Do you want to do marriage right?

Then you might want to learn some tips from the God who created it.

Every couple wanting to do marriage right must understand that since God designed marriage in the first place, He must be at the center. As Psalm 127:1 tells us, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1).

But how does that look in daily life? Here are five essentials for making your marriage thrive:

1. Be thankful for your spouse. Your spouse is a gift from God just as surely as Eve was a gift to Adam (Genesis 2:20-24)—created to help meet your needs as a partner in life. But the demands of life, family, and work can cloud your attitude. Thanking God often for your spouse is a practical way to focus on what is good and admirable about him or her. It is helpful to occasionally reflect on the early days and recall what attracted you, on what made you pledge your life and love to each other, and to be thankful.

2. Practice communicating from the heart. It is vital to communicate authentically in both the good and the difficult times of marriage. As you grow together, you will learn more about the how and when of communicating well with your spouse, so pay attention to what works and what doesn’t.

Transparent conversation, where each of you risks revealing your deepest thoughts, ideas, fears, hopes, and dreams, creates the strong foundation of a lasting marriage. The Scriptures emphasize being open and vulnerable in communication. Paul modeled transparency when he wrote to the Corinthians, many of whom were not exactly his admirers: “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote you with many tears; not that you should be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you” (2 Corinthians 2:4). Paul was not afraid to weep or say, “I love you.” Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus (John 11:35) and lamented His rejection by hard-hearted Jerusalem (Luke 13:34).

3. Be intimate. From relational intimacy springs sexual intimacy. The safety of being known and still being accepted—in spite of our flaws—finds its expression in marriage through sex. It is a gift to married couples from God; it is where we express complete, unashamed oneness (Genesis 2:24-25).

Relational and sexual intimacy keeps a marriage from deteriorating into little more than a legally arranged partnership. Remember, it takes time and attentiveness to nurture this kind of relationship.

4. Practice the power of forgiveness. Because we are broken, imperfect human beings, we will fail our spouse repeatedly. We will focus on flaws, cease to communicate, and offend each other without trying. All of this demands a steady supply of forgiveness.

The Bible tells us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). There is great power in forgiveness—it says, “The fight is over and I will not try to punish you.”

Failing marriages can be revived by forgiveness; healthy marriages are sustained by it.

5. Be teachable. Marriages are always a work in progress. Each spouse is changing and developing, which means there are new things to learn at every age. Sometimes marriages run into problems that need the help of a third party.

If this happens in your marriage, find someone who will work in support of your marriage, not just agree with your grievances. Make sure this person is committed to both Christ and the two of you.

As you break from the noise of your day to reflect on the ways God is blessing you through the life of your spouse, we pray that your heart will be filled with gratitude for this gift—someone for you to love and someone to love you—fashioned by the Creator especially for you.

We pray God will show you ways to express your heart openly to your spouse so the two of you will grow even closer. We pray that you will enjoy intimacy of soul and body and that your passion becomes fuller and deeper each day.

And we pray that the love in your marriage will be so real, so vibrant, so lasting that all who see it will know God gave this love to you.

Copyright © 2009 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.