Have less sex. Focusing too much on sex in your marriage can lead you or your spouse to reduce it to simply physical pleasure and lose the emotional connection that God intends for it to strengthen. So focus less on sex itself and more on intimacy. Ask God to help you discipline your sexual desires so you can intentionally use sex to develop a closer emotional bond with your spouse. Aim for quality sex, not just quantity. Get to know your spouse’s romantic desires and do your best to meet them.

Be worse parents. Don’t focus so much on your parenting that you neglect your marriage. Keep in mind that, from God’s perspective, your role as a spouse is even more important than your role as a parent. Fully enlist your spouse’s help with the children, since parenting should be a team effort so one person doesn’t become over-burdened with parenting duties. Don’t schedule so many activities for your children that it causes stress in your marriage. 

Embrace poverty. The wealthier you are, the more complicated your marriage can become, because wealth demands lots of decisions and often brings stress into your lives. The conventional ideas that money makes you happy, money brings security, money makes you free, and money brings respect are simply myths. What’s true is that living a simple life free of too much concern about money – just like Jesus did – frees you up to enjoy the best life possible. Work with your spouse to follow biblical principles for managing your money, such as by keeping your expenses below your income and giving at least 10 percent of your income to support God’s kingdom work.

Go to church less. While it’s important to participate in church so you both can grow spiritually, it’s unrealistic to expect that your pastor or anyone else at the church can fix your marriage, or that you or your spouse can change simply by attending church programs. Trust in God alone to redeem and restore your life together, using the church as just one of His tools in the process.

Accept the fact that you’re average. Expect to go through many of the same challenges that affect most married couples, such as becoming annoyed by each other’s habits and dealing with stress from your children and having to coordinate work schedules. Ask God to help you proactively plan how to overcome common marital challenges.

Be less religious. Instead of acting as a religious judge toward your spouse, humble yourself before God and make changes in your own life as He leads you. Rather than focusing on what your spouse is doing wrong, focus on what you can start doing right yourself to start improving your marriage.

Give up finding your soul mate. Realize that it’s a myth that there’s just one soul mate for you somewhere in the world and you have to find him or her. The truth is that you can become a soul mate to the spouse you currently have. Shift your focus from chasing fleeting romantic emotions to working diligently to build intimacy in your marriage.

Don’t go home for Christmas. Set boundaries in your relationships with your families of origin so your parents and in-laws won’t be able to harm your marriage by trying to control you and your spouse. While you should always honor your parents, you shouldn’t let them manipulate you – during the Christmas holidays, or any other time of year.

Adapted from The Upside Down Marriage: 12 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Right Side Up by Jim Keller, copyright 2012 by James Mark Keller. Published by Russell Media, Boise, Idaho, www.russell-media.com.

Jim Keller is the founder of Charis Counseling Center. A nationally known speaker, Jim has addressed the topics of marriage, parenting and remarriage. He is a charter member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and is an active member and occasional preacher at Summit Church in Orlando, Florida. Jim and his wife Renee have been married for 35 years and have two grown children and four grandchildren.

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles. Contact Whitney at: angels.guide@about.com to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer. 

Publication date: October 29, 2012