Many couples have little knowledge of how to have a successful marriage. After all, being married and having a successful marriage are two different things!
What defines a “successful” marriage? From a Christian viewpoint, a successful marriage is a marriage that pleases God. A marriage that pleases God is one that is built on biblical principles.
I. THE FIRST KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE IS BEING COMMITTED TO A PERMANENT RELATIONSHIP
God’s plan is for marriages to last a lifetime. Jesus speaks to this in Luke 16:18, where He rebukes those who give way to easy divorce. (The Bible does allow divorce in cases of unfaithfulnes). These are very uncompromising standards, but they are God’s standards, so it is important that we take them seriously and understand that when we decide to marry someone, we are committing to a permanent relationship.
Our society doesn’t think divorce is a big deal, but what does God think? (Read Malachi 2:13-16 and Mark 10:2-12). Again, I do not think you can miss the intent of Jesus’ words. Marriage is a permanent relationship. Divorce is not an option except in cases of unfaithfulness. A commitment to a lifelong relationship helps build a successful marriage.
The only way a couple will get beyond the struggles and difficulties of marriage is to be committed to a permanent relationship; otherwise, they will take the easy way out of a troubled marriage: divorce. A strong marriage is not built on compatibility; it is built on a commitment to a lasting relationship.
II. THE SECOND KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE IS BEING COMMITTED TO A FAITHFUL RELATIONSHIP.
This means that you will not cheat on your spouse. You will have no intimate relationships with anyone else—ever. No exceptions and no excuses! In God’s eyes, any intimate relationship with someone other than your spouse is adultery. The Bible has a lot to say about adultery, and it certainly is different than how the world portrays adultery.
The seventh of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:16). In Old Testament times, the punishment for adultery was the same as for intentional murder: being stoned to death. Adultery is a serious offense in God’s eyes. Of course, the New Testament has a lot to say about adultery, too. Let’s read one of those passages now (Heb. 13:4).
Commitment to faithfulness in a marriage is successful not only in that it pleases God; it is also vital to a lasting and fulfilling marriage.
Remember that intimacy is more than just a physical act. Intimate physical relations outside of marriage break the bonds that hold a marriage together. Although not impossible, very few marriages recover fully from infidelity.
III. THE THIRD KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE IS BEING COMMITTED TO A COOPERATIVE RELATIONSHIP.
This means being a team player. Both of them—husband and wife—must do their part. Cooperation means that each person is willing and committed to fulfilling their God-given role and responsibilities within the marriage. No marriage will be fully successful unless both husband and wife cooperate by listening to their leader and coach, Jesus Christ, and fulfilling the role He has given them.
Husbands, you are to “love your wives even as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). This means husbands must be willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to meet the needs of their wives. Second, husbands are to be “considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect . . .” (1 Peter 3:7). In other words, do not be a self-seeking dictator, making demands of your wife. Respect her as a gift from God, made in His image and a co-heir with Christ.
Wives, you have a part to play also in this cooperative relationship, too. First, you need to be supportive of your husbands. Genesis 2:20 tells us that God created Eve to be a helper for Adam. She was there to support him. A husband needs to know that his wife will support him no matter what, not criticizing him or undermining his plans. Second, wives are to be submissive to their husbands (1 Peter 3:1; Col. 3:18; Eph. 5:22). Being submissive means to willingly let your husband take a leadership role in the marriage.
IV. THE FOURTH KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE IS BEING COMMITTED TO A CHRIST-CENTERED RELATIONSHIP.
Jesus compared building a life to people building houses. Some build on a foundation of sand, which means that Jesus Christ is not the center of their lives; their house cannot stand when the storms come. Other people build their house on a rock, meaning that Jesus Christ is the center of their lives; when the storms come, their house will stand. It is the same with marriage. If you build your marriage with Christ as the focal point, it will endure the storms of life.
Without a real, sincere relationship with Christ, your marriage will not be fully successful and may not even last. Without Christ, we are blind to our own faults, unable to change our behavior, and unwilling to forgive others. How could a marriage endure and prosper in such circumstances? The answer is that it cannot, so make sure that you stay close to Jesus.
Ellen G. White says, “Jesus wants to see happy marriages, happy firesides. The warmth of true friendship and the love that binds the hearts of husband and wife are a foretaste of heaven. God has ordained that there should be perfect love and perfect harmony between those who enter into the marriage relation. Let bride and bridegroom in the presence of the heavenly universe pledge themselves to love one another as God has ordained they should. . . . All who enter into matrimonial relations with a holy purpose—the husband to obtain the pure affections of a woman’s heart, the wife to soften and improve her husband’s character and give it completeness—fulfill God’s purpose for them.”1
1 Ellen G. White, In Heavenly Places, p. 202.
General Conference Ministerial Association