1 Corinthians 13:4-8 embodies what love is. There is no better definition. Practicing this passage in our day to day life would bring miraculous transformation in our relationships. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Below I have outlined my top 10 lessons that I learned from my divorce. Obviously there are many more things that go into making a successful marriage, these are the basics that can be built upon. These lessons apply to any relationship, not just marriage. For single women and men, as you navigate through your romantic relationships and other relationships in life, keep these principles in your heart. Relationships are not easy, but when you have two willing individuals and God, you can create a beautiful and fulfilling relationship with no drama.
Lesson #1: Make God the center of your marriage, that is the only way to have the ultimate physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual unity with your spouse. He is the creator of love, marriage and romance. Who better to teach you how it’s done? It is crucial for both people to work daily on their relationship with God. Reading the bible alone and spending alone time with God is important not only for personal growth but for growth in a marriage. Worshiping together and praying together is equally as important. In this age of extreme business, one may ask, “where will I get time to study the word alone and then with my husband?” There are 1440 minutes in a day, you can spare 20-40 minutes of those for God. Song of Solomon gives us a glimpse of God’s romantic side.
Chapter 1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is more delightful than wine.
Chapter 4: 9 You have captured my heart, my treasure, my bride, You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes, with a single jewel of your necklace.
Chapter 8:7 Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.
Lesson #2: Selfishness creates a divide. We have to learn to put each other first and make decisions with each other’s best interests in mind. Selflessness creates unity and communication because one simply does not make decisions without consulting the other. That is what a true partnership entails. Working together as a team. Marriage is not an individual sport. No surgeon can perform surgery alone, you need members of the team to be able to do your job. Putting each other first is a win-win.
Lesson #3: Put your priorities individually and together in order. When you do not prioritize each other, your house will be divided. In my prior marriage, we were both in surgical training. We were so focused on our careers and had the mindset that we will start to make each other a priority once we finish residency that it corroded our relationship. It was each man for himself, each of us trying to survive our very demanding training. I could have found ways to make my husband a priority and we should have put our marriage above our careers and worked as hard at maintaining it as we did at becoming the best surgeons we could be.
Lesson #4: Spend time doing things together. There is nothing that helps couples grow than quality time. It is important to take the time to do things that you both love and doing things that you may not necessarily enjoy but your partner enjoys. It strengthens your bond. Sacrificing time to do things for your partner shows that you love them and respect them and what is important to them. It brings you closer as a couple and helps you grow together. Is it a wonder that extramarital relationships often start when one individual meets someone with similar interests. For instance, as much as possible if your husband or wife goes to the gym regularly, join them. Small sacrifices for big gains.
Lesson #5: Be students of each other. We spend a lot of time learning our craft but do not invest enough time learning our partners. What are their likes, dislikes, pet peeves. What makes them tick, what are they passionate about? What are their goals and dreams? Who wouldn’t want to have a partner that makes it their business to really know them, thus help them grow into the person that God wants them to be. When you know your partner well, you find ways to make their life more fulfilled. That to me is the definition of a ‘power couple’, they know each other so well that they enhance each other and make each other amazing in the process.
Lesson #6: Be faithful to one another. This may be controversial, but I do not believe that a man and woman can just be friends. Once you are in a committed relationship, it is dangerous to be friends with people of the opposite sex. You may ask, “does that mean I should not be friends with my friends from high school or college now that I am committed?” Short answer is yes. When you meet you can chat, but to have an ongoing relationship where you text or talk often, or spend time together is not wise. Many relationships begin with friends from highschool or college reconnecting on social media. You may not become physically intimate with that person but it is very easy to get sucked in emotionally. An affair of the heart some argue is more devastating to a relationship than a one night stand. Such relationships always put a distance in your own relationship and that creates cracks, making it easier for your relationship to crumble. Stay clear of anything that will make your relationship vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks.
Lesson #7: Communicate effectively. Talking to each other is key in any relationship. Communication has two parts, talking and listening. Truly take time to listen to what your partner has to say. I took care of a gentleman who was 97 years old and his 93 year old wife was always at his bedside. They had been married for 75 years and like I always do when I meet a couple married for a long time, I asked what their secret to a long lasting marriage was. They both said, taking the time to just talk to one another daily. The wife went on to tell me that they had a ritual where they woke up half an hour early every morning to have a cup of coffee together and talk about plans for their day and whatever else was on their minds. They also took time at the end of the day to discuss what had transpired. She said to me, women are often not good listeners, take the time to listen to what he is saying. He was a retired CEO of a big company and she was a school teacher and he said his most trusted adviser was his wife. I really liked that.
Lesson #8: Be honest and truthful. There are ways to be honest without being hurtful. To be kind and truthful. A relationship without trust is built on a rocky foundation. Honesty allows us to grow when our partner helps us see things from another angle. It’s comforting to know that whatever it may be your partner will not lie to you, it gives you peace of mind and creates that space that allows you to be your best self. Lying to ‘protect’ your loved one will come back to haunt you in the long run, just don’t do it. Better to suffer consequences of being truthful than having to deal with lies. Brutal honesty is bad for a relationship, learn to be honest and tell the truth in a gentle and tender manner, being careful with your words and taking time to think first before speaking. Remember, words can cause deep wounds.
Lesson #9: Always strive to be a better you. We all want to be in a relationship with someone who takes pride in themselves. Someone who is solid. Knows who they are and are always working to become the best version of themselves. It’s common for people to ‘let themselves go’ once faced with the challenges of marriage and raising children, but it is also very dangerous to your relationship. As difficult as it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to keep your passions alive, it is important not only for you but for your relationship. Do not lose your individuality just because you are married. Take the time to stay spiritually, mentally and physically fit. It is not being selfish to take time out daily to take care of yourself. When you are spiritually, mentally and physically fit, you are better able to serve your spouse and household. Do not stop growing, do not stop striving to be your ideal self. Ask God to help you and He will.
Lesson #10: Submission, patience and humbleness. I can not talk about submission without discussing Ephesians 5:21-33.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
It takes two individuals committed to doing it right to make a marriage work. Like I mentioned before, this is not an individual sport. In order to be successful, each has to do their part. I am a modern woman with an amazing career and I am a ‘boss lady’ at work, but the minute I leave work and get into the house I am not ‘boss lady’ anymore. At times women tend to get their roles mixed up. There is nothing wrong with being successful and good at what you do outside of your home life, but in order to have a fulfilled relationship you have to know your place in the home. Respect your man and submit to him.
Gentlemen, you are not off the hook. Verse 21 says, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Yes submission is a two way street. As much as your woman is to submit to you, you are to submit to her as well and love her. Such a simple principle but one that many find difficult to follow. When you know that your partner has a solid relationship with God, it becomes much easier to be submissive. You know that they are in daily communication with God, they have their priorities and the family priorities in order, they put you first and have integrity, thus you can trust them in decision making. Because they love you and respect you, and your communication is on point; you discuss before making decisions and each brings their viewpoints and strengths to the table thus coming up with the best decision for your family. Again, a win-win!