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5. Seek Wise Counsel

Plug into a marriage Bible study. Third-party opinions help us take our emotions out of the equation. We all need accountability. We’re going to mess up.

Coming together weekly with other Christian couples helped us realize we were not the only relationship with quirky disagreements. Feeling normal was helpful. So did implementing the advice we received. Each week we worked through an area of our marriage. We started to communicate about sticky subjects and found a common ground. That’s where the healing begins.

6. Kill the Contempt

Well-known relationship psychologist Dr. John Gottman studied behavioral patterns in couples and found four common characteristics that increased the likelihood for divorce. These included “criticism of partners’ personality, contempt (from a position of superiority), defensiveness, and stonewalling, or emotional withdrawal from interaction.” His studies confirmed that “stable couples handle conflicts in gentle, positive ways, and are supportive of each other.”

Dr. Gottman equates contempt with pouring sulphuric acid on love: “Not only does it destroy love, but it also destroys the immune system of the person who receives this contempt.”

What nonverbal and verbal signals are you sending when you disagree? Can changing our responses really make a difference? The experts seem to think so.

7. Follow the Biblical Mandate for Marriage

Love and respect are biblical mandates (Eph. 5:33). According to marriage expert Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, “Love best motivates a woman, and respect most powerfully motivates a man.”

Most men desire admiration and thrive when they are valued. Women, on the other hand, gravitate toward romance novels, chick flicks and weddings. Why? Women love the idea of love—warm fuzzies, first-time tingles, but mostly the security they feel when someone chooses them above any other. Pick me. Want me. Cherish me.

There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s a beautiful design by the Father. God told men to love their wives like Christ loves the church. Why would He have to tell us this? He knew once the guy got the girl that his focus would shift to conquer work, hobbies, sports or other distractions. There’s nothing wrong with hobbies or goals. Just be certain your priorities are straight. An unloved wife builds resentment for her husband.

Likewise, something happens when women value their husband’s words. He stands a little taller, he cherishes his wife, and he desires to spend time with her.

Dr. Gottman also discovered that the most important sign of an unwavering marriage was how a couple resolved an argument. He found that lack of respect for your partner pushed them further away. Interestingly, these precepts correlate biblically. Treat each other the way you want to be treated (Matt. 7:12). Honor one another (Rom. 12:10). We have the ultimate template for happiness right in front of us.

Read your Bible, follow God’s mandates, and watch your relationship strengthen.

If you are intentional about putting your spouse first, the rest will fall into place. But the choice is up to you. You’re a team. Act like a team. Come out swinging to make it, with callused knees and an understanding heart and lots of fun behind closed doors.

Let’s skew the 50 percent statistic, and blame our better-than-engagement love on prayer, sex, love and respect.

Dabney Hedegard is the author of When God Intervenes. Visit her at dabneyland.com or on Twitter @dabneyland.

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