By Russ Jones
As I was praying and contemplating giving marriage a second chance, a good friend asked me, “But do you like her?”
“Of course,” I said, “I truly do love her.”
My friend looked sternly at me before he continued. “That’s not what I asked. Do you ‘like’ her?”
Getting frustrated, I answered the question once again, “I’m head over heels for her.”
“Russ,” he said, “you’re not hearing me – do you LIKE her?” He went on to say there would come a time in my marriage when love wouldn’t be enough to get through the difficult times which were sure to come.
You know what? He was right. In an attempt to protect me from going through the horrible trauma of divorce again, my friend gave good counsel.
I hate to say it, but after all these years, The Beatles were wrong. Their classic hit “All You Need Is Love” is a cruel myth. Marriage takes more than love. It sounds simple and straightforward, right? While love is important, there are other critical ingredients, too.
A solid foundation in God, open and honest communication, a clear definition of roles and responsibilities, exciting sex, trust and respect are all key characteristics I’ve witnessed in successful marital relationships. How couples navigate turbulent times makes a difference between smooth sailing and a marital shipwreck.
Communication is perhaps the most important key to a strong, healthy relationship. Effective communication requires you to be an active listener—listening without judgment and focusing on what your partner is saying—as well as expressing your own feelings in a positive, truthful way.
Part of being able to communicate effectively is making time for meaningful conversations in a setting free of distractions. For example, turn off the television in the evening to make it possible to have a real conversation or order a pizza and catch up during a quiet night at home.
Also, don’t expect to agree on everything. An important part of resolving conflicts is being respectful of your partner’s feelings, even when you are arguing. Let your partner know you value what he or she is saying, even if you don't agree. Try to avoid criticizing, ridiculing, dismissing or rejecting your partner or what he or she is saying. If you’re feeling frustrated and feel as if your anger is taking over, take a time out from the conversation and agree to resume it at a specific time later. Note--If you ever feel as if you may physically hurt your partner, walk away and seek help immediately.
Make sure to keep romance alive. Relationships are often romantic in the beginning, but as time passes and couples become distracted by other things—work, children, bills, the house—they often take each other for granted. Make your partner feel special by doing something romantic, no matter how small. For example, make breakfast in bed for your partner, make a date for a special night out, take a walk, or have a picnic.
Noted author and speaker Gary Smalley states, “God wants you to be satisfied so that you can become a channel of His love to others. Too many broken relationships are directly linked to our inability to find God's fuel for our soul. As we love ourselves we can then love others.”
Russ Jones is a freelance writer, public speaker, ordained pastor and co-founder of New Direction Ministry. His wife, Jackie, four children and he enjoy a log home on forty acres just east of Newton, Kansas. Comments may be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.