The holiday season is perhaps the most stressful season for couples throughout the year. The pressure of family gatherings and dealing with "difficult personalities" is tough for many couples. Responsibilites that pile up can feel completely overwhelming. So how do you stay connected with your most intimate partner and help protect each other? In reality, most couples don't know how to do this very well, especially when their stress meters are off the charts.
So what can you do to stay healthy and in love? As humans, we are all equally subjected to physical ailments such as disease. Our lives can be stressful and chaotic, and sometimes, it feels like there's little we can do about it. How do some people cope with these stressors better than others? How are some relationships so successful? It may have something to do with believing in a higher power or something greater than one's self.
For a Christian look at marriage, for example, it means believing in a God who loved us so much he came to earth as a child. Jesus' mission in life was to be God incarnate who came to us, to let us know he "gets" us. God loved each and every human so much he sacrificed His Son as a means of redemption for the entire human race. God is on our side rooting for us. He wants His creation to succeed and be transformed in love. He is aware of how hard it is to be human; He lived here on this earth and was persecuted and killed. He knows our pain.
Couples all struggle with emotional intimacy and pain within their relationships. Now, I'm not trying to be Debbie Downer here. The thing is, it's exactly that struggle that brings intimacy to a new deeper level for each couple. The challenge of working through problems together and coming to an understanding that works for both people is emotional intimacy at its core. The fact is, many people are frightened or don't know how to achieve this type of intimacy. This can be frustrating, because at our core, we all want to be seen, heard and understood at a deep level.
Faith can be an asset as couples struggle to deal with these stressors and emotional intimacy in their relationships. No matter how you define your faith or which religion you identify with, there are a couple of universal beliefs that transcend them all: unconditional love and transformation.
I'm drawing here on my own faith and experience, giving examples of how a Christian look at marriage can influence a relationship. There are many statistics stating that a Christian take on marriage ends in divorce at the same rate as non-Christian marriages (roughly 50 percent). However, Focus On The Family states: Those couples that practice their faith (transformed) have a lower divorce rate than the general population. W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, finds from his own analysis that "active conservative Protestants" who regularly attend church have are 35 percent less likely to divorce compared to those who have no affiliation.
3 concepts that help Christians navigate their most intimate relationships:
1. Transformation: a complete or major change in someone's or something's appearance, form, etc. according to the Merrium-Webster Dictionary.
Jesus' physical, spiritual essence transformed after His death and was unrecognizable outwardly to his closest friends. He asked humans to follow him inwardly to think and feel like he did, like God does. When Christians decide to "follow Jesus" they want to allow God to transform their inner lives to live more intentionally with God's nature of love and peace. People who commit to being transformed in Jesus are open to being more loving in their most intimate human relationships, too. The process of transformation takes a lifetime — and committed Christians know and embrace this.
2. Unconditional love: not limited in any way: complete and absolute. a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person, per Merrium-Webster Dictionary.
Using the example of Jesus from Christianity, Jesus is a perfect model of unconditional love. He loved people. Jesus chose to love those who betrayed him, Peter and Judas. God even used Judas's betrayal for good.
3. Grace: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification, per Merrium-Webster Dictionary.
Christians believe that God grants us grace for our mistakes and imperfections. We don't have to be perfect, we don't have to earn God's approval, or earn a place in heaven. We are already granted a place just by being his creation. This means we don't have to beat ourselves up in a quest for perfection. God grants us grace even though we don't deserve it. As such, Christian partners can grant each other grace because they know how good it feels.
In a Christian look at marriage, betrayal is excruciatingly painful. Still, it can be a wake-up call to transform a person's life, and a couple's life. When transformation happens, the betrayal has been used for good. Many couples that have worked through the sting of infidelity have developed healthier relationships. They become closer to the God who has unconditional love for them. They believe in God's healing power and their own ability to heal. They embrace God's unconditional love for themselves and extended it to their romantic partner. They learn to live in grace.
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