After 32 years of loving marriage, I have come to believe there is one, best progression toward a thriving, lifelong relationship in union with another person.
My credibility as I write is my experience, observation, and insights gained from 280,320 hours of marriage to my wife. I have also logged a few hundred more hours attempting to informally help young couples design a marriage that sustains and self-renews through the joys and challenges of life.
But counseling other people about what to do matters far less than practicing what you preach – and living it out over decades.
The topic of marriage is a big one, and even the institution is highly contested in our day. To write everything that seems both necessary and helpful about cultivating a sustainable marriage, I would have to write a book. Perhaps one day I will.
But for this article, I’m simply going to state my perspectives as succinctly as possible and humbly submit my ideas to you. I would especially ask that you consider them if you have the hope of entering a lifelong relationship with a person you have come to love.
I address current trends in living together, sex outside of marriage, emotional intimacy, healing, and life after divorce in other articles (and those yet to be written) in my Relationship Series.
This article is devoted to expressing a simple progression that I believe will yield the thriving, lifelong marriage to one person that most women and men truly desire.
Introduction | Marriage Is Beautiful – And Hard
To begin, I need to lay a foundation for the progression I’ll state below.
First, marriage is beautiful, and hard. Even between two highly compatible people, the thrills of marital love are often accompanied by challenges that will unearth the deepest character strengths and flaws in each person.
Marriage can be a magnificent and fulfilling experience shared by two people, if you’re both willing to do the work it takes – before you are married – to start the tree growing in the right direction.
A romantic relationship can be compared to a tree in its smallest form – a seed.
Growing that seed to full maturity will take time, intention, investment, and patient care. But the work will be worth it. And if that tree is rooted and healthy, it will one day bear the sweetest of fruit, offer generous shade, and distribute seeds that will grow into other beautiful trees of the same enduring kind.
It’s easy to start a romantic relationship, just as it’s easy to plant a seed.
What is difficult is growing and sustaining a mutually supportive, safe, affectionate, kind, honest, monogamous relationship for 5, 10, 20, 40, or even 70 years.
Coming into marriage without preparation is like getting excited about the idea of running a marathon, but having no clue what resources it will take to complete the race or to avoid complete heart failure at mile 10.
Two people coming to know one another so deeply, so fully, that they actually become one over time (Mark 10:8) is a miracle of relational connection. But we can prepare for marriage, train for it, and up the odds that we will do well within it.
Most young men and women I’ve met crave that kind of friendship, that kind of deep intimacy, with their spouse or future spouse. But few are prepared to do before marriage what it takes to experience the sweetness they can experience later in marriage.
How you begin a marriage sets its growth pattern – for good or for ill. Sadly, many couples never thrive over the journey of years. And when they don’t, when marriage gets really, really hard, they look to other things or people to fulfill them rather than turning to the person to whom they committed their life in a sacred act of union.
Relational disaster usually follows: separation, divorce, broken families, adults limping emotionally, trying to find their feet again. And if you don’t think those are disasters, just ask the children how it went for them. (Please note, I believe deeply in grace, in fresh starts, in second chances, and in relational healing all along the journey of life. In this article, however, I am focusing on how to start a healthy marriage rather than on how to fix the damage caused by a broken one. This will be covered in another article in the future.)
The Lay Of The Land
The movie industry; shows like Friends, Modern Family, and The Bachelor/Bachelorette – even the beloved Hallmark Channel – war against almost everything I am about to say in the next section.
Statistics tell us we spend an average of 35.5 hours per week, or roughly 77 days per year (that’s 2.5 months of our lives, every year) consuming media via our televisions and streaming platforms. Those platforms are mentoring and instructing viewers on how to do relationships.
Celebrity and music icons – most of them with a glowing track record of staying in long-term, thriving marriages (said sarcastically) – eagerly dispense relational advice through their media and social platforms. Millions of fans are convinced these people know about true fulfillment in relationships simply because they are talented and famous.
But all the glam and glitter in the world cannot cover the fact that these stars model ways of relating that are simply unsustainable for long periods of time. What’s worse, those ways of relating ultimately damage precious people and their families. Those families being damaged, often being poisoned at their roots, are usually nuclear families, which remain the central social unit of society.
It’s a war out there, and honestly, the only ones who really care if you and your spouse love each other over a lifetime are those who care for you the most deeply and completely.
Relationship media (RM for short) craves your viewership and loves to emphasize the falling-in-love part of relating. As I said before, it’s easy to plant a seed. But the makers and the moguls of that media could care less if your marriage gets sweeter over time or crashes and burns with bodies left in the wreckage.
While much of today’s RM has generated billions of dollars demonstrating how to start a relationship (dysfunctionally, in my view), its “messengers” do very little to teach young people how to sustain a vibrant marriage for a lifetime.
With all of this said, I ask you to consider what I’m about to recommend. You may have an inner predisposition, a bias, against some of what you will read. All I ask is that you receive these ideas as my opinion, born of experience and offered because I actually do care about your marriage thriving over a lifetime. For that reason, I ask that you open yourself to the possibility that what I say here may be correct.
The following progression toward a healthy, lasting marriage is, in my view, supported by the best hard data on marriage, divorce, and happiness available today. Let’s get started.
7 Stages To A Thriving, Lifelong Marriage
I’m speaking to
- Those who are thinking about getting married
- Those who are just getting started in marriage, or
- Those who are considering that they may have missed some steps in their relationship
Here is my thesis: A loving, lifetime-lasting marriage has a largely singular, 7-stage progression as its foundation, and while other culturally driven progressions are very popular, each deviation from this seems to increase the odds of eventual divorce. The progression is:
- The Friendship Stage
- The Deep Friendship Stage
- The Pre-Engagement Stage
- The Engagement Stage
- The Wedding Day
- The Marriage Stage
- The Deep Marriage Stage
Here is a reflection on each stage, one by one. Consider where you may be in your relationship.
The Friendship Stage
Your seed of friendship has been planted, and is beginning to sprout.
You meet and are drawn to one another. Unless you live in an arranged-marriage society, that’s usually how things start for all ofus. We are drawn to someone, they are drawn to us, and that person becomes uniquely “special” to us. We begin to have inklings that we might like to spend a lifetime with this person; that they might be “the one” or “the one I choose.”
You develop your relationship within a group that includes friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances. Other people observe you together, noticing something in your connection, and (hopefully) they are honest with you about the good and the bad they see.
Personally, I don’t believe that one-on-one dating is the best way to get to know a person. I believe that hanging out in groups, seeing how you each function in other relationships, is the best start to a potential relationship because you’re both more likely to be your most authentic self around the people who have known you for a long time.
The Friendship Stage – a stage of delight, innocence, and mutual discovery – is a vital root that you want in place should you two ever marry.
The Deep Friendship Stage
The sapling is rising above the ground, and leaves are beginning to form.
This is a stage unto itself, and many couples skip it to the detriment of their later marriage. In the Deep Friendship Stage, you each spend a few years (not always, but often) getting to know one another; learning to communicate; sharing personal hopes, dreams, values, and stories.
In this stage you’re asking: What makes you laugh? What makes you angry? What is your dream for a family? How do you handle money? What are your vocational dreams? Where would you like to live and why?
This is the time to practice being very kind to one another with your words, your touch, and your actions. Kindness, according to many long-term marital studies, is a key ingredient that helps marriages both survive difficult times but thrive (see helpful links at the end of this article).
While kindness should be high on anyone’s permanent list of traits in a partner, I’ve highlighted it in this stage because now is when you as a couple are beginning to understand each other’s behavioral tendencies when you’re under pressure. Kindness can be not only practiced but mastered – and this is the time to learn the movements of tenderness, while the relationship is in the formative stage of friendship.
At this point, you’re observing patterns and asking yourself more insightful questions about this person you’re dating: Why do they attract the friends they do (or fail to attract friends)? How does he or she treat friends, co-workers, and family members when misunderstood? Is this person I care about open and vulnerable or secretive and withholding? Are they emotionally healthy and able to talk about their feelings with clarity and a desire for growth? Do they seem to have strong self-awareness and empathy, understanding their own weaknesses and how they impact others?
In the Deep Friendship Stage, there is one more thing we should talk about, given the cultural climate in which we live: physical intimacy. When is the time for physical intimacy beyond hand holding and light expressions of tenderness?
Not yet! In my experience, couples that move into heavier expressions of physical affection before the Pre-Engagement and Engagement Stage deeply confuse and convolute the progress of their deepening relationship.
Courting and pre-marital rituals in earlier centuries integrated this understanding (not always, but in many cases) and respected it. While having a chaperon, sharing personal time in public gatherings, and honoring parental curfews may all seem to be ideas from the dinosaur age, each idea had its foundational merit in that it expressed awareness that an early loss of sexual control between two young may prove to be a detriment to the forging of a lifetime marital bond later.
Today society largely disregards the idea that physical restraint in a young couple’s relationship is helpful to the long term viability of the relationship. We’ll talk more about this in the next section.
The Pre-Engagement Stage
The small tree is showing signs of budding, and future fruit to come.
In the Pre-Engagement Stage, as you decide you would like to be engaged to be married, ideally you’ll commit to an engagement that will lead you to a lifetime of monogamous union (which may or may not include having children/adopting and raising a family).
I cannot emphasize enough how important this explicit, discussed decision is to the progression. Both of you, after receiving counsel from others and enjoying a long stage of Deep Friendship, must each make this decision. Then you must agree together that marriage is your path.
This is the commitment before the covenant, and the Pre-Engagement stage provides breathing room for determining what Engagement will mean. “Till death do us part” is worth taking the time to understand before anyone commits to being engaged or saying it in a wedding ceremony.
Especially if you are young when this decision presents itself – meaning that your brains are still developing (it’s just true!) – it is all the more vital that you ask for input on this decision from mentors who have succeeded in cultivating long-term, healthy marriages. Once this decision is made, then discussing all manner of marital topics (family, children, values, faith, sex, finances, and more) is on the table in a big way, and those mentoring couples should be permitted to ask about anything they perceive as relevant.
Now is also when you initiate the real work of going deeper in communication and seeing life through the lens of marriage together. There should be almost nothing that you aren’t talking about at this stage, including your concerns about how you interact, share resources, and make decisions.
Unfortunately, I know many young couples who rush toward the Pre-Engagement and Engagement Stages having had nothing but a good friendship, a lot of laughs, a few minor commitment talks, a few communication bumps, and perhaps multiple breakups. In other words, they’ve practiced getting divorced.
The romance of a great engagement story will not make up for missing the premarital conversations that should be going full force at this stage. You’re beginning to be married in heart and mind, while saving the sexual culmination of your engagement for the wedding night. Let’s take a moment to talk about why I believe this to be true.
Sexual intimacy is mating – pure and simple. Understood biologically, sex is a powerful psycho-physiological act with procreative power that has been diminished to a physical-emotional experience for dating couples in our time.
Sex before marriage, from what I’ve observed,
- Replaces mature communication skill-building with psychological-biological excitement
- Stunts your ability as a couple to cultivate restraint (a vital ingredient in marriage)
- Creates premature emotional bonds between you, before you’ve proven whether you are compatible for a long-term relationship (the emotional ties these couples feel as a result of premarital sex creates even more confusion and difficulty in decision making)
- Hides a host of immaturities in emotional patterns and communication skills
As I’ve watched many couples progress over decades, I’ve seen how sex before marriage – especially with multiple partners where a constant mating-then-separating pattern is established – damages our human capacity for intimacy. Like duct tape that loses its stickiness, continued mating without commitment can stunt a relationship and the emotional health of the people participating.
When we’ve given ourselves away in this way, I deeply believe that healing can be experienced. I’ll write more about this in another article. If this is your story, know that there are many good marriage counselors who can provide support to you.
Living together, a logical next step forward due to the premarital sexual bond, may produce what experts call a slide into marriage, a progression that even the most conservative statistics has shown to be faulty.
(For more on this, see the articles linked to at the end of this piece).
There’s no denying that sex has both a profound purpose and design that maritally committed couples are intended to enjoy. Sex is a powerful psychological, physiological, and spiritual event. Over a lifetime, the repeated act of sexual intimacy will not only (potentially) yield children and a family, it will also bond a couple together in spirit and mind.
Sex is glorious, fun, and important. It is also a sacred act between a husband and wife, in my view. In fact, one author called it the “act of marriage.” The gift of the sexual experience, when shared between two partners in a loving union, cannot be overstated.
Without the hard commitment of marriage as the foundation for sex, shared living, and family, the whole structure of the relationship may be doomed before the first floor is even built.
And yes, you can wait. It’s not unrealistic; it’s just not popular today. Millions upon millions of couples have waited before you, myself and my wife included, and that wait builds the muscles of mutual respect, impulse restraint, and intimacy-driven tenderness that a lifelong marriage will need.
Certainly, some marriages have succeeded without following this advice – but I suggest the numbers are far fewer than you or I might like to think. (As I write this, the music in the coffee shop where I am is blasting the lyrics, “So let’s make love, let’s make love, let’s make love” to every person in the establishment – even the little ones.)
I know I’m asking you to swim upstream here. I’m suggesting that you don’t see yourself as the exception to the rule; that you plan now for your best life in the future. If you’re up for it, find some other couples who are doing the same, keep them close throughout your Pre-Engagement Stage, and take encouragement from them to hold the line.
And while you’re at it, keep asking marital questions. Read books about marriage, and about what questions to ask yourselves and one another about marriage and family. Get counsel from good mentors. Build your faith together.* Don’t just hope everything will work out and be covered “later.” Be intentional with each other – especially now – and do your homework.
This is also the time to strengthen extended family relationships. If you as a couple have healthy relationships with a parent or parents, you’re extending and nurturing your circle of support.
Setting a tone of parental honor for the present and future says, “We recognize the investment you’ve made in the raising of your son or daughter, and that person will always be, in some way, your child. Asking for your affirmation of our union is our way of offering you respect and thanks for your ongoing investment in our lives.”
When you get married, you truly do each marry a family. Start strong.
The Engagement Stage
The buds are full on the young, maturing tree, and it is clear the roots, trunk, and branches have had a healthy start.
Now, it’s about to get fun.
The Engagement Stage is typically signaled by an engagement ring (hopefully given in a wonderfully romantic way!). With the act of engagement, you have declared that you are committed to be married in heart, mind, body and home, and that you are inviting others to celebrate with you that you will soon be married in full.
Ideally you go through a solid season of professional or semi-professional premarital counseling, unearthing new areas of discussion (is that possible?). You’re each growing in greater self-awareness, reading and discussing with mentors how to enjoy and satisfy your intended future spouse spiritually, psychologically, and sexually.
You are also preparing to integrate your lives – from your finances, lifestyles, and vocational choices to holiday traditions, extended family connections, and more. In these ways, you’re practicing being married without the full benefits of marriage.
This is a crucial stage of development that must not be skipped, derailed, or displaced by the psychological whirlwind of wedding planning. In other words, talking about one’s flowers and bridal colors is not nearly as important as talking about how many children you would like to have and how soon.
I have typically recommended that the Engagement Stage be a maximum of 6 months, as the couple is now closer than ever to union, and is eager for their marriage (and their wedding night).
Again, in the Engagement Stage, you are both becoming one before actually becoming one. You are a couple preparing for marriage, not just a wedding day. You aren’t letting Hallmark, celebrity memes, or the latest rom-com binge confuse your true priorities. You are leaning with intention into premarital counseling and not skimping on what really matters before you start your life together.
It also bears repeating that in this stage, as in other stages, you want to be proactively gleaning wisdom from married family members, parents, grandparents, and other sages, and finding a solid couple (married for at least 20 years) who can mentor you both before and during the early years of marriage. This is absolutely crucial for long-term health in your relationship.
If you are in this stage, take a moment now to name those couples. Then make plans to pursue them for coffee or a meal to discuss issues that are important to you. It is also good for the woman to meet with the woman separately at times, and for the man to meet with the man. Relevant questions can be saved for these times of learning.
You need a support group for a lifetime. Keep building it and reinforcing it in your Engagement Stage.
And don’t forget to invite your extended families into a closer relationship with you as a couple, depending on the health and dynamics of your families. Spending holidays with each other’s loved ones can help this process.
Many a couple has skipped this stage in the progression, particularly the premarital counseling part, to their later dismay. They think they’re ready to make a home and a life together, while a concerted and intentional premarital counseling process would reveal areas where they are truly not – areas that need shoring up before they walk down the aisle.
This stage involves many fun dates to discuss your wedding day plans (it shouldn’t only be the bride planning all the details), your rings (a sacred sign and symbol of your lifelong commitment), who will be in your wedding party, what your reception be like, and so on. It’s your day; don’t let anyone steal the planning from you both. Decide together who to invite in to the process. Even contributing parents should be honoring your desires for your day, though it’s important to keep their desires in mind when you can.
How you start your marriage sets the tone for the rest of the marriage. The season of engagement helps to firmly establish friendship, tenderness, honesty, caring, selflessness, vulnerability, and mutually dignifying communication deep into the heart of your union.
The Wedding Day
The young tree has reached its springtime, and blossoms and flowers appear on the maturing branches.
It’s the big day, and it should be a blast! You’re getting married in a sacred ceremony, with family and friends joining you to celebrate your union.
The lifelong vows you are about to make are what seal the foundation for everything that will come later – a satisfying, daily, intimate friendship; living happily under the same roof; enjoying sex together; having children; raising a family; working to make the world a better place; and so on.
Whether you choose to spend a bundle on your wedding (have you ever been to a big, fat Mediterranean wedding?) or to spend very little, be in agreement about how you will make the day incredibly special and how much you will budget.
As a sacred day that will last forever in your minds and the minds of your guests, you want to be attentive to the details that make an event worth remembering. However, you don’t need to break the bank; a great honeymoon and a strong financial start to your marriage are just as important as the day you proclaim your vows. Find a balance.
This day can and should have sacred* import to you both. In my view, this is crucial to a thriving marriage and family. Treating your marriage as a sacred union initiated and sustained by God establishes your mutual commitment on more than your willpower alone.
It also defines how you will treat one another – as made in the image of God and therefore worthy of dignity and respect – and creates an accountability before others that the covenant (I like this ancient term) you are making with each other is being declared irrevocable.
You’re making a holy vow to be inseparable, undivided until death, and your declaration on this day can make it so.
For this reason, I suggest you pull out all the stops with sacred symbols, written words, readings, music, gifts to those attending, and more. Here are some wedding service ideas I have put together for reference. Go beyond convention, and get creative, so that it represents you as a couple.
The ceremony, culminating your engagement season, can include:
- a ring, a sacred symbol of your mutual commitment that you can wear at all times
- spoken vows before one another and an accountability community (friends and family), vows which you may choose to renew again and again over the years
- a sacred reflection on the nature of marriage
- a spoken and decisive commitment to both begin and sustain your marriage without divorce being an option. I encourage couples to integrate some form of the statement “For us, divorce is not an option” directly into their marriage ceremony. This is because the prevailing sentiment in our culture now affirms divorce as a primary alternative when things get difficult. If divorce is on the table, you will more likely take that option as soon as your marriage gets hard. If divorce is not on the table (except in cases of infidelity or abuse), you’ll be more inclined to find a way through your greatest challenges – and find one another on a deeper level in the process.
The Marriage Stage
The healthy tree is growing, blossoming, and producing fruit over many seasons, marked in its rings by journeys through springs and winters, times of flourishing and challenge.
Now that you’re married, you can look forward to celebrating not only the yearly anniversary of your mutual commitment but also to establishing daily and weekly rituals, enjoying commemorative getaways and marital enrichment routines (such as retreats, counseling, or mentorship) that will keep your communication strong, your sexual relationship vibrant, and your friendship honest, tender, and caring for your lifetime.
This stage includes the two of you continuing to practice kindness and tenderness toward each other in and through all the circumstances life will bring your way. Friendship matures and grows when we are safe and kind.
In the Marriage Stage, I encourage you to find ways to enjoy your extended families while also leaving room for you to individuate from them. This may mean spending some holidays alone, just the two of you as your own little family unit, or even moving away for a time to discover and cultivate your own family identity.
In my experience, couples that have thrived over 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, or 70 years of marriage are good at renewing their vows in big and small ways, from hosting official vow renewal ceremonies (my wife and I did it for our 25th anniversary) to getting away for short times to enjoy being friends in the unique way that remains a secret between you both. My wife and I went on a big international trip for our 30th anniversary, and it is one of the best memories we will ever have.
Mentor and spiritual director Eldon Fry shared with me insights that his own mentors, Olsen and Defrain, have identified as 6 marriage strengths that must be revisited, time and time again, by a married couple:
- Express appreciation
- Have a full commitment
- Maintain positive communication
- Enjoy time together
- Share a spiritual life
- Manage stress as it presents itself
I believe that, if the work is put into it, every marriage can move into the Deep Marriage Stage. I don’t often hear even marriage professionals talk about this stage, but from experience, I know it is both real and attainable.
The Deep Marriage Stage
The tree is strong, majestic, remarkable, and identified as much by the limbs it has lost as by the stature it has attained.
The only way I can talk about this stage is in relation to pain. When you and your spouse walk through sorrow hand in hand, and you fight for it not to break you apart, an invisible, unbreakable bond is forged between your hearts.
Deep Marriage comes to those who have said, time and again over decades, “Divorce is not an option.” When the hard knocks of life say, “Watch what I throw at you,” Deep Marriage says, “Watch what we throw back.”
The loss of a child. A breakdown of finances. A painful loss of trust after decades of belief in one another. A devastating crisis of identity or faith. For the couple who mutually leans into them, these kinds of circumstances can become incubators for a depth of communication, friendship, and unconditional love that is remarkable in this world. But you have to stay in the long game –the marathon of marriage, the entire growth cycle – to experience it. And once you do, you’ll be so grateful that you didn’t jump ship all those times you wish you had.
Sure, some people grow old and end up bickering, isolating, and even living a single life under the same roof. While I am slow to judge, I have seen this happen because one or both partners weren’t willing to do the hard work of relinquishing themselves. Such surrender is only extracted by the most difficult of circumstances.
We can become bitter, or we can become better. We can become softer and kinder, or we can become harder and meaner. We can become more independent, seeing the other person as a drag on our identity, or we can grow more richly interdependent. But if you want the kind of friendship that is only found in the Deep Marriage stage, you will discover it one place: on the other side of some of the hardest things you’ll ever go through.
Go through those challenges together – arm in arm, facing them – and don’t let them get between you. When they get between you, then you see the other person through the lens of the problem, and your spouse becomes the problem. Lock arms, and put each problem out in front of you as you face it together. It is the only way through.
Building a lifelong, vital marriage – and friendship – is beautiful, incredible, and a labor of love. In my view, choosing this union over an unprepared-for marriage . . . over living together . . . over an easy and short-sighted view of divorce and its impact . . . over drifting into marriage carried on the currents of popular views of romance, makes all the difference in the world to your fulfillment as a human being and as a married couple.
With this reflection on what it takes to begin to grow a marriage that will last a lifetime, I also offer you my personal blessing as you consider getting married or strive to stay married.
My wife and I have thrived in our marriage for more than 32 years at the time of this writing. I want you to thrive in yours.
P.S. The short booklet How Can I Be Sure: A Pre-Marriage Inventory, suggests that you should have a significant pause about your relationship if you have “a general, uneasy feeling about the relationship (a lack of inner peace), frequent arguments, you avoid discussing sensitive subjects because you’re afraid of hurting your partner’s feelings, you’re getting more involved physically to avoid talking or painful discussions, you are always giving in to what your partner wants to do, you detect serious emotional disturbances like fear, anger, or strange behavior, you feel you’re staying in the relationship out of fear, your partner makes excuses, your partner is not willing to take responsibility, is overly jealous or needy, is critical, is sarcastic, is not felt to be a good fit by significant others like parents, [or] you lack spiritual harmony.”
You also like it’s just taking a lot of work for you to come together. This, and all of the above challenges, can be danger signs, red lights, and reasons for a hard pause.
It’s time to end the relationship and move on if there is anything in the other person that you simply cannot live with if it never changes. Don’t hope that your partner will change later; he or she most probably won’t.
*When I use the word “sacred,” I could be speaking of a variety of traditions. Feel free to apply it to your own. In my case, I am speaking of a sacred ceremony in the Christian tradition that sits at the center of my own faith and life.
For those who follow Christ, the husband’s divine commission is to be like Jesus to his bride, selflessly, unconditionally loving her through any and every circumstance that life brings (Eph. 5:21–23). This desire to be like Christ in daily life, and affirmed by the wedding vows, has kept many marriages together when a deep disagreement or break in their emotional connection might have split the couple apart.
In other words, I’ve found that it is good for the husband to emulate, and to desire to be like, Jesus to his wife.
The same holds true for the wife. In a sacred Christian ceremony, she is called to selflessly love and be fully devoted to her husband, in ways that imitate Christ’s love for us.
Not all faiths or religions contain or convey this deep call to worship in their marriage ceremony. Not all marriages express devotion to a God who is primarily characterized by the attributes of selfless love, forgiveness, acceptance, generosity, trust, kindness, and care. Yet
all of these qualities are attributes of healthy people and a healthy family life. So embodying them in a wedding ceremony, and emulating them in your daily life together, can only be good for a marriage.
In the Orthodox Christian tradition, a husband and wife are crowned the king and queen of their home. I like this vision of the sacred, biblical truth that two human beings, made in the image of God, are given rule and reign over the dominion of their household. They are then commissioned to express that loving dominion with joy, acceptance, care, kindness, goodness, self-control, and a dignifying value of the humanity of all the lives entrusted to their care within their home.
Other Articles In The Relationship Series
Other Helpful Resources
Books That Helped Us Start Strong
How Can I Be Sure? A Premarital Inventory (a retro cover, but the workbook was great)
The Act Of Marriage (LaHaye) (the beauty of sexual love)