What Makes Marriage Work?

The other day I looked around the house and asked a simple question:  What can I do to make Summer’s life easier? (Summer is my wife)  as I looked around the house, it wasn’t that hard. The window coverings that had been torn down by the dog, the to do list on my phone that said, “printer for Summer.” The clothes in the laundry room seemed to scream out, “fold me!”  I have been married for 22 years now and one thing is for sure, a wedding and a marriage are two TOTALLY different things!  Anyone can plan a wedding, but a lifetime of marriage takes an INCREDIBLE amount of diligence and commitment.  It never ceases to amaze me how a couple will spend $25,000+ on their wedding and go into debt, (that is the average amount spent on weddings in New Jersey) and then be unwilling to see a counselor that may cost them a few hundred dollars, but could save their marriage.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”   Genesis 2:24

Don’t ever forget you are one with your husband or wife.  EVERYTHING you do affects them and EVERYTHING they do affects you.  Every decision and thought you have is a thought they are having.  Marriage is the one relationship by which we understand Jesus deeper than any other relationship, because it teaches us selflessness.  But what are some keys to practically make your marriage work?

5 Keys To Make Your Marriage Work

1.  Persistent Prayer – I meet very few couples who actually pray for and with each other consistently.  I remember dating Summer we would wake up at 6:00 AM and go into the chapel on our college campus and actually pray together.  (No, we didn’t use the time to make out!) A healthy prayer life together is the launch pad to selflessly approaching your spouse.  I am constantly thinking of ways I can help Summer and prayer often leads me to these moments of discovery about her.  The most important and meaningful text I get in a day is when she types these simple words and presses send, “Praying for you today.”

2.  Consistent Communication – Man I am terrible at this one!  I have improved, but I am naturally an inconsistent, incoherent, infrequent communicator.  Even writing these words is reminding me to set a time with Summer to talk about our calendar, vacation and just things I know she would like to connect about.  Here are some tactics that may help your communication.

  • Keep it down –  As you approach difficult topics to talk about, and you will have them, keep your voice tone in a range that communicates care and concern.  I feel bad when I see couples ripping each other apart with their words in public.  If you do that in public, what are you doing in private?  Man, that must be one intense fight! 
  • Keep it tactical – There are times when Summer and I have a “staff meeting.”  This is when we talk about all the details of the schedule of the coming weeks and months.  The appointments, work schedules, evening meetings, karate classes, baseball games etc.  Intuitively, we both despise these tactical meetings, but we do them because they help us get on the same page!
  • Keep it sensual – Words can soften a moment.  I don’t think Summer ever tires of hearing, “I love you” as long as it is backed with action.  Finding creative specific ways to tell your spouse how much you are in love with them as your friend and lover will bring new life in your marriage.

3.  Physical Passion – Sex is a good thing!  Sex is a God thing!  Making time for each other in the bedroom is and can be a launch pad to deeper intimacy in marriage.  The bible has plenty to say about the refreshment and healing offered through sexual relationship between a husband and a wife.  A great book to read together is “Intimacy Ignited“.  It specifically address the issue of sexual intimacy in marriage from a biblical perspective.

4.  Regular Rest –  Marriage works when you figure out how to build in breaks and take them together.  This will vary from season to season in your married life.  If you are young and married and have no kids, you usually have no excuse to not get away together!  If you have younger kids, this is going to be a challenge for you!  Learning how to take a sabbath together is one of the most important parts of marriage.  It reunites you in every way.  I always encourage the man to take the lead in planning these times initially. Book the hotel room, the reservation, the flight, etc!  Your bride will no doubt appreciate your effort and see it as an act of love.  Three types of sabbath:

  • The Spontaneous –  Call her for lunch, swing by and pick her up, surprise her with a morning coffee date, go into work an hour later.  Whatever it is, be CREATIVE! 
  • The Routine- This is date night, card night, whatever you love to do together!  Make it a ritual and let nothing get in the way of it.  Summer and I want to be known as the couple that is always seen on dates together.  Remember, YOUR CHILDREN ARE LEARNING MARRIAGE from you!
  • The Feast – This is when you getaway at least for a weekend together.  Do what you love, invest in each other, read books together.  Make a memory together.  One of my favorite weekend getaways together was when we rented a cabin in October in Sunriver, Oregon.  The place was empty.  We got massages and it was like the whole resort existed for us.  It was AWESOME!  We also read a book together and dreamed about our future.  That was almost 9 years ago and we talked about what we are doing now.

5.  Selfless Serving – I have never met a couple who made it who gave fifty/fifty!  If you are reading this and are single and want your marriage to work, you better be all in 100%!  This means you get to do stuff that you don’t necessarily want to do, but you learn to love it because you will do anything for your spouse.  The bible actually says that husbands are supposed to lay down our lives for our wife!  That is pretty intense!  Try this one today men:  Take the thing she knows you “don’t like to do” and just do it!  I guarantee her response will be positive.  But don’t do it for the response, do it because she is more valuable to you than anything.  Likewise, the same goes for women.  Pick something that he absolutely loves and serve him in that way.

What about you?  What makes your marriage work?


Josh lives in Hamilton, NJ with his wife Summer and six kids.  He is the founding pastor of 217church, a contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church meets Sundays at 9:30am & 11:00am at Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ. Visit www.217church.com for more information, or watch a weekend message here

For speaking engagements please e-mail josh@activatecoaching.com