Forgive when your spouse hurts or offends you. Choose to forgive your spouse whenever he or she hurts or offends you. Remember how much God has forgiven you for; let that knowledge motivate you to obey His call to forgive other people. When you decide to begin the forgiveness process despite your feelings, you can count on God to help you every step of the way.

Be patient when you've hurt or offended your spouse. Allow your spouse to freely express his or her thoughts and feelings about your mistakes, and let your spouse know that you're genuinely sorry.

Focus on feelings instead of on facts. During a disagreement, discussing the facts surrounding the issue usually only leads to arguing. But focusing on how both you and your spouse feel about the issue will help you figure out how to heal the hurt so you can begin to solve problems together.

Ask questions. Clarify whether or not the negative beliefs you have about your spouse or your spouse's views on an issue are actually true by asking questions. Then, once you're satisfied that you understand each other's perspectives, ask your spouse what you can do to resolve the issues and repair your marriage.

Focus on what you want to happen. Rather than dwelling on what's broken and sinful in your marriage, pay attention to what's good and holy. Instead of complaining about your marriage problems, pray for the positive changes that you hope God will help you make in your marriage and every other part of your life.

Give your spouse grace instead of judgment. Avoid judging your spouse for his or her sins and weaknesses. Keep in mind that God gives you plenty of grace to cover your own flaws every day. If you give your spouse grace whenever you can, that will draw you closer to each other in love.

Love your spouse unconditionally. Act in love toward your spouse no matter what, since that's how God chooses to love you. Expect your spouse to mess up sometimes because he or she is in an imperfect person living in a fallen world. But don't give up on your marriage when that happens. Work together to adjust your expectations of each other so they're realistic. Rely on God - not your spouse - to be fulfilled, since God will never disappoint you and your spouse can't be responsible for your happiness.

Keep your heart open. Remain hopeful that your spouse will change as God continues to work in his or her life. Anything is possible with God, so allow for the possibility that your spouse can change in profound ways as you keep doing what's right on your end of the marriage.

September 16, 2010

Adapted from The Surprising Way to a Stronger Marriage, copyright 2010 by Michael and Amy Smalley. Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Ill.,

Michael and Amy Smalley specialize in teaching couples the principles of loving well and loving for a lifetime. Their popularity as nationally renowned marriage builders, authors, and couples' consultants has grown in response to their signature no-nonsense advice. The Smalleys' message inspires, motivates, and challenges people to thrive in their most important relationships. Their love story began at Baylor University. After graduation, they went on to earn master's degrees in clinical psychology from Wheaton College. They currently serve as executive directors of the Smalley Marriage and Family Center in The Woodlands, near Houston, Texas. The center provides premarital counseling, marriage crisis consulting, and marriage and parenting seminars. The Smalleys have enjoyed 15 years of marriage and have three children--Cole, Reagan, and David.