We're just going to say it plainly because it's true: Nobody is perfect! You didn't marry the angel of perfection you thought you were getting - and neither did your spouse. When the honeymoon ended and the glow of your first year together dimmed, you began to see your partner more realistically. You rubbed each other the wrong way occasionally. Probably not because you wanted to, but because your differences and flaws were beginning to show more clearly.

Let's face it: The only one who could be a perfect spouse is Jesus, Himself. Your mate is going to make mistakes, and so are you. And you're occasionally going to annoy each other or make each other angry. We're human. But you don't have to let those imperfections and differences ruin your relationship! So we want to coach you on how to learn to celebrate your differences - instead of focusing on the negatives.

Many people believe that their spouse looks at life the same way they do, but that's usually not the case. If you don't understand your mate's way of thinking it can lead to assumptions and misunderstandings when they react out of their perspective of life and not your perspective.

When you see your spouse's personality in a deeper way, you can see your differences as a blessing! You are meant to complement each other. That's why it's so important to learn and practice unconditional love in your marriage.

Grace. Affirmation. Safety. Time. Study. All are keys to unconditional love and acceptance. Here's a checklist to help you begin to measure how you are doing in each of these areas:

  • Where do I need to show some grace, real grace, to the person I married? Where do I need to let go and let God do His thing with my spouse?
  • Who needs my words of affirmation more than anyone in my life? Is it easier for me to affirm my kids and my friends than it is for me to affirm my spouse?
  • What are we doing to build safety into our marriage so we can take the risks to love unconditionally?
  • When was the last time we took time to go deeper with each other? Are we making time to connect with each other daily?
  • Am I studying my spouse? Do I know his or her strengths as well as his or her weaknesses? Am I helping to build on the former and strengthen the latter so that I can best become one with my mate?

These are tough questions. Building a great marriage is not easy. As we've said before: True love doesn't always take place on a romantic balcony. Sometimes it takes place on a battlefield.

Another thing you have to consider is this: People change. Very few of us have the same figure or physique we had on our wedding day as we walked down the aisle. And even if you can still fit into your tuxedo on your tenth anniversary, you're not the same person you were when you stood at the altar. You may have a few wrinkles or an extra chin that didn't show up on your wedding photographs. That jet black hair you had may be well on its way to gray or white. Or maybe it's disappearing altogether.

In whatever ways you and your spouse change with age, one thing about you should never change: your unconditional acceptance of one another. By accepting your spouse completely at every stage of life - wrinkles, gray hair, love handles, and all - you show him or her unconditional love.

But aging is only part of the issue. Other changes occur in ways that are not as natural and are often more difficult to deal with. What happens when the person you married is no longer the person you married? Old age takes its toll, but so do unexpected illnesses and injuries. You may have also discovered that your starry-eyed expectations for your spouse were a tad unrealistic. Or you now see a side of your spouse you were blind to when you were courting. He isn't the corporate-ladder-climbing entrepreneur you expected him to be. After the kids were born, she never regained her girlish figure as you hoped. The social butterfly you dated has turned into a homebody.