Recently, I saw a post asking whether people believe in "romantic love." The comments below the post were surprising and saddening in nature. A great many people seemed to hope that such a thing as romantic love might exist, but they hadn't found it yet. Some were so jaded from past relationships that they doubted it was even possible.
All around me, I see relationships in "crash and burn" mode. Perhaps they survived for a few years, maybe even a decade or two together, but ultimately, more and more marriages are taking a fatal nosedive.
What causes this tragic epidemic of casualties, especially among Christian couples - those who claim to know the source of true love? I suspect there are many reasons that could be cited, and many complicated variations of those reasons. Sometimes there are very real problems that eat away at a marriage until it cannot survive. Whatever the reasons, so much heartache and destruction trails in the wake of a ruined marriage. Broken hearts, broken children, broken lives, and so much baggage - can it be avoided?
I believe it can. I have only been married for 17 years at this point, and I definitely do not claim to be an expert on marriage. However, in that time, I have learned some very important lessons about love that lasts.
1. Before you say, "I do," be absolutely certain that God is leading you together.
I cannot begin to tell of the marriages that have struggled from the outset because two people rushed into marriage blinded by passion that overruled their common sense and everyone else's objections. Marriage is a lifetime decision, not something to be lightly entered into, then discarded when it becomes inconvenient or uninteresting. If you are married already, then God's will is for you to stay in that marriage unless you are in real, physical danger. I won't say anything more about that now, but perhaps I will address it at a later date.
2. Accept your spouse for who they are. Too many people enter a relationship with the ulterior motive of "fixing" the other person's real or imagined faults. If you love them, you will not try to manipulate them into conforming into someone they are not. You wouldn't appreciate that, so why do you think they would? Love is not two perfect people falling in love - it is two imperfect people trying their hardest to love one another.
3. Cultivate a sense of humor.
Let's face it - marriage can be tough. Situations arise on a regular basis that can stress us out and cause us to snap at one another. Instead, take a step back, take a deep breath, and try to find the humor in the situation. Perhaps it will, at the time, seem a little like "gallows humor," but learning to laugh instead of cry, scream, or blame can make a huge difference. This works best if you are laughing together, not at the other person. It takes some work at first to see things in a humorous light, but after a while, it becomes second nature.
4. Be faithful.
I shouldn't have to say this, but there it is. So many people destroy their marriage by neglecting this basic rule. Perhaps they never intend to, but a word here, a look there, an inappropriate text or two, and soon the seeds of an affair, either emotional or physical, are sown. Guard your marriage closely. The pasture is not greener on the other side of the fence.
5. Love deeply and unreservedly.
If God has blessed you with a marriage partner, He has given you a special ministry. Only you can complete that other person. Your job is to be the most loving, supportive spouse that you can be. Don't let little things drive a wedge between you, and never go to bed angry. You are not guaranteed tomorrow, and lavishing your love on your spouse will ensure that you have no regrets.
6. Pray for one another.
It is the greatest thing you can do for your spouse. You, better than any other person, know their strengths, weaknesses, struggles, trials, blessings, and fears. It is also impossible to stay angry with someone while intervening for them before the throne of grace.
7. Walk in the Spirit.
So much pain and heartache could be avoided if we just followed this rule for life. Things said and done in the heat of a moment can chip away at your love and the foundation of your marriage. Offenses are taken up and held closely, grievances (many of which begin as simple misunderstandings) are taken out, petted, and fed with bitterness until they reach epic proportions. All of these destructive behaviors are an evidence of failure to walk in the Spirit.
Perhaps this is a bit simplistic, and not at all exhaustive in nature, but following these basic rules will give you a love that lasts for years.
Happy Valentine's Day! Here's to many happily ever afters!