_MG_0709It’s been a little over a week since Valentine’s Day.  The flowers are most likely wilted and will soon be thrown into the trash.  The chocolates are definitely gone.  And it may seem like that dinner out happened a month ago vs. just last week.

So, the question begs to be asked: How do we move beyond the “event” of Valentine’s Day and into a lifestyle of love?  How do we love our spouses and significant others well on a daily basis?  How do we not only make our relationships last, but thrive?

Truth be told, we want quick fixes for our relationships.  In our crazy, busy lives, we often don’t want to do the “work” that will nurture our marriages.  We are tired.  We need downtime after a grueling day at the office and then fighting the traffic on the way home. We become complacent, settle into (sometimes boring) routines.  We survive. And so, maybe we think that doing something a little extra on Valentine’s Day will be enough. Maybe bringing home a bouquet of flowers will make everything “right” again.

But it’s not enough.

There are scores of books available on how to create loving relationships .  Many are very, very good…others, well, not so much. There is one book, however, that is the definitive work on how to love others well. That gives us specific, concrete ways on how to make our relationships thrive. How to create a lifestyle of love.

It’s called The Bible.

The Bible has so much to say about love. Let’s focus on just one verse from a chapter that is pretty familiar to most of us, and is frequently used in marriage ceremonies–1 Corinthians 13. Examining this one, short verse can give us an idea of what it takes to create a lifestyle of love.

 “Love is patient and kind…” (1 Cor 13:4)

 Are you patient with your spouse?  Do you listen more than you talk? Are you able to put your own needs on the back burner and fully attend to your spouse–even in the middle of an argument? Do you demonstrate patience when your spouse forgets something? When he or she doesn’t complete a task the way you would? Love doesn’t have a short fuse.  Love is patient. Try to view things from your spouse’s perspective. Treat your spouse the way you would like to be treated. Breathe. Move from being emotionally reactive to having thoughtful responses.  Assume the best in your spouse.

Are you kind? It’s often said that we hurt those we love the most.  But, what if we make a decision–what if we choose–to be intentionally kind in our closest relationships? It’s easy to be kind to a stranger.  It’s often a short, brief encounter.  But to be kind to the person we see every day, who sometimes drives us crazy…well, that would really be something.

Kind people are aware of the needs of others. Are you aware of what your spouse needs?  Sometimes it may be as simple as asking, “How can I be helpful to you right now?” Kind people are supportive and sympathetic. Do you support your spouse?  Do you “pitch in” when needed?  Do you ask about and support their hopes and dreams? Do you “sit” with your spouse during times of pain and loss?  Kind people build up others and do not look to retaliate. Do you build up your spouse? Do you affirm them on a daily basis? And, when conflict arises, are you able to avoid being defensive?  Are you able to refrain from getting even? Do you avoid using sarcasm? Kind people know how to “fight fairly” from a place of respect. They seek peace.

The root of love didn’t start with St. Valentine.  It began with the source of love, the creator of the universe. Make your marriage more than a day of roses and chocolates and a dinner out.  Develop a lifestyle of love.  Look to God’s word. Start with a simple verse, like 1 Cor 13:4, and make a commitment to putting those concepts and characteristics into practice. And then get ready for blessings you never dreamed were possible.  It’s worth the work.