The most famous words in the marriage ceremony are “I Do.” The intent of those words is meant for the marriage to last forever. Unfortunately, many marriages are not lasting forever. According to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri, the divorce rate in America for first marriages is 50 percent; second marriages, 67 percent; and third marriages, 74 percent. Marriage is a beautiful institution designed by God at Creation to fulfill the need for companionship; “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18). Yet marriage can also be a complex and challenging venture. The truth is, building a Christian marriage and keeping it strong require work; however, the results can be priceless.
While a loving and lasting marriage does take deliberate effort, it’s not so difficult if you start with a few basic principles. The first principle is to invite Christ to be the nucleus of the marriage by regularly engaging in worship and prayer together. Prayer, mainly, is the beginning and end of all things. Set some special time aside each day, preferably each morning, to worship and pray together. If working hours don’t make the morning or evening hours conducive for this time with God, make it a point to leave a scripture or a short prayer for the other to read and carry in their heart and mind throughout the day.
Second, set aside some special time for just the two of you to be together. Spending time together is very important. Time together strengthens the relationship bond and helps keep communication lines open. Time together increases intimacy and closeness. Continue to date. Dating intensifies the feelings of romance, which is good in a marriage.
Remember how wonderful it was to get dressed and meet him or her for that special time together? These same practices must continue. Dates don’t have to be expensive or extravagant. Going out to lunch, walking on the beach, or attending a concert can add longevity to the relationship. Have fun surprising each other—fix his favorite meal, give her breakfast in bed. You will be surprised what this will do for the connection. Intimacy begins with loving acts of kindness.
Third, encourage each other. Encouragement is necessary for healthy self-esteem and good marriage. We all need encouragement and increased mental, physical, and spiritual growth. If your spouse has a special gift, talent, or dream, encourage him or her to use those talents and pursue goals. A mate with a sense of fulfillment will make a better mate than one who is unfulfilled and empty. It has been said that empty barrels make a lot of noise. When a spouse is not fulfilled, sometimes complaining and anger becomes the noise in the marriage, which can negatively impact the marriage.
Fourth, Mary Fairchild, a frequent writer on marriage, suggests that couples make important decisions together. Major decisions, like financial ones, are best decided as a couple. One of the most significant areas of strain in a marriage is the sphere of finances. As a couple, you should discuss your finances regularly, even if one of you is better at handling the practical aspects such as paying the bills and balancing the checkbook. Keeping secrets about spending will drive a wedge between couples faster than anything else. If you agree to come to mutual decisions on how the finances are handled, this will strengthen the trust between you and your partner. Also, you won’t be able to keep secrets from each other if you commit to making all important family decisions together. This is one of the best ways to develop trust as a couple.
The fifth and final encouragement to you is to attend church together. Attending church together sets the tone for the week, opens the relationship up to God, and allows you to have a support group. You may also connect with other couples, be mentored by an older couple who is successful in marriage, or you may become mentors.
God ordained marriage as a sacred institution between a man and a woman and meant to last forever “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). Married life will never be perfect because we are not perfect, but with God, love, and commitment, we can say, “I do forever.”
by Janice Johnson Browne, Ph.D.