I’ve been married now for over 33 years. (Yes, I got married when I was twelve.) And I’ve learned a little bit about what makes a marriage great in that time. But it’s probably not what you think. It’s taken me a lot of years and a lot of mistakes along the way to come to a new understanding, a re-definition of a great marriage.

Let me explain. When I was a young pastor, I would describe a great marriage to couples in my offices as a 50/50 marriage. The idea was that as both parties do their part (50%) it makes for a 100% great marriage. You know, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.”

I was wrong.

If you only put in your 50%, you’ve got at best an average marriage. So I began to counsel folks that a great marriage was a 100/100 marriage. With both parties putting in 100%, what could go wrong? Well, for one, I didn’t factor in the human condition. We’re all prone to have bad days. You know, a day where we can only give 80%. The problem is, when one spouse only gives it 80%, their spouse tends to dial it down to 75%, hoping that passive-aggressive punishment will actually boost their partner back to 100%. But it does the opposite. When one party dials down to 75%. The other dials it back to 50%. And so on. This is how couples that genuinely love each other get so far apart over a period of time

But Jesus described relationships based on “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” as a pagan concept. He said, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?…Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:46-48, NIV) Be perfect, like your heavenly Father. What does that look like?


God gives 100% of Himself to the relationship whether we reciprocate or not. I believe this is what defines a great marriage. Where we are willing to put 100% of ourselves into the relationship even if our spouse does nothing in return. Because here’s the reality. You can’t “fix” your spouse. Giving ultimatums or subtly punishing them might change their behavior short term, but it does nothing to change the heart. And long-term it only leads to resentment for both parties.

This is where we must trust the way of Christ. He calls us to love others, even if they don’t extend the same to us. He calls us to bless those who insult us, pray for those who hurt us, give to those who take from us, and forgive those who sin against us.

This applies to marriages as well.

So if you want to have a truly “great” marriage, devote 100% of yourself to your spouse expecting nothing in return. Not only will it change your heart over time, but it will free you in a way you’ve never known before.

Because when we remove all of our expectations from our spouse, we are finally free to love them well.

Marriage Tune-up

  • Feel a little “stuck” in your marriage?
  • Communication’s a real struggle?
  • Too much conflict, not enough resolution?
  • Sex life not what it could be?
  • Just not feelin’ it?

Maybe you could use a marriage tune-up!

A marriage tune-up is a series of 3 counseling sessions with Bruce Martin where you’ll work together on the stuff that’s keeping you from enjoying emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy in your marriage. This is not a “canned” approach, but will be custom-designed for your unique situation. We’ll work on the stuff you want to work on.

Through Marriage Tune-Up, you’ll be able to:

  • Talk about your conflict and struggles in a safe place
  • Identify the issues causing problems in your marriage
  • Unpack the underlying roots fueling those problems
  • Resolve current issues and prevent future ones

3 – One hour sessions for $250.00
(or whatever you can afford. At IYL we don’t believe discipleship should be limited to only those who can pay for it)

Every marriage can benefit from one-on-one time with an objective 3rd party. Investing in your marriage will be one of the best investments you ever make!


To get started, contact Bruce Martin at: