The wise man Solomon wrote, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Prov. 18:22). A good marriage is a great blessing and is the foundation of a healthy, happy home. Too many people take their marriage for granted. Marriage is like a garden. It is a beautiful thing, but it must be nurtured if it is to grow in its beauty. Like a garden, a marriage that is not nurtured will wither and die. The former beauty will succumb to the weeds that take root and to the decay that results from neglect. A married couple can nurture their marriage to a beautiful garden in which they will find joy for a lifetime.
Center your marriage on God. If God is the pinnacle of your marriage and both spouses are seeking to draw closer to God, you cannot help but draw closer to each other. The world is full of pitfalls and dangers to the home, but the home built on God becomes a fortress that protects from the world. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Prov. 18:10). Your home must be a safe place. It must be a place where God is honored. The godly home is a sanctuary from the world. Do not allow the lust, anger, greed, and pride of the world to invade your home. Protect your marriage by building it on God.
Seek understanding. This is the key to a happy marriage and a healthy home. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6). A question I often ask in marriage classes and marriage counseling is, “What is the key to a healthy marriage relationship?” The responses are usually love, honesty, trust, and faith. All of these are essential to a happy marriage, but to have a healthy marriage relationship, these must be combined with understanding. Therefore, Peter admonishes husbands to dwell with their wives “with understanding” (1 Pet. 3:7). Peter demonstrates in this verse that when understanding has its proper place in a marriage, then honor will follow, and faith will protect the marriage as “heirs together of the grace of life.” Dwelling with one’s spouse with understanding helps to ensure that the prayers of the married will not be hindered. In my years of studying the Scriptures about marriage, preaching sermons and teaching classes on marriage, marital and pre-marital counseling, and practicing biblical principles in my own marriage, I am convinced that the key to a healthy marital relationship is understanding.
It is important to discern what “understanding” means in respect to the marital relationship. The intent here is not merely understanding the nature of your spouse, but much more. The following considerations fall under the scope of the understanding needed in a marriage:
Understand God’s role in your marriage. This is most important. As previously established, a healthy marriage must put God first. This is the foundation upon which the healthy marriage relationship will be built.
Understand your role in the marriage as God intended it. “The husband is the head of the wife” (Eph. 5:23). This is not a position of prominence or pre-eminence. The man who understands God’s desire for him as the head of his wife will love her with the sacrificial love Christ has for the church (Eph. 5:25). He will give honor to his wife (1 Pet. 3:7). He will provide for her (1 Tim. 5:8). The man who understands his role as his wife’s head will not give her reason to doubt or fear him. He will be her safe place in a world of physical, emotional, and spiritual dangers. The wife likewise should understand her role as God has prescribed it. She is to submit to the God-given role of her husband (Eph. 5:22). It is God’s design that wives be “homemakers” (1 Tim. 2:4) and “manage the house” (1 Tim. 5:14). This does not mean that she is not to work outside the home, but that she is to give priority to being a keeper of the home. Children need the nurture and teaching that comes from their mother. Many marriages, and society, have suffered because these biblical principles have been neglected. God is the architect of the home. His plan for the home provides for every need a family will have. A home that is not built according to God’s plan will never function as a healthy home should. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…” (Ps. 127:1a).
Understand your spouse. There have been numerous jokes told about how a man cannot understand a woman, and vice-versa. Husbands, it is your responsibility to understand your wife! Wife, it is your responsibility to understand your husband! This requires of a person that they value their spouse above themselves. It demands communication with clarity. Rather than being critical of your spouse when they do something you do not like or understand, seek to understand why they think the way they do. Love them for who they are and appreciate the person with whom God has joined you.
The challenges of life will test the resolve of your marriage. Whatever you face, face it together. Always pull in the same direction, and nothing will be able to pull you apart. Build trust, and do not let the world erode that trust. Solomon said of the virtuous woman, “The heart of her husband safely trusts her…” (Prov. 31:11a). If a husband and wife make it their goal to make their spouse the happiest person in the world, they will be two of the happiest people in the world. This kind of marital relationship does not just happen. It takes diligent and prayerful care. It takes communication. It takes selflessness. It takes understanding.
Enjoy your spouse. Relish the time you spend together. Attend to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of each other. Your marriage can be blissful if you will attend to each other as Solomon writes, “Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love” (Prov. 5:18-19).