Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy and his wife, Lauren, believe you can have an uncommon marriage—one that stands the test of time—when you build it on the eight biblically based principles listed below.
1. Look to the Bible as your guidebook and to Christ as the living example for your marriage.
Psalm 1; Ephesians 5
Make Christ the center of your marriage.
Treat your parents and others in authority with respect.
Husbands: Work hard to hear your wife’s heart and meet her needs.
Husbands: Be prepared to love sacrificially.
Wives: Show love and respect to your husband.
Wives: Strike the right balance between acceptance and expressing your disappointment when following your husband’s lead in an area where you disagree.
Wait on God’s timing; don’t try to make things happen yourself.
Find your identity in Christ, not in the world.
Look to God as the source for all the stamina and patience you need.
Cling to each other and to God’s promises that he is always with you when you face hard times.
Prepare your mind and heart so you are ready for the opportunities God brings to you.
Run to God rather than from him when troubles come.
2. Stay in sync spiritually.
Proverbs 3:5-6; Matthew 18:19-20; Romans 8:26-30; James 1:5
Communicate about spiritual matters–which should be the number-one priority of your life.
Look for opportunities to study the Bible with your spouse and/or in a small group.
Accept that the time and place where you connect spiritually as a couple may need to change along with the seasons of your marriage.
Ask God to give you his infinite wisdom and to make you of one mind as you pray about decisions.
Remember that God will answer your prayers in his timing—and in ways you might not expect.
Continue to pray together in the good times–that’s often when couples make foolish mistakes.
Consider the input and wisdom of others when making decisions.
Plug into a church that offers solid biblical preaching and where you feel at home.
Seek out an older couple who can model a strong marriage and family life.
Be open to the possibility that the Lord is speaking to you through the input of your spouse.
Share with each other the lessons you learn as you study the Bible.
Don’t resist change when you see God bringing something new into your life.
3. Manage expectations and appreciate your differences.
1 Corinthians 12:14-21; Ephesians 4:2-7
Recognize that differing expectations are inevitable given different upbringings.
Be open to exploring new or different family traditions.
Don’t expect your spouse to be able to read your mind.
Learn to adjust to and accept the “quirks” of your spouse’s side of the family.
Train yourself to look for your spouse’s strengths in his or her differences.
Allow each spouse to take the lead in the area of his or her strength.
Seek outside counsel when expectations and differences are too great to work through on your own.
Be wise when picking your battles, understanding that your spouse probably doesn’t intend his or her weaknesses to cause you grief.
Recognize that God often brings together different types of people to complement each other and bring balance to a family.
Expect that you will see things differently at times.
Engage in activities you both enjoy together, but allow each other to maintain separate interests as well.
Model appreciation of differences by treating each of your children as an individual with distinct needs at school and interests at home.
4. Work as a team.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Ephesians 4:15-16
Consciously think of your spouse as a valued teammate.
Make a special effort to learn more about your spouse’s passions and interests.
Parent in a way that champions values, models character, and ensures each family member is doing what he or she needs to do that day.
Seek coaching from trusted family members, friends, or counselors when you feel more like opponents than teammates.
Work to accomplish something important together; as you do, you’ll see your marriage growing stronger.
Be intentional about noticing and addressing the needs of your spouse and children.
Establish household routines to cut down on confusion and stress, but prioritize relationships over structure.
Stay connected through date nights and joint activities.
Don’t rush into making major decisions.
Consistently demonstrate support for your spouse.
Cherish every moment with family members.
Treat your kids’ sports and other activities as being just as important as anything else on your family calendar.
5. Practice committed love.
Matthew 19:4-8; 1 Corinthians 13
Commit to stay together, no matter what.
Spend time, if possible, getting to know each other before starting a family.
Be willing to sacrifice to support your spouse’s passion.
Be sensitive and considerate to your spouse during transitions.
Expect that life will bring some difficult times; don’t let them pull you away from your spouse.
Affirm and express love to your spouse–especially when he or she is going through tough times.
Be willing to step up and do a little more than usual when the situation requires it.
Seek to keep your romance alive, but be aware that it’s normal for feelings to fluctuate and change over time; don’t let unrealistic expectations of constant romance diminish your commitment to–or satisfaction with–your relationship.
Show the world that you are your partner’s greatest fan.
Care for the needs of your spouse’s family as an expression of your love for your husband or wife.
Build an uncommon marriage by staying focused on each other and allowing God to lead you.
Rest in the assurance that God, who promises never to leave or forsake you, knows what’s ahead for your family.
6. Communicate well and often.
Proverbs 25:11; James 3
Learn as much as you can about each other and how you each communicate before you get married.
Accept others’ input when making decisions, but listen the most to God and to each other.
Find a way to talk daily about what is happening in each other’s life.
Listen to and value your spouse’s intuition.
Remember that complaining will always bring you down; gratitude will lift you up.
Model regular communication through family meetings.
Pay attention to and use your spouse’s preferred form of communication.
Ask whether you both have peace and are on the same page before committing to a major decision.
Remember that, with your words, you are teaching your kids how to speak to others.
Use technology to keep you connected; don’t allow it to pull you apart.
Seek to honor your spouse and children by the way you speak about them to others.
Remember that the way you are relating to each other is creating a blueprint for your kids.
7. Don’t run away from conflict.
Watch what you say–even the truth can wound when it’s spoken in the wrong way or at the wrong time.
Avoid frustration and seek to understand each other’s heart by praying together and talking with each other.
Practice thinking about an issue on which you disagree from your spouse’s viewpoint.
Don’t assume your spouse understands how you feel–particularly when life gets busy.
Be bold and speak the truth in love.
Expect that when your emotions and perceptions don’t line up, conflict will occur.
Resolve conflict by trying to understand each other and talking about the best way forward.
Defuse tension during a minor disagreement by apologizing for your part.
Maintain a positive attitude, even in tough times, by building friendships and finding activities you enjoy.
Don’t fear conflict; use it as a tool to understand each other better.
Don’t try resolving major disagreements when you’re tired.
Allow each other to grieve differently, but be open to your spouse’s need to talk.
8. Support each other in serving others.
Proverbs 22:9; Luke 12:48, 22:24-27
Consider what gifts, position, and influence God has given you as a platform to help other people.
Discover joy by giving to others in a way that suits you both.
Use your resources and gifts in a way that glorifies God.
Model what a healthy marital relationship looks like to other young couples.
Don’t spread yourself too thin; it’s hard to serve well and joyfully when you’re over-committed.
Remember that people are watching to see whether your actions and attitudes match your words.
Be open to signals from your spouse that you are over-committed.
Keep your priorities straight: put faith and family first.
Consider what only you can do when deciding where to volunteer or what causes to support.
Focus on both partners’ passions.
Share the spotlight with your spouse whenever you receive credit or recognition.
Taken from Uncommon Marriage by Tony & Lauren Dungy. Copyright © 2014. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.