Marriage is a gift to be cherished. Research in this area has revealed that married people are generally happier, healthier, and have greater life satisfaction than single people. Married people live on average ten years longer than single people or those in bad marriages. This is why the Bible states, “It is not good for people to be alone.” This does not mean that partners inside a marriage always feel happy and positive about their relationship. There are times when one or both sides of a couple may feel like they are sleeping with a stranger, but this is exactly the moment to embrace the biblical idea to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
To love your neighbor as yourself can have a profound impact in one’s life. Love is the ability to share and to be in a genuine relationship with another by valuing and caring for that person and vice versa. The notion that an you should love your spouse as yourself requires you to have a clear sense of what love means to you – and to your spouse – and to understanding of the ways that you and your partner practice, experience, give, and expect love in your lives. For many couples, their ideas of love can be different based on the way they were shown love in their early lives and how they witnessed their parents express love – or not in some cases. Some people had good models for a loving relationship but most people that I know and have counselled felt their parents did not give them enough loving wisdom to succeed in their own adult loving relationships and that they had to learn about love and marriage on their own.
Good communication skills, shared interests, reciprocated kindness, and satisfying sex are all important components of a healthy marriage. But there is one element that is more important than any other, in a category by itself. In its absence, spouses will suffer as individuals and together in their marriage. This key ingredient is trust. Trust is the result of being able “to love your neighbor as yourself” and in the case of a couple, “to trust your spouse as yourself.”
Dr. John Gottman is the leading expert in relationship research. In his Seattle, WA, “Love Lab,” he created a tool called the “Trust Metric” to quantify the level of faith partners have in each other’s loyalty. High trust level is critical but when betrayals, secrets, lying, absenteeism, selfishness, emotional withdrawal, and affairs enter a couple’s lives, trust is broken. And positivity is at risk.
Each of these behaviors damages trust and the health of relationships, and they all start by thinking negatively about your partner.
Rather than allowing one’s marriage to cascade into betrayal, it is possible to actively build the strength of a relationship through more empathy, more kindness, more forgiveness, more gratitude, and more optimism. Living in accordance with the marital commitment to “love your spouse as yourself” can serve as a reminder that the responsibility to reveal the fate of marriage lies between the two partners. Our futures are ours alone to determine.
Let’s think for a moment about the couples and marriages we admire. Marriages that are strong and supportive. Couples that are truly in love. Flourishing relationships. They all look different but they all share one thing in common: they have a high Trust Metric and a strong Love Ratio. The Love Ratio is a tool that experts use to quantify the positivity that exists within a marriage. For example, a 3:1 Love Ratio means that there are three positive feelings/emotions/statements/actions for every one negative correlate within a relationship. It’s been shown that the higher a couple’s Love Ratio, the better their relationship.
The couple with a 1:1 Love Ratio is in pain. They are languishing. 2:1 is an average ratio but these marriages are flat, coasting. However, get to 3:1 and the couple is beginning to flourish. They are improving the world through their love. They are making their positive mark in the world.