“No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.” Ephesians 5:29
Starting a new year gives us a chance to rethink many aspects of our lives and renew our vows and goals. Many people like to make promises or set objectives for the coming year to improve their spiritual, material lives, and relationships. So today we invite you to take this moment to reflect and seek renewal of your marriage, dating- or even friend -ships that you are not happy with today or even as a preventative measure to improve on something that is already excellent.
Every affective relationship begins with great care. Regardless of whether we admit it, no one introduces him or herself to another person exactly as they really are. We police our words, care about how we look, try to be nice and courteous so that we create closeness evolves.
Especially in romantic relationships, both parties seek to please each other, whether by giving them gifts, using nice words, through selfless gestures or in performing good deeds. The first months are usually the “mushiest,” where lovers are always surprising and declaring all their love for each other. This behavior usually extends into the early years of marriage, but later, over time and with routine, many wives and husbands complain that things are no longer the same. And people start asking themselves: What happened? Is our love over?
First, we want to emphasize one very important thing: no one is the same their whole lives. Situations change people, experiences change us, and as the years go by, qualities and defects begin to reveal themselves and character traits emerge in their true form within the relationship. The way we face difficulties, victories, and the discoveries along our journey, change us. The daily tasks, work routines, school responsibilities, also change us and change the way we treat others and are treated. Though this may sound bad, this process is part of human life, maturation, and development. What cannot happen is for all these things to stifle love and bring out the worst in us or those around us. When this happens, love is put in check and the relationship is shaken.
In Mark 10:8 it is said that when a man and woman marry, they become one flesh. Based on the text of Ephesians, the responsibility to care for each other in every aspect—spiritual, physical and emotional—as if for oneself is evident. And how can we do this in a practical way, keeping the flame of love alive and renewing our marriage? Here are some simple attitudes that make all the difference:
1 – Cultivate Joy – At the beginning of the relationship, everything seemed fun and both smiled for no reason. How about smiling again? Find light and funny things to laugh at together and above all cultivate true joy: that which comes from gratitude. Thank each other for simple tasks and acts of kindness, and thank God, especially God, for everything from the simplest to the most complex. Smiling releases wellness hormones and increases intimacy. Smile a lot and always!
2 – Take care of yourself – Before your first date or whenever you would meet, it’s likely that both of you carefully chose your clothes, fixed your hair, dabbed on some perfume, and took care of the how you looked. If this is no longer the case, a change is necessary so that both individuals within the relationship are presentable and well-taken care of for each other. Taking care of yourself also includes your health, so identify the bad eating habits and physical inactivity that have been cultivated and are responsible for the extra pounds between the two of you, and together, build better habits. Exercise together. Go to the gym or just go for a walk together. Be healthier for yourself and for each other.
3 – Praise and use words wisely – Remember the beginning of your marriage when you always praised each other, thanked each other, and spoke kindly to one another even when you were contradicted? Do this again. Watch your words. Never purposely try to hurt your spouse. Treat each other with kindness and complimenting each other on the good things they do. Here it is also fitting to remind yourself of the affectionate nicknames that have been forgotten and to be polite. Greet each other in the morning; wish each other good-night; say “Thank You”, “You’re welcome”, “Excuse Me”, and “Please”. Little courtesies that we often use with strangers and often fail to use with the person we love. Make smart use of compliments and words again!
4 – Give Gifts – Many couples date on a budget, yet they can somehow find ways to give each other presents. You may not be in a financial position to buy gifts at the moment, but what matters is the gesture itself. There’s no need for an expensive and purchased gift, it can be a simple or handmade something that has meaning between the two of you. Picked wildflower, a note left on the mirror in the morning or placed inside a drawer, even something that was once important and has been forgotten, something that deserves to be revisited, re-wrapped and placed in a prominent place again. Prepare the object, set the mood, and deliver it at the right moment.
5 – Date each other again – Remember when you were always trying to attract each other’s attention, bantering, planning outings and moments to spend together? Do it again. Take time to be alone, go for walks in places you like, watch a movie together, have an evening different from your normal routine, prepare a special candlelit dinner, anything new that brings you both together. Send each other messages at unexpected times throughout the day, put little notes and cards in drawers, post a statement of gratitude for each other or romantic photo as you did during your engagement. Date each other again, putting aside the day-to-day concerns for a few moments. Rekindle the flame of passion!
6. Worship God – Pray together, sing worship songs you enjoy, read the Bible, go to church, and participate in religious activities together as you did during your courtship. If you have never done these things before, start cultivating the habit of doing so. It is also vital to pray for each other. Yes, instead of criticizing or correcting what you dislike in your partner, pray for them. Ask God to encourage and enlighten you, and give you the strength to overcome your difficulties. The more a couple prays for each other, the closer they will come to God and therefore to each other. Do not forget that a good marital relationship begins with a good relationship with God, personally and as a couple.
7. Never Give Up – It may be that only one of you strives to renew the first attentions paid during courtship and it may feel like a battle you are fighting alone. Still, don’t give up. Keep going and keep on doing what you can. Place your relationship in God’s hands and do your part, believing that the results will follow.
These tips may seem very basic, but if they are cultivated, they will be of great value in maintaining a healthy relationship and especially rebuilding what is falling apart. Many other actions can be implemented following the golden rule in Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you”. It is God’s desire to see relationships restored each day, so ask Him for wisdom, do your part, and enjoy the blessings God has in store for all who love Him.