I've had thousands of interactions with people from all over the world who want to improve their marriages. I share principles which many people have credited with saving their marriages, but I can't take credit for inventing these principles, I've taken them all straight from the Bible. (Sorry to disappoint you if you thought I was making all this stuff up myself!)
People are often surprised to learn what the Bible actually teaches about marriage.
I'm a Christian and I believe in the Bible's truths have practical application to every part of life, but even if you don't share my faith, I believe these timeless principles from the Bible can revolutionize your marriage. I challenge you to to give them a try!
In no particular order:
1. Sex should be a priority
Since God invented sex (Thanks, God), He has a lot to say about how it should be used and enjoyed. It's meant to be used often in marriage with both spouses submitting to each other's needs and desires.
"The husband should fulfill his wife's sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband's needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife." 1 Corinthians 7:3-4
2. Monogamy is both physical AND mental
We tend to believe as long as we don't commit a sex act with someone outside the marriage, then we're being "monogamous," but God's standard for monogamy includes not only what happens in the bedroom, but what happens in the mind. This includes pornography, graphic romance novels, "checking out" other people, etc. It's a high standard, but it's because marriage is a high priority.
"You have heard the commandment that says, 'You must not commit adultery.' But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:27-28
3. Love is an unconditional commitment, not a fickle feeling
Couples who talk about "falling out of love" don't really have a grasp of what love actually means. Love, by its very nature, isn't a fairy tale feeling, but a commitment. Love isn't a story with a happy ending; love is a story with no ending.
"Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." 1 Corinthians 13:7
4. Every wife needs love and every husband needs respect
One of the toughest parts of marriage is giving love when your spouse is acting unlovable or giving respect when they're acting disrespectful, but it's so important to do it. God gives us His best when we're at our worst, and He calls us to do that for each other in marriage. People usually need love most when they "deserve" love least.
"So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." Ephesians 5:33
5. God hates divorce
God is full of love, and the Bible doesn't give many examples of things God "hates," but divorce is on the list. Because God has so much love for marriage, his heart breaks over the pain of divorce (and our hearts should break too).
"For I hate divorce!" says the Lord, the God of Israel. "To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty," says the Lord of Heaven's Armies. "So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife."Malachi 2:16
If you are in a second marriage, please don't read this and feel judged or shamed. When I read everything the Bible has to say about grace, and the examples of all the great leaders in the Bible who fell far short of God's standard, I'm comforted in knowing God gives second chances and new beginnings. You can't change the past, but you can start now and build a new future with each other.
6. Your spouse's needs have to come before your own
In our selfish human nature, we tend to look at every relationship (including marriage) as a way to get our own needs met, but marriage means laying down your own rights for the sake of another. This requires mutual submission and serving your spouse even when they're not reciprocating. This is modeled by how Jesus served us and even died for us when we were undeserving.
"And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her." Ephesians 5:21-25
7. A husband and wife are united in everything
There can't be "his" and "hers" when it comes to money, hopes, dreams or struggles. Marriage means sharing everything. It means keeping no secrets from each other. This means your disagreements won't have a "winner" and a "loser" because you'll either win together or lose together every time. It means remembering that you should never let your spouse walk alone, because you're unified in everything.
"This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one." Genesis 2:24
8. A marriage takes three
I'm not talking about polygamy here (although some in the Bible practiced it and caused a lot of family drama as a result). The third member of a marriage is God Himself. He created marriage not just to be a man and a woman, but rather, a man and a woman in a growing relationship with each other and with God. The more you love God, the more capacity you will have to love each other.
"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."Deuteronomy 31:8
This article was originally published on Patheos. It has been republished here with permission.