Any fool can fall in love, but only the wise stay in love. I had a horrible track record with relationships until Brenda and I got married. I had rejection issues until after I was saved. I didn’t trust people. I always chose women with whom I was completely incompatible. Because of ego issues, the chase was far more interesting than the catch. And because of poor modeling by a completely relationally dysfunctional family, I had no value for marriage.
Brenda was the first and only women that I actually intended to stay with. The problem was that I had absolutely no tools or models to draw from. With Brenda I had to do the same I had done with business: I had to accept that my ideas meant nothing and I was not qualified to know how to build a good relationship; so, I went to the Word of God and, more than any other place, found wisdom for relationships in the Book of Proverbs. Just as I had developed management philosophies for business I discovered relationship philosophies for staying in love.
The starting place, as simple as it seems, was to understand the biblical definition of love. I studied all the words for love in the Bible from the original language. Although there are many, the main word for love is “value.” From this starting point I understood that every expression of love had to promote and preserve a person’s sense of value, i.e., dignity and worth. This fell into what I call the “pearl of great price mentality.”
As long as we consider our spouse valuable we treat them like a pearl of great price. When we stop recognizing their value we treat them as “common.” This brought me to the understanding that we must all learn what our mate values and express it consistently. We cannot demand that our spouse love us or submit to us. Demand does not promote value. No! We must treat them in a way that inspires the very best from them. As we express value (love) they respond with specific type of love.
Proverbs has many very obvious Scriptures about relationships, but I zeroed in on the passages about communication. After all, love that is not effectively expressed is not as meaningful as an open rebuke. Open rebuke is better than love that is hidden. (Prov. 27:5, AMP) I took every Scripture about words, the mouth, the tongue, lips, and every other reference to communicating and developed a communication philosophy. I not only found the wisdom for communication in marriage but for communication in every arena of life, business, and ministry.
Communication actually affects our relationships more than almost any other area. Jesus said, “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:37) Our words and the way we say them is where we most often sin against others and reveal our lack of love for mankind. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man. (Ja. 3:2)
As we have so often heard, it is not just what we say, but also how we say it. Studies show that when there is conflict between the words we speak and our other expressions of communication people always believe those other aspects like facial expression, tone of voice, or body language. This brings us to one of the most important aspects of expressing love. I need to communicate with you the way you prefer. We all have ways that we want to be addressed. When we respect that the other person usually responds in a positive manner.
The greatest sign of selfishness (which is contrary to love and contrary to God) is when we want others to be like us. Proverbs says there is a way that seems right but the end is death. Just as we have a way that we want to receive input and want others to respect it, so do others! Learning what our spouse responds to and honoring that goes a long way in making them feel precious, valuable, loved!
When we communicate with one another in the way that shows respect we can deal with the underlying hurts and pains that otherwise will never surface in a healthy way. When others dread our communication style they just stop communicating. This means problems stop being solved and released; instead, they are stored, magnified, and become more explosive with each passing day!
The ultimate in staying in love is growing together in Christ! All of the challenges of marriage actually get down to our willingness to face a challenge and use it as an opportunity to grow, or to resist change, opting only to justify ourselves. The refusal to grow to have a better marriage is not just resistance to our mate; it is also a resistance to Jesus! As we get the grace to love our spouse as ourselves and as we apply these principles of communication we make them feel so special that they will respond with “friendship love” and “erotic love.” Without the foundation of feeling valuable and precious all other forms of love will soon dissipate and eventually there will be nothing that holds us together except obligation!
Fall in love and stay in love!