Q: I’m a Christian and single. I know the qualities that I want in a life partner: chemistry is obviously important, as are character, compatibility and, as I’m a Christian, I would want my future spouse to be one. Is there anything more I should add to my list of “desirable”?
A: You have listed some excellent qualities that are really non-negotiable for a healthy relationship. I would add just two others. You would want a person who is committed to you in your relationship. Jesus said, “What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6). If a person is committed in their relationship, when issues arise, you can know that they will look for a solution and not the escape hatch!
A second factor is someone who can communicate well—with you, and you with them. Communication is a most important ingredient in a healthy relationship. While some marriages may be made in heaven, the reality is that they all have to be maintained on earth. If we can’t communicate in a relationship, then if given time, it will disintegrate. Intimacy develops as we are able to share our thoughts and feelings.
In his The Six “C”ecrets of Lasting Love,* author-speaker-pastor Ty Gibson identifies six rules for healthy communication. His view is that effective communication is critical to bringing health and longevity to marriages so that love will last. The Bible says, “Your eyes are pools of understanding. . . . Love flows through your affection” (Song of Solomon 7:4–6). If a couple is to be a healthy couple, then they must be able to hear one another and share with one another without feeling shut down, put down, marginalised or manipulated. Intimate communication like this doesn’t come naturally; it’s something we have to be intentional about.
Here are the rules of communication:
“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honour to the wife” (1 Peter 3:7, NKJV). To honour someone means to communicate in your verbal and non-verbal language that they really matter to you. In fact, the original meaning of the word in Greek means “heavy” or “weighty.” So when I give honour to my spouse, I value their opinion—it has “weight” with me. When they speak, I listen, because I genuinely want to know and understand them. If a person you are considering for marriage demonstrates that they honour you when they communicate with you, it is a very good thing.
We should always be ready to assume that the other person’s opinion is as valid, and maybe even more valid, than our own.
3. Lateral vs bilateral perception
Men and women do think differently. Men tend to be lateral in most of their perceptions, favouring the logical, problem-solving left side of the brain, while women tend to be more lateral, favouring the right side in their thinking and approach, which is more relational and intuitive. Some men, but many more women, are bilateral, which means they engage both sides of the brain in their approach to a problem or disagreement. So if both parties understand these differences, in situations where a woman says something is wrong, there most likely is. And if a man says, let’s do this, this and this to fix it, he likely has a workable plan. Ensure the person you consider to be a life partner understands and respects the mental and emotional differences between the genders and this can go a long way in strengthening your relationship and effectiveness as a “team” in life.
How we “frame” our concerns in communication makes a huge difference. For example, saying something like, “I feel embarrassed when you tell jokes about me, although I know you don’t mean for me to feel this way” is a lot more effective than saying, “You always humiliate me with your jokes.” The first example highlights your feelings and assumes your partner means well. They are more likely to be motivated to resolve issues when framed like this, whereas the second example will only make them more defensive.
Sometimes good communication is what you don’t say. It’s important to let your partner have space and that they give space to you if needed. This means instead of pestering them to tell you what the problem is, simply tell them, “I love you, and I’m here for you when you are ready to talk.” Your gentle patience and reassurance of love will help them to be willing to open up to you again, so that healthy communication can continue.
6. Pray together
The couple who pray together, stay together. Taking the time to hold hands and pray a simple prayer like, “Lord, we love each other and we need Your wisdom to help us resolve this issue. Please, help us,” goes a long way in softening hearts and fostering love.
At the end of the day, if we season our communication with love and take heed of these six rules, we have a recipe that will ensure a healthy relationship that can, by God’s grace, last a lifetime. I know that God will guide you as you keep your future relationship in His hands.
Every month, our Discovery Bible correspondence school instructors, Wayne Boehm, Charissa Fong and Sharon Martin, delve into the Bible to answer some of life’s and Christianity’s deeper questions.