Perhaps one of the greatest–and most baffling–questions of all time is, “How can I have a successful marriage?”
After sitting down with so many different married couples and listening to their individual journeys (because truly, no two marriages anywhere on the planet are ever the same!), I’ve discovered that, before any marriage can be healthy, happy, and fulfilling, both spouses must understand what a biblically-based marriage is.
Scripture compels believers to enter into marital covenant. And although that should be synonymous, with marriage, unfortunately, for many, it’s not.
So the short answer to the question is “The way to have a successful marriage is to know that God desires husbands and wives to honor marital covenant.” One author on marital covenant explains what that is this way: “A covenant is intended by God to be a lifelong fruitful relationship between a man and a woman. Marriage is a vow to God, to each other, our families and our community to remain steadfast in unconditional love, reconciliation, and sexual purity, while purposefully growing in our covenant marriage relationship.”
Yep. Now let’s look a bit deeper. Here are 5 characteristics successful marriages have:
1) A true understanding of what marital covenant is. When I sit in premarital counseling sessions, there are two things I bring up before anything else: what the Bible says about divorce and what the Bible says about sex. Marital covenant does not consist of a boyfriend and a girlfriend who stay together until they are irritated, bored, or simply ready to move on to someone else–it consists of two people coming together as one (Genesis 2:24-25). Who cuts off their arm when it hurts them? Who doesn’t take care of their leg when it’s sore? Your partner is a part of you. People who view marriage as a covenant see their husband or wife as basically a limb.
Marital covenant is not just a relationship–it is the true essence of oneness. (Tweet This!)
2) A true understanding that God is the most important part of marriage. One of my favorite scriptures about marriage is, “Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.” (Matthew 19:6, MSG) Marriage is truly a work of art, and God is the Artist. The Inventor. The Creator. It’s the only relationship that speaks directly to God being all up in it!
Unfortunately, sometimes when marriage gets hard, couples look too much to one another rather than to the Creator. Two flawed people can’t make a marriage work. (Tweet This!) But two people who put God and what he desires for them and their marriage, two people who know they can’t stay married doing it on their own but they can with God at the helm? They are well on their way to being more than just “successful,” but a mind-blowing example of God’s miraculous love and power!
3) A solid friendship. Whenever couples come to me in serious trouble, I don’t ask them, “So, are you still in love?” No, what I want to know is, “Do you still like one another?” Ecclesiastes 4 speaks of the value of friendship; that both people can help one another, yes, even when they fall. When your spouse is your absolute best friend, when you’re being ever-conscious about that being the foundation of your marriage, then how can you just…end things with the person who is closest to you? The one you tell your secrets to? The one who knows all about you? The one who is there for the roller coaster ride? If more couples worked on their friendship, I truly believe the marriage would take care of itself.
4) A consistent sex life. Did you know that 15-20% of couples are considered to be sexless (having sex less than 10 times per year)? Sex is a gift for married people, but you know what? It’s also a responsibility. It’s not a “perk.” It’s a staple. And let’s not forget what I Corinthians 7:5 (NLT) says that going without sex can do to a relationship: “…you should come together…so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” In fact, let’s jump up a couple of verses: “But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.” (I Corinthians 7:2-NLT)
Sex is fun and pleasurable but more than anything, it is purposeful. (Tweet This!) It is a physical act that represents spiritual oneness. And, it’s also a form of spiritual protection from the Enemy too. A successful marriage doesn’t “fit sex in”–it makes sex a top priority.
5) A counselor on call. Proverbs 12:15 says that “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise” and Proverbs 24:6 says that in counsel, there is safety. These two verses alone speak to the importance of marriage counseling.
But here’s the thing: Don’t wait until you are ready to move out or sign divorce papers before seeing one!
A car needs an oil change every three months. Married couples could benefit from “getting their temperature taken” (or as I call it “checking for mouse holes”), at least a couple of times a year, too. It helps to improve communication. It helps to understand mutual needs. It helps for both people to see how far they’ve come–and where they want to go. A successful marriage is about being proactive rather than reactive. Marriage counseling is a big part of that!
I’m praying for each and every spouse reading this.
A healthy marriage is possible.
With God, all things are!