Having a happy marriage can seem like an incredible challenge to some. However, such a marriage is waiting for “you” if you apply these vital keys!
Marriage in our Western nations is under attack as never before, but there are principles you can apply to keep your marriage strong and happy!
The family is the building block of any society, and marriage between a man and a woman is the beginning of that family. Stable marriages build happy families. Stable families strengthen neighborhoods and communities and nations.
Some of you reading this article may be considering marriage. You will want to thoroughly prepare for this life-long commitment. What principles will you apply to ensure a happy and stable marriage? If you are already married, you know there is always room for improvement. What can you do to improve a troubled marriage, or make a happy marriage even happier?
Marriage can be joyous, but it can also be challenging. I know this from years of personal experience. In the more than 50 years my wife and I have been married, we have sometimes faced difficulties because of our human nature. But your Bible gives the strategies and secrets for a successful godly marriage. You need to apply these universal principles in your marriage. This article will reveal seven secrets to help you have a joyous marriage!
My wife has a background in music; she was a violin teacher and even performed professionally before we were married. I, on the other hand, was trained as an engineer. Ideally, my analytical thinking and her subjective approach should complement one another, but frankly it took us some time to adjust. But we learned to communicate effectively. That means effective listening, not just effective speaking.
How often do couples “tune one another out” in their conversations? We should listen for understanding—try to understand the other person’s point of view. Try to understand the other person’s feelings and needs! Demonstrate respect by giving your full attention.
The Apostle Paul gives us a fundamental principle in communicating effectively: “But, speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Some people speak the truth in hate. But a Christian who is maturing in Christ, will be concerned for the effect of his words and message on the listener.
When you talk with your husband or your wife, do you demonstrate concern and care? Do you communicate respect? Certainly we need to be patient with one another. Remember: “Love suffers long and is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Another translation puts it this way: “Love is patient, love is kind” (v. 4, NIV). Take care in your conversations to speak the truth in love!
In our fast-paced lives, husbands and wives may be going in different directions and hardly have time to speak to one another. Some studies have shown that many couples average less than 20 minutes a week in conversation! But there is a way to capitalize on the brief time you have together—and that is the fourminute contact rule. In their book, Contact: The First Four Minutes, Dr. Leonard Zunin and his wife Natalie Zunin explain: “The success or failure of a marriage… can depend on what happens between a husband and wife during just eight minutes of the day: four in the morning upon awakening, and four when you are reunited after the working day” (p. 133).
Your language, attitude, or expression at the beginning of the day can affect the whole relationship. Learn to express a positive, loving attitude for the first four minutes you are together at the beginning of the day. Make a special effort to communicate in love.
You have probably heard the expression, “It’s the little things that count.” Every kind word of appreciation makes a difference. Research has also shown that hugs can reduce stress, and they even encourage loving unity between husband and wife! Often, when my wife and I leave each other to work on separate projects at home, we will hug—and at other times spontaneously as well. Years ago, I read an insurance report that stated husbands who kiss their wives before leaving for work have fewer auto accidents and earn 30 percent more money than those who do not kiss their wives. I made it a regular habit to kiss my wife before leaving the house for work. One day I did not kiss her and backed my car into a tree. Even though there was little damage, I now make sure I kiss her every morning!
Other loving and thoughtful deeds help keep romance alive. A thoughtful and caring husband will often give his wife a bouquet of flowers on an anniversary, and at other times as a total surprise. A creative and caring wife may surprise her husband with a special gift or a special meal.
God intended husband and wife to become one flesh, to enjoy the pleasures of godly sex in marriage! At least four times in the book of Genesis, God commanded married couples “Be fruitful and multiply.” The Bible is very clear: God created sex for marriage and family. Remember, the Bible also reveals that marriage is only between a man and a woman. In the Bible—and in the real world of spiritual, divine law—there is no such thing as “same-sex marriage”! The Bible plainly reveals that any sexual relationship outside of marriage is sin! We read: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).
The old saying, “Marriage is a 50–50 proposition” is totally wrong! Upscale, modern, “enlightened” professionals may say, “Independence is our priority. We’ll intellectually agree to work together, but I’ll still reserve my personal escape route in case things don’t work out right.” But true love is giving without expecting anything in return. Paul wrote: “And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). Or, as the Moffatt translation states, “It is happier to give than to get.”
When two people both give 100 percent, you have a strong bond—a strong “overlap” that is going to guarantee flexibility and the ability to cope with crises and problems. In such a scenario, both mates are “all in.” But the 50–50 proposition is a built-in weak link in your relationship!
One of the greatest gifts you can give is your time! Some years ago, when I was very active in sports, I tended to shortchange my wife in spending time together. I still remember the time when I determined to give my time to her in some special activity that would please her. She wanted to go canoeing—that was not my favorite activity, but we went canoeing on an east Texas lake on a Sunday afternoon surrounded by pine trees, blue skies, waterfowl and peace! What I considered a sacrifice of my time led to a strengthened relationship—my wife enjoyed the activity and appreciated my effort. Make a commitment to give more than you have in the past. Be determined to find ways to give to your spouse—then you will not be so frustrated, and God will bless you in your relationship. As Jesus stated, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
God has given important responsibilities to husbands and wives. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church” (Ephesians 5:25–29).
God commands me as a husband to love my wife. I must give account to God for my attitude, service and commitment to my wife. Notice that God does not give all kinds of escape clauses. He does not say, “if” your wife is perfect, then you love her. No! God commands you to love your wife. That is your responsibility! As we saw earlier, you need to give 100 percent to your wife.
Now, what does God instruct the wives? “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22–24).
Again, ladies, God does not say that you submit only to the perfect husband. I do not know of any perfect husbands. Only Christ is perfect! But, as each of us fulfills his or her own God-given responsibilities—sincerely and diligently, however imperfectly—God will bless the marriage even more! Notice, too, in this same passage that the Apostle Paul encourages us to be thankful and to ensure we are “submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:20–21). As husband and wife, you each have this responsibility to your spouse.
As times change, so do the sources of stress that marriages face. Research commissioned by the UK law firm Slater and Gordon suggests that an increasing number of couples are citing social media use as a cause of their divorce. Their survey of 2,000 married Brits in 2015 uncovered a number of disturbing trends:
Andrew Newbury, head of family law at the firm, said, “We are now actively advising our clients to be cautious when it comes to using Facebook and all forms of social media because of its potential to damage relationships.”
Most of us married couples know we have human nature and human weaknesses. My wife and I have had arguments, not so much now, after 50 years, but how do you reconcile and solve those arguments? The next secret may be difficult for some who find fault and know the weaknesses and character flaws of their spouse. Consider God’s instruction regarding our relationship with others: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3).
Do you really value your spouse? Do you respect him or her as a human being made in the image of God? Yes, your Bible instructs us to esteem—that is, to value—others better than ourselves. That does not mean you must respect every bad quality or bad habit of your spouse. But look for his or her positive values! If you have been abusing your spouse, physically or verbally, you need to repent! You need to humble yourself before God and ask His forgiveness. And you need to apologize to your spouse as well! It is sometimes difficult to say, “I’m sorry.” But doing so can go a long way in healing and restoring a relationship!
Keep in mind that you and your spouse are “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). It is vital to understand how God values every human being—and that includes your spouse, regardless of your opinion of him or her. Every human being on earth has the potential of being born into the divine family of God as a glorified, immortal child of God. Paul wrote: “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18). Always be conscious of your spouse’s awesome potential.
How often do you have arguments in your family, or in your marriage? We all need to exercise self-control, courtesy, honor and respect. Sometimes, the best strategy in an argument is to remember: “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Sometimes, we need to admit our own responsibility. Perhaps we have personally contributed to the problem. I know it can be very difficult at times because our pride gets in the way. I have experienced that myself. But simply saying “I’m sorry” can go a long way in solving a conflict. And certainly we need to forgive one another.
Remember the awesome instruction in your Bible: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Another passage also emphasizes that point: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12–14).
I realize you may be married to an unbeliever, in which case you simply need to pray every day for him or her—and pray for your marriage. Strive to be a Christian example to your spouse. We read: “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1).
Your loving, giving, Christian example can go a long way toward positively influencing your husband. Notice the emphasis is on the conduct, not on trying to argue your spouse into your religion.
Of course, if both you and your spouse personally pray, try praying together. It is amazing how many intimate and personal thoughts come out in our prayers. In that way, we are sharing with one another and with our God.
Ask God to help you apply these principles in your own life. Remember, you cannot force your spouse to change—you can only change yourself. But your example of love and service can have a very positive influence on your spouse. You cannot do it on your own. You need the help of your Savior! As Paul wrote: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
May God bless you and your spouse—one man and one woman in one marriage! May He bless your marriage and your family as you strive to live by His word!