I really want your marriage to beat the odds. Rather than becoming another divorce statistic - or even being among the relationships that are just barely holding it together - I want your marriage to be a great one that lasts for a lifetime. I want to give you the information you need to make your marriage not only survive but thrive. And I want to start by making certain you have a clear understanding of what a good marriage looks like.

Why? Because I am convinced that one of the primary reasons so many marriages fail today is that couples enter into marriage without a clear picture of what a good marriage looks like, or how it works. For many couples, marriage is like being locked in a room with 15,000 puzzle pieces and no picture to guide them as they try to fit them together. So, if they're patient and diligent, they might be able to find the corners and get the border put together but without a clear picture of the end product, their situation is pretty hopeless.

It doesn't have to be this way. God has provided a clear picture of what marriage should look like. So, even if you and your spouse have a multitude of pieces in front of you, with a clear understanding of God's design, you can succeed in putting them together to create a beautiful marriage.

So, what exactly is God's design for marriage? I believe God gives a very simple outline of His plan when He brings Adam and Eve together in the very first marriage. In Genesis 2:24, God says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In this verse, God says the goals of marriage is “oneness,” or intimacy with your spouse, but that “oneness” won't happen if you cling to parents rather than to each other. To become one with your spouse, both of you must separate emotionally, physically, and economically from your parents. You must learn to leave.

Then, as you break from your parents, you must learn to cleave to each other. You need to forge a bond between the two of you that nothing can separate - not even your own selfish desires. You must learn to view all of life through a “we” and an “us” perspective rather than having an “I” and a “me” attitude. You must begin putting your spouse's interests ahead of your own, God's design for marriage has no room for self-centeredness.

Finally, after cleaving you become one flesh. Note that it doesn't say you are one flesh as if it just happens, but that you become one flesh. That's because becoming one flesh is a multi-step process. The first step is growing together spiritually. Each of you must draw closer to God to gain His strength and wisdom for your marriage. Then you grow together socially as you have fun and enjoy life together. Next you grow together emotionally as you share your deepest thoughts, feelings, and emotions. And, finally, you grow together physically as an act of love reflecting that all of these other steps toward oneness are occurring.

I hope this image of marriage as a combination of leaving, cleaving, and becoming one flesh helps you start to see how the pieces of your relationship fit together, but this is just a brief sketch of what God's design for marriage looks like. And whether you're married or considering marriage someday, I pray that God will bless you in your relationships and that someday you will enjoy all the riches of a great marriage that lasts for a lifetime!

Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in Atlanta, GA, and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national radio ministry. Walk Thru the Bible partners with the local church worldwide to teach God's Word in relevant ways for lasting life change. To fulfill this mission, Walk Thru the Bible creates and distributes high quality, award-winning resources in a variety of formats, helping individuals “walk thru” the Bible with greater clarity and understanding. Walk Thru the Bible seminars are taught in over 45 languages by more than 50,000 men and women in over 90 countries; Living on the Edge radio ministry broadcasts on more than 800 radio outlets reaching nearly one million listeners a week; and more than 100 million devotionals have been packaged into daily magazines, books and other publications that reach over five million people each year.

To learn more about Walk Thru the Bible, please visit our web-site at www.walkthru.org.