I come from a long line of broken marriages. So as a young bride, I wanted to learn the secret to a happy, lasting marriage. For help, I looked to a number of godly women in our church whose marriages I wanted to emulate.

Most of the couples my husband, Steve, and I spent time with were older than we. And the wives in these marriages took seriously the instruction in Titus 2 for older women to teach younger women how to love their husbands. This made them great mentors for me.

When I would ask these women,  What is the key to a happy marriage? I was surprised at their answers. The overall message I gleaned from these Titus 2 woman was this: The real secret to a happy marriage is not how much you love your husband, but how much your love Christ.

Here are eight practical ways to cultivate a happy marriage that Steve and I learned from the couples who befriended us so many years ago.

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  1. Have realistic expectations. Did you think your husband would be the answer to all your hopes for happily ever after? If so, at some point after the honeymoon was over, you realized you’d married a normal human being and not the Prince Charming you imagined him to be. My “aha” moment came during our honeymoon when my brand-new husband proceeded to use the bathroom in front of me. I was shocked. I mean, I knew this big hunk of a man relieved himself, but it never occurred to me he would do it in my presence. The sooner you realize you and your husband are both imperfect people, the better you will be prepared to cover with grace the times you let one another down.
  1. Your husband is not like you. You don’t have to be married too long to discover your husband is not like you. All too often, couples define unity in marriage as sameness. But unity doesn’t mean you have to see eye-to-eye with your husband on every detail of life.
  1. Think the best about your husband. Many couples I have talked to will admit to having had a mediocre marriage — or even a bad one — until one of them determined to stop comparing their spouse to the person they wished he or she would be. In so doing, their newfound habit of thinking positive thoughts spilled over into affirming words and kind service to their spouse. More often than not, the actions of one spouse not only turned the marriage around, but in many instances even saved the marriage.
  1. Be kind to one another. Wouldn’t you agree there are times being kind is not the easiest response? As a stay-at-home mom, I recall being tired, overworked, and “underpaid.” Unfriendly would certainly define the way I sometimes treated my husband in those days. But if you make an extra effort to be kind to your husband now, you will enjoy the benefit of a happier marriage as times goes on. The seeds of kindness Steve and I planted during the chaotic years of raising children have borne fruit, and today we find ourselves in the midst of a delightful empty-nest season. By contrast, I know many wives who were unkind to their husbands because they harbored an unforgiving attitude and resentment over their husband’s lack of help when the kids were little, only to reap a broken marriage when the children grew up and left home.
  1. Refuse to fantasize about being married to someone else. When times get hard — and they will — allowing yourself to dream about what it would be like to escape the hardship will only invite trouble into your marriage. If you are looking up old boyfriends on the Internet, or dreaming about what life would be like if you were married to a different man, you are already in the process of undermining the foundation of your marriage. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the story of the foolish man who built his house upon the sand (Matthew 7:26-27). Building your hopes for a happy marriage with someone other than our husband is certainly foolish. And when the storms of life come, your house will come crashing down around you.

    If you are looking up old boyfriends on the Internet, or dreaming about what life would be like if you were married to a different man, you are already in the process of undermining the foundation of your marriage.

  1. Your husband is not your enemy. In times of strife, remind yourself that your husband is not your enemy. Your real adversary is the devil, who is a roaring lion seeking to devour you — and your marriage. When you realize Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, you will know that it’s the tempter who is your enemy, and not your husband.
  1. Love Christ more than you love your husband. When you determine to grow more deeply in love with Christ, you will find your worth in your relationship to him. When this happens, you will not look to your husband to meet needs only God can fill. When you live to love Jesus, his love for your husband will spill out of your heart. And your heart will become joyfully satisfied with your husband.
  1. Determine that divorce will never be an option. If ever you think leaving your marriage is the answer to your problems, remind yourself: Wherever you go, there you are. This means whatever struggles you may be having, realize you are half of the problem. If you choose to leave a difficult marriage, you can be certain you’ll take all your unresolved issues into the next relationship as well.

Instead of looking to your husband to make you feel treasured, make it your goal to die to yourself daily. And live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you so much he gave his life so that you could be made alive in Christ. Learn to remind yourself daily, through Scripture, just how precious you are to God. When you do, you will let your husband off the hook for being the source of your self-worth, and will guard yourself from the temptation to look elsewhere for happiness. Accepting the fact that ultimate goal of your life is to bring glory and honor to God is the first step you can take toward building a marriage that stands the tests of time.

Taken from If My Husband Would Change, Id Be Happy. Copyright © 2015 by Rhonda Stoppe. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon. www.harvesthousepublishers.com. Used by permission.

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