The Secret of a Strong Marriage Relationship

In our 40 years of marriage and 41 years of ministry, we have reached the following conclusion regarding premarital and marital counseling: Counseling is not everything. That is, even after thorough premarital or marital counseling, almost all couples will discover that they still have major issues in their relationship.

It is not the fault of the counseling or the counselors. Instead, it happens because all of the most popular premarital-marital counseling programs make one basic major assumption that is not usually true: They all assume that they are dealing with strong, “normal” partners, fully developed men and women. But, unfortunately, this is rarely the case.

Who’s “normal” in today’s world? Who’s emotionally secure and fully developed—emotionally, spiritually, and socially? Who is NOT carrying around a humongous amount of personal baggage and debilitating emotional diseases? Who is NOT suffering from some kind of crippling woundedness? Who is already healed and whole when they come into their marriage?

Seeing this, we now make the following assertion:


This is so very reasonable, isn’t it? If you are going to build a building, it will only be as strong as the building materials used to erect it. Weak building materials can only produce weak buildings. Just as the “Three Little Pigs” discovered. The big, bad wolf blew down the houses of the first two little pigs, who had built their houses out of straw and sticks respectively. But the wolf could not blow down the third little pig’s house built with bricks. Perhaps all three little pigs used the same blue prints, the same building techniques, and the same construction methods. All three of them got lots of advice and pep talks before they starting building. All of them had a great attitude, were full of optimism, and hoped for a wonderful fairy tale ending. But none of that mattered. The only thing that mattered was the quality of the materials that the house was built with! It was not a matter of method but material.

So it is with marriage relationships: The most important thing that matters is the quality of the two people that marriage relationship is built with. If they are weak, then the marriage will be weak, in the exact areas in which they are weak.

So then, what we have discovered is that we should first focus on the two individuals in the relationship, find out their inherent and acquired weaknesses and woundedness, then work to heal each individual in those areas. Otherwise, we can counsel till we are blue in the face, without much effectiveness. The truth is, a person who is driven by and controlled by his or her woundedness cannot possibly obey or follow good counseling, even if they want to do so. They are not in control of themselves; their old wounds and emotional baggage control them.

Below is a short list of the stuff people commonly bring to their marriages—Christians and non-Christians alike. Most people suffer from several of the following feelings: 

Unworthiness, unloved/unlovable, inability to love, belittled, insignificant, imposed on, depressed, oppressed, repressed, rejected, disrespected, taken for granted, used/abused, unequally yoked, loneliness, isolated, disconnectedness, anxiety, confusion, miserable, hopelessness, put down, purposelessness, emptiness, dead inside, needing to compensate, bitter, resentful, dissatisfaction, discontentment, unequal in commitment, neglected, forgotten, powerless/helpless, incompetent, inadequate, unattractive, feeling like a failure, sad, doubting, disappointed, jealous, fearful, unable to trust, insecure, chronic anger, hurt, betrayal, unappreciated, threatened, emotionally abandoned, victimized unfairly, etc.

The above list is all emotional baggage alone. We have not yet mentioned other significant baggage like substance addictions, pornography addictions, negative influences from their religious upbringings, natural physiological conditions, etc. A person under the influence of any of these factors above will find it difficult—really, impossible—to follow the good, logical, reasonable principles of their premarital or marital counseling.

So regardless to what it is or why it is, every major factor needs to be dealt with and resolved at some point in time, OR it will cause major issues in the relationship. Some of these are complete show-stoppers. Hence the high divorce rate, even among Christians, and the high cohabitation rate among those who are simply too scared to even attempt a real marriage.

For this reason, a person in a relationship needs to find HEALING and DELIVERANCE from these crippling, paralyzing afflictions in order to build a strong marriage. Marital counselors and advisors need to be skilled and experienced in helping individuals find this deliverance. Or they can simply refer their counselees to a skilled practitioner of inner healing ministry or the like.

For example, giving them more skills in the art of marital communications is not the solution when the wife is so depressed from feeling like she’s a failure and so plagued with low self-esteem that she is contemplating suicide or divorce to escape. It is not a matter of method but material. She needs somebody to help her dig deeper to discover why she is so weak and vulnerable in this area. She needs God to reveal truth and light to her so her woundedness in this area can be healed. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). And freedom means maturity, security, spiritual and emotional strength.

Here is a description of how to free yourself, although it is best to find someone who can help lead you through this process of inner healing:  When these needs, desires, fears, weaknesses, wounds, and insecurities come to the surface, it is then that you need to:

  1. IDENTIFY the feelings and ADMIT that they are there.
  2. Analyze WHY you have those deep feelings there. Perhaps they are the result of some hurtful event or mistreatment in your past, sometimes even your young childhood. Drag it out and analyze it.
  3. If you have no idea exactly why you have those feelings, then ask Jesus to SHINE HIS LIGHT and reveal to you why you feel the way you do. There will always be some lie at the bottom of it all that you have believed, which causes you to have those bad feelings.
  4. The next step is to ask Jesus WHAT IS THE TRUTH about the matter. His revelation from the Holy Spirit will be light to you that will free you from those lies and their negative consequences, because now you see and know the truth of His love. Submit to God. Forgive if appropriate. Pray for spiritual and emotional healing in that area.

Each partner needs to go through such inner healing, remembering that it’s all about you; it’s got nothing to do with your spouse or fiancé. They didn’t break you, and they can’t fix you! Only God can. So quit trying to blame things on them! Your relationship can only be as strong as YOU are, and if you are weak and vulnerable, then your relationship will be also, regardless to who you are married to.

This is where LOVE comes in: God unconditionally LOVES us in spite of our glaring and embarrassing weaknesses. Each partner must LOVE the other with that same AGAPE LOVE, in spite of the other’s glaring weaknesses. But remember: Only a whole, healed, fully-developed person can LOVE another broken individual with the AGAPE LOVE that God has.

This is the secret to a strong, happy, Christian marriage. So let’s all get to work! And with God’s help we will succeed!

© 2012 Philip & Segatha Matthews