• Forgive. Remember how much God has forgiven you. Let your gratitude for that motivate you to forgive your spouse for all the ways he or she has hurt you. Rely on God's help to move through the process of forgiveness, trusting that He will make it possible for you to forgive. Honestly and objectively recall what happened to you. Explore the hurtful events from the wrongdoer's perspective. Consider your spouse's weaknesses that might have led to the wrongdoing. Then think about your spouse's good qualities to remind yourself of why you fell in love with him or her.

Choose to give the gift of forgiveness to your spouse. Then tell someone what you've done, to stay accountable. Whenever you remember the offense, remind yourself that you have chosen to forgive. Symbolize your act of forgiving with your partner in some way, such as by taking communion together or renewing your wedding vows.

• Repent. Ask God to make you aware of your sins and give you the humility yourself and empathy for your spouse that you need to understand how those sins have harmed your marriage. Listen to your partner's version of what's happened, without getting defensive. Consider how that knowledge can broaden your perspective on your relationship. Confess your sins specifically to God and your spouse. Decide to turn away from your sins and move in the opposite direction. Demonstrate your newfound integrity to your spouse in tangible ways (such as by keeping your promises). Embrace God's forgiveness and grace to do better.

• Rebuild trust. Disclose secrets that are blocking intimacy with your spouse. If it makes you feel more comfortable, reveal these secrets in the presence of a pastor or counselor. Create a covenant of trustworthiness with your partner that lists important ways you each will be faithful to one another. Hold up your end of the bargain even if your spouse slips.

Notice and affirm positive qualities in each other as you go about your daily routines. Remember the ways you each have cared for each other over the course of your lives together, and believe that you will continue to do so. Know that, while you won't forget past crises, you can remember them with far less pain. Distinguish clearly between "then" and "now," and celebrate the progress God has made possible in your marriage. Tell the story of your marriage so far to each other, and thank God for keeping you from losing it.

Ask God to give you a vision for your future together. Write that vision down in a statement you can review and update as time goes on.


Adapted from Reconcilable Differences: Hope and Healing for Troubled Marriages, copyright 2004 by Virginia Todd Holeman. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.

Virginia Todd Holeman is professor of counseling at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.