• Seek to serve instead of being served. Rather than asking, "What can my spouse do for me?" ask, "What can I do for my spouse?". Ask God to give you a servant's heart so you can work for the good of your spouse before your own good. Express your love for your spouse regularly by looking for and grabbing opportunities to help him or her. Know that God will reward you for your efforts if you think of others first.

• Manage your anger well. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you manage your anger effectively, so that you get angry about only the right things and are able to control your anger to channel it toward constructive solutions. Seek to understand your thoughts and feelings before lashing out. Pray for God to give you His perspective on whatever is making you angry in your marriage.

• Don't keep score. Avoid keeping a record of wrongs to use against your spouse. Instead, be willing to forgive your spouse every time he or she does or says something hurtful. Remember that God will give you the power you need to forgive, and that He expects you to forgive others as He has forgiven you. Don't hold grudges. Instead, strive to give blessings whenever you have an opportunity.

• Be honest. Don't pretend that you're doing better than you actually are in your marriage. Be honest with God and your spouse about the recent losses and conflicts that have taken a toll on your marriage. Get support from friends, pastors, counselors and others as you pursue healing.

• Remember that God's love is for always, and never fails. Remind yourself that God will never stop loving you, and that you can rely on Him even when everyone else has failed you.

• Accept the messy life. Understand that your marriage will never be perfect in this fallen world. Choose to live in the messiness of imperfection and failure by accepting yourself and your spouse as you are and relying on God for grace.

• Change yourself, not your spouse. Realize that you can only take responsibility for your own attitudes and actions. Stop wasting time and energy trying to change your spouse, and focus on yourself instead. Know that by changing yourself, you'll change the dynamic of your relationship.

• Live in the present. Let go of the past and leave the future up to God. Anchor yourself in the present, aware that God is with you and giving you faith, hope, and love.


Adapted from I Love You Unconditionally ... On One Condition, copyright 2004 by Joey O' Connor. Published by Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerbooks.com.

Joey O' Connor is the author of 15 books for couples, parents, and young adults. He serves as a pastor at Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, California. He is also the founder and executive director of the Grove Center for the Arts, a ministry dedicated to nurturing the spiritual development and creative vision of artists in the church. Joey, his wife Krista, and their four children live in San Clemente, California, and in a pup tent somewhere near the Southwest border.