Lesson: Keys to a Happy Marriage
God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden as the first married couple. Marriage is ordained and established by God, and He includes keys to a happy marriage in the Bible.
Consider this story about a happily married couple in North Carolina:
"As I write, my wife and I are about to celebrate 35 years of marriage.
"We actually met as teenagers because we attended the same church.
When we became young adults, we were at a church convention where I
asked her for a date. That first date was an epic one. We drove two
hours to tour New York City instead of a local Pennsylvania mountain
waterfall attraction as we had first planned.
"Over time we began to realize how much we enjoyed each other's company
and knew we were 'growing' in love.
"After we got married, we encountered many of the typical newlywed
challenges, including the financial ones, but we managed to make ends
"Before long, our son was born and brought us incredible joy, as did
his sister who was born four years later. I settled down into what was
to be a 31-year career in hospital financial administration, and my
wife worked part-time as a substitute teacher and then as a clerical
"Today, our children are grown, and we have four beautiful grandchildren.
We own a home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina, and I'm now serving
wonderful people as their pastor.
"You might be thinking, 'That's your beautiful, inspiring love story?
There's nothing interesting about that!' That's right! To you, the reader,
it might seem meaningless, but to my wife and me that's the brief outline
of 35 years of a happy marriage. These represent years that are filled
with countless stories and memories that we cherish, things that would
mean nothing to you but everything to us. The point is there is no 'magic
formula' to pattern your life after that will lead to a happy marriage.
Married couples are each unique with their own hopes and dreams—their
own special circumstances in life that make them who they are."
Share Your Story
God Must Be Involved in Your Marriage
For a marriage to be happy and successful for life, the husband and wife
must include God as a partner in their marriage. They must acknowledge
God as Supreme in their lives and together yield to what God instructs
in the Bible about marriage. The marriage will fail if it is based on
self-gratification and pleasure.
Is God really involved in marriage?
Yet you say, "For what reason?" Because the Lord has been witness between
you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously;
yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant.
"'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined
to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no
longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let
not man separate."
Marriage is a covenant that includes God! Many marriage ceremonies include
words such as, "Do you faithfully promise and covenant with God, in the
presence of these witnesses to take..." If we covenant with God, then
this makes marriage on a far higher plane than simply agreeing to live
together legally as husband and wife. It means we willingly submit to
the role God must play in the marriage. We will live by His rules.
What's the purpose of marriage?
"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined
to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This is a great mystery,
but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each
one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the
wife see that she respects her husband.
Ephesians 5 reveals how marriage is a type of the incredible love relationship
between Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church. No love could be greater!
The Bible is the ultimate love story when understood in its overall concept
What is true love?
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade
itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its
own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity,
but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes
all things, endures all things. Love never fails...
Love isn't just a feeling of passionate desire for your lover and the
unbearable thought of being apart. True love is based on outgoing concern
for your partner. It's about self-sacrifice for the good of the one you
In every marriage, things go wrong. What if the problem is not
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness
of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for
the interests of others.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus...
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
1 Thessalonians 5:15
See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what
is good both for yourselves and for all.
Over time, seemingly insignificant irritations can get blown out of proportion,
and before long, couples say or do things that are offensive to each other.
The result? Arguments, conflict and, all too often, shouting matches.
It is often very difficult to see our own faults. We're always right
in our own eyes, so we naturally place the blame on our partner. This
mind-set started way back in the Garden of Eden when Adam blamed Eve,
and Eve blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13).
But even if it really is not our fault, loudly insisting the other person
take all the blame is not helpful. The optimal solution instead involves
seeking peace, not revenge (Matthew 5:9; Romans 12:17-21). It involves
seeking win-win strategies. The Bible shows that sometimes our good actions
can, over time, win over our mate (1 Peter 3:1).
Ideally, both partners will eventually work together to solve their problems.
Well-known marriage counselor H. Norman Wright offers the following advice:
"Some negative ways of dealing with conflict are withdrawing, winning,
yielding, and compromising. The ideal way of dealing with conflict is
by resolving the conflict. It may take longer, but the relationship is
then strengthened and needs are met on both sides" (So You're Getting
Married, 1985, p. 199).
What should we say to help heal our relationships?
Psalm 51:1, 10 (New Living Translation)
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of
your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins...
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even
as God in Christ forgave you.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and
gave Himself for her...
Titus 2:4 (New Living Translation)
These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands
and their children.
When we sin, first we must repent and become right with God. Then we
can seek His help in restoring the relationship.
In every marriage relationship, there are several phrases that can help
heal the damage that has been done due to conflicts and arguments. Three
key phrases are listed below.
1. "I'm sorry." Use this one often, and mean it! Tell your spouse you're
sorry for saying or doing the thing that has upset him or her. Whether
you were right or wrong, it doesn't matter; your actions have had a negative
impact on the spouse you love, and you should apologize for that.
2. "I forgive you." Jesus Christ died to forgive us of our sins. His
great sacrifice should motivate us to be willing to forgive others.
3. "I love you." When said sincerely, this declaration cannot be overused.
We need to know we are loved by the person we love. This short, sincere
phrase, backed by loving actions, can put to rest all of our negative
feelings, hurts, resentments and faults and can melt the heart of the
one hearing these three beautiful words.
Can the Flame Burn Again?
Some may feel like the romance and excitement is long gone in their marriage.
They stay together for convenience or for the sake of the children or
other family members. But, as the well-known song asks, "Where is the
Can my marriage really be happy?
Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth.
As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all
times; and always be enraptured with her love.
Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life
which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that
is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the
Yes, your marriage can be happy! The Bible reminds us that a wife is
a blessing from God and tells husbands to "bring happiness" to their wives,
starting from the first year of the marriage (Proverbs 18:22; Deuteronomy
24:5). To achieve happiness, it's important to keep the perspective that
it's not "my" marriage but "our" marriage. The two of you are in this
together and need to work together to bring life and energy back to the
marriage if it has been lost.
If you've been married a few years, find ways to rekindle
the spark that led to your marriage in the first place. What attracted
you to your spouse? Why did you get married? Try dating your spouse
Our helpful booklet Marriage
and Family: The Missing Dimension explains: "Some marriage
partners have rekindled this desire by asking God for a loving, humble
attitude and doing things to show love to their mate, even when they
don't feel like it. Many married people have found that the feelings
they long for return when they start doing the things that
bind two people together" (p. 19).
Beyond the romance, the marriage relationship should also be a close
and growing friendship. Consider this excellent advice: "Enjoying your
spouse as both friend and marriage partner will help override many marital
disagreements, whether financial or social. Couples who remain in love
almost inevitably must also be good friends. They will share the ups and
downs that are common within the marriage relationship" (Jerold Aust,
Are the Keys to a Happy Marriage?").
Did I really mean "for better or worse"?
As we saw in Malachi 2:14, marriage is a covenant. When we took our marriage
vows, we probably repeated words like "for better or worse." Did we really
mean it? No matter what the situation might be right now in your marriage,
can't you work together to make it better?
Do you have the option to give up if the situation has become "worse"?
God says He "hates divorce" (Malachi 2:16), and His expectation is for
you to be committed to your marriage for life. Paul also gave instructions
to Church members not to divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10-11), and Jesus Christ
gave narrow definition to the terrible circumstances that would allow
and remarriage (Matthew 19:3-9).
A helpful exercise to begin restoring the love in your marriage is to
go back and watch a video of your wedding if you have it. Listen to the
words the minister is saying. Say those vows to each other again. If you
don't have this available to you, click on this link to read a wedding
In difficult times when you have tried everything you know how to do,
it can be helpful to seek wise counsel (Proverbs 4:7; 11:14). Healthy,
mature people are not afraid to seek help when they need it.
Can we learn to love again?
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church;
and He is the Savior of the body.
Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be
to their own husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave
Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing
of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious
church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should
be holy and without blemish.
So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who
loves his wife loves himself.
As we are seeing, love is not to be confused with infatuation. Love is
selfless concern for another. True love will build up the one you love,
not tear him or her down. True love will want to give and serve the other,
not take in selfish disregard for the desires of your spouse. A husband
should treat his wife like his queen, and a wife should treat her husband
as her "knight in shining armor"—as corny as that might sound.
Or, as the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5, we should treat each other
as Christ and His Church do.
There is much more to this subject than we could cover in this lesson.
Our free booklet Marriage
and Family: The Missing Dimension gives even more practical information
that can really help. Click on the link to read, download or order a printed
Having a committed, happy marriage can be done, but it's not easy. It
takes work. The key to having a happy marriage is to involve God in your
marriage and submit to His way of life. If God has not been part of your
marriage up to this point, invite Him in! Ask God to bring joy and happiness
to your lives through the marriage relationship. Work on building godly
character in your lives and express the love of God to each other. After
all, God is love!
With God's Holy Spirit working in your lives, you will display the fruit
of His Spirit to your spouse and all others with whom you have relationships.
Notice this definition in Galatians 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit
is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control." Wouldn't that go a long way toward making your
Determine to do your part to make the marriage happy. Don't wait on your
spouse. Surprise your spouse with a special gift—something totally unexpected.
Plan a getaway weekend. Send flowers. Just smile and be pleasant, cheerful
and positive, no matter what has happened that might be upsetting. You
can do it! Start right now! Go give your spouse a kiss!
Next Lesson: See the Bible
Study Guides series menu for your choice of future lessons to
Questions about this lesson? Feedback about
Marriage and Family: The
Happiness: The Choice Is Up to You!
the Keys to a Happy Marriage?
Breaking the Cycle