relationship.