Recently, several high profile couples have made national news because of serious marital problems. They include Tiger Woods and his wife Elin, and Sandra Bulloch and her husband Jesse James. They have lots of company. I only mention them because of their notoriety. The question is, what must couples do to build a strong relationship?
There are some who would say this issue is no big deal. They argue that people marry and divorce every day, and life goes on, end of story. That's an attitude that scares me. I believe that a relationship between a husband and wife should be held in much higher regard. Furthermore, I don't believe that most husbands and wives who make a mess of their marriage get up one day and decide to screw everything up. Rather, I believe most people need some help--lots of help in this area. Divorce is ugly, painful, and costly, and there are no true winners.
Since this is a Christian blog and I am a Christian, I should argue that having the right relationship with God is vital for a husband and wife, or for a man and woman who are dating, if they are to build strong relationships. That is certainly my conviction. Wasn't God the one who came up with the idea of and who ordained marriage? However, just because a man and a woman are Christians and they love each other do not guarantee a vibrant relationship! Let me quickly share with you three important ingredients essential to a healthy and lasting relationship:
1. A strong relationship requires hard work. Strong marriages and relationships between a man and a woman are not happenstance. Every couple has to work at it. Believe me, the honeymoon expires, and the dream world comes to an end. Also, with time, you will see the side of your mate that you haven't before. And though through marriage two become one, each person is still an individual with personal aspirations and dreams and God-given potential. Couples must work through these and other issues, and sometimes the work is hard.
2. To build a lasting relationship, couples must labor to keep it fresh over time. Why do we think that because we are married, we no longer have to date one another? Or that longevity gives us a license to take each other for granted? The longer the relationship lasts, the more difficult it can be to keep things from going stale. I know something about this; my wife and I have been married for over 31 years. On the other hand, the longer we have been with someone, the better we know what pleases them. These are the switches we must turn on to keep the fire burning.
3. To build a strong relationship, couples must weather the climate changers. What are those? They are the things that can happen during the life of a relationship that can change its very climate. The person we met five years ago might not be the same person today, though they are really the same person. My point is that people and things change over time, and these changes can become game changers in a relationship. Other examples include the arrival of that first child, a serious health problem in one mate, financial woes, etc. We can't cry foul when life throws our relationship a curve ball or two. Like good soldiers, we must endure (2 Tim. 2:3).
When I was a church pastor, I shared in much greater detail the points above. They help couples think beyond the honeymoon stage, and to see the big picture of their relationship. Doing so increases their chance of success. If I had to sum up things in one statement, it would be that strong relationships must be built on the foundation of faithfulness--faithfulness first to God and then to our mate. This is a simple truth that takes a lifetime to master.
Frank King is a former church pastor. He is currently an evangelist and an author. Frank holds a Master of Theology degree. Through the grace of God, Frank has been blessed to cross cultural lines in his preaching. Website: http://www.efrankking.com
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