By Jenn Nolen
Romantic love has long been a source of inspiration and fascination. It’s easily the most prevalent topic for music, movies, and books. Songs have compared love to everything from a rollercoaster to a river to an eternal flame. It’s been referred to as blue, bleeding, crazy, and dream-like. We have eternal love, endless love, baby love, and even muskrat love. Movies hook us with the meet-cute, dazzle us with over-the-top proposals and elaborate weddings, and end with our blissful couple riding off into the sunset. Romance novels? Let’s not even go there.
But what happens after the music fades, the credits roll, and the last page is turned? In make-believe, all conflict and doubt has been overcome and it’s smooth sailing from then on. For couples in real life, however, relationships are a bit more complex, and looking for guidance from the world around us can leave us disillusioned and unprepared.
I asked several Faith Community couples how they’ve managed to build a strong and lasting marriage that transcends the difficulties and obstacles of the real world. This is what they had to say:
“Building a strong and lasting marriage starts with putting God first in the relationship. Adopting God’s values for our marriage will keep the focus away from things of the flesh that can so easily drive a wedge in our relationships such as fear, control, and insecurity. Adding to that the intentionality of always pursuing our spouse, whether it’s planning a regular date night, doing something special for him/her or simply learning about and applying their love language will far exceed both of your expectations.” The Moores – 7 years
“Building a strong and lasting marriage takes time and starts with basics. Knowing and understanding your spouse’s love language, and making sure they feel loved, is so important. Be patient with each other as you grow, and communicate about what you are dealing with. When life gets difficult, rely on God’s promises, and know that no matter what happens you will get through it together. Focus on your love for each other, your blessings, and God’s faithfulness. When your marriage experiences hardships, pray and go back to the basics of your relationship. Focus on why you fell in love in the first place, and start off simple like putting your hand on their shoulder when you walk by.” The O’Briens – 10 years
“We have both decided to put Jesus first. I personally can’t imagine a marriage where God is not at the center. He is where our help comes from. I now know what people mean when they say that they love someone more today than they did years ago. I believe that navigating life with your partner strengthens the bond you have, IF you don’t buy into the lie that the grass is greener elsewhere. I believe the great seasons are always great, but I think it’s the difficult and trying seasons where you grow as a couple. It’s in those times, if you survive them, that you realize who has your back. I fully believe the payoff is beautiful and is worth all the hard work, tears, and difficult conversations you’ve put in.” The Sarvers – 17 years
“I don’t think we start out this way, but once we get comfortable, we lean heavily on our spouse to fulfill all our needs – mental, emotional, and physical. Then we get sad, frustrated, or bitter when our expectations are not met. Strong and lasting marriages are created when both husband and wife begin to understand two things: 1) our source of fulfillment and purpose comes from God and God alone, and 2) I am partly responsible for the state of my marriage and the state of my marriage is partly dependent on ME.” The Haases – 18 years
“Love unconditionally, listen objectively, and learn something new about your partner continually.” The Davids – 24 years
“We were married for 7 years before we were saved. I drank and worked too much and my wife was on the verge of leaving. Salvation changed us. Before God, we put ourselves first, but after salvation, it was the opposite. We looked for ways to put each other first – even in the little things. Years later my wife was diagnosed with cancer and she’s been fighting for 18 years. Before God, we couldn’t have kept going. Too many couples give up too soon, but you have to keep fighting for your marriage and stop believing that the grass is always greener elsewhere. Growth is a process – it’s tough, but when you come out the other side it’s such a joy. Going through trials and tribulations helps you grow. We love each other more than we did then. I wouldn’t trade a day of it – I’d still ask her to marry me. If you’re going through a rough patch and want to give up, don’t do it. Make time together a priority, don’t go to bed angry, and keep your sense of humor.” The Quicks – 37 years
“Although we started our married life in church, we drifted and decided to try to do life without God. Without God, we fought, had trust issues, and had some very bad habits. Poor choices in a 10-year span caused the most stress of our 46+ years of marriage. We rededicated our lives to Jesus together and since then, I’ve seen our relationship grow in Christ. Our marriage has seen both better and worse, but with Christ in the center, we are more loving, affectionate, and dedicated to each other, day by day. it’s really hard to put into words, but love does grow deeper and richer, and I look forward to the coming years knowing it’s going to keep getting better as we keep God first.” The Fosters – 46 years
“To build a strong and lasting marriage, it’s important to understand one another’s strengths, weaknesses, and personality. Discover the person that God created your spouse to be. Don’t criticize each other for their weaknesses, but encourage their strengths. In difficult seasons, we always made sure to be in agreement on how to approach the situation. It’s important to realize that we have an enemy that wants to destroy marriages, so fight together against the enemy and not with each other.” The Laschobers – 46 years
“How? By letting God bring us through the hard times and the good times. The days we want to run away, we run to God. We have not always done this. We’re in trouble when we think our way is best. We survived my addiction – our marriage was in divorce court, but God had other plans for us as individuals and as a marriage team. How? By putting Him first, going to church, reading the Word, praying together, staying filled with His love, practicing acceptance and forgiveness, and by not always having to be right. If our marriage came through the fire anyone’s can be put back together. So, in a nutshell, make Jesus your go-to person for answers, not the world. Treat your mate as you want to be treated, even when it’s hard. Thank Jesus daily for a good mate and love beyond measure.” The Weisses – 53 years
Common sentiments in the above quotes are: seeking God together, putting your spouse above yourself, and prioritizing your marriage relationship. How comforting to know that we don’t have to rely on what culture tells us about relationships – we can look to God and His Word. When we push the distractions and noise to the background and align ourselves with His will, we can better see what true love is – and what it isn’t.
This week, talk to your spouse about expectations set by society, media, or your family of origin – and how those differ from God’s vision of love. Discuss how to better align your marriage with God’s vision and take one step toward that goal – have that difficult conversation, attend a retreat, read a devotional, schedule a date night, or contact a counselor. God’s design for marriage isn’t just one of longevity, but one of growth, encouragement, and maturity. Following His way, we can create our own romance story that leaves a legacy for generations to come.
If you’re reading this and find yourself in an unhealthy or abusive situation, we are not asking you to “stick it out.” If that’s you, know that you’re not alone and help is available! While using a safe computer, click here for more information.