Eventually, every good marriage hits a rough patch. In your marriage vows, you promised to love regardless of all the changes and adversities, regardless of the good times or the bad times, and regardless of whether you live in wealth or poverty. I heard someone comment that instead of going into a marriage vowing, “till death do us part,” maybe brides and grooms should be asked, “Do you have any idea how difficult this is going to be?”

A great marriage embodies a love of commitment, endurance, and perseverance. Not particularly romantic, is it? However, a relationship solely based on romance and emotions has an average life span of about two years. You have to have something more to make it last a lifetime.

A relationship solely based on romance and emotions has an average life span of about two years. You have to have something more to make it last a lifetime.Click To Tweet

The something more is an enduring love, which is the ability to stick with the relationship through the changing seasons of life — “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part.” The Apostle Paul described this enduring love in the famous “love chapter” of the Bible.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7, New Living Translation

When you look closely at these verses, you can learn several things about this holy kind of love:

  • It is an active love — something you do. You are patient when his dirty clothes continually miss the clothes hamper. You are kind when she borrows your tools, but forgets to put them back in the toolbox.
  • It is premeditated. You decide ahead of time to respond in a loving manner when you are proven wrong in the middle of a heated argument.
  •   It is observable. You can see it in action. It’s not just an emotion that is deep within your soul, only known to you. Other people see whether you are rude to each other, whether you are selfish and demanding, and whether you hold grudges.
  • It is measurable and verifiable. You can quantify it. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, an English poet wrote, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”  Her answer was a list of the ways she measured that love — the depth, the height, and the breadth of it. Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, says that we all have an emotional love tank waiting to be filled and that we can measure its content. Ask your spouse this question, “On a scale of 0-10, how full is your love tank?” The answer may surprise you. Then, ask him or her to tell you one thing you could do to raise that number a couple of points.

An enduring love chooses to keep on loving when loving your spouse is not particularly satisfying. It’s easy to love someone who is good to you, shows kindness daily, and responds to your loving words or actions with the same love. We love them because of what they do. Gary Thomas confronts this style of loving with this challenge.

Will you love only “because”? Or are you willing to love “anyway”? Will you love a man or woman who doesn’t appreciate your sacrifice on his or her behalf? Will you love a husband or wife who takes you for granted? Will you love a spouse who isn’t nearly as kind to you as you are to him or her?

Les Parrott's Making Happy
Get more — Free! e-booklet — Les Parrott's Making Happy

Almost every faithless marriage is based on “because” love. Christians are called to “anyway” love. That’s what makes us different.

What a refreshing concept in our self-centered culture! When we love each other anyway, we are modeling God’s love — an enduring love — in our marriages. He loves us even when we ignore him and take for granted his boundless grace and mercy. He doesn’t like it, but he continues to love us. To love anyway is to love like God. You keep reaching out to honor your spouse, trusting God to provide for your own needs.

In 1953, a fledgling company called Rocket Chemical Company and its staff of three set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry. It took them 40 attempts to get the water displacing formula worked out. However, they must have been really good, because the original secret formula for WD-40, which stands for Water Displacement perfected on the 40th try, is still in use today.

Unlike these scientists and engineers, people quit too soon in many pursuits — jobs, school, and faith. Why? Often it’s harder than they expected. It happens in marriage, too. They thought it would be easy. When it got hard, they bailed out. Any man and woman can get married. The tricky part is joyfully making it last a lifetime.

This is where it helps to have an enduring love in your marital tool bag. A great marriage takes time to build, as well as a tremendous effort to keep it in good shape. Working together, you can rise above the problems in your relationship and find the strength to keep trying, all because of your intense commitment to your marriage.

Adapted from Tools For a Great Marriage. Copyright ©  2008 William Batson.

All rights reserved. Used with permission. Read more from William Batson at Family Builders Ministries