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The Ten Commandments of Marriage

  1. Respect the image of god in the other person. Gary Smalley, one of the country’s best known authors and speakers on family relationships, has said, ” How would you treat your spouse if you saw them as being autographed by God?” The Bible tells us that we’re ALL made in the image of God (and that includes our spouse). 

  2. Remember that god has given you a gift in your spouse. We hurt the Lord’s heart whenever we abuse…or take for granted…the gift that He’s given to us. This certainly isn’t always easy to do, especially if we’re in the middle of a conflict. We must make a conscious effort every day to thank God for our spouse and for the gifts He’s given to him/her that add value to our lives. It’s no secret that the number of conflicts in your marriage will be significantly reduced simply by viewing your mate as the gift from God that they really are. Why? Because it doesn’t leave much room in our hearts for anything else but gratitude and appreciation.

  3. Love always means sacrifice. Jesus himself set the example for all of us in laying down His life for us. (Read Ephesians 5:1-2 and ask yourself how you can apply these verses in marriage.) 

    Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

    Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

  4. Relinquish your rights. That’s a really tough one, especially in today’s world. Christ showed us the perfect example in this. As we read Philippians 2:5-8 we see where Christ Himself who had every right there ever could be, emptied Himself of all but love, making Himself nothing. We’re told to have the same attitude. As we interact with our spouse we need to keep in mind that it’s not about being right-but rather doing what’s right that’s important. Relinquish your rights as Christ Jesus did for you. 

    Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)

    In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

    Who, being in very nature God,
        did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
    rather, he made himself nothing
        by taking the very nature of a servant,
        being made in human likeness.
    And being found in appearance as a man,
        he humbled himself
        by becoming obedient to death—
            even death on a cross!

  5. Let each esteem the other better than him/herself. This is an area that we REALLY see lacking in most married couples. Philippians 2:3-4 says to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This passage instructs us to not consider our opinions more important than our mate’s. In order to incarnate these verses into everyday living, we must prioritize their interests over our own and relinquish our rights. This, of course, requires sacrifice. This does not mean, however, that we are to discard our own opinions or interests. It simply means that we are not to let our selfish ambitions dominate the relationship. When we took a vow to love, honor, and cherish our spouses before God, we promised from that day forward that we would make continual choices to walk through life unselfishly as half of a whole team, fully committed to doing our part to glorify God in our marriage. 

    Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

  6. Pray for each other - pray and with each other. We aren’t only to pray together at meal times. We’ve found in our own marriage as we pray for and with each other, our relationship grows all the deeper. God has a way of uniting us all the more as we pray together. “There’s nothing that makes us love someone as much as prayer for him” (William Law).

  7. Never go to bed angry. (See Ephesians 4:26-27 and Psalm 4:4) We all need to remember that “anytime we reconcile, it’s a picture of what God wants to do with man”. 

    Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV)

    26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

    Psalm 4:4 (NIV)

    Tremble and do not sin;
        when you are on your beds,
        search your hearts and be silent.

  8. Whenever you’re wrong, admit it. Whenever you’re right, be quiet! Love aims at unity. 

  9. Keep sight of your place in god’s order. God can work in wonderful ways when we view our role in our marriage as completing each other rather than competing with one another. (Read Hebrews 10:24) Look for ways in which you can help your spouse in those areas that God’s gifted you in.

    Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)

    24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,

  10. Be faithful to your vow. Be a promise keeper-not a promise changer or a promise breaker. We vowed in our wedding ceremony to love, honor, and cherish each other. The philosophy of marriage today is, “the rules change,” but in God’s economy the rules never change. What was true then, is true now. Marriage vows are still to be honored even if our spouse doesn’t honor his/her part. As the Bible instructs us, “Let our yes be yes, and our no be no”.
The Secrets of a Great Marriage, Lesson 10

How To Aggressively Love Your Husband

"And let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband (that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates him and admires him exceedingly)" Eph. 5:33b (Amplified)

"And the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband - obeying, praising, and honoring him." TLB

A wife can aggressively love her husband by respecting him. He desperately needs her respect to accomplish what God requires him to do in the home.

Biblical definition: To voluntarily lift up another person for special consideration, treatment and obedience.

Respect is to a man as romance is to a woman.

Gary Smalley: ”Men will do almost anything to gain the admiration of others. They will eternally search for someone to respect them. You can be that someone to your husband by letting him know that you appreciate and respect him. Show that you are interested in him; that you desire to know what is behind his decisions and the direction he is going. When he is down don’t react with disgust. Maintain respect for him as you confront him quietly and gently. When an idea he shares doesn’t set right, don’t come unglued. He needs to know that you won’t react negatively to his ideas.”

Bill Clark: ”Behind every successful man is a respectful wife.”

To accomplish this a wife must understand the following:

  1. God has established a pattern of roles for the husband and wife. Ephesians 5:22-23 emphasizes that Christ established the husband to be the head of the wife. He has been given the responsibility to lead and govern the home.
  2. Submission to his God-given authority is essential to oneness. (GK. Hupotasso: ‘hupo’ - under + ‘tasso’ - arrange, line up). A lack of respect for his God-given role will interfere with her willingness to submit to his leadership of the home.
  3. A wife’s respect enables him to effectively govern the home.
  4. A wife’s respect energizes and motivates him to carry out his role.

Note: Submission does not…

  1. Indicate inferiority
  2. Result in lost identity
  3. Lead to being used
  4. Blind obedience
  5. Overlooking his sinful behavior

Esther - A Model of Great Respect

  1. 1. Esther respected her husband’s position. (5:1) The queen was aware of the fact that she could be put to death for approaching the king without being summoned (4:16). She showed great respect for the king’s position by not entering the king’s hall where he was enthroned. She “entered the inner court of the palace across from the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne, facing the entrance.” 
  2. Esther respected her husband’s authority (5:2) As Esther reached the king’s throne she touched the golden scepter showing that she respected his authority. We also find that she did not immediately blurt out the facts about Haman’s wicked plot when she entered the king’s presence. Esther showed great respect for his authority by not saying a word until she was spoken to by the king.
  3. Esther respected her husband’s power (5:4) “If it pleases the king…” was not a formality but a genuine feeling of respect of his power to act on her behalf.

Note: Your husband may not have a kingdom but he does have a tiny realm that he governs. He desperately needs your respect for who he is and what God has called him to do in the home.

Respect Busters:

  1. Resisting his decisions in your spirit.
  2. Taking matters into your own hands.
  3. Resisting his sexual advances.
  4. Showing greater respect to outside leadership.
  5. Not acknowledging his accomplishments.
  6. By being financially independent.

Respect Builders:

  1. Consistently remember his God-given position and authority in the home.
  2. Change your perspective. Stop focusing solely on his weaknesses.
  3. Regularly praise your husband’s strengths.


  1. Praise him specifically.
  2. Praise him wisely and truthfully.
  3. Praise him generously (i.e. sincere praise cannot be overdone).


The Secrets of a Great Marriage, Lesson 9

How To Aggressively Love Your Wife

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it… so husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. (Eph. 5:25, 28) Note: Men, the greatest thing that you could ever do for your wife is to aggressively love her for a lifetime.

Three fundamental observations:

  1. Most men do not know how to aggressively love their wives.
  2. Most men are too lazy or self-centered to aggressively love their wives.
  3. Most men do not realize the dangers of not aggressively loving their wives.
  • Physical ailments (stress/insecurity)
  • Poor example of marital love for the children to follow
  • A rebellious wife (insecurity - resentment - disrespect - bitterness)
  • Emotional divorce
  • Physical divorce
  • Rebellious children (wife’s lack of respect inbred in children)

Note: The husband plays the primary/critical role in creating an effective and joyful marriage. (Remember, loving is a two-way street but the primary burden is placed upon him.) Loving your wife is a full time job that takes full time effort, but the gains outweigh the pains.

How can I aggressively love my wife?

"Likewise you husbands, dwell with them (i.e. wives) with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered." I Peter 3: 7

  1. Put her at the center of your life. ( “giving honor” = to esteem, to highly regard)

    • Your commitment to her should be second only to Christ - she is your top priority. Quit telling her and start showing her! (She needs to know that she is vastly more important to you than your job, your club, your hobby, your friends, your car, your money, etc.)

    • She is your primary ministry. You may succeed at everything else but if you fail at aggressively loving her you have missed your greatest God-given opportunity.

    • She needs to know that she is the most important person in your life. (“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”)

  2. Discover and start meeting her basic needs. (“dwell with her in understanding”)

    • Real love is concerned with meeting her basic needs

    • To meet her needs you must first know what they are

    A. She needs (verbal) affirmation.
    B. She needs affection.
    C. She needs caring conversation
    D. She needs emotional security. 
    E. She needs financial security. 
    F. She needs family commitment. 

  3. Recognize her basic differences (“as to the weaker vessel”).

    A. Physical Women have greater constitutional vitality in terms of life span; in U.S. they outlive men 3-5 years. A woman’s blood cells contain more water and 20% fewer red cells (supply oxygen to body’s cells); this is why she is more prone to tire easily and faint. Men have 50% more brute strength than women. 40% of a male’s body weight is muscle; for a woman, 23 %.

    B. Emotional Women are generally more sensitive than men. They rely more on their feelings. They find fulfillment in close relationships and being loved. Men tend to overlook the importance of emotional intimacy in relationships.

Key thought: A wise husband discerns that his role is crucial in achieving oneness.

The Secrets of a Great Marriage, Lesson 8

The Bedroom - Battleground Or Playground?

Key Thought: There are three basic principles that a couple must consistently practice in order to fully enjoy their sexual experience.

"Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourself to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." I Corinthians 7:3-5

  1. The Principle of Need. (7:3)
    A. Both husband and wife have a definite need for regular sexual intimacy. 
    B. Need depends on what the other requires.
    C. Consideration for one’s mate must regulate requests.

    It is generally true that there is a significant disparity between men and women concerning sexual need. Men tend to have an urgent, strong desire for gratification that is due to the fact that they are easily aroused by visual stimulation. It tends to be visceral and automatic sometimes occurring within a few seconds. Wives frequently express dismay at their husband’s ability to be aroused so easily by other women. They need to understand two things: 1) His reaction does not mean that he is promiscuous or unfaithful. It is simply characteristic of the male reaction; it is a built-in response mechanism that God created in him. 2) His arousal, in and of itself, does not mean that much to him. It occurs effortlessly and has nothing to do with emotional attachment.

    Women find these facts about their husband hard to understand because they experience arousal in a different way. Unlike men they are not necessarily stimulated by sight. It is far more complicated and deliberate. When actor Burt Reynolds posed partially nude for Cosmopolitan magazine a number of years ago, most women viewed it as humorous rather than sexually stimulating. Sexual arousal for a woman involves more of a mind-set than the result of stimulation. She can choose whether she wants to experience arousal or not. Many women report that their arousal is often dependent on whether or not she has an emotional attachment to a particular man. Rather than looking strictly at his physical appearance, she tends to look for personality qualities such as affection, attentiveness, warmth, and kindness. For a woman, looks are not the critical issue. A tender touch or gentle treatment mean far more to her than a handsome face or trim physique. Feelings of affection and romance are the important keys to a woman’s sexual arousal.

  2. The Principle of Authority. (7:4)
    A. Each spouse must relinquish his/her “rights” to the other.
    B. Mutual rights involve mutual responsibility.

    "…your body is not your own; it is the temple of the Holy Spirit." I Corinthians 6:19

    Sexuality is not self-oriented but other-oriented. Scripture makes it clear that we are to care for our mate’s body as our own. It is not the husband’s responsibility to meet his own sexual needs or for the wife to meet hers. His biblical responsibility is to consistently meet her needs and vice versa. It is to be a cooperative experience.

    Note to wives: Simply “sacrificing” your body to meet his sexual needs is an unbiblical attitude to take. You must join your husband in the sexual experience or his needs will remain unmet. It will then be transformed from simply having sex to making love.

  3. The Principle of Habit (7:5)
    A. Sexual intimacy must be on a regular/continuous basis.
    B. This provides adequate sexual satisfaction and prevents succumbing to temptation.

    Word study: ‘do not deprive’ - don’t cheat or rob your mate except by mutual consent (literally ‘symphony’).

    When a husband and wife make vows together before God they are committing to one another that they will exclusively meet the other person’s sexual need. They trust that their spouse will be sexually available to them. Unfortunately, many discover that putting their trust in their spouse was a big mistake. Unless their moral and spiritual values are strong some will fall prey to temptation when the occasions arises.

Hindrances to Sexual Intimacy

  1. A failure to communicate. Communication requires a listening love as well as a willingness to be vulnerable - to put into words what one is thinking and feeling and to trust those words to the partner’s understanding.
  2. Unresolved conflict. Anger and hostility, no matter how veiled or suppressed, will kill any growth of loving intimacy. Clamming up about an issue or problem will divide a couple both emotionally and sexually.
  3. Personal insecurity and fear. Some shrink from sexual intimacy because they have been deeply wounded (i.e. abuse, neglect, affair(s), etc.) by their mate. That pain lingers from these experiences, which causes them to hide (i.e. emotional and physical “distance”). 
    • Traumatic past. Some shrink from sexual intimacy because they have been deeply wounded (i.e. incest, molestation, verbal/physical abuse, neglect, etc.) by significant others.
    • Self-consciousness about physical appearance. A negative perception of one’s body inhibits sexual intimacy. Concentrating on one’s physical imperfections rather than focusing on the sexual act will cause them to hide their body.
    • Performance Anxiety. Being anxious about performing “well” during lovemaking will inhibit intimacy.
  4. The habit of criticism. Continually criticizing a mate in the hope that it will motivate them to change will stifle sexual intimacy.
  5. A lack of affection. Nonsexual touching (i.e. cuddling, snuggling, sitting with one another, holding hands, kissing, etc.) must be part of a couple’s daily life if sexually intimacy is to grow.
  6. A lack of romance. A failure to pursue our mate with vigor and creativity in order to capture their heart will diminish sexual intimacy. 
  7. A lack of sensitivity. Insensitivity to our partner’s needs and desires can be detrimental to the development of sexual intimacy.
  8. A lack of knowledge. 
    • An unbiblical or improper view of sex will inhibit intimacy
    • Ignorance concerning lovemaking techniques will hinder intimacy
    • A lack of understanding of the sexual differences between men and women
  9. Fatigue. Physical/emotional exhaustion will interfere with sexual intimacy.
  10. Too busy. Sexual intimacy becomes devalued because other activities (i.e. television, hobbies, sports, clubs, etc.) take precedence.
  11. Different work schedules. A lack of time together precludes the opportunity of being sexually intimate with one another.
  12. Lack of privacy. A fear of being heard or seen during lovemaking will inhibit the frequency and intensity of intimacy.
  13. Fear of pregnancy. The fear of an unwanted pregnancy can create an avoidance of sexual intimacy.
  14. Physiological / medical problems. Hormonal imbalance, impotence, physical defect, vaginismus, premature ejaculation, chronic pain etc. 
  15. Psychiatric disorders. Thought, mood, and anxiety disorders can affect libido.
  16. Pornography addiction. Fantasy and masturbation become a replacement/substitute for normal sexual relations with spouse.
  17. Latent homosexual tendencies. A secret sexual desire for the same sex will diminish sexual drive and satisfaction.
  18. Medication problems. Certain medications (i.e. beta blockers, blood pressure meds, various antidepressants, etc.) will diminish libido, which will inhibit sexual intimacy.
  19. Drug/alcohol abuse or dependency. Substance abuse can cause a diminished physiological capacity to perform sexually; substance abuse affects the other spouse psychologically and emotionally.

Application Project:
If you are experiencing problems in your sexual relationship take time together to carefully review the list above. Be open and honest with one another as to what might be a hindrance(s) to experiencing sexual fulfillment.

The Secrets of a Great Marriage, Lesson 7

derstanding and Energizing Your Mate

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:27

Everyone knows that men and women are not the same. Although both share the image of God, they are created male and female. We must understand and appreciate our mate’s unique differences if we are to grow closer.

Differences Between a Husband and Wife

  1. Men and women vary in the way they see the world and their roles in it. 

Men                                                      Women

See the world as a race, hunt, war.     See the world as a family, a  

                                                             nest, and a place of beauty.

Their job is to achieve, to produce,      Their job is to nurture, to 

and succeed.                                        care, and to shelter.

See themselves as runners, warriors,  See themselves as 

and providers.                                       settlers, peacemakers, and          


Feel driven to generate, fabricate,        Feel driven to relate, 

and procreate.                                      associate, and cultivate.

Often respond in terms of their             Often respond in terms of

occupation.                                           their relationships.


2. Men and women vary in how they talk, in their dialects.

Men                                                      Women

Boys make more action noises            Girls are more verbal and 

and have smaller vocabularies.            have larger vocabularies.

Men tend to share information with      Women tend to share

a bent toward problem solving.            feelings with a bent toward              


Men thrive on action.                            Women thrive on            


In marriage men desire                        In marriage women

companionship in recreation,               desire to maintain

social activities, and church                 relationships no matter 

functions no matter how                       how much time it takes.

inconvenient the timing.   

Men prefer facts.                                  Women prefer feelings.


3. Men and women vary in understanding their sexuality. 

Men                                                  Women

Men see sex primarily as a               Women see sex primarily

physical act.                                      as an emotional relationship.

Sexual attraction begins with            Sexual attraction begins with 

the eye gate.                                     the ear gate.

Sexual desire is often impulsive.       Sexual desire is often selective.

Lust is impersonal (pornography).     Lust is intensely personal

                                                          (soap opera).

Men need sex in order to feel           Women need to feel loved 

loved.                                                in order to have sex.


4. Men and women vary in the way they handle stress.

Men                                                  Women

Men take time out to be alone          Women will find time to share

no matter who they may hurt            their feelings, whether or not

in the process.                                  their husband will listen.

Men go away in to their private        Women’s feelings are like

caves to be alone.                            waves in the ocean. The wave 

                                                         builds to a peak then subsides.

                                                         The ebb and flow is a cleansing

                                                          process. They feel released 

                                                          and recharged.

The list of male and female differences could go on and on. The point is that we need to understand and appreciate how our spouses see life, approach life, and handle life differently than we do. The better we understand our differences, the more we will appreciate one another’s strengths.

How To Energize Your Mate

Praise energizes (motivates) our mate because it helps meet two of our most basic human needs:

  1. Significance - to feel that we matter, that we’re important, that we’re needed.
  2. Security - to feel that no matter what happens, we belong to each other.

Praise is like a shot of adrenaline that energizes a person. Think about it. When someone praises you doesn’t it instantly give you a lift and make you feel better about yourself? Long-lasting, “in-love” marriages enjoy a regular dose of five positive praises to one negative. It only takes a few words to praise your mate, only a few seconds of time, but the impact can be enormous.

The opposite of praise is criticism. Criticism drills a hole in you emotions and drains your strength out.

"The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." Proverbs 18:21

Giving praise and affirmation to our mate brings glory to God according to Romans 15:7: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you in order to bring praise to God.”

We can give the gift of praise at any time. Don’t worry that your spouse will get tired of being praised. It’s something that we can never get enough of.

Point to Ponder: 
Praising our mate’s unique differences brings us closer together.

Verse to Remember:
"The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." Proverbs 18:21

The Secrets of a Great Marriage, Lesson 6

Conflict-The Doorway To Intimacy

Most of us dislike conflict, especially with our mate. The bad news is that conflict is inevitable because of our temperament, personality and gender differences, background experiences, and sin nature. The good news is that we can not only reduce our conflicts but also use them to move us into deeper marital intimacy. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Prov. 15:1

What are some of the sensitive areas in your marriage that lead to conflict?

Finances | Discipline of Children | Division of labor | Sexual Intimacy | In-laws | Work | Other    

Conflict does not have to drive couples apart. In fact, it can lead to a closer relationship. Briefly describe a time when conflict with your mate led to deeper intimacy.

When conflict arises how do you and your mate usually respond? Check the box in the first column that best describes how you usually respond. Check the box in the second column to indicate how you think your spouse usually responds.

_ _Yell   _ _Compromise   _ _Get quiet  _ _Get angry   

_ _Express feelings   _ _Get even  _ _Become aggressive   

_ _Withdraw   _ _Try to win


Why Most Conflicts Occur

  1. Power and control

    Who’s going to make the decisions? Who’s the boss? When there is a struggle for power and control—boom! 

    Complete each sentence by placing an X in the line below each one.

I am…

Controlling  |   Accepting

My mate is…

Controlling  |   Accepting

2. Insecurity

Feeling unsafe or insecure in the relationship causes arguments. If you think your mate is drifting and creating emotional distance, for example, you are likely to feel insecure and conflict will result.

Complete the sentence by placing an X on the line below.

In our marriage, I feel…

Secure   |   Insecure

3. Differences in Values

He thinks it’s OK to drink alcohol at every meal and she can’t stand it. She thinks it’s fine to tell people someone’s not home when a call comes in and he thinks that’s lying. He wants to attend church every Sunday and she likes to go only at Christmas and Easter.

Complete the sentence by placing an X on the line below.

In our marriage, our values are…

Close   |   Very different

4. Competition

Conflict can grow out of competition. Some people can’t stand to lose at anything. Perhaps the husband is bothered by the fact that his wife makes more money than he does and he’s determined to “outdo” her in that area.

In our marriage, I try to…

Win   |   Compromise

In our marriage, my spouse tries to…

Win   |   Compromise

5. Personal Differences

Couples fight over normal male/female differences and normal personality differences.

Complete the sentence by placing an X on the line below.

Our differences…

Cause conflict   |   Are acceptable

6. Misunderstood Feelings and Unmet Needs

This is perhaps the major reason for conflict - when one (more than likely both) spouses have unmet needs. We expect others to know our needs and feelings even when we haven’t expressed them.

Complete the sentence by placing an X on the line below.

In our marriage, we…

Share feelings   |   Don’t share feelings

  1. Check which of the six basic causes of conflict most often surfaces in your marriage.
     __Power and control 
     __Differences in Values 
     __Personal Differences 
     __Misunderstood feelings and unmet needs

Breaking the Cycle of Conflict

We’re not doomed to an endless cycle of unresolved conflict but it requires both spouses stepping out of the old patterns. The first step is repentance, which means, “to go in the opposite direction.” “Godly sorrow brings repentance.” 2 Cor. 7:10 The second step is to learn and use the Biblical “rules” for resolving conflict.

Ten Rules for Resolving Conflict

To resolve conflict effectively the following “rules” must be followed:

Rule #1 Resolution of the conflict is what is important, not winning or losing. Adopt a win-win mind-set concerning the problem to be resolved. If the conflict is resolved, both of you win. This is not competition between the two of you. You are partners on the same team. Eph. 4:2; Rom. 12:18; Phil. 2:4; Eph. 4:29

Rule #2 Each partner must assume 100% of the responsibility for resolving a conflict. Assigning blame is non-productive. A division in the relationship is a mutual responsibility. Matt. 5:22-24, 18:15

Rule #3 Limit the discussion to the specific issue at hand. Keep it in the here and now. Never bring up past failures since all past failures should have been dealt with and forgiven. Matt. 18:15

Rule #4 Attack the problem and not your partner. Think of the situation as “us versus the problem” not “me against you”. Overlook minor offenses and forbear. Matt. 18:15; Eph. 4:15, 29

Rule #5 Tell the truth about how you understand the problem. Do it tactfully and don’t exaggerate. Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. Take responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings. Eph. 4:15. 25; Col. 3:9

Rule #6 Actively listen to what your spouse is saying. Don’t interrupt or focus on what you are going to say. You may disagree with what is being said but allow the other’s opinion. Prov. 18:13; James 1:19

Rule #7 Don’t blow up or clam up. Both are destructive to the relationship and accomplish nothing positive. Verbalize your anger in a constructive way. Criticism, insults, sarcasm, blaming, etc. are off-limits. Eph. 4:26, 31; Prov. 14:29, 15:1,25:15

Rule #8 Focus on behavior and not hidden motives. Don’t try to read your partner’s motives. If you are unsure what was meant or why it was said, ask for clarification. Prov. 18:13

Rule #9 Forget payback. Getting even won’t make you feel any better and will only exacerbate the conflict. Rom. 12:19-21

Rule #10 When you’re wrong admit it and ask for forgiveness. When your partner confesses to you, grant forgiveness. Once it is forgiven, it is not to be brought up again. James 5:16: Prov. 17:9; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13: I Pet. 4:8

Point to Ponder
Conflict is inevitable but it can make our marriage stronger.

Verse to Remember
“A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Prov. 15:1

The Secrets of a Great Marriage, Lesson 5

Communicate Or Disintegrate!

Effective communication is at the heart of a healthy marital relationship. In order to love and be loved by our mate we must reach the deepest levels of verbal intimacy.

"At one time the whole world spoke a single language and used the same words. As the people migrated eastward, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there. They began to talk of construction projects. ‘Come’ they said. ‘Let’s make great piles of burnt brick and collect natural asphalt to use as mortar. Let’s build a great city with a tower that reaches to the skies - a monument to our greatness! This will bring us together and keep us from scattering all over the world.’ But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the people were building. ‘Look!’ he said. ‘If they can accomplish this when they have just begun to take advantage of their common language and political unity, just think of what they will do later. Nothing will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and give them different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.’ In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the earth; and that ended the building of the city." Gen. 11: 1-8

Communicating - At What Level?

There are five levels of intimacy in communication, moving from the superficial to the most meaningful. The more a husband and wife remain on levels four and five, the more satisfying their marriage. Couples who fear conflict and rejection spend a lot of time on levels one through three. These can be thought of as “safe” levels.

  1. The first level is cliche. It allows one to remain safely isolated and alone. It is restricted to greetings and comments that express no opinions, feelings, or real communication. “How’s it going?” “What’s up?” This is non-sharing.

    List some common clichés that you use with your spouse.
  2. The second level is facts. This level of communication consists only of the objective discussion of facts; gossiping or data analysis holds others at arm’s length. “It looks like it’s going to rain.” “The Braves beat the Padres 4 to 2 last night.” This is sharing what you know.

    What facts do you and your mate talk about most? Check the top two or three “factual” communications you most often have with your spouse.
     Other ____________________
  3. The third level is opinion. Here communication involves sharing ideas and opinions that will open a person up as he expresses what he really thinks. “I can’t believe that you painted the house that color.” “That perfume smells great.” Most couple’s conversations get to this level but rarely go deeper. This is sharing what you think.

    When you and your spouse communicate on this level, what do you most often talk about? Check the top two topics.
     Religious beliefs
     Community activities
     Opinions about social issues
     Other ____________________
  4. The fourth level is feelings. This level involves sharing feelings and emotions leading to true communication. It involves conveying one’s hopes, fears, likes, dislikes, aspirations, disappointments, joys, sorrows, needs, dreams, failures, desires, stresses and burdens. “I was really hurt by what you said during the argument.” Sharing our feelings can be scary, but we can reach the deeper levels of loving and being loved when we put ourselves at risk. One of the healthiest questions we can ask our mate is, “What are feeling right now?” This is sharing what you feel.

Cultivating Oneness Takes Honesty

You will have to care enough to lovingly speak the truth, even when you would rather gloss over a problem or ignore an issue. While it is much easier to remain silent, it is not the loving thing to do. The Bible tells us to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). Solomon said, “An honest answer is a sign of true friendship” (Prov. 24:26). Real fellowship in marriage depends on honesty spoken in love.

How comfortable are you communicating your feelings? Select where you are and where you believe your spouse is.

Choices:                         uncomfortable <-> comfortable

I think I am                      uncomfortable>1>2>3>4>5>6>7>8>9>10>comfortable

I think my spouse is      uncomfortable>1>2>3>4>5>6>7>8>9>10>comfortable


The fifth level is complete transparency. It involves complete personal truthfulness. Transparency is sharing your heart. To risk at this level of verbal intimacy, we have to feel safe in the relationship. “My life would be so incomplete without you.” This is sharing what you are.Practice writing two statements of feeling (directed toward your spouse).

  1. Practice writing two statements that share what you are (directed toward your spouse).

The basic goal of a married couple should be to share on the fourth and fifth levels. The key to deep verbal intimacy is feeling safe to share our feelings and needs. This means using self-control to listen lovingly and not overreact.

Review the five levels of communication and evaluate how often you and your spouse reach levels four and five.

1. Cliché _________% of the time
2. Facts _________% of the time
3. Opinions _________ % of the time
4. Feelings _________% of the time
5. Transparency _________ % of the time

Attentive Listening Skills

The key to good listening is to put your own concerns on hold temporarily and encourage your partner to be the leader. This means letting them tell their full story without interruption. Your goal is understanding - without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing, blaming or defending, or jumping into action (posing a solution).

When you attend to your partner, you give him or her your full attention by listening with your body and mind. Stop other activity that could be distracting. If your partner is sitting, sit. If he or she is standing, stand. Turn your body toward your partner and give him or her eye contact. On occasion you may want to touch your partner supportively as well.

Attend - Look and Listen

Look at the nonverbals. Watch your partner’s facial and body movements. Listen to the sounds. Listen for speech tones and inflections, as well as the rate and pitch of the voice.


Show interest and respect by nodding your head, saying “uh-huh” or making a brief interpretive statement (“I can see that you’re really concerned.” “I guess you really don’t want to go.” “That sounds important.”)


Summarizing helps ensure the accuracy of your understanding. Repeat in your own words what you just heard to be your partner’s points. Ask your partner for confirmation or clarification.

Point to Ponder

Cultivating oneness takes honesty.

Verse to Remember

"Speak the truth in love." Eph 4:15

The Secrets of a Great Marriage, Lesson 4

The Five Vital Signs of a Healthy Marriage (Part 2)

Vital Sign #3: Allowed to Think for Themselves

Oneness is lost in a marital relationship when one or both spouses attempt to dominate and control the other (i.e. choosing where the couple will live, go to church, take vacations; unilaterally making everyday decisions, etc.). The one being controlled usually loses their sense of personal identity. This person’s boundaries have been violated and they feel squeezed into a box.

In a healthy relationship people have the freedom to think for themselves. Freedom is lost by comments like, “That’s a stupid idea!” or “Just do what I say and don’t ask questions!” The mate soon learns that it is not safe to think for him/herself. Eventually the berated person begins to belittle his or her own thinking or grow resentful (or both).

"Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them." Ephesians 4: 29

"But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language." Colossians 3:8

What is the most demeaning put-down you have used toward your spouse?


Write the most demeaning put-down your spouse has said to you.


Men and women often perceive things differently. Those differences are not necessarily right or wrong but different. We should encourage our mate to use their creativity and intelligence to complement our own. Remember, “If both of us think exactly alike, one of us in unnecessary.” Men, be careful not to discount your wife’s thinking because she’s “too emotional.” Women, be careful not to discount your husband’s thinking because he’s “too logical.” Don’t foolishly assume that your way of thinking is superior.

Vital Sign #4: Encouraged to Talk and are Heard

"My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." James 1:19

"Listen before you answer. If you don’t, you are being stupid and insulting." Proverbs 18:13

Please indicate where you are and where you believe your spouse is:

Choices:                  speak to quickly <-> listen before I speak

I think I                     speak too quickly


                                listen before I speak


I think my spouse    speaks too quickly


                                listens before they speak


Choices:                  think about what I’m going to say next <-> listen carefully to my spouse

I think I                     think about what I’m going to say next


                                listen carefully to my spouse


I think my spouse     thinks about what they’re going to say next


                                 listens carefully to me


Choices:                   listen critically <->listen to understand

I think I                     listen critically


                                 listen to understand


I think my spouse    listens critically


                                listens to understand


Choices:                  don’t look when my spouse speaks <-> look at my spouse while listening

I think I                    don’t look when my spouse speaks


                                look at my spouse while listening


I think my spouse    doesn’t look when I speak


                                looks at me while listening


Choices:                  my anger keeps me from listening effectively <-> I control my anger while listening

I think                       my anger keeps me from listening effectively


                                I control my anger while listening


I think my                 spouse’s anger keeps them from listening effectively


                                spouse controls their anger while listening


God provides the perfect model of listening. The Bible affirms that He hears and answers us.

"But I will call on God, and the Lord will rescue me. Morning, noon, and night I plead aloud in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice…Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you." Psalms 55:16-17, 22

The type of communication that was used in your childhood home is likely to be the pattern you use as an adult. If you were shut down as a child, you’ll tend to shut down your spouse. If you were encouraged to open up, you’ll probably give him/her the same right.

What do you need to be doing to convey acceptance of your spouse’s words?

Vital Sign #5: Allowed to Share Feelings

In a healthy relationship, you not only know your thinking and words will be valued, but you also have the freedom to share your feelings. In an unhealthy relationship, any attempt to share feelings is met with denigrating remarks: “Oh, grow up!” “Lighten up!” “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” “Give me a break!”

Which of the following feelings are most difficult for you to share with your spouse? Check all that apply.

 Acceptance  Affirmation  Anger  Anxiety Fear  Frustration  Hurt or Pain  Inadequacy Inferiority  Insecurity  Joy  Love

God encourages us to share our feelings with Him without judgment, fear, or belittlement. God can handle frank, intense honesty from you. Genuine friendship is based on disclosure. What may appear as audacity God views as authenticity. God listens to the passionate words of His friends.

"(Moses) Look, you tell me to lead this people but you don’t let me know whom you’re going to send with me…If I’m so special to you, let me in on your plans…Don’t forget, this is YOUR people, your responsibility…If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now! How else will I know that you’re with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not?… God said to Moses, ‘All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well and you are special to me." Exodus 33:12-17

What emotion are you uncomfortable with that your spouse expresses?


How safe do you feel sharing your feelings with your spouse? (Safe or Unsafe)




How safe do you think your spouse feels sharing with you? (Safe or Unsafe)




Point to Ponder:

Show honor by allowing your spouse to think, talk and feel.

Verse to Remember:

"Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." James 1:19


The Secrets of a Great Marriage, Lesson 3

The Five Vital Signs of a Healthy Marriage (Part 1)

Is your marriage healthy or unhealthy? Is it growing toward oneness or isolation? To check its status you’ll need to learn how to read your relationship’s five vital signs.

The two most common symptoms of an unhealthy relationship are:

  1. Too much distance between partners.
  2. Too much control being exerted by one person. When both are present, disaster is inevitable.

Bulldozers push over the boundaries God has set which results in relational damage. Walls are built to protect from further hurt.

"Love doesn’t demand its way." I Cor. 13:5

Are You a Bulldozer? Bulldozers…

  • Insist on their way
  • Think they’re always right
  • Refuse to budge during a disagreement
  • See conflict as a win-lose proposition
  • Don’t actively listen to understand
  • Use put-downs to control
  • Is discouraging and non-affirming
  • Pushes hard on sensitive issues
  • Talks to rather than with the other
  • Disrespectful of the other’s opinions, thoughts, desires

Vital Sign #1: Honor is Consistently Shown

For the ancient Greeks, honor called to mind something heavy or weighty. Gold, for example, was something of honor because it was heavy and valuable. Dishonor actually meant light weight mist.

"Honor" - to hold in high esteem; to respect; to consider praiseworthy; of great value and worth.

Read the selected passages below and underline phrases that tell us how we are to honor and respect one another:

"In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat her with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. If you do no treat her as you should, your prayers will not be answered." I Pet. 3:7

"So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." Eph. 5:33

When we honor someone they are valuable to us. That person carries weight. We give them a highly respected position in our lives. We first honor (increase the value of) someone, then we feel a desire to love (do worthwhile things for) the person. Love is honor put into action regardless the cost.

List two ways you show honor to your spouse on a regular basis:
1. _______________________________________
2. _______________________________________

Honor provides us with the power to stay in love.

"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matt. 6:21

When we highly value something or someone (job, car, friend, clothes, etc.) we enjoy taking care so as not to lose or harm it/them.

The feeling of love is simply a reflection of my level of honor for the other person. How do we retrieve lost feelings of love? By choosing to increase the value of that person. Seeing them as having value and worth. Below is a treasure chest. List to the side of the chest the ways you treasure your spouse.

Vital Sign #2: Meaningfully Connected

How do you know if you’re meaningfully connected?

Connected                                           Disconnected

Shares deepest feelings                  Can’t share deepest feelings

Enthusiastic about seeing each       Dread seeing each other

other at the end of the day             at the end of the day

Enjoy being together                      Dislike being together

Attentive to one another                 Inattentive to one another

Give one another freedom              Try to control one another

The desire for connection is a basic human need. How do we develop a better connection with our spouse?

  • Shared activities
  • Intimate conversations
  • Shared crises
  • Other

Point to Ponder

Your spouse is God’s love-gift to you. When you choose to honor your spouse you strengthen your relational connection.

Verse to Remember

"Love does not seek its own." I Cor. 13:5

The Secrets of a Great Marriage, Lesson 2

Eliminating Enemy Number One

There’s a major destroyer of love on the loose. It’s the leading cause of divorce and the single greatest thief of one’s love life. It creates relational walls and allows isolation to take over our marriages.

From the following list, check what you think is the most destructive force in marriage today.

  • Financial problems  
  • Personality conflicts 
  • Sexual problems  
  • Unresolved anger 
  • Poor communication  
  • Discipline of children 
  • Unresolved past guilt  
  • Division of chores

The number one destroyer of marital love is buried anger. When we bury anger inside, we always bury it alive!

"If you’re angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry - get over it quickly; don’t give the devil a foothold." Ephesians 4:16-17

Anger is a God-given emotion and is not sinful in itself; it carries no moral weight. Anger simply moves us to righteous or unrighteous behavior. We choose the direction.

How do you and your spouse handle anger? Check the ways you handle anger and circle the ways your spouse handles anger.

  • Atom bomb - explode into a rage 
  • Simmering coals - smoldering for a long time 
  • Iceberg - anger buried inside, not expressing it 
  • Cobra - pot shots, zingers, put downs, quips 
  • Oven - express anger in a controlled, tactful manner

The two sinful uses of anger are clamming up (pout, sulk, withdraw, ignore, brood, fume, won’t cooperate) and blowing up (shout, scream, rage, insult, ridicule, intimidate, threaten, sarcasm).

"Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many." Heb. 12:15

"Stupid people shout in anger; the wise person holds his temper in and cools it." Proverbs 29:11

The Three Most Common Results of Buried Anger

  1. Relational distance from God and others. Check the box indicating your relational distance to…
    God:  Intimate  OK  Intimate

          Spouse:  Intimate  OK  Intimate

     2. Buried anger stunts our emotional and spiritual growth near the      

         period of time when the psychological damage occurred. You may

         have an adult body, but the heart of a wounded child.

     3. Buried anger can produce psychosomatic and psychological

         problems (colitis, headaches, insomnia, depression, ulcers).

Four Steps For Unloading Buried Anger

  1. Define the offense. Is there buried anger from the past or present? Briefly describe the person and situation. ___________________________________________________________

  2. Admit your pain. Circle the degree of anger you have toward that person.
    Livid  Incensed  Upset Furious  Enraged  Annoyed Irate  Hate  Disturbed Irritated  Resentful  Seething Aggravated  Bitter  Fuming Disgusted  Discouraged  Perturbed
  3. Reach out to your offender. Be tentative and tactful in your approach. “I’m hurt and angry by what you said. I realize that I may have misunderstood you.” Allow for explanations.

    "If your brother sins against you, go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves." Matt 18:15 

  4. Release your offender. Give up your desire for revenge.

    "Never take revenge my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it. For the Scripture says, ‘I will pay back, says the Lord’" Rom. 12:19-20

    "And when you stand and pray, forgive anything you may have against anyone, that your Father in heaven will forgive your wrongs you have done." Mark 11:25

We release our offender through forgiveness. Forgiveness means we release the emotional ropes that have held us. Shade in the cup up to the level of unforgiveness in your life. In the unshaded area, write the words ‘God’s Forgiveness’.

An Ounce of Prevention Can Save Your Marriage

Clamming up and blowing up build relational walls that result in isolation. To prevent this from occurring in your marriage, you must consistently practice the helps below:

Instead of clamming up…

  1. Release your anger constructively. This usually involves confronting your spouse. It’s scary but biblical! You must confront in a tactful way, not to hurt back or embarrass but to…
  2. Resolve the problem. Approach your spouse with a solution-oriented mind-set. Attack the problem and not your spouse.

Instead of blowing up…

  1. Restrain your anger and calm down. Pull back on the reins; slow down your reaction and think!
  2. Release your anger in constructively.
  3. Resolve the problem.