Advent traditionally involves 4 small words that can also enhance your relationship.
Advent is the season Christians observe leading up to Christmas. During this season, Christians traditionally focus on hope, peace, joy and love. These very same themes can also be important things to focus on in our relationships in order to enhance our relationship whether it is at the beginning early stage or is more mature. This focus can occur during Advent or can be something that is worked on by a couple at any time. For each of these ideas, here is two lessons you can take from Advent to understand the deeper sense these words can play and an exercise you can do with your partner to enhance your relationship:
- Hope holds onto the promise of how things can be. As you do this in your relationship, remember that the bigger picture of your commitment and the relationship of the future can help you put the smaller picture of current situations into context as you hold onto hope.
- The source of hope is not restricted just to us. On the Advent journey, Christians understand that God is a source that can be called on in order to keep hope. What do you call on that is greater than yourself or your relationship that will allow you to sustain your hope?
- EXERCISE: Work together as a couple to describe the key elements or principles on which your relationship will be built on in the future. Find ways to foster a focus on these things.
- Deep peace is something that happens more internally rather than externally. As you strive to achieve peace (which is greater than just an absence of conflict but permeates your relationship) you will find more peace and foster more peace by focusing on attitudes rather than particular instances.
- Repentance and forgiveness are the base for peace. Peace requires a change in our orientation and both repentance (turning from what we have done wrong) and forgiveness (turning towards the other and the relationship) are key ways of turning in order to move towards where peace may be built.
- EXERCISE: Explore the negative conflict patterns in your relationship, repent of them, forgive each other and plan positive alternatives for the future. These areas of needed peace may be around small things that come up over and over again or larger things that act as a block in your relationship.
- Joy contains in it a longing. C. S. Lewis reminded us that “joy is distinct from pleasure” but is really a deeper sense inside of us that longs for the way it will be. This same type of longing can be felt in the joy in a relationship where there is a desire to remain tied together even as present difficulties are felt.
- Joy is a response to feeling the presence of something greater than ourselves that is with us, especially as we realize what that greater thing (for Christians in Advent this is God) does with us and our lives. Do you believe that your relationship is built on anything greater than just the two of you? Do you believe that God is a partner in your marriage?
- EXERCISE: Invite God back into your relationship and what you are longing for. Depending on how similar your faith traditions, there are different ways of doing this.
- To love another person involves caring for them and for what they need to be blessed with even when this is not in your self interest. While you do not have to give up yourself and your own ideas, this does involve thinking about what the other person needs and helping them to be able to have it.
- The love described in Advent includes God’s love for a people, including a promise of this love for generations to come. This focus reminds us that to love is to not necessarily focus on the other’s acts but rather to focus on who they are as a person. It can be easy to get this backwards and forget why we committed to love another.
- EXERCISE: Plan to regularly engage in acts that the other person will see as loving. If you are not clear on how they want you to express your love to them, have a conversation with them about it.
Hopefully, these lessons from Advent will help you to enhance your relationship. Focus on the thoughts and do the exercises. Do other things to bring depth and intentionality into your relationship. As you do so, you may find wholeness and peace in your life and in your relationship.