Is there a secret sauce for happy relationships? Perhaps a guide filled with fresh, sassy relationship secrets that guarantee an anxiety-free road to marriage?
Unfortunately, (sorry to break your heart right out of the gate!) no such guide exists.
For the simple reason good relationships require trust and perseverance; a slow, intimate mingling of soul and heart.
This process is a perfect recipe for varying degrees of anxieties, aches, and disappointment as two people learn to grow in love.
Thankfully, the Bible offers a unique guarantee.
Deuteronomy 30:15-19 NIV says in part
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
Loving God and walking in obedience to His Word assures us of fewer bumps in life, including our love lives. The road might not be entirely bump-free for the reasons stated above. But Christ’s abiding presence is assured even in the lows, and that makes the difference.
I write mostly to newlywed wives (and all wives in the early years of marriage), and I share tons of marriage-related advice.
But we have a lot of singles reading the blog, and today I want to pull up a chair beside you and have a heart to heart; a sort of virtual “coffee date” where we explore what it means to make healthy relationship decisions.
I have mentored and guided wives for many years now and more than ever, there’s a growing need for wiser decision-making.
In the end, relationships are not that complicated – who you marry is who you get. You can’t marry an apple and expect them to turn into an orange once married. If you want an apple, you marry an apple.
And so I am hoping our chat today will help you make life-giving decisions today so you can have the kind of marriage God intended.
So here they are, seven relationship secrets I want you to know
1. To the brokenhearted: you will heal
The first time I suffered a relationship breakup, it took a year to recover. One year! I know you want to heal quicker and I hope you do too. And you can. But don’t hurry up the process because this place feels so sorry.
The truth is that what you bury now will resurrect in the next relationship. If you don’t take time to heal well (and healing well includes grieving well), you will carry the wounding into your next relationship.
So don’t bury that which needs to be grieved.
Along the same line, don’t ignore that which needs to be addressed. Look at the person in the mirror (you) and take some responsibility. Listen to God and listen to what He’s saying.
Also, in your grief, don’t forget to speak the Word of God over your grieving heart. Remember who God says you are; speak His Word, not your fears and devastation.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91: 1-2 NIV
Taking time to heal and grieve doesn’t mean lying in bed every night with a movie, box of tissue and chips. Yeah, sometimes it takes that. But a measured pace is more of an acknowledgment, “I cannot heal in a hurry” than a permanent location.
It might be the most difficult, most lonely, most miserable journey and everything within you is crying “run!” You’ll want to bury yourself with work, friends, maybe another guy, anything to forget this hurt.
But a woman who is led of the Spirit is sensitive to godly pace. God might do a miracle, and you heal in a week, but if He doesn’t that’s okay too; you are not abnormal.
Sometimes you need to feel the pain to embrace the gain.
Speak with a mentor, press through the teary nights, stay busy with your life (don’t spiral into your own cocoon), serve others. If this late bloomer can get over a heartbreak, I have big hope for you too.
2. Trust should be earned, not automatically given.
I know he’s a Christian. He likes you, and you like him back. But that doesn’t mean you should give your heart away just yet. Remember: we are silly when we are in-love (or in-like.)
It’s okay to tread slowly. To ask questions. To limit interaction if it’s moving too fast.
I know it feels like you need to make a decision really fast or he’ll slip through your fingers like the last one. But recognize that this one decision can potentially last a lifetime.
When Tommy and I were in the early stages of friendship, I had a big ball of impatience churning in my heart because I just wanted clarity. The whole playing coy and waiting to be chased sounded good on paper but it didn’t go well with my personality.
But I made myself wait, through God’s grace. I hid my heart (especially because Tommy had said no once before! Read our courtship story in my book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever after in the Early Years which you can find here.)
I went slowly because you can’t evaluate and learn someone in a hurry. You can’t test yourself in a hurry.
Hurry makes you give away those parts of your heart that should be given last.
3. Christian husbands are found within the Christian faith
I know you have waited and waited and it seems like it will never happen. All the Christian guys at church (seem to) have blinders on and the ones who don’t are looking at other girls.
Plus you’ve heard that Christian guys are as bad as those other guys when it comes to relationships. So you’ve decided to relax the rules a little bit, open yourself to other possibilities.
Allow me to offer insights from this other side called marriage, this side you are rushing to. Unless He likes Jesus now, before he dates or marries you, he’ll fight to like Him after he marries you.
Oh, you believe it will be different, that missionary-dating and marriages are a breeze? Listen, I’ve heard from wives who are wrestling with unequal yoking (2 Corinthians 6:14), and I can deliver a solid answer; no it won’t be different.
The Bible says a house divided against itself cannot stand. If you want to follow Jesus and the guy is halfhearted guess how that works out? The leader becomes the led. There’s tons of stress.
If He doesn’t know to wake up and go to church all by himself, you can’t make him in marriage (though you’ll try.) If he can’t love His creator with His whole heart by himself, he won’t love Him just because he married you.
What you date and marry is precisely what you get. We don’t change because we got married, we change because we decide to.
It doesn’t mean Christian men are perfect; they are not. Read this post Of Waiting for Boaz and The Perfect Boyfriend. But they have submitted their lives to God through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and that makes all the difference.
4. Christ-centered relationships are counter-cultural and counter-flesh
If you are going to have a healthy relationship that leads to marriage, you are going to have to walk contrary to the world and your flesh.
I didn’t enjoy it when my sweet mentor talked about the straight and narrow road. You know what I thought when she’d say “that guy is bad news” or “don’t let that arm on your shoulder” or “I don’t think that’s the one for you, my dear”?
I’d quietly think “but what do you know since you are married? You’ve been out of the game for so long; I doubt you understand how I feel. Plus you have a man, and I just want mine.”
But I valued her viewpoint because I knew she loved me. So I put her wisdom to work. Sharing that tidbit to say this; I know what it means to be upset by very high standards, particularly when the stated standards are being taught by a married woman.
I found this scripture very encouraging to me. Matthew 21: 28 – 31 says
“There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered.
Jesus shared this parable to help people understand the importance of obedience. The initial thought and attitude didn’t seem to count as much as that final act of obedience.
In other words, you can wrestle with instruction, and that’s okay as long as you go ahead and obey anyway; you can obey struggling.
The problem with our dating and relationships culture is that we want to feel right before we act right. Or we’ll nod our head to godly standards but go on and do our own thing, thinking that mental assent counts for something.
Our world says date until you find the right one, but God says trust me with all your heart, and I will give you your heart’s desire. Psalm 37:3-5
The world says sleep with a guy to test compatibility, but God says sex, all of it, including the petting and the kissing and making out is to be reserved for a marriage relationship.
The world says a woman cannot live without sexual release but God says purity is not merely a physical act, it proceeds from the inside. See Masturbation Wrong For Christian Singles?
Remember; you can wrestle with instruction (talk it out with God,) and that’s okay as long as you go ahead and obey it anyway.
5. A wedding ring doesn’t change your social status
Honestly, I didn’t believe that a wedding ring doesn’t change people’s opinion about my life. But now I know! If someone’s not happy for me now as a single woman, chances are they’ll be unsatisfied with me as a married woman.
Look, when you are single people keep asking when you are getting married. Then you get married, and they ask when you are having a baby.
Then you get a kid, and they ask when he’s getting a little brother or sister. And it doesn’t stop. They’ll suggest how to be a better parent or a better wife or better person.
So really, getting married does not “improve your social standing” with anyone. It might get you out of the singles arena, but it brings you into a whole other world where questions, opinions don’t stop.
So we might as well quit wishing to get married as the cure and learn to take our angst to God instead.
5. Real men respect godly standards
Have you been told, “if you want to get a man you need to lower your standards?” I heard it multiple times. People said the man I was looking for did not exist. Guys said I was too churchy, too spiritual.
I wondered what was so wrong/archaic/stuck up about wanting a man who loves Jesus, with fruit to show? And then I noticed a theme. People who told me I had too high of standards? They had little or none of their own.
I learned a big lesson: how to stop taking cues from people who weren’t moving in my direction! Men who love Jesus (genuinely love Him) respect standards.
They don’t push; they don’t take advantage, they don’t ask “how far is too far,” they don’t debate with Truth. If you see a guy who doesn’t respect your godly standards, lace up your shoes and run, sister.
Because He lost respect for His Creator before he lost respect for you and there’s nothing you can do to fix that.
6. Don’t expose yourself to negative news if you want a positive relationship
When we want to invest our money, we look for the best financial advisers. When we want to go back to school, we look for classes that will best meet our needs. When we look for vacation spots, we look for what can fit our budget and give us the best experience.
So it’s interesting that we don’t do the same thing when it comes to the most critical life relationship; we allow ourselves to be influenced by people who have nothing good to say about marriage.
People whose bonds are broken and they are not ready to grow or learn. Not saying we can’t learn from other people’s mistakes (or everyone with a negative relationship experience has negative views.)
But if we want to have good relationships, in God’s timing, we have to be ready to seek and listen to those whose relationships are actually working. Or people who have a godly perspective from negative experiences.
Don’t expose yourself to harmful views if you want to create a positive relationship. Quit watching those silly TV shows. Change that radio station. Delete that playlist that has nothing good to say about godliness. Take a leave from that friend who’s pushing you away from your godly standards.
Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says
7. Giving wife benefits without a husband commitment is unwise
A while back, someone sent in a question, asking if it’s okay to submit to her boyfriend. Short answer? It’s not your place to start acting like a wife before you are one.
Not saying you can’t listen to boyfriend or fiance and honor him and allow him to lead the relationship. After all, you start to learn certain marriage principles in courtship. But don’t give wife benefits without a husband commitment.
Read my full answer here Submission When You Are in Serious Relationship But Not Married
8. Getting spiritual covering now is one of the best things you can do for your future relationship
Do you know why you need a cover? Because we forget things.
Oh, you know not to call him back on Sunday night. But by Wednesday, the feelings are overwhelming to the point of caving in. (Or you spend a wasteful amount of energy, wishing and hoping for something that doesn’t even feel right.)
Sometimes we do the right thing because we know someone will be asking “so how was your week? or “hows that guy in your office who brought you flowers?”
It’s not that we don’t know what to do, sometimes we just need a little support and encouragement.
The best time to cultivate a good mentoring relationship is when you don’t need it. Give someone permission to speak to your life now so that when you finally need input, you have a stable place to go.
There’s nothing more sad as requiring wisdom, but all the people around you are strangers. Take the time to build a healthy community now, and it will help you in future.
And those are my eight relationship secrets! Indeed there’s more than eight, and they might not seem so secret after all! But I learned most of these the hard way, as most of us do.
Let me know what you think? What can you add? What would be your 9th? Let’s chat in comments below.