Summary: Enjoy the wonderful marriage you want by following these eight Bible-based keys. Written by Marriage and Family Therapist Doug Britton, these eight keys will help you break free from the unsuccessful ideas our culture has about marriage. Discover practical "how-to" guidelines that work.

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Eight Keys to a Great Marriage

Eight Practical Steps that Will Transform Your Marriage

(c) 2002 Doug Britton, LMFT (Permission granted to print for personal use)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. (Colossians 3:23)


A common reason for marriage problems — Introduction

After counseling with hundreds of married couples, I have come to the conclusion that a major reason for marriage problems is that married couples often don't know how to create a great marriage. Their information frequently comes from poor parental examples, TV and movies, and the unrealistic expectation that everything will work out naturally simply because they are in love. Most couples getting married are poorly prepared for marriage.

The following eight key suggestions, adapted from "Marriage by the Book," will help you create a marriage that is rewarding and exciting.

Eight Keys to a Great Marriage

The following are vital ways to create a great marriage. As you read, score yourself as a husband or wife from 0 to 10 on each point.

  • "0" means "I really need to improve in this area."
  • "10" means "I am doing very well in this area."

1. Pray together daily if your spouse is willing. My score (0-10): ____

Praying together is the most important thing you can do for your marriage. Invite your spouse to pray, but don't try to force him or her to join you.
Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. (Psalm 127:1)

2. Focus on changing yourself. My score (0-10): ____

In the vast majority of marriages, even if just one person follows these guidelines, the marriage will get better. Don't say, "I'll try if my mate tries." And don't focus on your mate's shortcomings. Instead, put your major effort into becoming the best husband or wife you can be.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

3. Throw yourself into your marriage. My score (0-10): ____

Don't take your marriage for granted. Do something every day that will bless your spouse and strengthen your marriage.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. (Colossians 3:23)

4. Forgive your spouse. My score (0-10): ____

Don't let bitterness and resentment grow. Practice forgiveness.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

5. Serve your spouse. My score (0-10): ____

Ask your mate what is important to him or her, and then put effort into these areas. If your mate won't say what's important, work on the following areas. But remember that people are different, and that your spouse may not match these stereotypes. Work on these areas, but also make it a point to learn what's important to him or her.
Serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13)
Husbands: If your wife won't say what's important to her, work on the following areas that women often say are important:
  • Discuss your fears, hopes, dreams and other feelings.
  • Listen to her and seek to deeply understand her.
  • Give her the message that she is precious and special, that you are really glad to be married.
  • Be romantic throughout the day in non-sexual ways.
Wives: If your husband won't say what's important to him, work on the following areas that men often say are important:
  • Express respect or admiration.
  • Allow him to make mistakes without saying, "I told you so."
  • Voice appreciation for things he does.
  • Show an enthusiastic interest in sex.

6. Speak lovingly and respectfully. My score (0-10): ____

Your words should build your spouse up, not tear him or her down.

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. (Proverbs 25:11)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

7. Talk together regularly. My score (0-10): ____

Don't just coexist. Have enjoyable talks every day about things that matter to each of you. Also be willing to gently bring up frustrations or issues that bother you.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Proverbs 27:6)

8. Fan the flames of your romance. My score (0-10): ____

Go on dates, have fun together, take short trips and throw yourself into your sexual relationship.
Come, my lover, let us go to the countryside, let us spend the night in the villages. Let us go early to the vineyards to see if the vines have budded, if their blossoms have opened, and if the pomegranates are in bloom—there I will give you my love. (Song of Songs 7:11-12)

Personal application

If you are married, choose one or two of the previous guidelines to work on in the coming week: 





Click below for more information

•  Laying a Solid Foundation (Book 1 in Marriage by the Book)
•  Making Christ the Cornerstone (Book 2 in Marriage by the Book)
•  Encouraging Your Spouse (Book 3 in Marriage by the Book)
•  Extending Grace to Your Mate (Book 4 in Marriage by the Book)
•  Talking with Respect and Love (Book 5 in Marriage by the Book)
•  Improving Your Teamwork (Book 6 in Marriage by the Book)
•  Putting Money in its Place (Book 7 in Marriage by the Book)
•  Fanning the Flames of Romance (Book 8 in Marriage by the Book)
•  Marriage by the Book Group Leader's Guide

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Bible translation: Unless otherwise indicated, Bible verses are from the New International Version (1984 edition).