If you’ve been married for any length of time, you have undoubtedly realized that some habits help your relationship and others hurt it.
Our goal should be to practice doing the good stuff until it becomes second nature and leave off doing the bad things altogether. To help in that endeavor, I offer the following A to Z guide for building a better marriage. (For a printable version of this guide, follow this link.)
Putting these principles into practice is the best way I know to spell success for you and your spouse. Attend to these areas, and your marriage will do better than survive. It will flourish.
A is for Acceptance
Accept your husband for who he is. Entrust to God any changes that need to be made. Don’t try to change him yourself — that will only make you both miserable. Only God can mold either of your hearts into what they are meant to be. (Ezekiel 36:26)
B is for Belief
Your husband needs to know you have confidence in him, that you are on his side. Be his biggest cheerleader. Believe in him, and believe the best of him.
C is for Commitment
Couples fare better when they are committed to marriage in general and to each other in specific. They are more likely to stay together when they don’t even consider divorce an option. (Matthew 19:6) Be entirely devoted to one another — for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Honor the vows you made to one another and regard them as binding.
D is for Dreams
The Bible teaches, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) It is important for couples to dream as a team. Discuss with your spouse your hopes and desires for the future. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to dream big. Set and work toward goals together and pray that God will help you accomplish great things.
E is for Encouragement
Be supportive. Speak words of life to your husband. Build him up, don’t tear him down. Make it your goal to comfort, encourage, and do him only good as long as there is life within you. ( Proverbs 31:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
F is for Forgiveness
You should not harbor bitterness or resentment in your heart toward anybody, but especially not toward the man you married. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Forgive him freely, as Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesian 4:31-32; 1 Corinthians 13:5)
G is for Gratitude
Don’t take your husband for granted. Cultivate a heart of thanksgiving. Express your appreciation to him and for him clearly, sincerely, and often. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
H is for Humility
“Love does not brag and is not arrogant.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) Pride is extremely off-putting and will only drive a wedge in your relationship: Humility is the ticket to happiness. Don’t think more of yourself than you ought, but hold your spouse in high esteem. (Romans 12:3, Philippians 2:3)
I is for Intimacy
A marriage is meant to make two people one: spiritually, physically, and emotionally. This will not happen without your intentional investment in each of these areas. Prioritize time together and do not withhold yourself from your spouse or push him away. (1 Corinthians 7:4-5)
J is for Joy
Somebody once said, “Joy is love singing.” If so, we should learn the words of that song by heart and keep them continually on our lips. A happy marriage is largely about attitude — not only our attitude toward one another, but our whole outlook on life. (Psalm 68:3)
K is for Kindness
Marriage is more about what you give than what you get. Be thoughtful and considerate of your spouse. Put his needs ahead of your own. (Colossians 3:12)
L is for Love
Love is much more than mushy emotionalism or sexual attraction. That loving feeling is nice, but it is not by itself enough to sustain a marriage. For a marriage to thrive, you need the kind of unconditional, self-sacrificing love we read about in Scripture: a love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… [and] never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)
M is for Maturity
To be mature means to be fully developed. Maturity is marked by the presence of firm, well-established roots and an abundance of ripe, wholesome fruit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — none of which can be authentically produced unless we remain connected to the Vine. (Galatians 5:22; John 15:4)
N is for Nurture
Much of our marital success hinges on the daily decisions we make: Where will we invest our time and energy? If we choose to focus our attention at home, our marriage and family will likely flourish. If we carelessly neglect those key relationships, they will suffer and our love will grow cold. (Luke 12:34)
O is for Offspring
Just as a couple’s children are a blessing to their marriage, a couple’s marriage is a blessing to their children — in fact, that one-flesh union was designed with the next generation in mind. A child’s best chance for success is with a mother and father who are lovingly committed to one another and to the little ones entrusted to their care. Whether biological or adopted, children bring a certain fullness and joy to marriage that cannot be experienced any other way. (Psalm 127:3)
P is for Prayer
Prayer is the key to lasting love. While most marriages have only a coin-toss survival rate (50% will end in divorce), couples who pray daily together reduce their risk of divorce to less than 1%. That is significant. Pray with your husband. Pray for your husband. When you invite Him to do so, God will gladly work to mold your marriage into everything He meant it to be. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Q is for Quiet
Home should be a haven of peace and rest for every member of the family. Do your best to make it so by cultivating a gentle and quiet spirit. Abandon a quarrel before it breaks out, and learn to control your tongue. Let your words be filled with love and seasoned with grace.(1 Peter 3:4; Proverbs 17:14; James 1:26; Colossians 4:6)
R is for Respect
Marriage should be marked by mutual respect. The New Oxford American Dictionary gives two definitions for respect: 1) a feeling of deep admiration for someone… elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements, and (2) due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others. Men especially crave that first kind of respect and are keenly aware of its absence when it is lacking. Admire your husband. Hold him in highest regard. And learn to communicate your respect in ways that are meaningful to him. (Ephesians 5:33)
S is for Sense of Humor
A good sense of humor is an invaluable asset when it comes to living happily ever after. Laughter is good medicine, and the ability to laugh at oneself can help reduce stress and tension like no other thing I know. (Proverbs 17:22)
T is for Trust
Trust is essential for a successful marriage. Prove yourself worthy of your spouse’s trust, express confidence in him as well, and together place your full trust in God whose grace sustains us all.(1 Timothy 3:11; Proverbs 3:5)
U is for Understanding
Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Treat him the way you’d want to be treated. Study him. Learn what makes him tick. Listen to him attentively, with a goal of understanding not only what he is saying, but why he is saying it.(Matthew 7:12; James 1:19)
V is for Virtue
Proverbs 31 goes into great detail on what it means to be a virtuous wife.My dictionary defines virtue as “moral excellence, goodness, integrity, purity, and strength.” Virtue is the opposite of hypocrisy, laziness, and malice. Certainly, goodness and integrity are desirable qualities in both husband and wife: the more virtuous their behavior, the more blessed their marriage will be. (Proverbs 20:7; 2 Peter 1:5)
W is for Wisdom
If your marriage is to thrive amid all the pressures that threaten to destroy it, you will need a lot of grace and wisdom. Fortunately, God promises to provide an ample supply to anyone who asks: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” That’s a promise every couple should redeem regularly. (James 1:5; 3:17; 2 Corinthians 1:12; )
X is for X-citement
Don’t lose your sense of excitement and adventure. You and your spouse get to DO LIFE together, side by side, hand in hand! Whoever said marriage has to be boring? That isn’t the picture Scripture paints of what the love shared between a husband and wife should look like. It uses words like exhilarated, ravished, delighted, captivated, and continually satisfied. (Proverbs 5:18-19, read in multiple translations)
Y is for Yieldedness
Do you want a happy marriage? Learn to defer to one another in love. Don’t demand your own way. A willingness to compromise on non-essentials goes a long way toward building good will and trust in any relationship — marriage is no different in that respect. (Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:3; Galatians 5:13)
Z is for Zest
“Being married is like riding a bike: you’ve got to invest some energy if you want it to keep going.” Don’t lose the momentum! Invest your zest! Do everything you can to maintain that energy and enthusiasm that led you to marry in the first place.“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
Although, writing as a woman, I have directed this article toward wives, I fully believe that every one of these suggestions should go both ways. And in a healthy marriage, they will.
Although each of these habits and character traits are important for building a marriage that lasts, I know my list is not exhaustive. Which habits have helped you have a happy marriage? What qualities would you add to this list?