The Top 3 Pieces of Marriage Advice from a Marriage Counselor
I have been married for nearly 36 years. I have been counseling couples for the same number of years, previously as a pastor and currently as a licensed counselor specializing in marriage counseling. So, I’m often asked to give my best advice for couples to have a great marriage.
While there are so many things I could mention, my best advice comes from the Bible. And why not? I mean, the institution of marriage originated with God, so why not find out what He says it takes to have a great marriage.
Now, when we think of what the Bible says about marriage, we typically think of Biblical passages like Ephesians 5:22–33 (Paul’s counsel to Husbands and Wives) and I Corinthians 13: 4–8 (the “love chapter”), right? These are probably the most referenced verses in Christian weddings and sermons about marriage. Besides these, we often look to Colossians 3:18–19 (a summary of Paul’s counsel in Ephesians 5), and I Peter 3:1–7. All of these are rich with counsel for establishing and maintaining a great marriage. It would certainly help your marriage improve if you applied the lessons within those verses.
But the advice I often give is rooted in three (well, okay, four) Biblical passages that are not directly related to marriage but extremely applicable. Let me share them with you, and see what you think:
1. Do all you can to live at peace with your spouse.
Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone [your spouse].”
After a couple experiences a conflict, the Bible tells us there are at least two parts to restoring peace in the relationship: repentance and forgiveness. The one who was hurtful needs to repent and the one who was hurt needs to forgive. Each needs to do their part for the restoration of peace to happen.
In many conflicts, a spouse who is hurt will react in a way as to be hurtful to the other one. If that is ever true of you, then you would be responsible for both forgiving (to the one who hurt you) and repenting (for your hurtful reaction). You would be responsible for both parts.
I believe the emphasis of this verse is “you” . . . “as far as it depends on you” . . do all you can. Some spouses try to put the responsibility for peace in their relationship onto their spouse. But what would happen if you do what you can to live at peace with your spouse, regardless of what he/she may or may not do? In other words, focus on doing your part instead of insisting your spouse do their part.
One of the high callings of Christ is for us to repent, even if the one we hurt is unwilling to forgive. And another high calling of Christ is for us to forgive, even if the one who hurt us is not sorry. So, since peace in your relationship is dependent upon you to do your part, then do it. And if both of you do your part, peace will be restored!
2. Put your spouse’s needs and interests above your own.
Romans 12:10b “Honor one another [your spouse] above yourselves.”
I love the English Standard Version of this verse: “Outdo one another in showing honor.” Can you imagine what your marriage would be like if both you and your spouse had a competition in seeing who could outdo the other in showing honor?
To show honor to your spouse is to regard and treat him/her with admiration and respect, to esteem, cherish and value them. I often challenge couples to treat their spouse as if they were in the last days of their life like they just received a terminal diagnosis. When that is someone’s reality, they tend to be more attentive, sacrificial, and loving than usual. That type of behavior should be common in the marital relationship; it is honorable behavior.
A cousin to that verse is Philippians 2:3–4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others [your spouse] better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others [your spouse].” These would be the honorable things to do in all of your relationships, but especially in your marriage.
3. Be kind, both in word and deed.
Ephesians 4:29, 32 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others [your spouse] up according to their needs, that it may benefit those [your spouse] who listen.” . . . “Be kind and compassionate to one another [your spouse], forgiving each other [your spouse], just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Do I really need to give any commentary on those verses? I didn’t think so.
So, what do you think? Can you apply these scriptures to your marriage? Absolutely! I believe that if all you do the rest of your married life is follow these three pieces of advice, you will have a great marriage!