Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dave Harvey's book, When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage, (Shepherd Press, 2007).

All too often, marriage problems are blamed on issues like personality clashes, communication failures, schedule stresses, or money woes. But while many issues are symptoms of a troubled marriage, there is only one root cause – sin. Once you face the reality of your own sin and your spouse’s sin, you can find hope in the Gospel’s power to transform your marriage.

Here’s how you can overcome sin in your marriage:

Pay attention to your theology. Understand that what you believe about God determines the quality of your marriage. Realize that your theology governs how you think, what you say, and how you act. Recognize that it’s sin that is ultimately causing problems in your marriage (and every other relationship you have). Know that the Gospel is the only remedy for sin, and your only true hope for change in your marriage.

Adjust your expectations. Realize that some of the expectations you and your spouse have for each other (and the underlying perspectives from which those expectations emerge) are not biblical. Ask God to align your view of reality with His perspective so you can adjust your expectations to what is right to expect.

Fight the battle within. Instead of blaming God or your spouse for the problems in your marriage, recognize and acknowledge that the sin inside you is causing much of the trouble. Take responsibility for your own desires that are at war within you, and pray for the grace to choose faithfulness over selfishness when facing decisions. Know that, although your spouse sins as well, your real opponent is not on the opposite side of the bed, but in your own heart. But remember that, in Christ, you’re forgiven, and you can always count on God to give you the power to overcome sin. Pray for fresh power each day to confess sin, love your spouse, forgive your spouse, and restore your relationship.

Pursue humility. Be suspicious of any claims to righteousness that you think you can bring to your relationship with God. Realize that it’s only through Christ’s work on the cross that you can enjoy a right relationship with God. Guard against self-righteousness and embrace humility.

Pursue integrity. Consider your own sin before your spouse’s sin, rather than automatically placing blame on your spouse. Inspect the accuracy of your perceptions about your spouse and issues in your marriage, realizing that you could be wrong. Ask God to correct your perspective so you can see a more complete picture of what’s going on in various situations. Check your motives, honestly asking yourself whether or not you’re intending to serve your spouse or yourself by speaking or acting in certain ways.

Don’t play the blame game. Understand that it’s common to notice more sin in yourself when you’re married than when you’re single – but that’s not your spouse’s fault. Realize that the experience of living with someone in an intimate relationship naturally brings your sin to the surface as you’re dealing with the realities of learning to work together.

Focus on undeserved grace, not unmet needs. Instead of dwelling on what needs your spouse isn’t meeting for you and letting resentment poison your marriage, remember that neither one of you deserve God’s grace, yet He has chosen to freely give it to you anyway. Ask God to help you freely extend grace to your spouse, no matter what the current circumstances of your marriage. Rather than trying to manipulate your spouse to meet your needs, try to be a blessing to your spouse, trusting that your love will change the dynamics of your marriage.