With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, Greg and Sharon wanted to share some tips for how you can have God’s Best in your relationship, whether that be dating, engaged, or married. After 28+ years of marriage, they have learned – sometimes the hard way – some foundational truths that make all the difference when it comes to walking in love, especially during those moments where your partner is not the most loveable!
1. Express Your Expectations
We all enter into a relationship with expectations, and as you spend more time together and maybe even get married and begin to plan a future together, those expectations mold and change as you as people mold and change. What’s really important is never letting those expectations go unvoiced to your partner. Don’t expect them to read your mind. Even small things, such as “I want you to put the toothpaste back once you’re done using it,” or big things such as, “I want to have children with you someday,” need to be communicated in order for your relationship to stay healthy and growing. Ephesians 4:15-16 says,
But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Good communication is the lubricant for a well-working relationship. When you and your partner are on the same page, and each know what each person wants and expects from the other, you are able to operate as one flesh as God created you to be.
A good general rule is, “I’m not responsible for what you don’t tell me.” If you don’t tell your partner that you want them to empty the dishwasher and expect them to notice and do it themselves, then get angry with them when the dishes go untouched, you are setting you both up for failure. Instead, clearly communicate what you would like to see happen and give your partner the chance to be a blessing to you.
Expressing your expectations also prevents the enemy from getting in and spreading lies about your relationship. You and your partner won’t believe lies such as, “If he loved you, he would have taken out the trash by now,” or “She’s being quiet because she’s mad at you,” when you just had a conversation about how he’s going to take out the trash as soon as you finish dinner and she had a long day at work and is feeling exhausted. When you communicate what you want and how you’re feeling regularly, you foil the enemy’s plans to twist your relationship into something other than what God intended.
2. Respect Each Other
All that communicating will go to waste if you are not taking the time to actively listen to one another. Your partner should feel like they can truly tell you anything and expect to receive unconditional love and support no matter what they may be going through. We are called to love one another as Jesus loves us, and that’s a lot of love! Romans 12:10 says,
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.
Honoring your partner also means being willing to accept correction. If your partner says something like, “It really hurt me when you shared that personal story about me at work without asking me first,” your response should NOT be, “Well I thought it was funny so you need to get over it.” You need to be willing to humble yourself, genuinely apologize, and be more considerate towards your partner in the future. When your partner sees you making those changes for their sake, they can rest in the confidence of your love and respect towards them. And when the time comes where your partner is the one needing to apologize, you can remember how they honored you and extend that same grace towards them.
You and your partner should be each other’s number one person, coming before jobs, family, and even your children. Yes, your children! You are actually loving your children by making sure your marriage rests on a firm foundation so they can live in the absolute security that their parents love each other and constantly look for ways to serve one another. Remember, you are your children’s example when the time comes for them to enter into their own relationships and eventual marriages. Which do you want them to view as normal: spiteful yelling and slamming doors, or joyful love and genuine selflessness?
3. Believe the Best
Another way to phrase this would be to “assume” the best. This means to assume your partner has good thoughts and intentions towards you always, even if it may not seem that way in the moment. Decide who you will believe them to be ahead of time, that way when challenges come, you can remember the loving, thoughtful man or woman you married, and whom you know them to truly be, even when they may not be acting in the most loving or thoughtful way at that specific time. In those challenging moments, it can be helpful to think back to a time when your partner went out of their way to be a blessing to you.
When believing the best, it is also important to avoid assuming your partner’s thoughts and motives behind their actions. If they have not explicitly told you why they have behaved in that way, you don’t know for sure – not even if you’ve been married for decades. You might be able to make a guess, but by not knowing for sure, you get yourself into trouble with judgment. It’s so much better to wait and believe the best of them for the sake of your relationship, then open a dialogue with respect so you can talk through the issue together. 1 Corinthians 13:7 says,
Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
Sometimes walking in love can be really difficult, but when you operate under the conscious choice to love and respect your partner no matter what – even if you may not “feel” like it right now – you will always be blessed in the long term. The good thing is that God is right there with you every step of the way, and if you need to take a moment to step away and ask Him for guidance and renewed strength, He is faithful to supply you above and beyond your needs.
4. Do Something for Your Partner
Do you know your partner’s love language? If you are unfamiliar with this term, a love language is essentially the method through which your partner feels the most loved and appreciated. It can be words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, or touch. If you or your partner don’t know what your love languages are, here is a handy test to find out! Set yourself up for success in your relationship.
When you do something for your partner, it’s important that you don’t do it out of an expectation for them to “pay you back” or so you can “get something out of them.” An example would be filling up the gas in their car so they can’t be angry when you buy that new tv you’ve been eyeing, or letting them sleep in on Saturday so they can’t object when you ask them to mow the lawn later. This act must come from a place of complete, selfless love.
It’s also important that you do something that you know would be meaningful for them specifically. This is where the listening we talked about under point number two comes in handy. When your wife says something like, “Wow our gutters could really use a cleaning,” or your husband says, “My shoulders are really sore today,” that is an invitation for you to step up and meet that need. Take your time and really make it special. Maybe that means bagging the leaves and sticks in garbage bags instead of just tossing them into the yard, or finding a relaxing scented lotion and rubbing your husband’s entire back instead of just his shoulders. Let this truly be an act of love. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says,
It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
True love goes above and beyond with no expectation of repayment. When you serve your partner in this way, you are sowing seeds into the future of your relationship.
5. Forgive Easily and Quickly
This might be the most challenging tip, but it can also be the most rewarding. When your partner sins against you, or you have a disagreement, it can be very tempting to hold a grudge and make your partner apologize and humble themselves before they can enter back into your good graces. However, that’s not how God forgives, is it? He doesn’t make us crawl before the throne and prostrate ourselves in shame before He decides whether or not He will forgive us. His forgiveness is offered freely, immediately, and even before we sinned in the first place. That’s how we should be too, even though it’s not easy. Ephesians 4:32 says,
And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.
Even before a situation arises where you need to exercise forgiveness, decide from the start that you are a forgiver. That is part of your identity in Christ – who you’re called to be as a redeemed Son or Daughter of God. That’s who you are, so you can absolutely walk it out, even if it seems really hard in the moment. Remember that forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Don’t wait until you “feel” like forgiving your partner. Forgive them right then, and if you are really having trouble, ask God for help and believe that He will. Your feelings will follow, but you need to make that choice to forgive first. Psalm 103:12 says,
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
There is a second part to forgiveness: choosing to forget. True forgiveness means not holding your partner’s past transgressions over their head, or bringing them back up in arguments, or repeatedly making them apologize for the same things over and over. Once you forgive them, leave it in the past and continue forward. Carrying it with you jeopardizes your peace and joy in the present and makes it much harder for your relationship to grow in a healthy and God-honoring direction. If you want your partner to offer unconditional forgiveness towards you, you must do the same for them.
When you face an especially tough situation, where your partner has genuinely hurt you, angered you, or maybe even betrayed you, as in the instance of adultery, it might be wise to seek counseling as a couple to consider how you move forward in your relationship. Prayerfully seek God for His will in this kind of situation. He can redeem all things and will work everything out for the benefit of those who love Him.
We hope you have enjoyed these tips! Relationships are a wonderful blessing from God, and He uses them to mold us into who He wants us to be in Him. This Valentine’s Day, take the time to truly celebrate your partner and show them just how thankful you are to have them in your life.