Regardless of whether you are a newlywed or have been married for decades, there is always room to improve your relationship with your significant other. A healthy relationship isn't just about having romantic love; it’s about commitment, honesty, trust, and good communication.
The Bible considers marriage to be a covenant or a lifelong contract. Genesis says:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
Having a good relationship starts with finding the right person for you. Even though divorce rates overall are falling, marriage and relationship breakdowns are increasing for people older than 50 in the United States.
This statistic suggests that it’s more important than ever for couples to work at keeping their love alive so that both people in the relationship feel nurtured, loved, and valued.
In this article, we’ll look at ways you can improve your marriage or long-term relationship. We’ll also offer suggestions for young Christians entering the dating scene.
In his TEDx Talk The Science of Love, researcher Dr. John Gottman explained how the equation of love needs the magic ingredients of calm, trust, and commitment.
Gottman found that strong friendships and love relationships produce all kinds of benefits for our mental health.
He also found that having a better relationship means that you'll have greater health, more wealth, greater resilience, faster recovery from illness, a longer life, and even more successful children.
A good marriage is based on love, respect, and kindness, where both spouses contribute to the well-being of the relationship. Marriage is about giving and taking, as well as having a good connection and shared values.
Sociologist and researcher Terry Hatkoff developed a love scale that identified six distinct types of love found in our closest relationships. These were:
These six types of love may also overlap at different stages of a relationship. In a healthy relationship, you can expect to see most of these qualities, but preferably not too much jealousy or possessiveness, which can undermine a good relationship.
Most relationships will start with physical attraction, flirtation, and sexual feelings. Over time, if the relationship becomes substantial, it'll develop into a stronger, longer-lasting bond.
Physical attraction is what God intended for all of us, and it helps us to ensure the reproduction of our species. Through prayer, we can learn how to develop that physical relationship into love and create a relationship that could last a lifetime.
The key features of a successful relationship may include:
There are many Bible verses and prayers about love that can help both dating couples as well as those in committed relationships. A reading of scripture can help you navigate the good and the bad times in your relationship.
Ephesians 4:2 tells us to: "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."
Many Christians new to the dating scene will want to find a partner who shares a love of God and embraces faith. You may find it overwhelming trying to find a partner with similar Christian beliefs, particularly in our secular, materialistic world.
You should start by choosing a person who also follows Jesus.
You might meet someone in your Church community or among your circle of friends. If you find a person who shares your values and your faith, this gives you a much stronger likelihood of having a strong, healthy, and long-lasting romantic relationship.
The first rule in dating is to follow Jesus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
We are all made in God’s image, and if you want to attract love into your life, it starts by loving God. When you learn self-love and self-respect, you're more likely to attract a better partner.
When you are dating, date with the intention of getting married. This means that you only really date someone you could realistically consider to be a future lifetime partner, so don’t waste your time on casual flirtations.
Make a list of personal attributes you hope to find in your potential future love partner. Qualities such as patience, kindness, and humility, as well as confidence and a positive outlook on life are attractive.
Don’t forget to pray for guidance.
While you can have a relationship with a person who is a non-believer, this can make it tricky to make God the center of your relationship. Remember the advice in 2 Corinthians 6:14, which says:
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”
Find a person you can invite to church or Bible study. When you find a like-minded person you can discuss your faith with, this is a great starting point for a strong relationship.
Avoid becoming physically intimate before marriage. This can be challenging for young people feeling the passion of that exciting first love.
Young dating Christians might want to ask God for help to keep their relationship on a solid footing by using this simple Prayer for Sexual Purity:
“Almighty God, help us guard against sinning against each other sexually. Empower us to abstain from sexual immorality of any kind and to keep the marriage bed undefiled. Help us to control our bodies in holiness and honor, for our bodies are temples of your Holy Spirit. Guard us against drifting into pornography or entertainment that cheapens the holy union between husband and wife. We desire to keep our bodies and our minds pure, for the sake of our relationship with each other and our relationship with you. Amen.”
It's logical to rely upon God and each other when life is challenging. Pray together as a couple. Trust that God will care for you. This could mean reading the scriptures or attending a Bible study. Maybe read a daily devotional Bible passage together.
When you've met a person you think could be a suitable marriage partner, think of your relationship as part of a longer game.
Remember the words of Ecclesiastes 7:8-9, which tells us:
"Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools."
A substantial relationship takes time to nurture and build.
When dating, consider this simple prayer:
“Heavenly Father, we are vulnerable to the ways of the world. Too often, we see people who break up or get divorced from their spouse. Marriage is a sacred vow before God, and we take this commitment seriously. If it is your will, help us to grow in this relationship and remain pure so that we may one day become husband and wife. If we are not meant to be together, help us to see your plan and to accept your will. Guide us to become stronger, more compassionate, and more loving partners in all ways. Amen.”
After the initial excitement of new love starts to morph into the daily reality of an ongoing relationship, how do you keep that spark alive?
Start by reminding yourself about how grateful you are for finding your soulmate in the first place. Remember that love starts with devotion and selflessness:
"Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10).
As a couple, read some Bible verses on love together and think about how they apply to your relationship. Learn to express love and different ways and to read nonverbal cues from your partner.
Romantic relationships require an ongoing commitment for your love to flourish.
Remember the wonderful benefits of long-term healthy love relationships for your health and well-being. As your relationship progresses, be grateful when you celebrate 1, 5, and eventually 50 years of marriage as you watch the miracle of children and grandchildren entering the world.
A happy and long-lasting relationship doesn’t just happen automatically.
You’ll have to put work into your relationship. Relationships based on love can look effortless, but that’s rarely the case.
Consider what makes a happy marriage. In a good marriage, you'll see a couple with:
A good marriage should have elements of selflessness by both parties.
One thing you can do is make time for date night once a week in your busy schedule. This can be an excuse to set aside some quality time with your husband or wife to rekindle your relationship.
This time is really important, and it tells the other person that they matter. By taking time to nurture your relationship in this way, you are building intimacy and trust.
Even looking at and listening to your life partner can rekindle love. Eye contact and communication are key. Remain present when you are with them.
This might mean ditching your cell phone in order to take a break from social media and endless digital communication, and hanging out with your spouse instead.
Find some cool hobbies or activities that you can do as a couple, such as a dance class, a book club, or even just talking over your morning coffee and discussing the state of the world.
According to relationship researchers, the top three predictors of a happy marriage are sexual intimacy, commitment, and generosity. Other things to remember are keeping your expectations about your relationship realistic.
Remember, marriage is meant to be through sickness and health, good times and bad times. Understanding, acceptance, empathy, and kindness can be the keys to a magical relationship that endures over time.
Know that there will be tough times in your marriage.
These could include financial stresses, parenting challenges, or serious illness. There’s no shame in consulting skilled professionals at these times, and Christian marriage counseling and couples therapy can help you navigate these rough patches.
There's been much written about the science of love and relationships.
Dr. Gary Chapman, a well-known author and relationship counselor, wrote the bestselling book “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” in 1992. The advice in that book remains relevant today.
In his book, he encourages couples to show love using the five love languages:
1. Words of affirmation, where you express affection through your words. This could be leaving an uplifting quote or a love note for your loved one or giving a compliment. It could also be as simple as saying “I love you” often.
2. Quality time, where you give your undivided attention to your spouse. You can start by turning off your cell phone and being present with them on date night.
3. Physical touch, where you show love through hand-holding, cuddling, kissing, and other forms of physical intimacy.
4. Acts of service, which may include doing little favors, such as doing the dishes or taking out the trash. These acts of service can fill up the gas tank of your relationship.
5. Receiving gifts, which can be seen as a symbol of love. A gift doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be an item that is personal or something simple like flowers to show you were thinking of your loved one.
When you first meet someone, you won’t necessarily know which love language they best respond to. Over time, you should be able to figure this out.
When you develop the ability to read your partner’s body language and communicate with them honestly, you can quickly discover which language of love they best respond to.
Non-verbal cues such as eye contact, tone of voice, posture, and bodily gestures can tell you a lot about your partner’s mood. Usually, the longer you are in the relationship, the more skilled you become at reading these nonverbal cues.
It’s really important to regularly use words of affirmation or show appreciation for all that your husband or wife does for you.
Remember the words of scripture that tells us:
"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing" (Thessalonians 5:11).
When you understand how to apply the five love languages into your life, you can not only overcome simple miscommunication and relationship problems, but you'll ultimately strengthen the bond between you both.
You can expect to become more selfless as you are focused on the other person’s needs rather than your own. Discover which language of love your partner is most likely to respond to and use that to strengthen your bond.
You can also pray to seek a better understanding of your partner’s love language using this simple Love Expressions Prayer:
“God of truth, help us to effectively express our love for one another. Enable us to use words that really speak to our loved one and that are meaningful to them. Give each of us an understanding of the other’s love language, whether words of affirmation, helping them in some practical way, gifts, quality time, or touch. Give us insight into how they express affection and how they want it expressed to them. Help us learn how to make our partner feel loved and appreciated. Amen.”
There are lots of different ways we can work on building a better relationship with your significant other. It starts with remaining connected with the other person and understanding which love language they respond to.
Psychologists and relationship researchers have long been fascinated with the science of love and relationships and what makes them tick. A healthy relationship can be boosted with the little things — the small, selfless gestures we make each day for our partner.
Remember the words of scripture:
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12).
We should emulate God’s love in our romantic relationships with others.