14 Secrets to a Better Marriage: Powerful Principles from the Bible

14 Secrets to a Better Marriage: Powerful Principles from the Bible

by Dave Earley

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Wondering how to build a great marriage? Turn to the Bible for guidance—that’s where author Dave Earley found his 14 Secrets to a Better Marriage.

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Wondering how to build a great marriage? Turn to the Bible for guidance—that’s where author Dave Earley found his 14 Secrets to a Better Marriage.

Editorial Reviews

Through My I's - Alicia Hart

I loved this book! Even more than "14 Secrets to Better Parenting". It is appropriate for couples who are struggling in the marriage game and for those who are happily married. I think it would be a wonderful book for engaged couples to read together. Each chapter has practical applications for couples and wonderful suggestions for getting to know each other better. I recommend this book to anyone who plans to ever get married or is already married!
Through My I's

I loved this book! Even more than "14 Secrets to Better Parenting". It is appropriate for couples who are struggling in the marriage game and for those who are happily married. I think it would be a wonderful book for engaged couples to read together. Each chapter has practical applications for couples and wonderful suggestions for getting to know each other better. I recommend this book to anyone who plans to ever get married or is already married!

— Alicia Hart

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Barbour Publishing, Incorporated
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14 Bible Secrets Series
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14 Secrets to a Better Marriage

Powerful Principles from the Bible

By Dave Earley

Barbour Publishing, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Dave Earley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61626-228-0


Build on a Solid Foundation

It was the middle of May, the sky was a brilliant blue, the sun was in full array, the birds were happily singing, and the hills were lush and green. I was standing in the sanctuary of a little red brick church at a wide place in the road charmingly named Sweet Valley, Pennsylvania. The room was filled with flowers, smiling faces, and beautiful music. My best friends were standing nervously on my left in black tuxedos; two smiling pastors flanked me on my right as my mom and dad sat in the front pew grinning up at me. All was good—but it quickly got much better.

The organ burst forth in Wagner's "Bridal Chorus." Everyone rose to their feet and all eyes turned to the back of the church, where a distinguished, but anxious, man in a blue suit stood with a young lady in a white dress clinging eagerly to his arm. Wow! She was gorgeous. Her smile illuminated the room. Best of all, her eyes locked with mine and her smile got even bigger. Yes! I thought. She's going to be mine.

But when Cathy and her father were about halfway down the aisle, another thought hit me: Whoa, this is a really big deal. She's counting on me to take care of her. I gulped. This is a big responsibility.

I better not mess this up.

That was nearly thirty years ago. I'm happy to say that God has blessed us and we have made our marriage work. But, sadly, for half the couples who get married in the United States each year, their marriages won't work out.

What Happened?

If we look at the history of marriage in the United Sates, we see a troubling picture. Divorce used to be the exception, but this is no longer the case. As recently as 1920, only one out of seven marriages ended in divorce. That means 86 percent of the marriages lasted. By 1940, the number of divorces had jumped to one out of six, meaning that 83 percent now went the distance. The divorce rate rose to one out of four marriages by 1960, and escalated to one out of three by 1972. Since 1985, one out of two marriages has ended in divorce; in other words, only 50 percent of the people who get married stay married. What happened?

Though several factors have contributed to the rise in the divorce rate, the most obvious is that America has become increasingly secular. More and more people approach marriage without a biblical view of what God intended marriage to be. By failing to build on a biblical foundation for marital fulfillment, they set themselves up for disillusionment, heartache, and defeat.

The Foundation

I never valued the importance of a strong foundation until we built our first church auditorium. I was shocked when the bids came in. Hundreds of thousands of dollars would go into work that no one would ever see. Aside from the obvious concrete, huge pipes, long cables, and deep footers had to go in underground before we could even begin to build what everyone would see. When I was tempted to fudge a bit on the foundation, a wise architect cautioned me: "Nothing is more important than the foundation."

Through the process of building that worship center and a few other buildings, I learned the immense value of a good foundation.

1. A good foundation is essential for the health and well-being of a building. It is also essential for the health and well-being of a marriage.

2. A building cannot withstand much stress or pressure without a solid foundation. Likewise, a marriage cannot withstand the storms of life without a solid foundation.

3. A building's strength depends proportionally on the strength of its foundation. The strength of a marriage depends on the quality of its foundation.

4. The greater a building's height, the greater the importance of its foundation. The higher you want your marriage to go, the greater the importance of the foundation.

5. The foundation of a great building is not readily visible, yet it is essential. The foundation of your marriage will not be immediately noticeable, yet it is essential for the strength, growth, and quality of your marriage.

Secret #1 Build on a solid foundation.

Foundation Stones for a Strong Marriage

In Hebrew, the word genesis means "beginning." Everything about creation and life begins in the book of Genesis—including plants, animals, humanity, sin, redemption, government, and marriage. In fact, as early as the second chapter of Genesis, the story of marriage begins to unfold. Read this well-known story slowly:

Then the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:18–25 NASB

The last two sentences are quoted elsewhere in the Bible—by Jesus in Matthew 19:5–6 and Mark 10:7–9; and by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:16–17 and Ephesians 5:31. Jesus added these very important words: "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate" (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:8–9 NASB).

From these familiar words, we can discern the foundational stones of a strong marriage. Throughout the rest of this book, we will see how the Bible builds on the foundation laid down succinctly in the opening chapters of Genesis.

1. Recognize God as the expert.

"It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18 NASB). As you may recall, at the close of the sixth day of Creation, God surveyed everything He had made and pronounced it "very good" (Genesis 1:31). But then God said that something in His beautiful world was not good—the man was alone.

So God resolved to act. He said, "I will make him a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18 NASB). Here we see that marriage was God's idea. God had previously created the first man. Now He created the first woman. From the man's side, God crafted a woman. Then, like a proud father on his daughter's wedding day, God brought the woman to Adam and gave her to him. In other words, God created the first marriage—which makes Him the expert. His Word now serves as our foundation for understanding marriage.

2. Focus on companionship.

Unlike the pairs of animals he named, Adam was alone. There was no corresponding complement for him. God declared that the situation was not good. Adam needed a companion.

Marriage was not created merely so the human race would reproduce offspring. It was founded by God to meet the human need for companionship.

People who enjoy strong marriages focus on companionship. Healthy marriage is built on more than physical attraction, romance, and sex. Long marriages result as couples learn to develop a deep friendship with one another.

3. Complement each other.

"I will make him a helper suitable for him." The phrase "helper suitable for him" literally means "a help opposite him" or "corresponding to him." The idea is a helping counterpart; a corresponding complement; connecting pieces that fit together. God created husbands and wives to be positive counterparts.

"The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man" (Genesis 2:22 NASB). Woman came from man's side. As Matthew Henry observes, she was "not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved."

"'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman'" (Genesis 2:23 NASB). In the original language, Adam's words are a joyous declaration. While he obviously enjoyed the other animals, he was thrilled when he saw Eve. He recognized that she was like him. Though uniquely female, she looked like him, talked like him, walked like him, and smiled like him. She was his complement. He could relate to her as to no other living creature. She was another human being. God designed husbands and wives to be close friends and to positively complement one another as they work together side by side as equal partners and close companions.

4. Prioritize the relationship.

Note that God created marriage to be a union between a man and a woman—not a man and another man or a woman and another woman. Note also that God designed marriage to be a union between one man and one woman—not one man and several women, or one woman and several men.

Adam and Eve had a sole focus—each other. Eve was the only woman in Adam's life, and he was the only man in hers. This is instructive for us. Couples with strong marriages place their marriage relationship above all other human relationships. Second only to their relationship with God, their mate is the most important thing in their lives.

5. Husbands need to step up and lead.

Of the two, men and women, the man was created first. The woman was made from the man. The woman was brought to the man. Then the man was given the authority to name the woman. Also, it was the man who was commanded to leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife. What does all that add up to? It shows that it was God's intent for the husband to give leadership to the marriage and the family.

This has nothing to do with men and women having different worth. It has everything to do with husbands and wives having different roles. As we shall see, the Bible makes it clear that God expects husbands to step up and selflessly give leadership to their homes.

6. Form an independent union.

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother" (Genesis 2:24 NASB). The idea of "leaving" father and mother is not that of utterly forsaking them. Rather, it is the notion of establishing a new adult relationship, a new family unit that has its own physical, financial, and emotional independence.

No one is ready to get married until he or she is able to live emotionally, financially, and physically independent of his or her parents. A marriage becomes stronger as a couple learns to make it on their own, without Mom and Dad.

7. Bond to each other.

The man was not only told to leave his father and mother, but also to "be joined to his wife." The point of separating from his parents was to unite with his wife. Joined carries the idea of being "glued to" or "cemented together." In fact, the same word in Hebrew is used to describe how leprosy would cling to the skin of the wicked servant Gehazi (2 Kings 5:27); that is, to become part and parcel with his being. Obviously, marriage is not a disease, like leprosy. But the idea is that marriage partners must bond to each other as tightly as leprosy clings to the skin of the one it infects. Unfortunate comparison, but you get the picture.

I've heard that if you glue together two pieces of plywood, they become five times stronger than each piece would be on its own. (That's a better analogy!) Good marriages are the result of two independent adults clinging tightly to each other. Both are strengthened individually as they bond their lives together.

8. Develop deep intimacy.

The goal of marriage is that husbands and wives would "become one flesh." Obviously, this speaks of the deep physical oneness that comes when joining in sexual intercourse. The apostle Paul's description of this oneness in 1 Corinthians 6:15–16 refers to sexual union. It is possible to create a degree of oneness with someone other than your mate through the act of sexual intercourse—which is one reason the Bible clearly forbids engaging in fornication and adultery.

In God's eyes, the act of intercourse makes a man and a woman "one flesh." It creates a powerful bond. But truly becoming "one flesh" in marriage involves much more than physical intimacy. Sexual intercourse is designed to be only a beginning point in the great adventure of getting to know each other. True unity and oneness are yet in the future for a newly married couple. The unveiling and joining together of our bodies is symbolic of the emotional and spiritual openness and interconnection that God designed for couples to enjoy in marriage. As a couple develops emotional and spiritual oneness, their physical intimacy will be enhanced and deepened. Good sex without a good relationship will not enhance marital unity; but a good relationship will enhance sex and build marital unity. Deep intimacy is achieved as a couple grows together physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It involves a process that takes time, insight, sensitivity, and effort.

9. Be vulnerable and accepting.

"And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed" (Genesis 2:25 NASB). What a beautiful picture of openness, vulnerability, and innocence! The lack of shame reflects the truth that the only place for sexual activity is within the bounds of marriage. The author of Hebrews reminds us that "marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4 NKJV). Within the covenant of marriage, sexual activity is pure, beautiful, and honorable. Outside of marriage, sexual activity is corrupted, dirty, and shameful.

The notion of being "naked and not ashamed" also speaks to a deeper issue of vulnerability and acceptance. True intimacy is achieved when a husband and wife feel the freedom to be completely honest, open, genuine, and authentic with each other. It occurs as they share their deepest hopes, dreams, fears, and secrets without fear of rejection.

10. Tear down relational walls.

In Genesis 2, the paradise of innocence is created. In Genesis 3, it is lost.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself."

Genesis 3:8–10 NKJV

After sin entered the picture, Adam and Eve were no longer innocently "naked and unashamed." They were guilty and guarded. The greatest barrier to deep relational unity is unresolved relational sin, such as harshness, neglect, dishonesty, criticism, failure to communicate, and unfair fighting. The only way to break down the barriers created through such sins is humble, honest, sincere confession and forgiveness.

11. Rely on the third party.

Marriage is much more than a legal contract between two people. When Jesus said, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:6 ESV, emphasis added), He established that marriage is a covenantal work of God, whereby He Himself enters into the union and pledges His help and support. What a marvelous encouragement! No couple has to go it alone. God Himself is ready, willing, and able to lend His wisdom, guidance, and strength.

12. Determine to make it permanent.

Note that Jesus' statement also comes with a stern warning: "let no man separate." Marriage was intended to be a permanent union. Successful marriages begin when both the husband and wife enter into the covenant with the understanding that divorce is not an option.


Excerpted from 14 Secrets to a Better Marriage by Dave Earley. Copyright © 2011 Dave Earley. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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