Four Golden Rules to Improve Your Marriage

Every married person would like to have a loving, supportive, caring, and encouraging spouse. Much depends on you and how you relate to your spouse. Here are four insights that can help you have the best spouse ever.

People respond positively to praise.

This husband’s complaint is one I hear often from men: “At work, I’m respected. People come to me for advice. But at home, all I get is criticism.” Though his wife likely thinks she’s giving her husband suggestions, he hears criticism.

Many wives experience this same feeling of discouragement. She said, “I do everything I can to make him happy, but I never hear any word of appreciation. I feel like he takes me for granted.” Her husband may genuinely appreciate all that she’s doing, but his silence depletes her love tank.

Proverbs 18:21 states, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” Many people don’t realize the power that lies in positive words. The fastest way to influence your spouse is to praise him or her.

Praise effort, not perfection. If your husband takes the trash out once a month, tell him how thoughtful he was to take it. If you wish he’d take the trash out daily, affirm his monthly action. There’s a good possibility that it’ll increase.

If you make praise, appreciation, and words of affirmation a way of life, you can sit back and watch your spouse go above and beyond for you.

Requests are more productive than demands.

None of us likes to be controlled, but demands are controlling efforts. The wife who says, “If you don’t mow the grass today, then I’m going to mow it” is setting herself up to become the permanent lawn mower. It’s more effective to ask, “Do you know what would make me happy?” Wait until he responds, and then ask if he could find time to mow the grass since he does such a great job. Chances are, he’ll mow before Sunday.

The same principle applies to wives. You wouldn’t feel motivated to bake if your husband said, “I haven’t had an apple pie since the baby was born. I guess I’m not going to get a pie for 18 years.” If you did bake a pie, you’d do it with resentment. But consider how you’d feel if he asked, “Would you make one of your apple pies? You make the best apple pies in the world.”

Moving from demands to requests can change the emotional climate of your marriage.

Love is a two-way street.

If you want to stimulate your spouse to give you emotional love, you’ll yield the greatest influence by loving your spouse well. In The Five Love Languages (Northfield), I wrote about the importance of discovering your mate’s primary love language—the thing that really makes him or her feel loved.

The five love languages are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, Physical Touch, and Acts of Service. One of these languages will speak more deeply to your spouse than the other four. Visit, and take the quiz to discover yours and your spouse’s primary love language.

A wife once asked me, “Can I love my husband when I’m not receiving love from him?” My answer may have seemed harsh, but I replied, “God did. Scripture says He loved us when we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). “But that’s God,” she said. “I’m human.” “I know,” I responded. “But your God’s child, and He can empower you to love a sinful husband.”

Defensiveness reveals the inner self.

It isn’t pleasant when a spouse gets angry, yet everyone does from time to time. The key is to learn from defensive responses.

Typically, defensive responses are stimulated by a threat to one’s self-esteem. I discovered that a husband who became defensive when his wife mentioned speeding had gotten three speeding tickets when he was a teenager. His parents wisely made him pay for each of the tickets and, after the third, took away his driving privileges for three weeks. When his wife mentioned his speeding, it surfaced his feelings of failure, and he reacted rashly to the one who’d surfaced those negative emotions.

You won’t know your mate’s emotional hot spots until you touch one. Make a list of your spouse’s defensive reactions over the past month or two so that you can discuss them.

With background and insight, you can discover new ways of discussing sensitive topics so they’ll be less threatening to his or her self-esteem. Making the most of defensive reactions can help you have a better relationship and, just maybe, the best spouse ever.

Article courtesy of HomeLife Magazine

Gary Chapman, Ph.D., is an author and marriage conference leader and serves on the staff of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. He and his wife, Karolyn, have two grown children. You can follow Gary on Twitter @DrGaryChapman.


  1. says

    Great article! I believe this is very helpful in better communication between spouses. I have also learned in marriage counseling “you before me” If you can plant the idea of you before me in your marriage the chances are better you won’t fill unappreciated or under valued. In a marriage your priority is God first, then your spouse comes before yourself. If BOTH spouses put each other before themselves the results are amazing!
    God bless!

  2. Wendy Bergen says

    My husband and I read the “5 Love Languages” by Dr Chapman many years ago. This book has helped shape how we show our love to each other. It has been so helpful! This article was a great reminder of that. I think it is also possible for our love languages to change over time. I think it is a good idea to revisit and discuss these concepts with one another now and then to freshen up your marriage!

  3. Sharon says

    I just read your article about five golden rules for marriage I found it to be interesting and help but my only problem is how do you love a verbally abusive husband in a sexless marriage? G

    • LifeWay Women says

      Sharon, so very sorry to read that. We would definitely encourage you to find a Christian counselor in your area for wisdom on this issue. Also, if you’re not in community with other women through the local church, we highly recommend this. We will be praying for you, Sharon.

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