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3 Guidelines for a Strong Marriage

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Q: We want to have a Love and Respect marriage, but we keep falling into our old patterns. This is harder than we thought. Are we missing something?

Dr. E says: One of our chief concerns at Love and Respect is not that people hear the message, important as that is, but that couples will go on to practice love and respect effectively in their daily lives.

Simple isn’t easy.

Of course, I realize each couple has this very same concern, and that’s why my heart goes out to those I hear from who “get it” but who aren’t able to “stay with it” consistently. They have learned that Love and Respect sounds simple, but it’s not so easy to do. Maybe “not natural” is a better phrase.

I understand. Sarah and I don’t find it easy or natural either, and we have conducted Love and Respect conferences hundreds of times! Occasionally, we fall into our old patterns too.

Good people are not perfect.

I am not trying to discourage you; I want to encourage you by saying right up front that Love and Respect is not a magic bullet. You will try it and find that you won’t always practice it perfectly. To realize this truth, and use it, is a great source of strength and power.

I love Proverbs 24:16 because it gives me such hope. Good people are not perfect, but God says: “A righteous man [or woman] falls seven times, and rises again.”

And how do you “rise again”?

Here are three guidelines:

1. Don’t give up.

If you want to have a strong marriage, you need to accept temporary setbacks as part of the game. In baseball terms, keep stepping back up to the plate. According to the baseball statisticians, even Hall of Famers fail to get a hit seven out of ten times. And Babe Ruth, perhaps the greatest slugger of all time, struck out over thirteen hundred times, more than anyone of his day!

All marriages have seasons, and some seasons can be very difficult. But research shows that the majority of couples who stick it out during the tough seasons eventually experience happiness down the road!

Isn’t that encouraging?

2. Seek forgiveness.

Seek forgiveness from God – and your spouse. Even if you feel your spouse is 80% at fault, and definitely if you are 80% at fault!

A wife writes: “I failed to communicate respect to my husband. I’ve asked the Lord to forgive me, and I am preparing an e-mail to ask my husband to forgive me as well.” A husband reports: “I know now how I failed as a husband, friend, and lover, and I’ve asked God and my wife for forgiveness.”

Ephesians 4:32 says it all: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV). Sarah and I often find ourselves turning to each other and saying, “I’m sorry—again.”

3. Ask God for help.

Ask God to take your hand. Psalm 37:24 promises that though you stumble, you will not fall, for the Lord will uphold you with His hand (NIV). We need God’s helping hand, and it’s always there for us, if we ask Him humbly and confidently for guidance.

If you haven’t been praying together as a couple, I encourage you to begin today. You can start with one day a week, just a few minutes a day. Face your problems and concerns together and ask God to help you. The Holy Spirit is called our Helper (John 14:26) so allow Him to help you in your marriage.

The storybook ending is always, “And they lived happily ever after.” We know that’s not really true because the slips, the bumps, and the falls do come in crazy ways. Life is not a matter of attaining some kind of marital nirvana. “Living happily ever after” means knowing how to deal with the imperfect parts of life—not accepting them with resignation, but dealing with them through God’s forgiveness and help and always getting back up when you fall.

  • Which of these 3 guidelines do you need to work on to strengthen your marriage?
  • Talk this over with the Lord and make a commitment to work on at least one of these areas beginning right now.

You’ll have a stronger marriage, if you do.


Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

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