With Valentine’s Day upon us, I thought I would take this opportunity to share a few thoughts about love. In particular, I’d like to share some thoughts about how to make a loving relationship last, since we live in a world in which love is too often seen as simply a fleeting emotion. Scripture, on the other hand, speaks of God’s love as being “an everlasting love.” Since we are made in God’s image, that means that we are capable of this love as well. So, without further ado, here are six “surefire” ways to make a loving relationship last. (BTW, as someone who’s been married over 40 years, I think I have some “street cred” on the subject!)
- Give your undivided attention. There was a great TV commercial some years ago showing a young couple enjoying a romantic dinner. As the young lady talks, however, she notices her date keep looking down at his lap. She asks if he is watching sports on his phone, which he denies. However, as she begins to talk again, he blurts out a cheer for his team. The look on her face makes it clear: This relationship will not last without your undivided attention! Giving our full attention to another is an act of selflessness; it is not easy! God gives us his undivided attention, as the Psalmist expresses in Psalm 139. It is a profound compliment to have someone give you his or her full attention. How flattering!
- Express your love beyond words. Talk can be cheap; that’s why we give flowers and chocolates on occasions such as Valentine’s Day. Symbolic gestures such as these must not be easily dismissed as so much fluff. We can all recall a moment in our lives in which our hearts were touched by someone expressing love or affection in a symbolic manner. The smallest gesture of love that you offer may be just the miracle for which someone was praying! God’s love speaks to us in a myriad of non-verbal ways, as constant reminders of his everlasting love for us.
- Do right by him/her. The rock group Bad Company wrote a song back in the day called “Do Right by Your Woman.” Of course. The gestures we mentioned in the point above are empty if they are accompanied by disrespectful and hurtful actions. Love is communicated by the quality of our actions. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) Loving relationships last when love is consistently communicated by actions that express profound respect for the well-being of the other.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Any time you ask couples who have been married a long time what their “secrets” for longevity are, you will no doubt hear the word communication. Relationships thrive on communication—talking and listening. In Scripture, God is constantly inviting us to enter into communication with him. (See, for example, Jeremiah 29:12–13.) Relationships last when the partners involved continually communicate with one another.
- Spend time together. One couple that had been married for a long time said one of their secrets was sitting on the couch together every night so that they would be forced to physically touch one another. We are not meant to live in isolation. Loving relationships last when the couple spends quality time with one another. What a great example we have from our God who became flesh so that he could be with us! Physical presence increases the opportunities for expressing love, which in turn, makes love last.
- Tell everyone about your love. One of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams, is when Doc “Moonlight” Graham (played by the late, great Burt Lancaster) says, “I best be getting home. Alicia will think I’ve got a girlfriend.” In each of his few scenes, ol’ Doc Graham makes a habit of talking about his wife with a twinkle in his eye. We never meet her in the movie, but from the way he talks, you can tell how in love they are. He can’t not talk about her (much like Jeremiah realized that he could not stop talking about the love of God). When we fall in love, we want to tell the world. Loving relationships last when those who are in love never stop telling the world about their love.
God has loved each of us with an everlasting love. May the love you share with that special someone in your life be everlasting as well. Happy Valentine’s Day!
P.S. These six keys to making loving relationships last are essentially the six ways that we deepen our love of God—what the Church calls the Six Fundamental Tasks of Catechesis—as discussed in my book, Under the Influence of Jesus: The Transforming Experience of Encountering Christ.