Surveys show the average couple gets married when the man is 31, the woman 29. For someone who is age 30, their average life expectancy is 82. So the average couple getting married in 2016 can expect 50 years of marriage, barring divorce. So what makes for a happy marriage, based on the principles of God? I offer a few suggestions.
1. Put God first, not your marriage. When couples marry, they always assume the best. But when God brings two sinful people together, they don’t leave their sin nature behind. And people are self-centered. That is because of sin. So don’t give your spouse a God complex. Only God deserves to be on a pedestal.
2. Do unto your spouse as you would have your spouse do unto you. Consider the consequences of our words and actions. Ask how you want to be spoken to, and speak that way to your spouse. The Bible says, “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, or criticize their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment” (Luke 6:27 The Message).
3. Learn to defer. I met a couple last week, who has been married for 56 years. I asked the man the key to a lasting, happy marriage. He said he learned to say two words: “Yes dear.” The Bible says believers are to submit to one another. That works better in marriage than anywhere else.
4. Put friendship before intimacy and you’ll get both. Sex is not the key to an enduring bond – friendship is. The typical couple spends less than five minutes a day in conversation together. They share only two meals a week. They drift. And then, too often, they divorce.
5. Love as God loves – unconditionally. Until God is at the center of your life, he won’t be at the center of your marriage. God’s love is like an airplane. It overcomes gravity because it is built according to the laws of aerodynamics. What happens if it loses power? The natural law of gravity takes over. A successful marriage is not natural. It is dependent on the power of God, understood or not.
6. Avoid debt. In the first year of marriage, studies show three things are toxic: sexual issues, in-law issues, and money issues. Read about debt. Get on a budget. The Bible speaks of debt a lot. And it never has one good thing to say about it.
7. Learn to forgive. This may be the most important thing I’ve learned in 33 years of marriage. A great marriage is the union of two forgivers. Don’t wait for the apology. True, biblical forgiveness is unconditional.