“When a husband and wife are united in marriage, they no longer seem like something earthly, but rather like the image of God Himself.”
-St. John Chrysostom
A Built-in Psychiatrist
Experience tells us that two people get married and immediately begin to discover how very different they are. The fact is, we don't really even begin to know ourselves until we are married. We live too close to ourselves. It really does take someone else to help us to see ourselves as we really are. One of the fringe benefits of a good marriage is that one acquires a built-in psychiatrist: a good spouse who cares enough to listen without having to be paid for it!
Sharing Your Burdens
We know that many emotional illnesses are a result of a person having some inner burden weighing on him which he had never been able to really share with someone else. In a good marriage, husband and wife share their burdens with one another, and this sharing is without reservation, without having to worry about how the other person will react, without having to keep up a front.
A marriage is not a missionary enterprise! It has enough problems and difficulties of its own without each partner trying to thoroughly change and remake the other. One of the most common and most serious illusions young marrieds have is that of marrying someone in the hope and expectation of changing that person.
Accept Them As They Are
True love does not force itself on anyone, and it does not force change; it evokes growth. How? First, by accepting one's spouse as he or she is. When we marry, we do not sign up to change the other person; we just agree to love him as he is. The best thing a husband can do to change his wife, or vice-versa, is to change himself, to correct his own faults—in keeping with Christ's instructions to His followers.
What is Disloyalty Really?
We think of disloyalty in a marriage as being when one spouse commits adultery. The fact is, we can be disloyal and unfaithful just as thoroughly by putting business, or parents, or hobbies, or someone else before our spouse. That, too, is disloyalty. And anyone who is not ready to place his spouse ahead of career, ahead of parents, ahead of friends, ahead of recreation, is not ready for marriage—and such a marriage will fail. Marriage is for adults, not for children.
3 Most Important Characteristics
Successful Godly Marriage
No marriage can prosper if there is no praise. Everyone in life needs to feel appreciated at some point by someone. And nothing can kill love faster than continual criticism.
When we husbands and wives praise each other—in small ways as well as in big ways—we are also saying to one another: I love you; I value you. Praise nurtures a good marriage. And it is the one characteristic that is most lacking in modern marriages.
Forgiveness is essential for a happy marriage. When couples ask me, "Do you think our marriage can survive?" my answer is always, "Yes, providing you are willing to forgive each other." And this forgiveness should not be just after a major crisis in a family. It should be every single day.
In a successful marriage, a husband and wife are constantly asking forgiveness of each other. When we don't do this, wounds don't get healed. We grow apart from each other. We grow cold towards one another, and we don't obtain the blessings that God sends down on husbands and wives that mutually forgive one another.
A successful marriage takes time. It does not happen overnight. It must grow. It is a long and difficult process; like all good things in life, it comes through considerable effort and struggle. Those of you not yet married, or on the verge of marriage, should remember this: we live in a society of instantaneous gratification—we want what we want, when we want it, and that when is now.
And this impatience on our part has had a very destructive effect on marriages, even in the Orthodox Church. If we have no patience with each other, and are not willing to give many years to working out a successful marriage, then our marriage is doomed.
No marriage is so good that it cannot be better, and no marriage is so bad that it cannot be improved—provided that the persons involved are willing to grow together by God's grace toward the maturity of Christ, Who came "not to be served but to serve."
An absolute essential requirement for a good marriage is the capacity to grow up. Emotional immaturity is one of the greatest causes of failure in marriage. Of course, we all come to marriage with our private assortment of immaturities and hangups. But we have to learn to outgrow them.
When I was a child, observed Saint Paul, I thought as a child. I spoke as a child, I understood as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things. How essential it is to a happy marriage to put away childish things: irresponsibility, insisting on getting one's own way, egotism, lack of empathy, temper tantrums, jealousy. How important it is to pray every day: "O God, help me to grow up... to look beyond myself... to realize the needs and feelings of my wife/husband, and accept the responsibility God has laid upon me."
“Marriage is the key of moderation and the harmony of desires, the seal of a deep friendship… The unique drink from a fountain enclosed, and accessible to those without. United in the flesh, one in spirit, they urge each other on by the goad of the mutual love. For marriage does not remove God, but brings all closer to him for it is God himself who draws us to it.“ – Saint Gregory the theologian