The institution of marriage goes back to the Garden of Eden. But sadly, the state of many marriages today is anything but Eden-like!

For those who are married, there is probably no other area of life that has a bigger impact on your well-being than the state of your marriage. If things are good between you and your spouse you can handle a lot of trouble in the other parts of life. But if things are not good in your marriage you are probably miserable in general.

And the state of your marriage impacts much more than just the two of you. It of course affects your children, but also your job, your finances, your health, and your Christian witness.

There are many bits of advice for those wanting a better, healthier, happier marriage. Here are five I believe to be especially important:

  1. Work at it. It’s not realistic to believe that something as important and all-encompassing as marriage can be good without effort. It may not sound very romantic, but the best way to have a happy marriage is to work at it! Take the time to learn how to do it well. Learn about your spouse, about yourself, about communication, love, respect, forgiveness, and commitment. There will be bumps in the road ahead, some larger, some smaller. Your effort is likely to pay off with more joy than you could have ever imagined.
  2. Be unselfish. Marriage is not a 50-50 proposition. It’s 100-100. Both partners must be 100% invested to make it work. For every 5 minutes you spend thinking about your own needs, spend an hour thinking about your spouse’s needs. Worry less about how God is dealing with your spouse than about how He is dealing with you. Work on becoming the person your spouse needs you to be.
  3. Focus on what is good. Every marriage has challenges. Every marriage is the union of two imperfect people trying to make it. God’s blessing can make it great, but that does not eliminate the challenges. If I focused on my husband’s physical illnesses and limitations I could be miserable all the time. Instead, I focus on how cherished and loved I am, and the joy we have in following God’s plan together. Unless there is abuse, addiction, or abandonment in your marriage, focus on what is good.
  4. Be real. Hiding from your spouse builds walls between you. Regularly check in with each other. Are there any issues you need to address? You may not be able to “fix” things immediately, but listening to each other and having the issues on the table helps you face them together instead of fighting each other.
  5. Stay on your knees. Having God at the center of your marriage means He will use His eternal strength to hold you together. Pray for your spouse. Pray with your spouse. There is something especially intimate about praying together. Spend time listening to God’s response to you together as a couple. Know that He has a plan for your union that will make a difference far beyond what you now see.

For two imperfect people to have a great marriage takes a miracle. But it’s a miracle God is eager to give you, and that you can cooperate with Him in receiving. If your marriage is not good right now, don’t give up. God can restore even what you thought impossible.

And may your marriage bless the world for His Kingdom.

Working on your marriage is worth it! Many resources are available. Here are some specifically to consider:

Your Turn: What marriage advice would you give to someone in a trouble marriage? What do you believe are the ingredients of a successful marriage? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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