There's a saying in marriage: the first 50 years are the hardest. Every couple has disagreements and challenges. Every spouse will make mistakes. But, there are principles that, when practiced, can help build and strengthen any marriage.

Recognize first that the only person you can change is yourself. With faith, effort and God's help anyone can experience a change of heart, attitude and even habits. The happiest marriages rely on three important principles: humility, repentance and forgiveness. Here are 10 suggestions on how to incorporate these principles into your marriage.

1. Keep God as number one

As both spouses strive to keep the commandments of God the two will grow closer together. Keeping him at the head of the marriage will help with maintaining the correct priorities in life.

2. Each spouse should regularly conduct honest self-examinations

We should all take a good look at ourselves and pay attention to flaws or other serious habits that may be harmful to our marriage relationship. You can always try asking your spouse for a short list of these flaws, but the odds are that he or she has already given a few not-so-subtle hints in the past. Listen with an honest and humble heart.

3. Promptly take what steps are needed to repent

Repentance is more than just deep sorrow or regret over something. It means to turn completely away from that which is harmful or bad and become dedicated to amending that flaw. Spouses who honestly strive to change will set a wonderful tone of restoration, harmony and peace in their relationships.

4. Commit to forgive

Your spouse may do things that are hurtful, but keep in mind the whole person, not just the hurtful action. Remember the personality traits you do like, admire and appreciate. Be sensitive and have compassion for your spouse. Understanding the reason behind a hurtful act is half the battle. Remember: forgiveness is not justifying or saying that an action was okay, it just signifies that the pain is no longer going to have control over you. You and your spouse will be better able to move forward with honest forgiveness.

5. Hold on to forgiveness

Do not be discouraged with emotional residue. A painful memory does not discount all of the hard work a spouse has put into forgiveness. Take a moment to review the forgiveness process again and remember not only why you forgave but also the peace you felt at the decision.

6. Trust God

It is because of Christ's sacrifice for us that forgiveness is possible. Trust that as we forgive God will somehow make things right. He will also give you strength when it seems impossible to forgive on your own.

7. Truly listen to understand and not as a way for vindication

A humble spouse recognizes that both points of view have value and that the marriage relationship is more important than being right.

8. Treat a spouse with meekness

Both husbands and wives have a duty to work toward a harmonious marriage. Don't speak to a spouse in a demeaning tone. Keep words soft in the relationship. Working on humility and meekness will allow trust and forgiveness to flourish.

9. Put your spouse first in every decision

Always keep in mind the consequences of every decision and action on a marriage. Spouses are partners and should treat each other as best friends. Discuss the big decisions and be open to counsel and consultation on even the smaller ones.

10. Seek to help and build each other up

Never, ever tear down a spouse no matter how angry or heated you may get. Build up your spouse's character and reputation when you talk about them to others. Never complain about your spouse to friends. If there is an issue with the relationship work with your spouse to mend it. If outside counsel is needed go to a spiritual advisor or professional counselor.

A good marriage doesn't just happen - it takes work. But any amount of time and effort in a relationship as important as the one with your spouse is more than worth it. Implementing these principles will help build a strong, satisfying marriage.

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