Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jim Daly's book, The Best Advice I Ever Got on Marriage: Transforming Insights from Respected Husbands and Wives (Worthy Publishing, 2012).

Open hearts are the foundation of a healthy marriage. If your hearts are closed, all the best marriage advice in the world won’t help you and your spouse. But if you both decide to open your hearts, God’s love will flow through them, empowering you all to develop a strong marriage.

Here’s how you can open your hearts to each other and build a great marriage in the process:

Create emotional safety in your relationship. Encourage each other to share your deepest thoughts, feelings, beliefs, hopes, and dreams with each other. Listen to each other carefully and respectfully to build trust between you.

Develop a habit of cherishing your spouse through loving actions. Get to know which specific actions you can take on a regular basis to make your spouse feel loved, from writing love notes and speaking encouraging words to serving your spouse in ways that are meaningful to him or her.

Focus on what’s positive. Ask God to help you change negative thinking about your spouse to positive thinking. Aim to catch your spouse doing something right (not wrong) often. Keep in mind that it’s easier for your spouse to change when he or she is in a supportive environment than it is when facing constant criticism. Remember why you first fell in love with your spouse, and continue to appreciate and affirm those good qualities as you remain committed to your marriage. Rather than assuming the worst about each other, choose to believe the best about each other.

Learn to consider your spouse before yourself. Pray for the ability to love your spouse unselfishly and sacrificially through generous acts of kindness.

Think of God as your heavenly Father-in-Law. Keep in mind that God cares passionately about your spouse’s welfare, and you’ll be in trouble with Him if you mistreat your spouse. Remember that your spouse is the son or daughter of God, and do your best to treat him or her that way.

Practice non-random acts of kindness. Intentionally focus on looking at your spouse’s well-being by doing what you can to help him or her simply to express love and without expecting anything in return.

Laugh together. Enjoy and celebrate the humor in life with your spouse.

Be your spouse’s best friend. Sharing a close friendship with your spouse is vital for your marriage, since emotional intimacy is much more important to a successful marriage than physical intimacy. Become companions and partners who enjoy each other’s company and work for each other’s best interests.

Communicate well. When talking to each other, be open and honest. When listening to each other, be attentive and ask questions to clarify your understanding. Don’t make assumptions about each other’s intentions; communicate to find out the truth. Apologize whenever either of you makes a mistake that hurts the other.

Ask older couples what marriage practices work well for them. Learn some marriage wisdom from couples you admire who have been married longer than you. Be willing to help younger couples who ask you for advice.

Never threaten your spouse with divorce or separation. You and your spouse can never feel safe enough with each other to build deep trust and intimacy if either of you threatens the other with leaving the marriage. Decide never to use such threats as a weapon, and commit to always working out conflicts between you with love and respect.