Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Greg Smalley and Dr. Shawn Stoever's book, The Wholehearted Marriage: Fully Engaging Your Most Important Relationship, (Howard Books, 2009).   

The passion and intimacy you wish you and your spouse could enjoy together isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky dream. That kind of marriage is within your reach. But it’s possible only if you both devote yourselves wholeheartedly to your relationship – fully engaging and giving 100 percent, without reservation.

Here’s how you can put your whole heart into your marriage:

Recognize where love comes from. Do you find yourself thinking that you’re not in love with your spouse anymore? Perhaps you feel like you just don’t connect with your spouse. Maybe you feel alone, even though the two of you are still living under the same roof. Have you chosen to settle, compromise, or go into survival mode in your marriage? Worse, have you given up and started looking for love somewhere else?

It doesn’t have to be that way. No matter how discouraged you may feel, it’s possible to experience love for your spouse again. That’s because love comes from God – who is always willing to give you a fresh supply of it – rather than from you. You don’t have the pressure of trying to generate love for your spouse when you don’t feel it. All you need to do is go to God in prayer each day and ask Him to fill your heart with His love.

When you open your heart to God daily, you’ll receive from Him all the love you need for both yourself and your spouse. The love in your heart will naturally overflow into your relationship with your spouse. So remember that God is the source of all love, and love is always available to you because it flows through you whenever you open your heart to God.

Open your heart. In your marriage, the issue isn’t love; it’s the state of your heart. Ask yourself daily: “Is my heart open or closed?” If your heart is closed, your marriage will start to shut down because you’re blocking the flow of God’s love into it. But if you open your heart to God and keep it open every day, you’ll be inviting God to pour out His love through you into your marriage.

Give your heart a voice. Become aware of the emotions you’re experiencing, and learn how to manage them in healthy ways. Keep in mind that God has designed your emotions to work together with your thoughts so you can make the best possible decisions. Your emotions give you valuable information that you can then process through your thoughts.

  • Ask God to help you accurately identify what you’re feeling each day in various situations.

Rather than judging your emotions, consider what they are trying to tell you. When you feel frustration, joy, sadness, hurt, fear, or any other type of emotion, what does that mean?

  • Once you’ve figured out what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it, start guiding your emotions toward what you want to feel in your marriage.

Identify your specific desires for your marriage. Then, instead of expecting your spouse to give you what you want (because he or she is bound to fall short), turn to God with your desires. Regularly pray about what you want your marriage to be like, and trust God to bring about the transformation for which you’re hoping, as long as you and your spouse cooperate with Him.

  • Bring your negative emotions to God and ask Him to replace them with positive emotions in your life.

Whenever your emotions get stirred up, rather than blaming your spouse, consider what you may be doing yourself to intensify your own feelings. Look at your thoughts and thought patterns, interpretations, judgments, perceptions, expectations, fears, past hurts, beliefs, family-of-origin issues, and anything else that may be affecting your emotions. Then consider how you can best respond to your emotions.