Extending Grace to Your Mate

Doug Britton, M.Ed., MFT


Learn how to handle disappointments wisely, overcome bitterness and anger, escape self-pity, and appreciate the weird way your spouse does things. Also learn when to set boundaries and confront sin.

Expect to change and grow. The practical, cross-cultural truths in these easy-to-read pages will make a big difference in your marriage—whether it is young-to-old, great to not-so-great.

This book is the fourth in Doug Britton’s eight-book “Marriage by the Book” series. These books help couples apply the Bible’s truths in every aspect of marriage. Although Extending Grace to Your Mate is part of a series, it stands by itself as a complete book.

Paperback: Wire “spiral” binding. 160 pages.
Published by LifeTree Books

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 Get the Bundle

Save time — Order all eight books in the “Marriage by the Book” series as a bundle!

Extending Grace to Your Mate is:


There’s no need to buy a separate marriage book, workbook, and leader’s guide for small groups—this book includes all three. You have the flexibility to use it however you want.


You won’t read secular advice with a sprinkling of verses. Instead, you will be transformed as you learn how to turn to God and apply his Word.


Since Laying a Solid Foundation is based on the Bible, its truths apply to every racial and ethnic group. When purchasing this book, you can choose a multicultural cover or an African-American cover.

“I have known Doug and his wife for many years. Many relationships in our church have been strengthened and enriched through the use of his ‘Marriage by the Book’ series.”  Ephraim Williams, Pastor, St. Paul Baptist Church (Sacramento, CA)


This book doesn’t just tell you what to do—it shows you how to do it with easy-to-follow steps. Real-life stories and examples illustrate key points.

“Practical Practical Practical! ‘Marriage by the Book’ is for couples who really want a strong marriage. Doug Britton puts the cookies on a shelf where it’s easy to reach them, using the Bible plus simple exercises to do it! I recommend every couple go through this series in a date night or in a small group with other couples.”  Tom Tunnicliff, Ed.D., Pastor of Chaplaincy, Elmbrook Church (Brookfield, WI)


Text is broken into small, easily-digested portions. Points are clearly identified with headings, bullets, and check boxes.


“Make it personal” questions, quizzes, and exercises help you apply the lessons in your own marriage.

“‘Marriage by the Book’ is a life-changing series that will bring Christ into your marriage. The series will guide you step-by-step as you wrestle with the right questions, so you can see Christ-centered results. Whether your marriage is healthy and thriving or needing an overhaul…this series will help you. I know this because it’s helped my marriage.”  Craig Sweeney, Lead Pastor, Heights Church (Citrus Heights, CA)

About the Author

Author and Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist Doug Britton has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio co-host, and author of over twenty books. In each book of the “Marriage by the Book” series, Doug draws upon his extensive experience counseling married couples. More importantly, he goes directly to the Bible and applies its truth and wisdom to problems couples face today.

Chapter 1:
Love Your Spouse As-Is


Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

When I was a young husband and new Christian, I thought my wife Skeeter was lucky to be married to me. I thought I could help her become a better person. To accomplish this, I gave her “constructive feedback” many times a day. For example, if she walked out of the bedroom without turning off the light, I commented, “It’s important to be a good steward of our resources.” If I thought she could make better use of leftover food in the refrigerator, serving it before it got moldy, I’d give her a short speech. If I thought she was eating too much ice cream, I might ask, “What did the scale say this morning?”

Skeeter often asked me to stop nagging. I felt hurt every time she said that. I thought she didn’t appreciate my helpful, “constructive feedback.”

As time went on, I began to see the harm I was doing as I watched Skeeter’s personality change. She had once been vivacious and confident, but to my dismay, she became increasingly timid and downcast. I finally had to acknowledge that my frequent criticizing had hurt her, not helped her.

I was horrified at this discovery and set about changing my ways. It was hard. My habit of correcting her was deeply ingrained, but with God’s help, I eventually learned to overcome my critical spirit. Today I accept and love her as she is.

Skeeter likewise accepts and loves me in spite of my many flaws and idiosyncrasies. We both have discovered the joy that comes from loving each other as-is.

Don’t try to “fix” your spouse.
When you married, your spouse came with faults. Even if you thought you found the perfect person, you didn’t. It was inevitable that over time you would see things you didn’t like—personal habits, business practices, or character traits. (Of course, the flip side is also true. When your mate married you, he or she also married someone with lots of flaws.)

There’s no question about it. Your mate has faults. The important question is, how do you respond to them?

Be guided by true love, not emotional love.
If you think loving your spouse means feeling love for him or her, you may find it difficult to love your spouse as-is. After all, your feelings can change in a moment, depending on how your mate acts.

God calls us to a much deeper type of love. His word, the Bible, tells us that love is a choice, a commitment, and a set of actions—not an emotion.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

The heart of true love is being more concerned for your spouse’s welfare than for your own. As Paul wrote, love “is not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

Although true love does not depend on a person’s emotions, when you choose to love your spouse as-is, you find yourself beginning to feel love. Friendship, companionship, and passion are part of God’s plan for marriage.

Make it personal
Write a brief prayer, asking God to help you love your spouse with the type of love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

Show grace to your spouse.
God gives us grace—his love, mercy, and kindness. Although we haven’t earned this gift, God gives it to us freely because he loves us (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We likewise are to extend grace to others, including our spouse. We are called to love, to be patient and kind, even when others are imperfect. Study Matthew 5:43-48, Colossians 3:12-14, and 1 Peter 3:1-10. These passages tell us to keep on loving even in the toughest circumstances.


Loving Your Spouse As-Is Brings Life

Over the years, we have a tremendous impact on the person we marry. Over time, we shape our spouse by our words, actions, thoughts, and prayers.

Think of a river rock. Once the rock was jagged and rough, but now it is rounded and smooth, shaped by the river over many, many years. Likewise, when we love someone close to us, we shape them over time in beautiful ways.

If you frequently voice positive thoughts, words of praise, encouragement, and appreciation—you bring joy to your spouse and you help unleash his or her potential. On the other hand, if you focus on your mate’s faults or bad habits, you help create someone who is discouraged, unhappy, and bitter.

Ask God to help you love your spouse as-is, in spite of his or her faults. Make your mouth a “fountain of life.”

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life. (Proverbs 10:11)

The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)

Make it personal
Do you agree that loving your spouse as-is brings life?
 Yes  No

Explain your answer:

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do so many marriages have problems?
Most marriages start out with two people who are certain they can craft a wonderful union. Yet as the years go by, many never experience the passionate, joyful life they expected. Author Doug Britton says a key reason is that most people do not know how to create a great marriage God’s way.

Is my marriage hopeless?
Regardless of your situation, there is hope—the sure hope that comes from God and the truth of his word, the Bible.

What if my spouse won’t read with me?
It’s ideal if you both read this book. However, if your spouse doesn’t want to join you, read it on your own. Learn how to be the best husband or wife possible. God can perform miracles in your personal life—and in your marriage—even if you study on your own.

Can I use this book for pre-marriage mentoring?
Yes. It covers the most important truths couples need to know at the beginning of their journey together.

Learn More

What are some topics covered in “Extending Grace to Your Mate”?
In these pages you will discover many Bible-based insights and practical tools. A few examples:

  • When forbearance and forgiveness are appropriate
  • When confrontation and boundaries are appropriate
  • How to help your spouse in difficult times
  • How to appreciate the weird ways your spouse does things
  • What to do when you are disappointed with your spouse
  • How to know if you are asking too much of your mate
  • How to escape a pity party
  • What to do when you are angry

Digging deeper
How do you respond when the person who seemed so perfect when you were first married turns out to have habits that bother you? When the person who seemed to be an ideal Christian has imperfections? How do boundaries, forbearance, and forgiveness work in marriage?

What do you say when your spouse lets the car run out of gas or doesn’t remember your birthday? Or how do you deal with it when your husband or wife spends too much, talks with a mouth full of food, or interrupts when you are talking?

In this cross-cultural, Bible-based book, Doug Britton writes about a woman who was deeply disappointed with her marriage. When she and her husband were engaged, they had wonderful talks long into the night, right up to the day of their wedding. Then they married, and the talks stopped. To her horror, he retreated into the living room night after night to watch TV. Their intimate talks were replaced by replays of TV sitcoms.

He also writes about a man facing a different type of disappointment in this Bible-based marriage book. When Frank and his wife dated, he was amazed that such a beautiful woman would love him. He imagined the sensuous love life they would have, but once they married, she seemed more interested in talking with friends on the phone, or in cleaning the house, than in making love.

Solomon described the pain of unfulfilled expectations and dreams when he wrote, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

Each day of marriage can bring another crushed dream and more frustration, anger, bitterness, depression, or self-pity. The Bible is full of stories of unhappy marriages.

You too may face the pain of unmet expectations in your marriage. You may be dealing with major disappointments with your husband or wife. Or you may be handling minor frustrations or annoyances. Whatever your situation, take heart. You are not doomed to become a resentful, suffering martyr. The Bible provides solutions, and God offers us understanding and grace. Extending Grace to Your Mate will help you apply the truths of the Bible to your heart and in your marriage.

Marriage by the Book — 8-Book Series

Multicultural Covers

Laying a Solid Foundation Making Christ the Cornerstone Encouraging Your Spouse Extending Grace to Your Mate Talking with Respect and Love Improving Your Teamwork Putting Money in its Place Celebrating Intimacy and Romance

African-American Covers

Laying a Solid Foundation Making Christ the Cornerstone Encouraging Your Spouse Extending Grace to Your Mate Talking with Respect and Love Improving Your Teamwork Putting Money in its Place Celebrating Intimacy and Romance

Marriage by the Book — 8-Book Series

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