How do you build love that lasts?
Ever since my parents divorced, that question haunted me. I feared my future marriage would end too.
Eventually, I learned almost all children of divorce feel that fear.
In fact, research shows the biggest effects from our parents’ divorce are experienced in our own romantic relationships. Why?
We lack a roadmap for love. We’ve seen a broken model of love and marriage. Unsure of how to build lasting love, we are statistically more likely to get divorced.
Desiring the opposite, I sought advice. These tips from successful marriages and research are a piece of the solution.
Tip 1: Build Virtue
The first step to building a strong marriage has nothing to do with the relationship itself. It has everything to do with you. Here’s why.
You are the lid on your marriage. Your marriage will only be as happy, healthy and holy as you and your spouse are individually.
In other words, your relationships typically reflect your personal condition. Don’t expect your marriage to be better than you and your spouse.
So, identify where you need to grow. Every week, pick a virtue to build.
Ask God for the grace every morning to practice that virtue. At night, reflect on your day. Make a plan to improve tomorrow.
Tip 2: Find a Virtuous Spouse
Why is finding a virtuous spouse so important?
The reason is simple: The more virtuous the spouses, the happier the marriage.
But don’t discern your significant other’s virtue on your own. Love blinds you. You always exaggerate his or her virtue initially, according to St. John Paul II.
So, involve people in the relationship whom you can trust for honest feedback. Discern: Is this person actually virtuous?
If you’re single, follow Curtis Martin’s advice: Don’t pursue your soulmate. Pursue God. After a while of running after him, turn to see who’s keeping up with you.
Tip 3: Purify Your Idea of Love
Research says a vital ingredient to build a great marriage is a realistic concept of love.
We often measure love by the intensity of our emotions. More emotion, more love. Less emotion, less love.
But that concept of love is terribly unrealistic.
St. John Paul II shattered that lie by saying, “Love is not merely a feeling; it is an act of will that consists of preferring, in a constant manner, the good of others to the good of oneself.”1
To purify your idea of love, identify the lies you believe. Make a list. Then, seek the truth to suffocate those lies.
Tip 4: Set Healthy Expectations for Marriage
Research notes that another essential ingredient to building a great marriage is healthy expectations.
What’s an example of an unhealthy expectation? Believing that marriage exists to make you happy.
Making your spouse happy is a wonderful goal in marriage. But as Jason Evert said, “The purpose of marriage is not happiness. The purpose of marriage is holiness.2”
Eventually, unhealthy expectations will let you down. The result is disappointment, which often leads to bitterness. Bitterness will destroy your marriage.
To set healthy expectations for marriage, spend time with married couples you admire. Their example will help set healthy expectations for your marriage.
Tip 5: Prepare for the Temptation to Quit
In an attempt to convey the goodness and beauty of marriage, many speakers and authors often exclude this: Marriage is hard. Sooner or later, most spouses are tempted to quit.
When you’re in love, it’s difficult to believe it’ll happen to you. But think about it: It’s the reason we make a vow.
Why promise faithfulness if we’d never be tempted to quit? Desire alone would be enough.
So, don’t be surprised by the temptation to quit. Ask God for the strength to stay faithful. Work hard to solve the problems in your marriage.
Find a good marriage therapist or mentor couple. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to stay faithful during the hard times.
The Most Important Things
It’s been said that two things are necessary to make love last: God’s grace and a strong will.
So, most importantly, flood your soul with grace. Frequent the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession.
Also, keep learning and growing. Tap into wisdom about love and relationships.
To help, we’ve produced a love and relationships podcast series. It features stories and expert advice on how to find and build authentic love. Go here and choose an episode that’s relevant to you. Then, listen and learn.