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Even though some of us may not believe in God or struggle with our spiritual beliefs, some evidence points to believing in God may help us be happier couples. An announcement from radio station KLOVE: Digging Deeper, social researcher and best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn conducted an eight-year study to learn why some couples are able to achieve “highly happy” marriages; one key component she discovered is that highly happy couples look to someone higher than themselves. The happiest spouses mentioned that faith in God was vitally important to their marriages. Relying on Him gave them the security of knowing that Someone higher than themselves was in control—Someone on whom they each could rely on for the selflessness needed to put the other person first and create a great marriage.

It is harder to be our spiritual selves and rely on Christ within each of us than to be in our flesh. It’s a daily selfless effort to be in relationships and emulate Christ’s love. Our flesh wants us to be selfish and not love with patients and kindness, and instead “love” with jealousy and boastfulness (1 Corinthians 13 vs. 4). The Bible’s full definition of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Don’t we all struggle loving one another and ourselves the way God describes in the Bible? I know for the couples I see in my private practice it is difficult to love when they are in pain; whether the pain be due to unfaithfulness, addiction, mental illness, etc. Often the road blocks to loving one another are due to resentments, rejoicing in wrongs and insisting in our own ways; the exact opposite of what 1 Corinthians in the Bible explains. To love the way God describes we must make every effort to think before we act or speak…basically we must think how we will love vs. being in our flesh. That’s not just with our partners/spouses but also with our children, neighbors and enemies.

Awareness is half the battle to making positive changes in relationships. Often we are not aware of our moods, thoughts or emotions. You may be aware, “I’m irritable and have no patience right now.” Once you are aware of this, “stop,” think and act vs. react. When we “react” it is an action that comes automatically without thought. God is calling us to connect with Him through our spiritual selves, using our higher order thinking and “act” lovingly. Sometimes our action would be to choose silence vs. choosing to degrade our love ones. In 1 Corinthians 14:20 it states, Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; be babes in evil, but in thinking be mature.

Maturity can vary depending on what we are discussing. Often we talk about the maturity of children, their “mental” age vs. their “chronological” age. Are we spiritually mature? Are we emotionally mature? God is calling us into full maturity…to reach our full potential as He intended. However, that calls us to open our ears, hearts and minds to receive God’s knowledge and how He sees others, not how we see others. We cannot rely on our own perceptions.

Our misperceptions and misunderstandings do not provide the healing we need in our relationships. God wants healing for us in our relationships by taking His Word and executing it. However, we can choose not to hear God’s word. From Ligonier Ministries it talks about judgment articulated by Paul in Romans 1: Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done (v. 28, NIV). We do not want to be given over or abandoned to our sin by God. This anticipates God’s verdict at the final judgment, Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile (Rev. 22:11, NIV).

We must grow in maturity towards God’s ways and treat others with our spiritual selves in God’s grace; perhaps then we will find the healing and happiness in our relationships.