They are the tragedies of divorce—bitter ex-spouses, broken promises, and confused children. Don’t let this happen to your family! Whether your marriage is going through tough times or is experiencing marital bliss—or even if you’re not yet married but are considering it—the Bible offers proven guidance to help your marriage last. It’s advice is from God, the one who created and ordained marriage! If you’ve tried everything else, why not give Him a chance?
Keys for a Happier Marriage
1. Establish your own private home.
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
Answer: God’s principle is that a married couple should move out of their parents’ homes and establish their own, even if finances require something modest, such as a one-room apartment. A husband and wife should decide this together, as one, and remain firm even if someone opposes. Many marriages would be improved if this principle were carefully followed.
2. Continue your courtship.
“And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8).
“Her husband also … praiseth her” (Proverbs 31:28).
“She who is married cares … how she may please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:34).
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love … in honor preferring one another” (Romans 12:10).
Answer: Continue—or revive—your courtship into your married life. Successful marriages don’t just happen; they must be developed. Don’t take one another for granted or the resulting monotony could harm your marriage. Keep your love for one another growing by expressing it to each other; otherwise, love might fade and you could drift apart. Love and happiness are not found by seeking them for yourself, but rather by giving them to others. So spend as much time as possible doing things together. Learn to greet each other with enthusiasm. Relax, visit, sightsee, and eat together. Don’t overlook the little courtesies, encouragements, and affectionate acts. Surprise each other with gifts or favors. Try to “out-love” each other. Don’t try to take more out of your marriage than you put into it. Lack of love is the biggest destroyer of marriage.
3. Remember that God joined you together in marriage.
“And for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. … So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Wherefore what God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:5, 6).
Answer: Has love nearly disappeared from your home? While the devil wants to break apart your marriage by tempting you to give up, don’t forget that God Himself joined you together in marriage, and He desires that you stay together and be happy. He will bring happiness and love into your lives if you will obey His divine commandments. “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Don’t despair. God’s Spirit can change your heart and your spouse’s heart if you will ask and let Him.
4. Guard your thoughts.
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so [is] he.“ (Proverbs 23:7)
“Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17).
“Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
“Whatever things are true … honest … just … pure … lovely … of good report … think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Answer: The wrong kind of thinking can profoundly harm your marriage. The devil will tempt you with thoughts like, “Our marriage was a mistake,” “She doesn’t understand me,” “I can’t take much more of this,” “We can always divorce if necessary,” “I’ll go home to mother,” or, “He smiled at that woman.” This kind of thinking is dangerous because your thoughts ultimately govern your actions. Avoid seeing, saying, reading, or hearing anything that—or associating with anyone who—suggests being unfaithful. Thoughts uncontrolled are like an automobile left in neutral on a steep hill; the result could be disaster.
5. Never go to bed angry with one another.
“Let not the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26).
“Confess your faults to one another” (James 5:16).
“Forgetting those things which are behind” (Philippians 3:13).
“And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Answer: To remain angry over hurts and grievances—big or little—can be dangerous. Unless addressed in a timely manner, even little problems can become set in your mind as convictions and can adversely affect your outlook on life. This is why God said to let your anger cool before going to bed. Unresolved differences can turn into mountains that result in lack of communication. Be big enough to forgive and to say, “I’m sorry.” After all, no one is perfect, and you are both on the same team, so be gracious enough to admit a mistake when you make it. Besides, making up is a very pleasant experience, with unusual powers to draw marriage partners closer together. God suggests it! It works!
6. Keep Christ in the center of your home.
“Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1).
“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6).
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
“I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” (Ps 16:8)
“I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes:” (Ps 101:3)
Answer: This really is the greatest principle, because it’s the one that enables all the others. The vital ingredient of happiness in the home is not in diplomacy, strategy, or our effort to overcome problems, but rather in a union with Christ. Hearts filled with Christ’s love will not be far apart for long. With Christ in the home, a marriage has a greater chance at being successful. Jesus can wash away bitterness and disappointment and restore love and happiness.
7. Pray together.
“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
“Pray for one another” (James 5:16).
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally” (James 1:5).
Answer: Pray with one another! This is a wonderful activity that will help your marriage succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Kneel before God and ask Him for true love for one another, for forgiveness, for strength, for wisdom—for the solution to problems. God will answer. You won’t be automatically cured of every fault, but God will have greater access to change your heart and actions.
8. Agree that divorce is not the answer.
“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).
“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except [it be] for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)
“For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to [her] husband so long as he liveth.” (Romans 7:2)
Answer: The Bible says that the ties of marriage are meant to be unbreakable. Divorce is allowed only in cases of adultery. But even then, it is not demanded. Forgiveness is always better than divorce, even in the case of unfaithfulness.
When God ordained the first marriage in Eden, He designed it for life. Thus, marriage vows are among the most solemn and binding for a person to take on. But remember, God meant for marriage to elevate our lives and meet our needs in every way. Harboring thoughts of divorce will tend to destroy your marriage. Divorce is always destructive and is almost never a solution to the problem; instead, it usually creates greater problems—financial troubles, grieving children, etc.
9. Keep the family circle closed tightly.
“Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14)
“The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her… She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:11, 12).
“The Lord has been witness between thee and thy wife of thy youth, against whom you hast dealt treacherously” (Malachi 2:14).
“To keep thee from the evil woman. … Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? … So he that goeth in to his neighbor’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:24, 25, 27, 29).
Answer: Private family matters should never be shared with others outside your home—not even parents. A person outside the marriage to sympathize with or listen to complaints can be used by the devil to estrange the hearts of a husband and wife. Solve your private home problems privately. No one else, except a minister or a marriage counselor, should be involved. Always be truthful with each other, and never keep secrets. Avoid telling jokes at the expense of your spouse’s feelings, and vigorously defend each other. Adultery will always hurt you and everyone else in your family. God, who knows our mind, body, and feelings, said, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). If flirtations have already begun, break them off immediately—or shadows could settle over your life that cannot be easily lifted.
10. God describes love make it your daily goal to measure up.
“Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Answer: This Bible passage is one of God’s greatest descriptions of love. Read it again and again. Have you made these words a part of your marriage experience? True love is not mere sentimental impulse, but rather a holy principle that involves every aspect of your married life. With true love, your marriage stands a far greater chance for success; without it, a marriage will likely fail quickly.
11. Remember that criticism and nagging destroy love.
“Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter against them” (Colossians 3:19).
“[It is] better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” (Proverbs 21:19)
“A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.” (Proverbs 27:15)
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?“ (Matthew 7:3)
“Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
Answer: Stop criticizing, nagging, and finding fault in your partner. Your spouse might lack much, but criticism won’t help. Expecting perfection will bring bitterness to you and your spouse. Overlook faults and hunt for the good things. Don’t try to reform, control, or compel your partner—you will destroy love. Only God can change people. A sense of humor, a cheerful heart, kindness, patience, and affection will banish many of your marriage problems. Try to make your spouse happy rather than good, and the good will likely take care of itself. The secret of a successful marriage lies not in having the right partner, but in being the right partner.
12. Do not overdo in anything; be temperate.
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)
“Charity … does not seek its own [selfish advantage]” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5).
“Whatsoever you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
“But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)
“If anyone will not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4).
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin:” (Romans 6:12, 13)
Answer: Overdoing will ruin your marriage. So will underdoing. Time with God, work, love, rest, exercise, play, meals, and social contact must be balanced in a marriage or something will snap. Too much work and a lack of rest, proper food, and exercise can lead a person to be critical, intolerant, and negative. The Bible also recommends a temperate sex life (1 Corinthians 7:3–6) because degrading and intemperate sex acts can destroy love and respect for one another. Social contact with others is essential; true happiness won’t be found in isolation. We must learn to laugh and enjoy wholesome, good times. To be serious all the time is dangerous. Overdoing or underdoing in anything weakens the mind, body, conscience, and the ability to love and respect one another. Don’t let intemperance damage your marriage.
13. Respect each other’s personal rights and privacies.
“Charity suffers long and is kind; … Charity envieth not … does not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own [in selfishness] … rejoiceth not in iniquity … believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7).
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another” (Romans 12:10).
Answer: Each spouse has a God-given right to certain personal privacies. Do not tamper with each other’s wallets or purses, personal email, and other private property unless given permission. The right to privacy and quietude when preoccupied should be respected. Your husband or wife even has a right to be wrong part of the time and is entitled to an “off-day” without being given the third degree. Marriage partners do not own each other and should never try to force personality changes. Only God can make such changes. Confidence and trust in one another is essential for happiness, so don’t check up on each other constantly. Spend less time trying to “figure out” your spouse and more time trying to please her or him. This works wonders.
14. Be clean, modest, orderly, and dutiful.
“In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel” (1 Timothy 2:9).
“She … willingly works with her hands. … She also rises while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household. … She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness” (Proverbs 31:13, 15, 27).
“Be ye clean” (Isaiah 52:11).
“Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).
“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1Tim 5:8)
“That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12)
Answer: Laziness and disorder can be used by the devil to destroy your respect and affection for one another and, thus, harm your marriage. Modest attire and clean, well-groomed bodies are important for both husband and wife. Both partners should take care to create a home environment that is clean and orderly, as this will bring peace and calmness. A lazy, shiftless spouse who does not contribute to the household is a disadvantage to the family and is displeasing to God. Everything done for one another should be done with care and respect. Carelessness in these seemingly small matters has caused division in countless homes.
15. Determine to speak softly and kindly.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
“Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest” (Ecclesiastes 9:9).
“When I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
Answer: Always speak softly and kindly to your spouse—even in disputes. Decisions made when angry, tired, or discouraged are unreliable anyway, so it’s best to relax and let anger cool before speaking. And when you do speak, let it always be quietly and lovingly. Harsh, angry words can crush your spouse’s desire to please you.
16. Be reasonable in money matters.
“Charity envieth not;[is not possessive] Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own [selfish advantage]” (1 Corinthians 13:4,5)
“God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Answer: Household income should be shared in a marriage, with each partner having the right to spend a certain portion as desired and according to the family budget. Separate bank accounts tend to remove the opportunity to deepen trust, which is vital for a healthy marriage. Money management is a team effort. Both should be involved, but one should take ultimate responsibility. Money management roles should be determined by personal abilities and preferences.
17. Talk things over freely with one another.
“Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
“He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul.” (Proverbs 15:32)
“Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him.” (Proverbs 26:12).
Answer: Few things will strengthen your marriage more than open discussions on major decisions. Changing a job, purchasing something expensive, and other life decisions should involve both husband and wife—and differing opinions should be respected. Talking things over together will avoid many blunders that could greatly weaken your marriage. If, after much discussion and earnest prayer, opinions still differ, the wife should submit to her husband’s decision, which should be motivated by his deep love for his wife and his responsibility for her well-being. See Ephesians 5:22–25.
18. Do you want your marriage to reflect God’s unselfish, committed, and joyful love for you?
1. Which marriage partner should be the first to make peace after a quarrel?
The one who was in the right!
2. Is there a principle for in-laws interfering in our family decisions?
Yes! Do not interfere with your son’s or daughter’s marriage unless your counsel is requested by both partners. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:11) Many marriages that might have been a little heaven on earth have been damaged by in-laws. The duty of all in-laws is to leave the decisions made in the newly established home strictly alone.
3. My spouse is godless, and I am trying to be a Christian. His influence is terrible. Should I divorce him?
No! Read 1 Corinthians 7:12–14 and 1 Peter 3:1, 2. God gives a specific answer.
4. My spouse ran off with another person. Now repentant, she wants to return home. My pastor says I should take her back, but God forbids this, doesn’t He?
No. No, indeed! God permits divorce for adultery, yes, but He does not command it. Forgiveness is always better and is always preferred. (See Matthew 6:14, 15.) Divorce will seriously mar your life and the lives of your children. Give her another chance! The golden rule (Matthew 7:12) applies here. If you and your wife will turn your lives over to Christ, He will make your marriage supremely happy. It is not too late.
5. What can I do? Men are always coming on to me.
Being a woman in this culture isn’t easy because some men refuse to control their impulses. However, a few things you might do to help ward off unwanted attention is to dress modestly, avoid suggestive conversation or flirting, or engaging in activities that invite attention. There is something about Christian reserve and dignity that keeps a man in his place. Christ said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
6. Can you tell me plainly what God’s counsel is to one who has fallen but is repentant?
Long ago Christ gave a pointed and comforting answer to one who had fallen into immorality but was repentant. “Jesus … said to her, ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said unto her, ‘Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more’ ” (John 8:10, 11). His forgiveness and counsel still apply today.
7. Isn’t the “innocent party” in a divorce sometimes partially guilty also?
Certainly. Sometimes the “innocent party,” by a lack of love, inattentiveness, self-righteousness, unkindness, selfishness, nagging, or downright coldness, can encourage evil thoughts and actions in his or her spouse. Sometimes the “innocent party” might be as guilty before God as the “guilty” one. God looks upon our motives, seeing past our actions. “The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
8. Does God expect me to live with a physically abusive spouse?
Physical abuse can be life threatening and is a serious problem that demands immediate attention. The spouse and family members who have been physically abused must find a safe environment in which to live. Both husband and wife need to seek professional help through a qualified Christian marriage counselor—and separation is often appropriate.
- Marriage is (1)
_____ The joining of a man and woman together by God for life.
_____ A temporary, experimental arrangement to see if two people are compatible.
_____ Not even necessary. Men and women are free to live together without it.
- God recognizes only one reason for divorce. It is (1)
_____ An irritable spouse.
_____ Godlessness of marriage partner.
- The courtesies of courtship (1)
_____ Should be continued in the married life.
_____ Should be dropped quickly after the wedding.
_____ Are really silly and unnecessary.
- The best guarantee of success in marriage is (1)
_____ Having Christ in the hearts and home.
_____ For the husband to force his wife into line.
_____ For the wife to get her way by threatening divorce.
- For safety in quarrels, do the following: (3)
_____ Speak softly and kindly to one another.
_____ Make your spouse admit error.
_____ Call in neighbors to settle things.
_____ Force your spouse to keep quiet.
_____ Walk out and stay away for several days.
_____ Pray together.
_____ Get over your anger before going to bed.
- Check the items that are keys to success in marriage: (2)
_____ Close the family circle to all third parties.
_____ Live in your parents’ home.
_____ Run home to mother when angry.
_____ Tell close friends your spouse’s faults.
_____ Establish your own private home.
_____ Write an old boyfriend for counsel.
_____ Never confess first after a spat.
- The best ways to improve your marriage partner are to (2)
_____ Threaten to leave unless you get your way.
_____ Nag and criticize.
_____ Improve your own relationship with Jesus Christ.
_____ Make your partner sleep alone.
_____ Be loving, appreciative, and forgiving.
_____ Force your partner to change.
- Check the items below which endanger a marriage: (6)
_____ A stingy husband.
_____ A money-wasting wife.
_____ A Christian home.
_____ Praying together.
_____ Disorder and filthiness.
_____ A forgiving spirit.
- For success in making major decisions, (2)
_____ Husband and wife should counsel together.
_____ You should force your will on your spouse.
_____ Seek God in prayer together.
_____ Insist upon having your own way.
- A good rule for in-laws is to (1)
_____ Leave newlyweds alone.
_____ Insist that newlyweds live with you.
_____ Determine to counsel newlyweds whether they want it or not.
- In case of unfaithfulness by your spouse, the best thing to do is to
_____ Leave at once and never come back.
_____ Immediately tell everyone how “low-down” your partner is.
_____ Be willing to forgive and to preserve your home, if at all possible.
- Thoughts should be guarded carefully because (2)
_____ Impure thoughts lead to impure acts.
_____ Your spouse can read your thoughts.
_____ Wrong thinking can severely harm your marriage.
- I want my marriage to reflect God’s unselfish, committed, and joyful love for me.