We all want to have close loving relationships. Whether it is your family or friends we want those relationships to be healthy and last a long time. It’s the same in our marriage relationships. Our desire is to have a long, happy, healthy marriage. I’ve studying about love and relationships for a while now and thought I would write about how to make love last.
The Bible has a lot to say about this topic. Relationships are highly valued by God. He told us to love Him with all we have and to love other people. 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen is the most famous teaching about love. It is used in most weddings and many vows. The Apostle Paul is teaching about the way of love, kind of a reminder about how to love other people, especially your spouse. I want to focus on verses 4-7. In verses 4, 5 & 6 he talks about things most of us would agree are very important in loving another person.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” I think we all agree those are hugely important in any love relationship. Then he says something that has always bothered me. He uses a word I don’t like to use much, he says always, not once but four times. “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” The Message version says this: “Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.”
Always, really, how is that possible? The more I thought about it the more I am convinced that this is the key to a long, happy love relationship. Let me explain.
In every relationship there are expectations. When those expectations are not met there is a gap. It is in that gap that we have a choice to make. Do we choose to assume the worse about the other person or do we believe the best. When someone you love lets you down and does not do what he said do you always look for the best or do you go negative.
In a business book called “The One Thing You Need To Know” by Marcus Buckingham he talks about a study that was done on happily married couples. They were looking for the one thing that was common with happily married couples. They thought the answer would be that they knew each other well and had clear expectations about each other. That was based on studying couples that were struggling in their marriages. What they found was just the opposite. They found that happily married couples had an unrealistic view of their spouse. In questions about their spouse they always rated them higher than the person rated themselves. The study discovered that couples that choose to believe the best about their spouse until proven otherwise were much more happy in their relationship.
Another way of saying it is that they make charitable judgements about each other. When he is late from work again, she thinks and believes that he is working hard on some important things and is grateful that he provides for the family. When she forgets to pay a bill again, he thinks and believes that she has been busy and things have been a little crazy lately.
When one of your expectations is not met, what do you choose to do? Do you choose to believe the best and spiral upward in love or do you assume the worst and spiral downward in love? Think back to when you were falling in love with this person. You did not notice the negative things, because you were so focused on the good things. The happiest couples were the ones that have maintained that in their marriage.
When you choose to believe the best, you draw the other person closer to you. You cause the other person to want to be with you. When you go negative, even if you are right, you push the other person further away from you. No one wants to disappoint someone they love. When you assume the worst and say those negative words you are contributing to the damage of your relationship.
This principle works for any relationship. How do you respond to your children when they don’t meet your expectations? How about your parents, your friends, your brother or sister?
Read it again: “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”