Marriage wasn't meant to be so complicated or difficult that only a few could do it successfully. It's within the reach of nearly everyone. It's also what will make most people happiest and their lives most meaningful, productive, and satisfying, because it's a basic part of God's plan for mankind. No one excels in all of the following areas, of course, so don't be discouraged if you feel you fall short in some. Just do your best and ask Me to help you with the rest.
Putting Me first. It's a spiritual law that when you put your time with Me first, both alone and with your husband or wife, everything else falls into place. "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these [other] things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
Unselfishness. Selfishness is at the root of most marriage problems. For a marriage to work, both partners need to put the happiness of the other before their own. That's real love—the kind that lasts.
I want to see you succeed in marriage and as individuals, and I'm the Answer Man. I can make mountains of problems melt away.
Willingness to recognize and work on problems. Most of the problems that sink marriages start small but grow out of hand because the couple fails to deal with the problems soon enough. Often they tell themselves that the problem will go away if they ignore it or when circumstances change, but that passive approach seldom works. Those with the strongest marriages are those who learn to face their problems head-on and take active steps to overcome them together.
Good communication. In order to understand and meet each other's needs, as well as to unite to overcome problems, good communication is a must.
Forgiveness. A readiness to forgive is a key to a solid, secure marriage. Be quick to apologize for any hurtful words or actions you may have directed at your wife or husband.
Being supportive. To make your marriage all it can be, dwell on each other's good qualities and always look for ways to bring out the best in each other, rather than belittle, criticize, or nag.
Teamwork. Discuss and agree on goals and priorities, and learn to tackle problems together. "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
Consideration. Being considerate of each other's feelings, likes and dislikes, time, and energy not only says "I love you" in a most convincing and endearing way, but it also relieves stress, prevents friction, and keeps lots of little problems from ever happening.
Affection. You'd be surprised at how many marriages fall short because of a lack of outward affection. Vocal expressions of your love for one another are also important, but sometimes touching, kissing, and hugging can convey love and reassurance even better. They are physical manifestations of inward feelings.
Equality. Equality means involving each other in decisions, parenting your children together, and sharing financial and household responsibilities, but it goes deeper than that. It's not just a matter of scheduling or dividing the workload equally, but of valuing and respecting each other so each one's strengths can come to the fore.
Admiration. Few things boost self-esteem or make people want to succeed in the truly important things of life more than hearing that their good qualities are noticed and admired. Sharpen your appreciation of the wonderful person you married, and watch him or her become even more wonderful.
Reaching out to others. Even if you seem to be the most compatible couple in the world and feel completely satisfied and secure in each other's company, in order for your marriage to thrive, you both need other friends. Others can help you grow in ways that your husband or wife can't, so your marriage will actually be strengthened as you each spend time and do things with others.
A sense of humor. "A merry heart does good, like medicine" (Proverbs 17:22). Lighten up a little and you'll find that most of the everyday inconveniences, annoyances, and problems you face aren't so bad after all.
Optimism. Optimism—the tendency to believe and expect the best—linked to faith in Me nearly always pays off big, because I love to reward faith. Conversely, few things can drag down a marriage faster than pessimism—expecting the worst and complaining about the downside of situations.
Including Me. I want to see you succeed in marriage and as individuals, and I'm the Answer Man. I can make mountains of problems melt away, and I can make your dreams come true, but there's one condition: Include Me. You'll be amazed at what the three of us can accomplish together!
(Maria Fontaine is co-leader of the Family International, along with her husband, Peter Amsterdam.)