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Marriage is like harvesting wild honey. It looks dangerous, it is dangerous, it's a bit scary, you have to have guts to go through with it, you get stung here and there, but man, does it taste good!

A marriage cannot be built on feelings. The foundation of your marriage HAS TO BE a decision. That decision is that you will love your spouse no matter how ugly they look, no matter what they do to you or say to you, and no matter how you feel. This is really tough at times; that is why it can't be based on feelings, but rather on your will to stick by your decision. You need to make this a serious, solemn, unbreakable decision.

This is a decision to LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY. So it is not dependant on your spouse loving you back. They probably will, but you shouldn't even factor that into your equation.

Once you've made this decision, your marriage already has hope, even if your spouse is presently fooling around. This kind of love is the most powerful force in the universe, and nothing withstands it for very long.

Loving unconditionally is very hard, and you can try and do it on your own, but we really do need God's help. The God I'm talking about is Jesus - a god by any other name won't help you. Marriage was designed by Him, for a reason, so we need His help and instruction to make it work well. My own marriage of 22 years and 2 kids has been stormy and had some serious ups and downs, but my reliance on Jesus is what has pulled us through those times - so I would be cheating you if I didn't tell you about my "greatest secret" which is God's help.

OK, so now you love your spouse unconditionally. Now for step 2. Build up their spirit - by this I mean their self esteem. To do this you need to search for their good points and tell them about it. If the only thing they do well is make tea, tell them "You make the best cup of tea ever." Don't lie. Find a good point that you can tell them of truthfully. Sometimes these good points are hidden beneath an aggressive or conceited exterior, so then you have to dig and search and carefully look for them.

Next: Stick to God's heirachy. He put the man as leader, and the woman as deputy. This does not mean that the man is king - it means that the man takes the rap for anything that goes wrong, spiritually, in the family. He's ulimately responsible before God for his wife firstly, and then for his kids. When God's got a complaint against a family, the buck stops with the husband. Wives - be grateful you don't have this responsibility. Wives must support their husbands, and they are like partners who co-run the household. In other words, decisions about the family life should be made jointly by the husband and wife (and even kids can be involved) but if there's a disagreement/stalemate, then the husband has to make the final decision. Allow your husband to be the responsible one. He may not want to be, but he should be. Encourage him to be the head of the home. Husbands - be the man of the house. You won't be sorry. (Battered, maybe, but not sorry!)

Other suggestions: Try and apply unconditional love to your in-laws, and even your own parents if you have conflict with them. It is important to love your parents and parents in law if you want a strong marriage. Start by building a positive image of them in your mind; ie. chuck out negative thoughts about them and look for the good in them - there is always good there somewhere. If you are unable to be their best buddies, then at least show them your respect (even if they don't deserve it) This will be a starting point to building a better relationship with them, and the person to benefit most will be YOU! I started off my relationship with my Mom-in-law with a huge 8 month fight, but now we are best friends, and she buys me chocolates when we go visit and I do stuff for her - we get on famously. So see, it IS POSSIBLE !!

There are some excellent books about making marriage work by Dr James Dobson. His advice is spot on and he has a very long marriage and wonderful kids to prove his advice works. Some of his books are "What wives wish their husbands knew about women" and "What husbands wish their wives knew about men." He is a doctor of psychology and a marriage counsellor. I have read his books and have found them to be very helpful in my own marriage.