(Adapted from a portion of a series by George Uba, entitled “When Love Comes Home.”)
Nearly every married couple seeks a fulfilling relationship that includes unity, true intimacy, joy, optimism, and that inexplicable admiration experienced by all those who are in love. All of these aspects (and more) constitute the vibrant, romantic love that is so crucial to the marriage relationship.
When you hear the words “romantic love,” what comes to mind? Some people think of flowers, candles, hearts, and violins. Some may think that romance is a luxury; others think it is only for young people. Is it possible to be in love with your spouse decades after the wedding? The answer is, yes!
Remember the time when you were getting acquainted? Those precious moments of having a picnic together, looking long into each other’s eyes, gazing up at the stars, and just enjoying conversation? This is that romantic love—that flame which we need to keep aglow throughout the rest of our lives. And even though flowers and candles are enjoyable, true romantic love savors the relationship by making time for it and giving it our best efforts. How?
Both husband and wife need to cultivate the powerful tool of thought to keep love alive. Savor thoughts about your spouse that concentrate on his or her good qualities and the happy times that you have shared together. When you ridicule or reprove your spouse (even if only in your thoughts), romantic love vanishes. Instead of criticizing your loved one in your mind, cultivate thoughts of respect and honor. In order to maintain your spouse’s respect, refrain from discussing his or her weaknesses with friends and family members. Rather, make a habit of speaking of each other’s better qualities.
Provide a positive and affirming emotional atmosphere. “Little” rebukes and reproofs can pave the way to divorce. You may think that you are trying to change your spouse or situation for the better, but in reality you are needlessly causing pain. If you want to express your feelings to bring about important changes, use “I” sentences, limit the word “you,” and refrain from using exaggerated words like “always” and “never.” For example, instead of saying “You always forget to do that!,” say “I feel hurt when that chore is neglected.”
Did you know that your actions can change your feelings? Even small thoughtful or helpful deeds for one another will increase your feelings of affection. The words “I love you,” spending a special evening together, sharing happy laughter, and taking a walk in nature are precious opportunities to strengthen your relationship. You might have to schedule an appointment with each other to make it happen! Studies show that people who love each other deeply share close eye contact just as they did in the beginning of their relationship. Eyes that express love and interest encourage reciprocation!
Unselfish desire to make your loved one happy is the main ingredient of romantic love. True love forgets self and focuses on pleasing the other. Keeping score of your spouse’s mistakes and faults is especially harmful if one views marriage as a contract. Marriage is not a contract that can be revoked whenever the other person does not “meet your criteria.” It is a covenant carefully constructed by God to enable us to selflessly love and care for the other “till death us do part.”
The most important factor in assuring a lasting marital love is to keep a deep love relationship with your heavenly Father. Putting God first will result in a love toward one another that will grow deeper and nurture unity. Sharing in the spiritual experiences of devotions and prayer helps achieve that.
Helpfulness is another essential quality that contributes to a happy marriage. Doing something together with your spouse (and especially involving your children) to help and support those in need, will not only bring a sense of joy and usefulness, but also unity to your family as a team. The core of happiness is to share happiness.
And last, but not least, remember that keeping a sense of humor can prevent a lot of arguments and misunderstandings. Instead of replying with anger, turn it into a positive sentence with a smile. You will be happy you did! I remember a time that my husband arrived home and left a trail of clothes behind him in the living room as he headed to the bedroom. I swallowed the annoyance and then called him back, saying, “Honey, why don’t you ask your clothes to follow you?” Then he, not willing to be outdone, scolded his dropped apparel with a smile, “Why didn’t you guys follow me?” We both smiled, and the situation was ended with no irritation! Even just a touch of humor can make a big difference!
Tips for Understanding Each Other
- A man who realizes that small acts of love are as important for his wife as big ones will have a happier wife and a more successful marriage.
- Most women feel loved when they receive frequent affirmative comments and expressions of affection. This assures them that Yes, I am important to him. He cherishes me—he loves me!
- When a wife pours out her frustration to her husband, he tends to withdraw if he doesn’t know how to solve her problem. What men often do not realize is that women aren’t seeking an answer to the problems—not instant fixes—but rather a listening, sympathizing ear, and an acknowledgment of their feelings.
- Women need to appreciate the special acts of love from their husbands and express thankfulness. Men tend to stop giving and doing when they feel their efforts are not appreciated or are taken for granted.
- Women should understand the natural tendency of men to concentrate on the big picture to the exclusion of small details. By realizing this, they will be less inclined to take offense when their desires are not met.
- Since it is typical for a man to think that he can do everything by himself, he may not ask for help until he desperately needs it. The husband who doesn’t offer help to his wife is likely assuming she is like him in that respect—she either doesn’t need the help, or would prefer to handle the problem herself. Conclusion? He is only waiting to be asked.
- Women persist and persevere which can deteriorate into nagging, creating one of the biggest barriers to romantic love. The spouse may give in to the nagging, but often with resentment and to the detriment of the relationship. Solve this by bringing your desires to God in prayer; you might be surprised at the changes that take place in your spouse—without a single word from you!
- Prayer, unselfish love, and forgiveness are the key solutions to all the problems and misunderstandings in relationships.
- Where romantic love is blooming and expressing itself daily, marriage will never become stale or dominated by selfishness.
- Avoid criticism, competition, self-justification, raised voices, offenses, fear, insecurity, power struggles, distrust, separate budgets, or irresponsibility.
“God is love and … by His grace you can succeed in making each other happy, as in your marriage pledge you promised to do. Heart will be bound to heart in the golden bonds of a love that is enduring.” – White, E.G. The Adventist Home, p. 112-113