NEXT to our relationship with God, our relationship with our mate is the most important one of all. A solid marriage friendship sets the tone for building other healthy relationships with the family. In seeking to build a strong marriage friendship, there are three gems to polish.

1. EXPRESS GRATITUDE. If each day we thank God for one or two specific things we appreciate about our mate, our hearts will be filled with gratitude rather than criticism. In addition, tell your mate, each day, something you appreciate.

2. CREATE AN ACCEPTING ATMOSPHERE, Our home should, above all, be a place of acceptance--aplace where we are loved simply because we belong. A simple greeting at the end of the day can set the tone for the rest of the evening. An enthusiastic greeting at the front door says, "I'm so glad you are here." Thats acceptance.

3. DEVELOP A FRESH VISION. Each marriage goes through different seasons, and each season has distinct challenges and specific blessings. Newlyweds have the challenge of considering another person's desires. But they soon discover the joys of married life as they learn to care for each other. Some seasons are more challenging than others. The benefit lies in working through the challanges and focusing on the blessings. Ask God to give you a fresh vision for the season you are in right now.

A thankful spirit, an accepting atmosphere, and a fresh vision will encourage us as we continue to cultivate friendships with our mates. Many people go from mate to mate looking for what they cannot find. Instead, we must rejoice in the mate God has given us, remembering that He has given us the partner we need to help us become the person He intended for us to be.