How the Bible Can Help Improve Your Marriage

Human relationships bring us so much joy and fulfillment in life, and the Bible is clear that our relationships with each other are meant to be reflections of God’s relationship with us: full of selfless love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and compassion.

It stands to reason, then, that the Word of God would be full of principles we can use to improve our human relationships—including marriage.

Specifically, we’ll look at the answers to these questions:

Let’s start by answering the question that brought you here: How can the Bible help my marriage?

How can the Bible help my marriage?

Married couple huggingGenerally, the Bible can help us have better marriages because God’s Word teaches us how to be better humans. Seventh-day Adventists especially see the value in first turning to the the Bible whenever faced with marriage problems.

We can learn from the example of Jesus Christ to be more selfless, humble, gentle, and patient, and these traits are useful no matter the kind of relationship.

But because this is about cultivating a happy marriage, from the moment you say “I do” and for many years to come, let’s look at the advice and Bible verses that can specifically apply to couples!1

Let’s break it down into these tips:

  1. Put the other person first
  2. Guard your hearts and minds
  3. Depend on God together
  4. Remember that you are a team
  5. Always be forgiving
  6. Laugh often

1. Put the other person first

Selflessness in all things helps marriage to be the way it was meant to be in the first place. The Bible directs us to, in general, “love your neighbor as yourself,” so why wouldn’t the same hold true for our spouses (Matthew 22:38, ESV)?

Paul gives similar instruction, speaking specifically to married couples in the book of Ephesians. He asks both parties to continually practice self-sacrifice to their spouse. He calls them to cherish and respect each other, even to the point of giving your life for your spouse, just as Christ did for His children (Ephesians 5:22-33, ESV).

This doesn’t mean that one spouse takes precedence or authority over another. Ellen White, pioneer of the Adventist Church makes this clear: “Neither husband nor wife is to make a plea for rulership…Do not try to compel each other to do as you wish. You cannot do this and retain each other’s love.”2

Having a strong marriage, according to the Bible, means putting your spouse before yourself.

 2. Guard your hearts and minds

Being faithful to your spouse doesn’t just mean not having an affair with another person, or simply avoiding sexual immorality. According to the Bible, being faithful to your spouse means keeping your heart and mind in check, and guarding what the two of you are building together.

When Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, He clearly states that sin is not just about the physical action, it’s about the state of the heart and mind:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, that everyone who looks at a woman [or man] with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28, ESV).

So, be mindful of what you see, hear, think, and dwell upon. Guard your heart and mind against the things that may rupture your relationship with your spouse or make you feel discontent.

3. Depend on God together

True dependence on Jesus, and maintaining a sincere and meaningful relationship with Him, is a huge factor in a successful marriage.

Without God, a good marriage may suffer. David, the psalmist, instructs us to put God at the center of our ambitions and relationships:

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalms 127:1, NKJV).

Directors of the Department of Family Ministries for the Adventist Church, leaders of marriage conferences, and relationship experts Willie and Elaine Oliver express a similar sentiment:

“God, the Creator, invented marriage. Therefore, it is both wise and absolutely essential to keep Him at the center of your marriage. We don’t mean just paying lip service to this, but establishing and maintaining a meaningful relationship with God and constantly acknowledging His presence as individuals and also as a couple.”3

Depending on God will lay the groundwork for a healthy relationship, and if both spouses pursue God, they’re more likely to enjoy many happy years of marriage.

4. Remember that you are team

Marriage is a team sport!

But when spouses forget they are a team, that partnership can slowly drift apart. You’re more than just two individuals that get along and share a home. Make an effort to pursue things together.

To maintain this team of trust, it’s important to treat it as special and personal. And it means keeping up regular communication.

Any relationship suffers if one is gossiping about the other to friends or coworkers. And if we hold things in, resentment only builds up over time.

“Their resentment for each other becomes so deep that they stop operating as a team and resort to living as separate individuals.”4

And this isn’t the vision of marriage that God has for us.

We know from the first marriage account in the Bible, in the Garden of Eden, that husband and wife will “become one flesh,” (Genesis 2:24, ESV) and Jesus affirms this in Matthew 19:

“So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6, NKJV).

When spouses work together instead of separately, they both contribute to the strengthening of their marriage and only become closer.

5. Always be forgiving

Forgiveness is a crucial practice for happy couples.

Inevitably, your spouse will hurt you—and vice versa. No marriage is perfect because humans are imperfect.

Still, loving each other and forgiving each other is how we show our spouse the love of Jesus.

The Bible instructs us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:34, ESV).

And, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV).

And, how could we forget the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, which teaches us to rejoice in goodness rather than keep records of wrongs or hold grudges (1 Corinthians 13:5-6).

We can’t love each other as the Lord God loves us with resentment in our hearts. By forgiving one another, we can exhibit the mercy and grace that God shows us. It also fosters trust, growth, and can even deepen your bond.

6. Laugh often

Even though marriage can sometimes feel like hard work, as we learn to grow and mature in love and spirit alongside each other, marriage should also be fun.

Marriage should be fun more often than it is difficult.

And a big part of fun in a marriage is finding ways to laugh together. Laughter can heal a lot of hurt, and it can help us grow closer.

The wisest man in the Bible, King Solomon, even had something to say about the importance of laughter:

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22, ESV).

So find something that you and your spouse find funny, and find comfort in the fact all those laughing tears are helping your marriage!

Now, let’s dive a little deeper into the Word of God and look at some married couples in the Bible and what we can learn from them.

Examples of healthy marriage in the Bible

Looking to the Bible for examples of marriage can feel a bit challenging at times, especially when we forget that these stories are situated in a very specific historical and cultural context. Or that they’re told so we can learn what not to do…

We often run into stories with marriages where there are multiple wives or concubines, which is certainly not what we are familiar with—or that we condone—in our modern day. And though these were common in the cultural/historical context of the Bible, these behaviors have never exhibited God’s plan for a happy marriage.

We also see a lot of deceit between married couples in the Bible, such as between Sarah and Abraham and Jacob and Rachel.

These stories are not only historical documentation but can also serve as useful examples of what an unhealthy marriage, broken marriage, or at least marital conflict, might look like.

But, just because there are practices in the Bible that reflect a time very different from ours and instances that aren’t really great examples of marriage, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t principles that we can take from various married couples in the Bible.

Let’s look at the following couples as examples of principles important to marriage:

Eve and Adam: Partnership

Adam and Eve are the very first example of marriage in the Bible.

After God created Adam, He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18, ESV). So God created Eve, and the first two humans in the world entered into a beautiful partnership, not only with each other, but with God as well.

From the Garden of Eden, we can see that God’s original vision for a marriage relationship was one where each spouse is a partner to the other, working together to cultivate the earth that God gifted to them.

Though their story ends with sadness, after sin enters the world, the Garden of Eden story reminds us, at least in part, that marriage is a form of teamwork and partnership.

Ruth and Boaz: Kindness

The story of Ruth begins with tragedy and sadness: Ruth, her sister-in-law Orpah, and her mother-in-law Naomi, have all lost their husbands, leaving them essentially powerless in a society that didn’t value women. Orpah returned to her family, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi’s side. She wanted to go through these hard times together with her mother-in-law.

Eventually, Ruth found herself picking the grain left over by field workers, and Boaz, the owner of the field, showed kindness to her by allowing her to pick alongside the reapers and giving her full access to his well.

When she asked why he was showing so much kindness to her, Boaz recalled that she showed kindness and commitment to her mother-in-law and this “found favor in his eyes” (Ruth 2:13, ESV).

As their story progresses, Boaz marries Ruth, giving her and her mother-in-law the redemption and protection that came with marriage during Bible times.

Their kindness, both to others and to each other, laid the foundation for their marriage and inspires us to look out for ways that we can show kindness to our spouses.

Mary and Joseph: Commitment

Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Joseph are a great example of the importance of commitment in a marriage, both to God and to each other.

When Mary became pregnant with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, she and Joseph were unmarried. To everyone on the outside, who didn’t understand Mary’s situation, her pregnancy would have been shameful.

Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, meant to separate from her, quietly, so as to not shame her. But when the angel Gabriel came to him in a dream, he knew that what Mary told him was true: she was pregnant with the Messiah.

Even though Mary was not pregnant with Joseph’s son, as well as pregnant outside of marriage—a particularly huge deal in that time and society—Joseph remained committed to her and to God. Together, they would raise the Savior of the world.

Now that you know some Bible advice for improving your marriage, let’s explore some practical ways that you can implement this advice!

Practical tips to improve your marriage

Bible principles are important lessons, and as we learn them, we can find different ways to implement them into our lives.

As a start, here are some tips that can help make your marriage better.

  1. Don’t compare your marriage to someone else’s marriage
  2. Pray together
  3. Speak gently to one another
  4. Cherish the little things
  5. Take time for one another, often
  6. Find a common activity to do together

1. Protect your marriage from comparison

Ever heard that comparison is the thief of joy?

The same is true in our marriage relationships.

If we compare our marriage to the marriages we see on movies, tv, social media, or even to the marriages of our friends, we may begin to feel dissatisfied in our marriage. We might start focusing only on the bad parts of our marriage: arguments, small annoyances, etc.

And we have to remember that anything else we’re comparing our marriage to…we are never seeing the whole picture.

Relationship experts Willie and Elaine Oliver state that “couples who are willing to find the good in their marriage and in their mate will more easily resolve conflict and have a more satisfying marriage.”5

For marital satisfaction, focusing on the great parts of your spouse instead of comparing your relationship with others is key.

2. Pray together

Praying together is a great way to depend on God together. Not only do you get to share your burdens with God, but you also get to share them with each other.

Take time every evening to kneel together and say a prayer. Keep a list of your prayer requests, pray for each other, and pray for your relationship.

3. Speak gently to each other

We all know that communication is important, but the way you communicate is just as important.

Avoid being harsh, rude, or careless in the way you speak to your spouse. Try to see things from their point of view and imagine how your partner feels: would you want to be spoken to that way?

John Gottman, PhD and author of The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, calls this “editing yourself.”

If you have a disagreement, be honest about the way that you feel, but never disregard the power of kind and respectful communication. You don’t have to criticize your partner or escalate the situation in order to express your feelings and concerns.6

Essentially, exhibit the many fruits of the spirit when you are going to communicate with your partner if you can: love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.

4. Cherish the little things

An Old couple laughing with their foreheads touching each other, filled with joy and peace - AAAFWhen couples are married for several years, the drudgery of day-to-day routines can sometimes make it harder to remember the things that were special when they were newlyweds or even when they were dating.

Take a second to sit down and make a list of all the small things that you do with your spouse.

Then, be intentional about implementing and cherishing those things

Hold hands, greet each other at the door, tell your partner how grateful you are for them, etc.

Over time, it’s easy to see that the little things are actually big things. They can mean so much.

5. Take time for one another, often

When life gets busy—which it will if it isn’t already—you might fall into the habit of doing everything on your own and living with your spouse like they are your roommate and not your partner.

However, making time for one another can build trust and strengthen your relationship.7

Plan a weekly or bi-weekly date night, and if you can, plan a weekend getaway a few times a year!

6. Find a common activity to do together

Create rituals and traditions for your marriage. These will not only help you connect with your partner, but the routine aspect of the activity will help guard your marriage from being smothered by a busy schedule or other outside factors.

These don’t have to be grand or complicated. What matters most is that it’s something you can keep up with, and that you both enjoy. It could be simple things like:

  • Taking an evening walk on weekdays
  • Eating dinner at the table together every evening
  • Reading through a book together
  • Making pancakes on Sunday mornings

Or, if you want to spice things up a bit, start a project together. Make time to work on something new, or find something you both already enjoy, and turn into something you’ll accomplish as a team. Participating in teamwork and working toward goals together can be a bonding experience like no other.

These kinds of things might be:

  • Restoring a piece of furniture
  • Putting together a large puzzle
  • Planting and tending a small garden
  • Finding an old TV show to watch through together
  • Try a new activity together, like hiking, yoga, biking, etc.

Find something that’s uniquely yours as a couple, and that you know you’ll be able to stick to.

And, figuring out what your new activity could be…that’s an activity in itself! Sometimes making lists together can spark your creative sides, and even reveal some new things about each other.

A cord of three strands is not easily broken

When we think about it, these pieces of advice, tips, and principles of the Bible all point us to the same solution: be more like Jesus.

With Christ in our hearts, we can cultivate all of the traits that set a marriage up for success. As the Bible says, “a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12, ESV).

Note that, while the Bible is an excellent source of wisdom and guidance for marriage as well as for life, it may be useful to find a Christian counselor who can help bring about marriage restoration for you and your spouse. You can find more information at the NAD Family Resources website.

If you want to learn more about developing a relationship with Jesus and becoming more like Him, and learning how to love one another better, you can read our page about why it’s important to have a day of rest every week.

[1] While the Bible is an excellent source of guidance for marriage and for life in general, if you are in an emotionally abusive, physically abusive, or other dangerous situation, please seek help immediately. You can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at this number: 800-799-7233 []
[2] https://adventistreview.org/magazine-article/the-beauty-of-marriage/ []
[3] Andrews University and Fletcher Academy []
[4] https://adventistreview.org/magazine-article/marriage-works/ []
[5] https://adventistreview.org/magazine-article/marriage-works/ []
[6] https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-top-7-ways-to-improve-your-marriage/ []
[7] https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=4580 []

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