Summary: The recipe for a successful marriage is simple. You and your spouse must practice what I call “The Three C’s” of a happy marriage — commitment, companionship, and communication. Keeping the Lord at the center of your relationship with your spouse is, of course, absolutely vital. But on the level of everyday actions and habits, the best marriage advice I can give you is to pursue those "three C's."
Genesis 2:18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
•• A survey of men some years ago discovered that companionship was the #1 thing they desired in marriage.
• My wife is my closest and best friend. And that has greatly benefited our healthy marriage of 30+ years.
Ecclesiastes 9:9Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life...
•• Enjoy life with your wife ... with your husband.
•• Before our four children were born, my fishing companion was my wife.
• She caught a large king salmon on Alaska’s Kenai River four days before our first child was born!
•• We went moose hunting together. We enjoyed being out in wild country with each other.
• She is a great shot with a 30.06. The kick from my .300 magnum knocked her around a bit! But she shrugged that off, and we enjoyed great companionship hunting together.
•• More recently, we’ve developed a mutual interest in golf and have had some enjoyable outings on the links.
• This is all part of“enjoying life with your wife” [or husband].
•• After our four children were born, we continued to look for ways to have companionship.
• In our early years as parents, we would get a sitter or the grandparents to watch the kids and we would go out on a date.
• We also found ways to include the children and still enjoy each other’s companionship:
• Day trips to Lake of the Woods
• Lithia Park nature walks
• Dinner and a movie
• Coffee, then browsing at Barnes & Noble
• Camping trips with the entire family
Song of Solomon 5:16, KJV “This is my beloved, and this is my friend.”
•• Your beloved should also be your friend.
•• If necessary, rearrange your life to return your spouse to the place of being your closest and most cherished companion.
•• So the first "C" in the recipe for how to have a good marriage is making time for enjoyable companionship.
1 Samuel 1:1-2, 5-8 There was a certain man ... whose name was Elkanah....  He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none....  But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb....  Elkanah her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
•• Elkanah loved his wife Hannah (vs. 5).
•• In her distress, he loved her enough to communicate with her.
• “I see you’re weeping and downhearted ... Eat something, my dear ... I’ll try to be for you more than ten sons could be.” [my paraphrase]
• He discerned and inquired about his wife’s emotions.
• He cared about his wife’s physical health (“Eat...”).
• He affirmed to her that he was with her and for her.
•• Communication is an essential part of the recipe for a happy marriage.
• Men, wives generally aren’t looking for “strong, silent types”.
• My wife taught me to communicate my heart, my thoughts, my feelings. Now in my 60s, I’m still learning!
Look at some of the dialogue from the Song of Solomon:
HE to HER:
1:8 “most beautiful of women”
1:9 “my darling”
4:8 “my bride”
4:9 “you have stolen my heart”
6:9 “my dove, my perfect one”
7:6 “how beautiful you are, and how pleasing, O love”
SHE to HIM:
1:7 “you whom I love”
1:16 “how handsome you are”
“O, how charming”
5:8 “tell him I am faint with love”
•• Have you been communicating like this to your spouse this week?
•• Only you know what you’re thinking, unless you reveal it. Your spouse isn’t a mindreader!
•• Consider these communication scenarios:
• NO:“I love you” [spoken one time, on the wedding day] “and I’ll let you know if I ever change.” Not a winner!
• YES:“I love you ... you’re wonderful” often each day.
• YES:“What are your thoughts, dreams, goals?”
• YES: “Tell me about your day.”
•• So the second "C" of our keys to a happy marriage is working at establishing great communication with your spouse.
Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
•• Leaving former high priorities for a higher one — that is biblical commitment to your spouse.
•• When pressures mount and companionship and communication may temporarily break down, commitment to one another will carry you through.
•• Some high stress inducers are selling a house, moving, a job change, a new baby, building a church (as we have done)...
• One year (1985) my wife and I sold a house, moved to Alaska, she had a new baby, I was doing a job change, and at the destination we bought and remodeled a house!
• We kept the victory (and a healthy, successful marriage!) in all this stress because of our commitment to each other.
Deuteronomy 7:7-9 The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.  But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.
•• Three principles of commitment here for spouses:
1) Set your affection on your spouse (7).
2) Keep the oath (vows) you made at your wedding (8).
3) Be faithful to your covenant of love (9).
Ephesians 5:25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
•• Jesus’ love for His Church is the ultimate example of commitment — giving Himself unto death for His beloved.
• Husbands and wives, my encouragement to you is this: follow Christ’s example; be absolutely, unshakably committed to your spouse, in good times and bad.
•• The final "C" in the secrets to a happy marriage is determining to maintain an absolute, unshakable commitment to one another.
My wife and I have been happily married for nearly a third of a century. We attribute this to the Lord’s goodness as well as to our having learned and practiced “The Recipe for a Happy Marriage” — commitment ... companionship ... and communication.
Apply these three principles in your marriage, and I can assure you that the blessing of the Lord will be consistently upon your relationship. And before long you will be telling others about the bible’s recipe for a happy marriage. God bless!
Edit 2010: after nearly 38 years of a wonderful marriage, my wife left this life for the glories of heaven in March 2010. I miss her deeply. I invite you to read my tribute to her life lived well.
Edit 2015: God has been gracious to me! In my time as a widower, God brought into my life another wonderful Christian wife. And I am blessed to report that this biblical recipe for a happy marriage is still working!