What The Bible Says About Sex And Marriage

This page contains Bible passages about sex and marriage, an extract from a psychology book about improving marriage, and links to articles about problems caused by having sex outside of a committed long-term relationship, how to improve your chances of getting together with the right person, for instance by going about dating more skilfully and learning to tell the difference between love and just short-term infatuation, improving marriage and preventing divorce, problems caused by pornography use, and other things.

These include links to articles on this website, part of the Self-help series on this website that features articles on depression, anxiety problems and other things as well as relationship and family difficulties.

In the New Testament, the Bible says:

Hebrews chapter 13 (NLT)

4 Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.

2 Timothy chapter 2 (NLT)

22 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.

In the apostle Paul's first letter to the Thessalonian Christians in the New Testament, he warned them to have higher principles than many in the culture they were living in - a warning that must surely still hold true today. The Bible says:

1 Thessalonians chapter 4 (TEV)

2 You know the instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 God wants you to be holy and completely free from sexual immorality.

1 Thessalonians chapter 4 (NLT)

4 Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honor - 5 not in lustful passion as the pagans do, in their ignorance of God and his ways. 6 Never cheat a Christian brother in this matter by taking his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. 7 God has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives. 8 Anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human rules but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

In chapter 3 of his book "Sanctity Of Life", author and preacher Charles Swindoll, referring to those instructions to the Thessalonians, writes:

... "Apekomai is the word translated 'abstain.'" {or in the translation used here, "be ... completely free from"} "It means 'to go away from, to depart, to be distant, to keep hands off!' ... The word 'abstain' is rarely used in scripture, but when it is, it means just that. ...

... "How broad is this word for sexual immorality? It is the Greek term Porneia (pornography) which includes ... incestuous relationships, unnatural acts with beasts and animals, premarital sexual relationships and extramarital sex."

So we can tell that the New Testament's message to Christians about sex, radical for this day and age in the West, is that people shouldn't have sex till they're married, and then after that, they should be faithful to one another. Here are some reasons the Bible's instructions to Christians about sex still make sense even today. There are at least eight basic reasons:

Romantic dinner

  1. If sex was just for pleasure, perhaps the Bible would have less to say about it. But it can be so much more serious than that, partly because of the risk of unwanted pregnancy, either creating children who will suffer if they don't grow up in a loving environment where people are dedicated to their care, or new lives destined to be snuffed out when they've barely begun: Masses of abortions take place nowadays, and in less developed countries they can often be performed unsafely, using methods that are sometimes quite barbaric and stressful for the woman, and they can even lead to the death of the woman , or injury, or illness due to infection.

    Also, unwanted pregnancy can lead to young women and girls keeping their children but having their career prospects and educational opportunities damaged at a young age, and sometimes finding it difficult to cope with a child who won't stop crying or wants to wreck the place and so on.

    When affairs lead to unwanted pregnancies and the women pass off the children as their husbands', men are being treated unfairly as they spend their lives spending a lot of money on and giving care and time to children that aren't theirs.
  2. Affairs in themselves can cause a lot of psychological distress to the partner who discovers they've been cheated on, both because of the affair, and because of the betrayal of trust all the lies and deception the cheating partner will likely have done in covering up the affair. Affairs can sometimes also cause sexually transmitted diseases to be brought into the home.
  3. While nowadays there is good contraception that can reduce the risks of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases a lot, it doesn't always work, especially since it's easy to forget or not bother to use it properly - for instance, people can forget to take a pill, or not feel like using a condom in the heat of the moment because they're enjoying themselves and don't want to stop to find one. A lot of people don't think to use contraception, and in some countries it isn't even easily available to most people.

    Meanwhile, huge numbers of people in both developed and developing countries are picking up sexually transmitted diseases, some which can lead to infertility, and a couple that can even lead to horrible deaths.
  4. Sex before marriage and sex outside marriage can hurt people psychologically, as the physical closeness and affection and other good feelings they get when they have sex can cause people to become attached to their sexual partners more than they would have done if they weren't having sex, so it can be more upsetting for them if the relationship splits up. And the earlier in the relationship they start having sex, the more likely it is that the relationship will break up, because couples won't have had time to make sure they're really compatible before they start having sex, so clashes in personality, disagreements over values and other things that cause difficulties in the relationship might only show up afterwards.

    Heartbreak can especially be caused if one partner was never even intending the relationship to last and thinks of the sex as just a bit of pleasure, while the other one doesn't realise the relationship's future is already bound to be short-lived and thinks of the sex as a real sign of closeness that's going to lead to something special. The partner who just thinks of the sex as a bit of pleasure might say all kinds of sweet things, sometimes with the intention of deliberately deceiving their partner so they'll get what they want - sex, - that make the other one think they feel more deeply for them than they do. And after all, even where there is no intent to deceive, "I love you" can mean several different things, from, "I truly care about your well-being and have deep affection for you" to "Your body looks good and it would be really nice to have it right now".
  5. Worse, because sex can make people feel closer to each other than they would do otherwise, they can be fooled into believing they're a better match for each other than they really are, and move in together or marry before they've taken the time to find out if they're really compatible. That can mean they suffer a lot more hardship later when the relationship breaks up, especially if there are children who become distressed by parental disputes and the disappearance of one parent from their lives.

    On the other hand, some people from communities that don't believe in sex before marriage will marry partners way sooner than it's sensible to marry, because they want sex with them. Obviously this causes the same problems with people marrying before they really know if they're suitable for each other. But the remedy for that is not to say sex before marriage must be good after all, but to educate such people about the need to really get to know the personalities of the people they're going out with before thinking of marrying them, so they can have a better idea of how well they'll get on when times aren't so easy, and thus how likely the relationship is to last.
  6. Once a person's had sex, they can crave more because of the intensely enjoyable feelings they experienced if it was good. If they first have sex in a relationship that realistically isn't likely to last, it can mean they're more likely to get into unwise relationships after it breaks up, partly because they crave more sex and physical affection. Some can end up trapped in unhappy relationships that are difficult to get out of because they've become committed to them for various reasons, such as having kids with their partner after they had sex with them before thinking about whether they'd be a good long-term partner and parent; or they can have a series of short-term relationships that cause discord and bitterness as they break up because they were unsuitable.

    If young teenagers get used to a lifestyle where they're often having sexual contact, it can even be disruptive to their life chances in some cases - though there will probably also be other things going on that are just as bad - but being absorbed for some time in getting physical highs with others, and then in dealing with possible heartbreak whenever a relationship that meant something breaks up, and having to deal with pregnancy fears or pregnancy itself, rather than having their minds focused on their education and developing other skills and abilities that'll serve them well in their career and the development of their minds, can stop them concentrating so much on making a good future for themselves.
  7. Not having sex before marriage can protect people from others who only want to use them for cheap thrills. A lot of women and girls are fooled by abusive men who shower them with compliments and presents at the beginning of a relationship, not showing their abusive side, as a cynical strategy to gain their trust and affection so they'll be more willing to have sex with them, and also sometimes so they can be abusive to them and still keep them coming back. They can boast of their ability to seduce women, while all the time the woman they're currently working on can genuinely feel in love with them and assume the men love them in return. If a woman or girl makes it clear from very early on that she doesn't believe in having sex before marriage, and that she doesn't believe in marrying quickly either because it's important to really get to know partners first, then a lot of these men, perhaps after unsuccessfully trying to persuade or ridicule them into changing their minds and agreeing to have sex with them before marriage, will decide the woman or girl is boring or just no fun or too difficult to influence, and go away. The woman, though she might feel a bit upset if she feels rejected, will have had a lucky escape from an abuser.
  8. Having a reason to have a firm stance on not having sex before marriage is also a protection against people - especially teenage girls - getting into a lifestyle where they end up feeling cheap and used, because they've been persuaded that it's the norm to have sex with whoever they've got together with at the end of an evening out, or they've given into pressure from young men who simply have overactive hormones and want a sexual release, or who like sex and aren't responsible enough to think about the possible consequences of their actions and wil try it on with women and girls just to get the physical pleasure. Women can sometimes enjoy a lifestyle of casual sex for a while, but end up feeling a bit dirty or disgusted with themselves, maybe especially if they end up in a serious loving relationship and wish they could think of sex as more of a special thing now they're having it with someone they consider special. That's even if they haven't picked up any sexually transmitted diseases or had to have an abortion.

That isn't to say that the Bible opposes sex before marriage because something will go wrong every time a person has a lifestyle where they're having casual sex or sex with new boyfriends or girlfriends they don't know all that well; it might not. But where ten people are having a lifestyle where they have sex with people outside of a relationship where they're committed to each other for the long term and know each other well enough to have truly good reasons to believe the relationship can last - including being confident they can argue without too much bad feeling being generated most of the time, - chances are that something will go wrong for some of them, and no one can say with any certainty that it won't be them. The Bible's commands are there to protect society as a whole.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth in the first letter of his to them that was put in the Bible:

1 Corinthians chapter 6 (TEV)

12 Someone will say, "I am allowed to do anything."

Yes; but not everything is good for you.

I could say that I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave. 13 Someone else will say, "Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food."

Yes; but God will put an end to both. The body is not to be used for sexual immorality, but to serve the Lord; and the Lord provides for the body. 14 God raised the Lord from death, and he will also raise us by his power.

15 You know that your bodies are parts of the body of Christ. Shall I take a part of Christ's body and make it part of the body of a prostitute? Impossible! 16 Or perhaps you don't know that the man who joins his body to a prostitute becomes physically one with her?

The scripture says quite plainly, "The two will become one body." 17 But he who joins himself to the Lord becomes spiritually one with him. 18 Avoid immorality. Any other sin a man commits does not affect his body; but the man who is guilty of sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; 20 he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God's glory.

1 Corinthians chapter 5 (GWT)

9 In my letter to you I told you not to associate with people who continue to commit sexual sins. 10 I didn't tell you that you could not have any contact with unbelievers who commit sexual sins, are greedy, are dishonest, or worship false gods. If that were the case, you would have to leave this world. 11 Now, what I meant was that you should not associate with people who call themselves brothers or sisters in the Christian faith but live in sexual sin, are greedy, worship false gods, use abusive language, get drunk, or are dishonest. Don't eat with such people. 12 After all, do I have any business judging those who are outside [the Christian faith]? Isn't it your business to judge those who are inside? 13 God will judge those who are outside. Remove that wicked man from among you.

In Matthew's Gospel in the New Testament, the Bible says:

Matthew chapter 19 (TEV)

1 ... Jesus ... went to the territory of Judea on the other side of the Jordan River. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 Some Pharisees came to him and tried to trap him by asking, "Does our Law allow a man to divorce his wife for whatever reason he wishes?"

4 Jesus answered, "Haven't you read the scripture that says that in the beginning the Creator made people male and female? 5 And God said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one.' 6 So they are no longer two, but one. No human being must separate, then, what God has joined together."

7 The Pharisees asked him, "Why, then, did Moses give the law for a man to hand his wife a divorce notice and send her away?" 8 Jesus answered, "Moses gave you permission to divorce your wives because you are so hard to teach. But it was not like that at the time of creation. 9 I tell you, then, that any man who divorces his wife for any cause other than her unfaithfulness, commits adultery if he marries some other woman."

The Old Testament prophet Malachi had prophesied:

Malachi chapter 2 (NLT)

16 "I hate divorce!" says the LORD, the God of Israel. "It is as cruel as putting on a victim's bloodstained coat," says the LORD Almighty. "So guard yourself; always remain loyal to your wife."

In love

So we can tell the Bible says marriage should be for life, and that divorce is a truly truly undesirable option. A lot of that has to do with the protection of children, since divorce can be very distressing for children as well as the ones getting divorced, and the living standard of the children and the partner left looking after them can drop a lot in the absence of the one who was out making most of the money. In countries where they don't have a welfare state, deserted partners looking after young children can suffer such terrible hardship they might not even get enough to eat.

But even in the richest countries, the emotional upset caused by angrily arguing parents and then the loss of one of them can be severe, and even affect children's future for years to come. For instance, feeling emotional distress and also having a lifestyle disrupted by the new arrangements that have to be made such as a move to a cheaper house and new school can affect concentration on schoolwork and school grades badly, which can affect future jobs and so on.

and the failure of the parents' marriage can make children more pessimistic about their own relationships when they grow up, so they can get discouraged and give up on them and divorce or separate more quickly than they might if they saw their parents work through problems and come out of them with a relationship that's just as strong as it was before. That means the children's children will likely suffer at least some of the same things they did, and the cycle can continue throughout the generations.

So people should be as certain as they possibly can be that they're going to want to stay with the person they're with till they're old and grey before they embark on behaviour that could lead to marriage, such as becoming very emotionally attached to each other by becoming physically close, or moving in with each other. If they wait till they're fairly sure they could live with each other through hard times before they do such things, and make sure they agree on the really important things in life that could cause a lot of conflict if they don't, such as the way to discipline children, and how sensible they're willing to be with money, it's best for everyone, irrespective of what the Bible says, because it makes the distress of relationship breakdown after things have got serious less likely.


Before a relationship gets sexual or even just serious, one thing that should be in the absolute forefront of the minds of the couple in it should be, "Would this person be a good father/mother to any children I might have now or in the future, (either as a result of choice, or an unplanned pregnancy)?" if they wouldn't, then becoming more attached to the girlfriend-boyfriend could lead to an unhappy marriage or unhappy children in the future, or a much more distressing break-up later on when the children are hurt as well as the marriage partners.

So people should never get into a serious relationship based just on what feels good at the time. To make obeying the Bible easier, as well as to make life less distressing in the long term, it's far better to really think about the future before getting into relationships, and not to do things in them at first such as turning the relationship physical that will lead to strong emotional attachments that can cause such powerful feelings that people don't want to have to think about anything that might be a warning sign that things might start going badly one day.

The Bible says that Jesus Christ said something that sounds very harsh, but he was exaggerating to emphasise the importance of what he was saying, a common tactic in that part of the world:

Matthew chapter 5 (NLT)

27 "You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Do not commit adultery.' 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye - even if it is your good eye - causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand - even if it is your stronger hand - causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

31 "You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a letter of divorce.' 32 But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

The Bible uses extreme language in parts. It was common in the society where it was written to use hyperbolic language so people were exaggerating the point they really wanted to make; at a time when very few things were written down and most people couldn't read and write anyway, important things were sometimes exaggerated so they'd stay in the memory of those being spoken to. For Jesus to have used language like that means he really wanted to get across the importance of the point he was making about sex outside marriage being wrong; he didn't mean what he said about plucking out eyes and so on literally.

In the Book of Proverbs, the author wrote:

Proverbs chapter 6 (NRSV)

20 My child, keep your father's commandment, and do not forsake your mother's teaching. 23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, 24 to preserve you from the wife of another, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. 25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; 26 for a prostitute's fee is only a loaf of bread, but the wife of another stalks a man's very life. 27 Can fire be carried in the bosom without burning one's clothes? 28 Or can one walk on hot coals without scorching the feet? 29 So is he who sleeps with his neighbor's wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished. 30 Thieves are not despised who steal only to satisfy their appetite when they are hungry. 31 Yet if they are caught, they will pay sevenfold; they will forfeit all the goods of their house. 32 But he who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself. 33 He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. 34 For jealousy arouses a husband's fury, and he shows no restraint when he takes revenge. 35 He will accept no compensation, and refuses a bribe no matter how great.

Proverbs chapter 22 (TEV)

14 Adultery is a trap-it catches those with whom the Lord is angry.

Proverbs chapter 25 (TEV)

26 A good person who gives in to someone who is evil reminds you of a polluted spring or a poisoned well.

In the Old Testament, the Bible gives instructions that can be taken as anti-incest laws:

Leviticus chapter 18 (GWT)

1 The LORD spoke to Moses, 2 "Tell the Israelites: I am the LORD your God. 4 Follow my rules, and live by my standards. I am the LORD your God. 5 Live by my standards, and obey my rules. You will have life through them. I am the LORD.

6 "never have sexual intercourse with anyone related to you by blood. I am the LORD.
7 "Never have sexual intercourse with your mother. She is your own mother. Never have sexual intercourse with her.
8 "Never have sexual intercourse with your stepmother. She is related to you through your father.
9 "Never have sexual intercourse with your stepsister, whether she is your father's daughter or your mother's daughter. It makes no difference whether or not she was born in your house.
10 "Never have sexual intercourse with your granddaughter, whether she is your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter, because she is related to you.
11 "Never have sexual intercourse with a daughter of your father and his wife. She is your own sister.
12 "Never have sexual intercourse with your father's sister. She is your paternal aunt.
13 "Never have sexual intercourse with your mother's sister. She is your maternal aunt.
14 "Never have sexual intercourse with the wife of your father's brother. She, too, is your aunt.
15 "Never have sexual intercourse with your daughter-in-law. She is your son's wife. Never have sexual intercourse with her.
16 "Never have sexual intercourse with your sister-in-law. She is your brother's wife.
17 "Never have sexual intercourse with a woman and her daughter or a woman and her granddaughter. They are related. Doing this is perverted.
18 "While your wife is living, never marry her sister as a rival wife and have sexual intercourse with her.
20 "Never have sexual intercourse with your neighbor's wife and become unclean with her.
22 "Never have sexual intercourse with a man as with a woman. It is disgusting.
23 "Never have sexual intercourse with any animal and become unclean with it. A woman must never offer herself to an animal for sexual intercourse. It is unnatural. "

In the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 7 (TEV)

1 My child, remember what I say and never forget what I tell you to do. 2 Do what I say, and you will live. Be as careful to follow my teaching as you are to protect your eyes. 3 Keep my teaching with you all the time; write it on your heart. 4 Treat wisdom as your sister, and insight as your closest friend. 5 They will keep you away from other men's wives, from women with seductive words.

6 Once I was looking out the window of my house, 7 and I saw many inexperienced young men, but noticed one foolish fellow in particular. 8 He was walking along the street near the corner where a certain woman lived. He was passing near her house 9 in the evening after it was dark. 10 And then she met him; she was dressed like a prostitute and was making plans. 11 She was a bold and shameless woman who always walked the streets 12 or stood waiting at a corner, sometimes in the streets, sometimes in the marketplace. 13 She threw her arms around the young man, kissed him, looked him straight in the eye, and said,

"15 I came out looking for you. I wanted to find you, and here you are! 16 I've covered my bed with sheets of colored linen from Egypt. 17 I've perfumed it with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18 Come on! Let's make love all night long. We'll be happy in each other's arms. 19 My husband isn't at home. He's on a long trip. 20 He took plenty of money with him and won't be back for two weeks."

21 So she tempted him with her charms, and he gave in to her smooth talk. 22 Suddenly he was going with her like an ox on the way to be slaughtered, like a deer prancing into a trap 23 where an arrow would pierce its heart. He was like a bird going into a net—he did not know that his life was in danger.

Proverbs chapter 23 (TEV)

27 Prostitutes and immoral women are a deadly trap. 28 They wait for you like robbers and cause many men to be unfaithful.

Proverbs chapter 9 (TEV)

10 To be wise you must first have reverence for the Lord. If you know the Holy One, you have understanding. 11 Wisdom will add years to your life. 12 You are the one who will profit if you have wisdom, and if you reject it, you are the one who will suffer.

Proverbs chapter 29 (TEV)

3 It is a foolish waste to spend money on prostitutes.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth:

1 Corinthians chapter 7 (NLT)

1 Now about the questions you asked in your letter.

Yes, it is good to live a celibate life. 2 But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. 3 The husband should not deprive his wife of sexual intimacy, which is her right as a married woman, nor should the wife deprive her husband. 4 The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband also gives authority over his body to his wife. 5 So do not deprive each other of sexual relations.

The only exception to this rule would be the agreement of both husband and wife to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time, so they can give themselves more completely to prayer. Afterward they should come together again so that Satan won't be able to tempt them because of their lack of self-control. 6 This is only my suggestion. It's not meant to be an absolute rule. 7 I wish everyone could get along without marrying, just as I do. But we are not all the same. God gives some the gift of marriage, and to others he gives the gift of singleness.

8 Now I say to those who aren't married and to widows - it's better to stay unmarried, just as I am. 9 But if they can't control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It's better to marry than to burn with lust.

10 Now, for those who are married I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord. A wife must not leave her husband. 11 But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else go back to him. And the husband must not leave his wife.

12 Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a Christian man has a wife who is an unbeliever and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. 13 And if a Christian woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. 14 For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not have a godly influence, but now they are set apart for him. 15 (But if the husband or wife who isn't a Christian insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is not required to stay with them, for God wants his children to live in peace.) 16 You wives must remember that your husbands might be converted because of you. And you husbands must remember that your wives might be converted because of you.

25 Now, about the young ... who are not yet married. I do not have a command from the Lord for them. But the Lord in his kindness has given me wisdom that can be trusted, and I will share it with you. 26 I think it is best to remain just as you are. 27 If you have a wife, do not end the marriage. If you do not have a wife, do not get married. 28 But if you do get married, it is not a sin. And if a young woman gets married, it is not a sin.

However, I am trying to spare you the extra problems that come with marriage. 32 In everything you do, I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord's work and thinking how to please him. 33 But a married man can't do that so well. He has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. 34 His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be more devoted to the Lord in body and in spirit, while the married woman must be concerned about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.

36 But if a man thinks he ought to marry his fiance because he has trouble controlling his passions and time is passing, it is all right; it is not a sin. Let them marry. 37 But if he has decided firmly not to marry and there is no urgency and he can control his passion, he does well not to marry. 38 So the person who marries does well, and the person who doesn't marry does even better.

39 A wife is married to her husband as long as he lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry whomever she wishes, but this must be a marriage acceptable to the Lord. 40 But in my opinion it will be better for her if she doesn't marry again, and I think I am giving you counsel from God's Spirit when I say this.

In a book called Psychology For Social Workers And Counsellors, Carole Sutton gives some advice for marriage counsellors, that ordinary married couples could also make use of:

She says a good way to start making progress in solving marriage problems is, rather than simply for each partner in the couple to complain about what they think the other does wrong, to tell the other one how they'd like them to behave differently.


So, for instance, instead of just blaming the other partner for starting all the arguments, which would likely just lead to a new argument, they might think about how the arguments get started and how they might be stopped, and if they recognise a pattern, they could ask for a change. For example, if they realise a lot of arguments begin when their marriage partner belittles them when they make mistakes, they could say to them in a non-confrontational way something like, "Do you think that in future, instead of telling me I'm no good at something whenever I make a mistake, you could simply suggest ways I could do it better from now on, or be a bit patient, knowing I'll probably work out a better way myself?"

When a couple are trying to improve their marriage, each partner in it can think of several little manageable ways in which they want the other one to behave differently. What they say should be specific, phrased in a way that'll make sure the other one knows exactly what they mean. A person might assume the other one knows what they mean when they say something, when the person really has no idea. For instance, if someone says they want their partner to be a better lover, what does that mean exactly? Does it mean they want them to be more skilful sexually? Does it mean they want them to show more gestures of affection throughout the day? Does it mean they want them to make love more often? Or what? People are a lot more likely to be able to improve their behaviour to the other's satisfaction if they have a clear idea about what the other one really wants. So it's best for a person to be specific about what changes they'd like, and also to think of several small things that are actually realistically achievable so they can change bit by bit, rather than giving them something big to try and accomplish all at once. For Instance, a husband asking his wife to lose the heap of extra weight she's carrying might seem a bit daunting for her, so she might be too discouraged to try. But if he suggests the two of them take up walking and swimming every week and aim towards losing weight bit by bit, she might actually think it seems quite a nice idea, and an achievable one. And after a while, all that weight might be gone.

So a couple wanting to improve their marriage could each think of several little ways in which they'd like the other one to behave differently, and also try out the new behaviours the other one wants them to have.

If one partner says something that sounds a bit vague, the other one could ask them to clarify what they mean. For instance, one woman who said she wanted her husband to be a better lover turned out not to mean she wanted him to be better in bed, but that she wanted him to be more romantic and affectionate during the day.

It turned out that the husband had come from a family where they didn't show open affection towards each other, and where in fact that was discouraged. But the husband did feel deep affection for his wife, though he didn't express it because it was a family habit he'd learned as he grew up. Once the wife was reassured that he did really feel affection for her, things became easier. Then he was encouraged to do little things that ended up delighting his wife and making her feel more loved in the way she wanted, such as bringing her a cup of tea in bed every now and then, giving her flowers on her birthday, arranging an outing on their anniversary, and so on.

Being romantic

That didn't mean he wasn't doing the "right thing" before when he hadn't been doing that. It just meant changing a bit to please the other one, since the wife came from a family where people did expect each other to show their love for each other in those ways, so she'd thought her husband would do those things if he loved her, and they made her feel loved when he did.

People need to consider, though, that both partners need to make the effort to change for the sake of each other, otherwise one might just get discouraged and give up. And finding a compromise might often be the best solution.

Child with a toy duck

For example, there was one couple where the husband said he wanted his wife to be a better mother to the kids. Because saying that in itself didn't actually tell her what he wanted her to do differently, the counsellor they were seeing gently asked him exactly what he meant. It turned out that he wanted her to stay at home all day so she could look after the children whenever they were there, just as his own mother had prided herself on doing. It turned out that his wife, on the other hand, had been brought up to believe women should make the most of every opportunity they got to educate themselves and develop their talents, so she thought that was what she should do.

Both the husband and wife felt sure they were "in the right", because of how they'd learned to think of the matter as they were growing up, and they thought the other's attitude was morally wrong, so they were each angry that their partner should hold such an attitude. It helped them a bit when the counsellor discussed with them how they each felt so much "in the right" because of the attitudes they'd learned from their families as they were growing up, rather than because they just knew what was right and wrong. It helped them realise there were other things they were just assuming were true because of the way they'd learned to think of things as they were growing up as well. But still, each partner carried on feeling more in the right than the other.

But because they now realised they held their attitudes because of the way they'd been brought up, rather than because they had a sense of absolute right and wrong, they were each more willing to compromise with the other one. That meant they would at least both get part of what they wanted, rather than one person having to totally change to suit the other one.

So instead of the husband insisting that his wife give up her job to be with the children when they came home after school and in the holidays, as he'd demanded she did before, he agreed that if his worry about the children being at home on their own at four o'clock could be relieved by his wife going to work part-time in school hours so she could be with them afterwards, he would try to adjust his work schedule so he could spend more time at home in the holidays to look after them while she was at work.

The wife gladly agreed to the compromise, because she'd worried the counsellor would try to persuade her to give up her job completely, and was happy that she'd be able to carry on working, albeit part-time.

The counsellor then discussed with them the need for each of them to recognise and show appreciation for the other one being willing to give up some of what they wanted to make the compromise.

The counsellor helped them work out the details of the compromise with each other, so they ended up with a set of small manageable plans to put into action. For instance, the wife agreed that the husband's family could stay with them twice a year, in return for the husband taking a week off work to look after the children while she went away to a summer school for a week each year.

Once they'd got into the habit of compromising, they were able to work out lots of little plans like that, and it made for a happier marriage.

So the couple came to think of staying together as a much more agreeable idea, and divorcing as a worse option.

Links To Resources With Advice For People With Marriage Problems, and Information on the Effects of Divorce

Trying to Make Sure it Really Is a Good Idea to Marry the Person You're Thinking of Marrying and What Will Improve a Relationship

Links to Self-Help Articles on This Website About Improving Marriage and Preventing Divorce

For Those Whose Marriages Have Irretrievably Broken Down Because of Violence

Links to Articles With Advice on Forming New Relationships, and Distinguishing Real Love From Lust or Infatuation

Links To Articles About Problems Caused By Sex Before Marriage, Viewing Pornography And Sex Crime, And Help For People With Sex And Pregnancy-Related Problems

The Words of a Cartoon About Abortion by Steve Kelly:

  • He kissed me and I melted.
  • My heart pounded at his touch.
  • His embrace sent the blood coursing through my veins.
  • I was overcome with passion! I couldn't refuse.
  • Now I'm pregnant and I want an abortion.
  • After all, a woman should have control over her body.

Links To Stories From People Who Regret Having Had An Abortion

"Sanctity of Life" by Charles R. Swindoll is copyright 1990 by Charles R. Swindoll

The main Bible pages on this site:

Bible Bible Part 1: Bible Quotations, The Holy Spirit, People And Their Stories
Bible Part 2: The Lives and Suffering of the Ancient Israelites
Bible Part 3: The Bible, Articles About Alleged Inaccuracies in it, And Stories of People who Became Christians.
Go to the next in the series: What the Bible and a psychology book say about the submission of wives to husbands in marriage.

The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.

Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).

Other initials:

Warning Against Believing Everything you Hear or Read

Don't be afraid to question the truth of what a religious authority figure tells you, or even the Bible or other holy books themselves, or certain people's interpretation of them. Nothing to do with religion or the supernatural is so well established in fact it shouldn't be questioned. To find out why caution is a good idea, visit:

The Beauty of the New Testament's Moral Teaching and Other Important Pages on this Website

Are you up to trying the challenges of the New Testament's moral guidelines, and would you like to know more of what it says about the love of Jesus? Here are some links to Bible quotes about the beautiful ideals the New Testament encourages Christians to try to live up to:

There are a lot of pages on this website with quotations from the Old Testament on them. Many of these are unfortunately rather gruesome, since the main theme of the Old Testament is warnings and stories about how it says societies were punished for mass lawless and hurtful behaviour, even to the extent of having war brought on them by God, that seem to have been designed to scare societies where crime and violence were rampant into behaving more ethically. In case there is any misunderstanding, it should be understood that this website does not endorse war as anything other than a last resort. The position of the website owner can be gleaned from the articles:

Fancy some light relief or laughter therapy? Then go to the first of our jokes pages:

If you have a problem affecting your mental health or well-being, like depression, a difficulty with life-damaging worry, panic attacks, phobias or OCD, marriage problems, an addiction, an eating disorder, recovering from the trauma of sexual abuse or domestic violence, coping with bullies in the workplace, or bullying and teasing at school, trying to lose weight, raising difficult teenagers, caring for someone with a disease like Alzheimer's, wanting to recover from anorexia or self-harm, or grieving for someone you were close to or feeling lonely, and you'd like some ideas on coping or getting past it, visit our Self-help series.

If this is the first page you have visited on this site, this is part of Broadcaster.org.uk, a website about social and psychological issues, what the Bible says about social problems and other topics, and how they affect people's lives today.

Go to the Broadcaster.org.uk home page to find out more.....