Q: What can we do to develop a healthy marriage right from the start?
A: To develop a healthy marriage, it is important that two vital elements come together.
First, at some point you must draw a line in the sand. In so many words, proclaim to God and to each other, “We are committed to building a Christian marriage and family. Divorce is not an option. We will have nothing of the world’s approach to marriage. We are committed to keep our love fresh, new, and growing—for the sake of our marriage, for the sake of our children, and for the cause of Jesus Christ. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” In the way you talk to each other—today and every day, you affirm the fact that you would choose each other all over again. You say to each other, by words and actions, “You are my one and only.”
Second, God took you at your word when you said your wedding vows and is working through
you to fulfill that commitment. Your marriage will grow deeper and stronger because God will
empower you to strengthen your marriage. The two of you are not alone in this battle to ward off the world’s twisted view of marriage because yours is a marriage of three—you, your spouse, and Jesus. We urge you both to settle for nothing less than God’s best in your relationship.
How can you do that? One thing we suggest in our counseling is something we call “The Love List.” The Love List begins by enumerating things you can do once each day, once each week, and once each month. Finally, it also points you to important exercises to conduct on a yearly basis.
The Love List: Healthy Habits of Loving Couples
Once a day
Touch. Cultivate the valuable practice of tender touch on a daily basis.
Hug for at least five seconds.
Remember the two most important minutes of your marriage: right when you meet at the end of the day.
Laugh. The more you laugh together, the more you love your spouse. Humor helps you cope.
Once a week
Do something active that lifts your spirits. This is an insurance policy against boredom.
Broaden your sphere of interest. Make a list of activities and circle those you might find pleasurable. Make time to do them.
Give your mate space to enjoy certain activities that are his/hers alone.
Boost your mate’s self-esteem. When your soul mate helps you reach your potential and boosts your self-confidence, your options seem limitless. Look for diamonds—dig through the rough to look for the good in each other. Compliment your spouse.
Once a month
Rid yourselves of harmful residue. Explore unfinished business (unpaid bills, how long in-laws stay for Christmas, disciplining the kids). Talk about it and do your best to make decisions.
Talk about your money. Admit to any deception and set up safeguards that will keep you honest.
Talk about your emotional needs and anger. Forgive when you feel hurt.
Protect each other from over-commitment. Decide together what you and your family can handle.
Update how well you know your spouse. Check in with your spouse—what would he or she like you to know?
Fire up passion in the bedroom. Schedule a sex date at least once a month. Guard your time fiercely.
Once a year
Review your top ten highlights of the year. Decide together what constitutes a highlight. Make the review a memorable tradition.
Chart your course for the coming year. Be proactive about where you’d like to be as a couple twelve months from now. Ask God for guidance. Take time to consider what really matters most to both of you in your relationship.
Write a mission statement and revisit it yearly. Begin with “Our purpose is . . .” Use this statement to keep your marriage on track. Consider what you’d like to change.
Think of six things you wish were different and set ways to improve them in the next year. Set specific goals. Understand the power of making resolutions together. Awaken your can-do attitude and trust God in your coming year together as a couple.
*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!