Anyone these days can marry anyone else, pretty much. That’s the easy part. Staying married? That, well, takes more work, more effort, especially if you want to be happy as well. What follows are a few principles, derived from the Bible, that will, surely, make married life much more as God had intended it to be: a wonderful union between a husband and a wife.

First principle: one of the great themes of the Bible is that of forgiveness, God’s forgiveness. “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (Psalm 86:5). “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1). “You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people; You have covered all their sin” (Psalm 85:2). 

The New Testament, too, is filled with references to the forgiveness that God offers us. “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians. 1:7). Or “I write to you, little children because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake” (1 John 2:12). Just to name a few.

No question, one of the most crucial elements in any marriage is forgiveness. You must learn to forgive, must (as in absolutely, no questions asked), especially when your spouse doesn’t deserve it. Anyone can forgive the deserving: in fact, that’s hardly forgiveness. True forgiveness is forgiving those who don’t warrant it, the way the Lord forgives us through Jesus. We must do likewise. Otherwise, our marriage, if it survives (which isn’t likely), will seem like purgatory. Resentment will build, and build, and build until it eats away at your soul and the foundation of your marriage. 

Second, accept the fact that you are married to a faulty, broken and damaged human being who, too, is married to a faulty, broken and damaged human being. We all bring our emotional, physical and spiritual baggage into our marriage. Get used to your spouse’s faults. Doesn’t mean you have to like those faults. Of course not. Doesn’t mean you can’t try and get them to change (good luck with that). Doesn’t mean you can talk about them and seek to work through them. 

What it means, instead, is that just as your spouse has to live with your faults, you need to learn to live with your spouse’s. Do not, absolutely do not, obsess over them, mull over them, recount them over and over and over. If you do, they will eat you alive. A holy and perfect God, through Jesus, accepts us as we are: you, hardly holy and perfect, must do the same with your spouse.

Third, some of the most beautiful words in all the Bible are from the pen of the apostle Paul: “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:4–6). 

The apostle’s point, though not dealing directly with marriage, nevertheless works great for it, which is: Don’t always think of yourself first. Try to put your spouse before yourself, just as Christ put us before Himself. As humans, whenever a situation arises, our natural instinct is to think: Oh, how will this affect me, me, me? It’s as natural as seeking water when thirsty. But through the grace of God you can learn to put your spouse and his or her needs even before your own; this principle can greatly help any marriage.

Fourth, talking about Jesus, the Bible says: “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Just as Christ put Himself in our situation, to best relate to us, we should do the same with our marriage partner. In other words, when a situation, or even a crisis, arises — stop, take a deep breath, and try to look at things not just from your own perspective but from your spouse’s. See how he or she views what is happening, how it has an impact on him or her, and why he or she would feel about it the way he or she does. The principle can go a long way in alleviating tough situations. 

Every marriage carries its own set of challenges, and no airtight formula guarantees success. Yet these principles, if followed, can surely help make what had originally been meant to be something wonderful into, yes, something wonderful.