Have you ever seen that couple who has been married 30, 40, 50 years or more? I’m happy to say that my parents fell into this category. While it wasn’t always an easy journey, they discovered some things along the way to be successful. Inevitably, someone always asks these seasoned married couples, “What is your secret to success in marriage?” While I haven’t complied a list of responses from these marriage veterans, I have compiled a list of seven simple tips of what research and what the bible has to say about having a successful marriage. Although they may be simple, they many not always be easy.
1. Date Your Spouse Regularly
When you first met, this is one of the activities that created the atmosphere for both of you to fall in love with one another. Why is it that once we say, “I do”, this behavior tends to diminish when it was once such a high priority in our lives? Maybe it is because of all the business of life and we just don’t make time for this important activity anymore? Studies suggest that married couples who invest in their relationship by having at least one date night per week experience: a significant increase in happiness, relationship satisfaction, communication, and sexual satisfaction by about 350% or 3.5 times higher than couples who aren’t regularly dating. Who doesn’t want that!? By doing this one activity regularly, it WILL impact the quality of your marriage.
The study mentioned above was done by Dr. Greg Smalley of Focus on the Family. They concluded this from scientific research done by: the Survey of Marital Generosity (SMG), a national study of more than 1,600 married couples aged eighteen to fifty-five that was conducted in 2010 and 2011 by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. You can read all about this and more from a sample portion of their book, “Take The Date Night Challenge“. Ecclesiastes 9:9 (NIV), “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.”
2. Invest in Your Marriage
If you want to know what is important to you, just look in your checkbook. I’m not saying money is the most important thing in marriage, nor am I saying that anyone even uses a checkbook anymore. What I am saying is that we intentionally spend money on things that are important to us ~ Matthew 6:21 (NIV) says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If our marriages are important to us, we need to be investing in them. We invest in so many other things in life, what are we investing in to ensure the success of our marriage?
How should we invest in our marriage? See tip #1, that will get you started. Take a class together. Attend a marriage conference where you can focus on each other. Go on a mini-vacay together. Just be intentional and do something significant. This doesn’t always mean you have to spend gobs of cash, but it does mean you must spend time together.
3. Pray Daily
This particular activity could very well be the best predictor of success in your marriage. The August 2010 article, “The Couple that Prays Together’: Race, Ethnicity, Couples’ Religious Involvement, and Relationship Quality among Working-age Adults” in the “Journal of Marriage and Family” (Volume 72, Issue 4, Pages 963-975) concluded that couples praying together on a daily basis were less likely to get a divorce than those couples who were not praying on a daily basis. In fact, the divorce rate was 1 in 1156 (not even 1%) for those couples involved in church/ministry and couples that prayed together on a daily basis. Everyone is told that the typical divorce rate for first marriages is much higher (somewhere between 30%-50% and even higher for subsequent marriages) so the statistics of a prayerful couple are very encouraging and quite amazing.
4. Control Your Thoughts and Emotions
While we can’t control what thoughts and emotions we have, we can control how we choose to deal with them. We are bombarded daily with our thoughts which inevitably trigger feelings. The challenge is not to try to suppress this, but choosing how to deal with them. The key to unlocking the door to joy in all situations can be found in a few scriptures. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV) says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Our mind is the gateway to the heart. We need to be skilled at comparing our thoughts and emotions against scripture and deciding whether or not we allow them to take root in our heart.
If our thoughts and emotions don’t line up with what God says, we are to turn them over so that Christ can handle them, everything else we can allow to enter our heart. How do we decide this? Philippians 4:8 (NIV) says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” This is the standard by which we are to measure whether or not those thoughts and feelings belong in our heart. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks and our actions are also sure to follow.
5. Be Empathetic
Everyone wants to be heard and your spouse wants to be known by you. If you aren’t being empathetic, chances are your spouse is not being heard and that is not good. Just some slight modifications in your communication could make a world of difference in your marriage. Be sure to focus on what they are saying with eye contact and NOT iContact, put away those electronics if you know what I mean. Acknowledge them in a way that shows them you are listening to their ideas and not just repeating words back to them indicating that you are a human tape recorder. Let’s follow Christ’s example in Hebrews 4:15 (NIV), “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”
6. Forgive Quickly
Ephesians 4:26 (NIV) says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…” Some of us struggle with forgiveness while few do not. Whether forgiveness comes easier to you or not, the key idea here is forgiving quickly. It is extremely easy to nurse our hurts and our wounds indefinitely that are inflicted by other people. This is very destructive behavior and we must learn to forgive quickly or the enemy of our soul will use this to their advantage. ” Colossians 3:13 (NIV) says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” When Christ forgives our sins, He doesn’t wait around and complain about how we hurt Him. He forgives us the instant we repent and ask Him for His forgiveness. Now, that is a standard to live up to.
7. Serve One Another
We are all selfish beings from birth…wait, that sure sounds weird, we were just babies. That’s right, but everything was taken care of for us. People fed us, cleaned us, clothed us. We didn’t pay any bills, we did whatever we wanted and everyone thought it was so cute. We didn’t have to do anything we didn’t want to do, but slowly and progressively ever since that day everyone began to stop doing everything for us. When you grow up, you learn the blessing and value of serving others even though our flesh desires that people serve us.
If we look at the heavenly model of how our earthly marriages should be, we would realize that in marriage we were meant to serve our spouse. John 13:5 (NIV) says, “After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” Jesus the King of the universe humbled Himself to serve His bride even when she didn’t deserve it. What a perfect model of servant leadership that we must all strive to achieve in marriage.
Scriptures for Meditation
Ecclesiastes 9:9 (NIV), “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.”
Matthew 6:21 (NIV), “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV), “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Philippians 4:8 (NIV), “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Hebrews 4:15 (NIV), “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”
Ephesians 4:26 (NIV), “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…”
Colossians 3:13 (NIV), “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
John 13:5 (NIV), “After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.“