There is a real outcry for encouraging and helping couples grow strong marriages, and that is our primary mission with our "Covenant Couples" ministry.
First, let's look at what God's Word says about "covenant".  God expresses His relationship to His people in terms of a covenant.
In Genesis 9:9, God made His first covenant with Noah when He said, "I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature."
God considered His covenant to be a solemn personal oath.  His promise is still in affect today.  What is the reminder we see today of God's promise to Noah...and all mankind since him?  God created the rainbow as a reminder of His covenant with Noah.
Let's compare God's covenant relationships with our culture's contractual relationships...
In a contractual relationship, the focus is on "getting it in writing!"  You need to protect yourself from getting hurt by the other person.  Sounds like a trust issue, doesn't it?  Not a good foundation for a solid, lasting relationship!
A contract encourages a mindset that forces each of the parties to live up to their part of the bargain.  For example, "If you will do this for me, then I will do that for you."  Sometimes it's, "If you won't do that, then I will leave!"  That is truly a conditional relationship!
Of course, that creates all kinds of problems in a marriage relationship and builds up resentment, hurt, and anger; which leads to unmet expectations and even divorce at times.
As soon as the conditions I expect are not met, I'm out of here!  And, "As long as we both shall live" becomes, "As long as I'm happy!"
On the other hand, a covenant relationship is initiated for the benefit of the other person---NOT FOR SELF!
In a covenant marriage, each spouse is committed to the other's well being.  This is referred to as "other-centeredness".  Obviously, if both partners keep the covenant, then both of them will benefit; however, the motivation and the attitude is not to get something for yourself, but giving of yourself for the other person's well-being.
In a covenant relationship, the participants make unconditional promises (the opposite of contractual relationships).
Traditional wedding vows use the language of a covenant marriage -- "Till death do us part."  Sadly though, too many couples verbalize the covenant relationship but practice a contract marriage in which giving is conditional on the spouse's behavior.  This can be a slippery slope!
(Our Story)  When we married in the mid-60s (at a very young age!), all odds were against us.  People said it would never last...many marriages a that time did NOT last.  It was the "Capital-I", "Me-First" generation.  "If it feels good, do it."  (Which implies, "If it doesn't feel good, you can get out!")
We took our vows very seriously.  Before we were married, we both made a commitment to never use the "D" word...almost 50 years later, we have honored that commitment.  Divorce was never an option for us.  That doesn't mean we haven't had issues in our marriage...we have!  But we are committed to working through them...together; with the help of the Holy Spirit!
All marriages have issues at one time or another. If you want an excuse to divorce, you will have plenty of opportunities to support your decision.
Marriages don't fall apart when everything is going well.  When issues come up and tempers flare and you wonder what you ever saw in this person you call "spouse" in the first's then that you make a DECISION to stay!
A covenant is a promise that is NEVER broken!  Plain and simple!  "As long as we both shall live" means just that!  When the vows state, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder", that also includes the bride and groom!
You can see why God's plan is for marriage to be a covenant relationship instead of a contractual relationship!
May God bless you with the patience, wisdom and courage to create a covenant marriage!
Digging Deeper:
The word "covenant" appears 286 times from Genesis through Revelations in the New International Version Bible.  Read Genesis Chapters 6 and 9 to learn more about God's covenant with Noah.
Written by Carol Sweebe, Ministries of Hope, Midland, MI USA, 2008