Marriage was created by God (Gen. 2:18-24), and therefore is governed by God. Successful marriages look to His word.
God expects your marriage to last until death (Mark 10:6-9). He also intends it to be a source of joy (Eccl. 9:9) and an example of His care for the church (Hos. 3:1). Your spouse hugely influences your relationship with God (1 Peter 3:7, 2 Kings 11:4); thus marriage is one of life’s biggest decisions (Gen. 24:3-4).
Marriages often fail because people mistake infatuation for love. Infatuation is exhilarating, but doesn’t exist every moment.
Thus love and commitment are essential foundations. Love, as Jesus demonstrated it, is unselfish goodwill. It always has the other person’s best interests in mind, even when he is undeserving (John 3:16). It loves the unlovely (Mark 10:45). The greatest spouse is the one who understands and displays the love of Jesus. Great wedding texts are Phil. 2:5-11, 1 Cor. 13:1-8, and Col. 3:12-21!
When he leaves his dirty socks on the floor, talk about it, but don’t retaliate. Service spirals upward; revenge spirals downward.
When you sense a lull, or when you hit a truly rough patch, hang on, and strive to bring excitement back. Marriage takes work. All marriages experience trouble. Remember love and commitment, and you will soon be head-over-heels again!
Men and women are different physically and emotionally (not spiritually, Gal. 3:28), and have different roles and different needs. Marriages are most successful when these roles are respected and needs are met.
The top needs of most wives tend to be affection, conversation, domestic security, and financial support. Men, that means you need to learn to build up her self-esteem with loving comments and romantic deeds and thoughtful gifts, on a daily basis. Develop an interest in topics that interest her. Be an active listener. Do your best at work, seek promotion and education. Do not be selfish with your paycheck; her contributions to the household grant her an equal claim to the family’s money. Have eyes only for your wife. Do not take out workplace stresses on your family. Attend your kids’ events.
The top needs of most husbands tend to be sexual fulfillment, praise and respect, domestic support, and recreational acceptance. Women, this means that you need to learn to build up his self-esteem with appreciation for the things he does for the family. Realize that sexual fulfillment is as important to him as conversation is to you. Make the home a shelter from the world; he can have the worst day ever, and come home and still feel like all is well. He would enjoy permission to pursue a sport or hobby that doesn’t conflict with the home. Occasionally, he will want solitude.
These needs may be totally different. Which is why communication is the lifeblood of any marriage—to share hopes and dreams, to air grievances. Never use communication or the absence of it to punish. Learn to give and receive criticism. Discuss dissatisfaction at the right time in a pleasant way. Fight the problem, not each other. The last stage of breakdown is not arguing, but ambivalence. If you stop caring, drop everything, fix the problem, go out on dates, reinvest in your marriage.
Leadership and submission is an important but complicated topic (Eph. 5:25-33). If a husband takes seriously his duty to lead the family to heaven, knowing that he will give an account to God, if he makes decisions that have the family’s best interests in mind, and communicates his reasons, most every godly wife would feel content (even thrilled) to submit, liberated to pursue her spheres of influence. Most wives resent having to lead in her husband’s place.
The six biggest sources of marital stress are: kids, time and attention, sex, in-laws, money, and chores. Communication in these areas is key. Avoid rash or angry outbursts, a lack of integrity, selfish demands, and annoying habits. Freely and fully forgive.
Make God the center of your home. Be unashamedly Christian. Make worship a non-negotiable priority. Raise your children in the instruction of God.
Make marriage a no-sarcasm zone. “I was just kidding” doesn’t erase the accumulation of little hurts (Prov. 26:19).
Set a budget. Avoid credit cards and monthly payments.
Leave and cleave. Parents give great advice. But you need to make the adult decisions without their meddling. That means you can’t rely on their money, either.
Adultery is death. Inoculate yourself with passages that list the physical and spiritual consequences of adultery (Prov. 5-6, 1 Thess. 4:3-7). Count your blessings. Take care of how things look, and you take care of how things are. Erect sensible hedges: have meetings in public places, and let your spouse know first. Be careful showing affection. Avoid suggestive conversation, even in jest. Have no secret passwords. Lock out pornography. —John Guzzetta