What is a godly marriage? How can I have a healthy marriage? Both are questions I've asked over the years as it felt like I had neither. It is so easy to feel hopeless when marriage is hard. Today I will share 16 Characteristics of a Godly Marriage you can start building today to have a healthy marriage. They all Biblical marriage principles that will give you hope for marriage!
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Characteristics of a Godly Marriage
Let me be clear that you can not start with these common questions:
- “What are the traits of a godly husband?”
- “What are the characteristics of a godly wife?”
While those are important questions, they tend to get you on the offensive. If you start with those questions you will begin to tear down your spouse rather than focus on creating the godly marriage you desire.
So while these characteristics of a godly marriage may apply to either a husband or a wife I encourage you to ask yourself this question instead.
“Do I show this characteristic of a godly marriage? Am I a godly spouse?”
If you begin there God will be able to mold your heart and change your marriage.
And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,” Ezekiel 11:19
What is a godly marriage? It is not a perfect marriage. No, godly marriage is simply a marriage where one or both spouses are leaning into God – trying to do marriage God's way.
Are you saved? Has there been a time when you realized you were a sinner, far from God? Salvation is the first of these 16 Characteristics of a godly marriage because without God in one of your lives there will not be a godly marriage.
Maybe you've been asking ‘How can I have a healthy marriage?'
Ideally, both husband and wife would be saved, on fire, living their lives for God alone. When you are both keeping Christ at the center of your lives you will have a healthy marriage.
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,” 1 Peter 3:1
But what if you are saved while your spouse is lost? Maybe your spouse claims to be saved but there is little fruit or evidence in their life of that salvation. Or perhaps you know they are saved but they are not a mature Christian.
It's okay. It's not ideal, but what in life is ideal? If you look up a godly marriage verse or godly marriage scripture you will find that God gives us an honest picture of real, flawed marriages throughout the entire Bible. Most of the time one spouse is following hard after God while the other is either lost, doubting or discouraging the other from following God.
Be sure to read “Through God's Eyes: Marriage Lessons for Women“
As flawed human beings, we will each be in different places with our walk with God. If one of you are saved and following hard after God there is still hope for a Godly Marriage.
2. Bible Study
It's not enough just to be saved, though that is one of the characteristics of a godly marriage. You need to really spend time with God, get to know God! Bible Study is a characteristic of a godly marriage because through bible study you will know His voice.
God has a plan for your life and God has a plan for your marriage. You will never know God's plan unless you are in His Word getting to know Him.
For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
The enemy also has a plan for your life – or a plan to keep you from God's plan for your life. If the enemy had his way he would keep you from everything God has for you. God wants you to have a healthy marriage which is why He lays out Biblical Marriage Principles throughout scripture. The enemy wants you divorced, depressed, far from God's will and God's plan. When the enemy can get divorce into your story he gets to take down the entire family.
When you study the Bible you learn to recognize God's voice. When you know the voice of God you will recognize any other voices trying to pull you away from God's best in your life.
How do you study the Bible?
It does NOT have to be complicated or time-consuming. I love Bible Verse printable cards to help me be consistent in the bible. I print them out and tape them on my bathroom mirror. When I am washing my hands I read a verse, think about what it means and pray that God helps me live it out.
Bam. Bible Study in 2 minutes while doing life!
Bible Study can also be a long, in-depth and hyper-spiritual.
There are seasons I love a good Beth Moore Bible Study. I love being in a group of women studying the same thing because we can grow together, share insights I would have missed on my own. But those take about 45 minutes to 90 minutes every day. As a mom of little kids, I don't have that much time every day anymore.
A shorter study, like Priscilla Shirer or Jennifer Rothschild, is more my speed. 15 minutes in the morning 4 or 5 days a week is more manageable for me. But then there are days I have 5 minutes. So why not just read a chapter of Psalm or Proverbs. Write a verse in your journal as a prayer and just enjoy God without any religious guilt.
God doesn't have an approved bible study list. He doesn't stare down from heaven marking some religious chart. Oh, Sally only read 2 verses today. No star for her. No. God cares about you and longs to spend time with you. Whatever time you have to spend with God will grow your faith, strengthen your relationship with Him and lead to a successful marriage!
3. Prayer Time
Let's say you are saved. Great job! You are well on your way. Maybe you read your bible every so often, you joined a Bible Journaling group, printed out some verse cards and you are on your way with God. That is amazing and you are growing spiritually. Prayer is the next logical step.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16
Prayer is how we talk to God. God longs for an intimate relationship with you. We know the importance of Communication in Marriage but somehow we miss the importance of communication with God to develop all the characteristics of a godly marriage.
I don't mean those quick three word prayers we are all good at praying either.
- God help me.
- God change him.
- Bless this food.
- Protect them, Lord,
Yes, those prayers are okay when we are in the thick of life, but we need more than that if we are going to grow in faith.
How do you start praying consistently?
Prayer is simple. Just talk to God. Do you remember the beginning days of your marriage? Mine was before texting (yikes I feel old). He got off work at 10 and I would wait by the phone because I knew he would call when he got home. We would talk for hours just to talk. Nothing important was said really, but we were talking. I loved him and wanted to hear His voice. He loved me and wanted to hear my voice.
God loves you and wants to hear your voice.
Set a time each day just to talk to Him. Mark it on your schedule so you are reminded every day to spend a few minutes talking to God. You will find that as you pray your faith will grow, you will develop even more characteristics of a godly marriage!
Can I be honest with you? It doesn't matter how faithful you are to bible study and prayer. It doesn't matter if you are both saved and working intentionally to build a healthy marriage. There will be hard things in your marriage. Anytime two flawed humans live together tempers will flare, selfishness will emerge and sin will come to light.
The cultural norm is to walk away when marriage is hard. Shoot, it's not just marriage, when life gets hard in any area we walk away. Quite the job. Leave the friend. Disown the family member. Find a new church. We are a generation that doesn't fight for things or work through the hard parts.
But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” Matthew 17:21
God uses the hard parts of life to grow us. And when life gets too hard we can turn to God and cry out to Him.
Scripture is filled with references to God's people fasting and praying when life got hard.
How do you fast over your marriage?
Fasting doesn't have to be complicated. To fast is simply to give up something that you seek for satisfaction in order to seek God instead. Maybe you spend hours on social media, plan a day to pray over the hard parts of your marriage every time you are tempted to check your notifications.
Fasting is one of the most unrecognized characteristics of a godly marriage because it shows your complete dependence on God to move in your Marriage.
He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom.” Proverbs 18:1
You can not have a godly marriage alone. The culture has spread its propaganda too far. Everywhere you look there are ads drawing you into lust, commercials tempting you to discontentment, magazines string restlessness and regret. You need to be surrounded by like-minded people trying to do life God's way.
If you ever wondered why you should go to church, this is a good reason. In that church are other married couples trying to cultivate the characteristics of a healthy marriage as well. They need you as much as you need them.
In those safe circles, you can talk about the real problems in your marriage. Maybe there is a couple who have been through that and can share Biblical marriage principles to help you get through it as well.
A safe community of Christians is something you desperately need to have a successful marriage!
6. Godly Friends
It's not enough to just go to church with other Christians, you need to have godly friends. Godly friendships are different than friendships with your lost girlfriends in many ways.
Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
- Lost friends will give you cultural advice when you have marriage problems. Godly friends will point you back to scripture.
- Lost friends will agree with you and say just what you want to hear. Godly friends will confront you when you are wrong and point you back to God.
- Lost friends will not want you to fight for your marriage when things get hard. Godly friends will remind you that God is with you and will fight for you.
- Lost friends will question you when you fight for your marriage. Godly friends will pray for you, text you verses and be there to talk when things get hard.
- Lost friend will tempt you to do things that are against god's way. Godly friends will encourage you to walk with God and still have fun His way.
Spending too much time with lost friends will be detrimental to your faith and your marriage. Intentionally investing in time with godly friends develops the characteristics of a godly marriage.
Why did you get married? Were you in love? Did you imagine that love would last forever and never change? How long did it take to realize that love – the emotion of love- comes and goes and can't be relied upon?
So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Matthew 19:6
A marriage who's foundation is the emotion of love will fail. To have a successful marriage you must make your foundation commitment. Commitment to God, commitment to the covenant of marriage and commitment to choosing love.
Love is something you can choose – every day. That deep love we learn about from 2 Corinthians 13 can define your marriage if you stand firm on that commitment. Commitment is key to all the characteristics of a healthy marriage because it becomes a value that drives us to keep going, keep trying, keep fighting.
8. Submission to God
Submission is such a dirty word in our culture, but it is a word God uses over and over again in scripture. God calls us to submit to Him which is different than salvation. Yes, at the time of salvation you submit to God as Lord of your life. That is a beautiful experience that leaves you set on fire for God. You have a deep desire to read the bible, pray, go to church and tell others what God has changed in your life.
But when that fire dies down and life get's hard you still need submission. When you are tempted to check social media while on the clock at work, you feel a prick in your soul that that is stealing company time, you can either submit to God and get back to work or you can submit to yourself and sin.
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
Submission to God is a daily choice we make when we are tempted to do life our own way. God has a way to do life, God has a plan and will for your life and your marriage. But it is far easier to try to be your own God.
- If I were God of my life I would tell my husband everything I don't like about him, commanding him to change to please me.
- When I am submitted to God, I speak the truth in love about many things but I let love cover a multitude of sins as well.
- If I were God I would flirt harmlessly with the cute new guy at work. When I am submitted to God I run from sexual temptation.
Submission to God develops the characteristics of a godly marriage in beautiful ways.
9. Submission to Each Other
Okay so we talked about submission, why am I still on about this word you hate? Because the Bible tells us to be submitted to every believer. WHAT? How does that work?
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 2:3-5
I want what I want when I want it. Can you relate?
God tells us repeatedly to be the last, let others be first, give up my preferences, serve others… on and on He goes about submission. And I hate it. I want my own preferences. But growing in faith often requires me to lay down my desires at the foot of the cross and show others that selfless love.
What does submission look like In marriage?
It would be easier to describe what Submission is NOT in Marriage. I want the toilet paper put on the roll flipped over the top. He often just sets the role on the floor by the commode. For years I railed at him about how ridiculous that is. It takes 5 seconds to put it on the roll – the right direction. Then God convicted me to let love cover that. Now when I come into the bathroom and see the role on the floor I pray for him, then put it on the roll myself.
Submission happens in small acts of love and acceptance and builds a healthy marriage. Is the toilet paper roll really more important than building up my husband in our marriage? No. I could let it be if I am not careful…. and I have many times. Now that is a silly example and I know many of you will be dealing with harder things.
How do I submit to a spouse I don't respect about things we disagree on?
There are preference issues in marriage and then there are core values where you disagree. We experienced that a while back as my husband was trying to find the right job. He hopped from job to job (8 in one year) for about three years and every time he quit a job without a new job we were in financial trouble. Every time he took a new job it was a different schedule and a new routine for our family.
That was a hard season in marriage. I struggled to respect him. Bitterness and resentment grew as I needed stability and security in life. I value security and consistency. We needed financial stability. But in the end, God showed me that my husband wasn't trying to hurt us, he was really just trying to find his place. Through the entire situation (we are still in it) God provided for us, opened new doors, and taught me so much about His love and faithfulness.
How does the bible say a wife should treat her husband? Respect and submission – even when it's hard.
While I could not depend on my husband to provide consistently through that time I could count on God. Talk about developing the characteristics of a godly marriage! God grew my character though my husband was not exhibiting all the traits of a godly husband.
How do I submit to a spouse living in sin?
Whether your spouse is lost or saved we all sin. When sin affects your marriage it is hard to submit, to even know what that should look like. Maybe they gamble often while you all struggle just to make ends meet every month. Or maybe pornography is in your home and you don't know what to do.
A submissive wife is not a doormat. There are things you overlook in love (like the toilet paper) and there are things you get help with. I believe you can submit to your spouse while setting healthy biblical boundaries.
These are five steps I recommend to any wife in a difficult marriage situation:
- Submit to God. Take the issue to God for direction.
- Find a good Christian Counselor to talk about healthy boundaries
- Have a difficult conversation with your spouse about the ungodly thing
- Follow through on the boundaries is they do not change
- Be honest with your church about the situation and get help for you while you fight for your marriage.
10. Realistic Expectations
There are things the Bible says we can expect from a spouse. Usually, I advise wives to set aside expectations for a season when they are in a difficult marriage because we tend to expect perfection. Being a godly woman in a relationship often requires seasons of self-sacrifice like this.
There has only ever been one perfect person – Jesus Christ – and your spouse is not him.
We can not expect perfection and if we are living submitted to God and others we will not expect perfection. But there are days it's tempting right? So what does the Bible say you can expect from your spouse? It's easier to look at what you can expect them not to do
but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:32
Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.” 1 Corinthians 7:15
See these articles for more on this:
God calls us to peace, those who abuse their spouse go against God's teaching acting as an unbeliever” 1 Corinthians 7:15
Psalm 11:5 The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates.
11. Godly Thinking
You will go through difficult seasons of marriage where it is tempting to think through all of your spouses' flaws. Resist the temptation.
Negative thinking, critical thinking, fault-finding thinking leads to words that speak death.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8
The first step to being sure you speak words of life is to be sure you think words of life.
Keep your thinking in line with Philippians 4:8.
Godly thinking is a way to grow your own faith and develop the characteristics of a godly marriage.
12. Godly Words piggyback Godly Thinking
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21
You want those words that speak life into your marriage. Yes, you do. When you are consistently speaking words of life you create momentum in your spouse that spurs them to do more things to get those words.
The husband who will not lead is often won by the wife speaking godly words to Him. Not beating him over the head with the Bible, but affirming him when he does well. Admiring him when he shows good character goes a lot farther than nagging him to go to church with you. You want your husband to become a spiritual leader? Your words can motivate that!
The wife who is distant is often won by the husband who speaks godly words to her. Not correcting her continually but praising her for the good you see in her character.
Godly words build the momentum that leads to a successful marriage.
13. Active Listening
We are such a distracted culture with the rising obsession with social media. It is rare to have a face to face conversation without someone on their phone. Even when you are face to face talking we spend more time thinking through the next thing we want to say than listening to what the other person said.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James 1:19
Active listening is among the list of characteristics of a godly marriage because it puts your spouse first.
How do you start active listening?
- Put away your phone.
- Turn off the TV
- Listen to what your spouse is saying.
- Ask questions about what they just say.
- Allow a pause between what they said and what you say to really think about it.
- Don't allow distractions while talking… just listen
You will build real intimacy if you engage in active listening.
14. Time Alone
After you have kids it seems there is no time alone with your spouse. We had to put an extra lock on our door just to have some time for intimacy. Drat, those turkeys for find the key to the first lock 😉
You have to make time alone a priority or it just won't happen. And listen, Time alone is a critical characteristic of a godly marriage.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” Ecclesiastes 3:1
How many couples do you know who divorced after the kids left home?
When you let parenting take over your marriage you lose something you may not be able to get back.
Find a baby sitter. Schedule a date every couple of weeks. Keep the date! Spend time alone enjoying each other. Spend some time getting to know each other again if it's been a while! Make it a priority as it is among the characteristics of a godly marriage.
15. Fun together
If you are a newlywed reading this you may laugh that I had to include this in the list. Just wait. You will understand one day. Having fun together is absolutely among the characteristics of a godly marriage!
So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15
Life is full of boring things, burdening things and more responsibility than we can handle.
- House Work
- Healthy concerns
- Church commitments
- Kids schedules
If you get stuck in responsibility mode and lose the ability to have fun together you are in for trouble. Make sure your date night has some rules.
- No talking about the kids
- No talking about the bills
- Do something just for fun
- Laugh together
- Joke about things that are hard (okay if it's a joke about the kids 😉 )
You may find you have to plan the fun at first, but once you get back in the habit it will just happen. Make having fun together a priority – it will lead to a happy marriage as it rightly among the characteristics of a godly marriage.
16. Biblical Priorities
If you are like me you would say you do most of this… most of the time. But life get's busy, hard things come in and it is easy to get off track. It's been months since Bud and I went out together without the kids. How did that happen? How can you be intentional to invest in these characteristics of a godly marriage?
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
Set a reminder in your schedule to check in with God about things. Ask Him to show you what Biblical Priorities He has for you. I bet they look like this:
- Love God
- Spend time with God in bible study and prayer
- Love Others
- Prioritize your marriage over other relationships
- Everything else…
It is hard to live by Biblical Priorities consistently but I find one thing helps. Make God first every day. Start the day with prayer before your feet hit the ground. Set aside a few minutes to read the word first in your day. When God is first, everything else will usually fall into place.
Start Building with these Characteristics of a Godly Marriage
Do you feel overwhelmed with all 16 Characteristics of a godly marriage? Pick one. What is one thing you can do today to start building a healthy marriage – a successful marriage?
- Are you and your spouse saved?
- Do you read the bible most days?
- Do you have a set time to pray?
- Are there hard things you need to pray over?
- Have you found a bible teaching church to plug in to?
- Are you connecting with godly friends more than your lost friends?
- Where are you with committing to your marriage?
- Have you decided to submit to God in every area of your life?
- Do you submit to your spouse?
- Do you have realistic expectations in your marriage?
- Are your thoughts lining up with Philippians 4:8?
- What kind of words do you speak most of the time?
- How are your listening skills?
- Do you have a date night regularly?
- When was the last time you had fun together?
- Do you check in with God about your priorities often?
You don't have to tackle all 16 things on this list today. Download the checklist and pick one thing and commit to working on it today. Come back next week or next month and try to work through the next item. As you press into God and seek to do Marriage God's way He will bless you and build a healthy marriage – a godly marriage over time.
Finding Hope and Joy in My Marriage Course
Whatever season of Christian Marriage I find myself in, it seems easy to forget that God’s way and the Culture’s way are different. Fortunately, there is help for wives to get their marriages back on track!
- Are you a wife worried that your Christian Marriage is not going to survive?
- Do you feel hopeless, joyless or miserable in your Marriage?
- Are you a wife – unsure what your role is in your Christian Marriage?
- Do you struggle to connect as a couple anymore?
- Do you feel trapped?
- Have you tried everything and nothing has helped our Marriage?
- Are you thinking or talking about divorce?
Can you imagine a Marriage where:
- You feel loved an show love in a way that actually meets your and your husbands needs.
- There are clear goals as you reach for your desires in life.\
- Bonus – you can quickly recognize the things that work against your desires – and avoid them
- What if when you speak to your husband – you hear wisdom and grace instead of criticism and nagging?
- You better understand your husband and can clearly communicate with him, build him up and Respect him.
- Bonus – he will grow in confidence & momentum will build until one day you will see him leading in your home and loving you like you always dreamed he would.
- You will have a closer relationship with God, a healthy family, and a rich nourished soul inside yourself.
Be sure to also read:
- How to Grow a Strong Marriage During the Storms of Life
- 19 Encouraging Bible Verses for a Troubled Marriage
- God's Design for Marriage