Everyone is a philosopher when it comes to love. Definitions are "a dime a dozen." Love is, says one person, a many, splendid thing. Another sings, "love is a rose," fragrant and beautiful, but thorny and painful, and another suggests that "love means never having to say you're sorry." Shakespeare wrote in Merchant of Venice, "love is blind." Gilbert said, "it's love that makes the world go round," and Tennyson suggested that it is "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." I am convinced, however, that most people, if forced to define "love," could do no better than Thomas Middleton: "Love indeed is anything, yet indeed is nothing." The modern mind thinks of love in vague, nebulous, existential, and non-definable terms. "It's something that happens to you," people say, "not something that you can define."
This emotional, feeling-oriented, brand of "love" is promoted not only in music and literature, but by the popular media culture. Television promotes the "love as romance/passion" model so relentlessly, that even many Christians are confused about this important subject. In fact, Hollywood has so successfully infiltrated the Church with its view of romantic love , that the person who questions it or attempts to suggest an alternative position is suspect as an unrealistic, unfeeling odd-ball, if he is even understood. I am aware of that risk as I write. As I proceed to expose the unbiblical notions people have concerning "love," and attempt to reprogram the reader's mind to think about this subject Scripturally, I expect someone will begin to feel sorry for my wife, or say, "I'm sure glad I'm not married to you." But I proceed, because of a deep conviction that misunderstanding about love is at the heart of most relational problems.
OLD WIVES' FABLES
Misconceptions about love are commonplace, even among professed Bible believers. The need for clear-headed, Biblical thinking about love in this day of disintegrating families, pandemic divorce, and domestic redefinition cannot be exaggerated. Let's highlight some of the most popular myths and "old wives' fables" regarding love.
Fable #1: Love is something one "falls into," something out of one's control, something that cannot be helped. Most people, like poor Woody Allen, are miserable because they look for love in all the wrong places. Like the impotent man by the pool of Bethesda, they spend their days "waiting for the moving of the water," waiting for something to happen to them magically and suddenly, waiting for their "ship to come in," oblivious to the fact that the only One who can truly transform a life stands in their midst, ready to bless those who will trust and obey Him (Jno. 5).
Like the impotent man, most people think of love magically, as something that happens to them, over which they have no control. For example, a man "falls in love" with a woman. It is "love at first sight." Five years later, he decides that he doesn't love her anymore, and in fact, wonders if he ever "truly" loved her at all. So, he leaves, justifying his actions by the "I-can't-help-how-I-feel" excuse. Society agrees that he is right to leave since he no longer feels anything for her, and even commends his bold step as an act of self-honesty: "If he is telling the truth for the first time, then he's to be commended for stepping forth and living a lie no longer. Life is too short to spend it with someone you don't love. His wife must realize that you can't make another person love you." According to the secular mentality, this husband would be a hypocrite if he stayed with his wife. Better to be honest with oneself, it rationalizes, than to live in hypocrisy.
It sounds logical, doesn't it? I mean, if he doesn't love her anymore, what else can he do? Right? Wrong! Contrary to the popular definition, hypocrisy is not action contrary to one's feelings (i.e. feeling one way but doing another) but action contrary to one's profession (i.e. saying one thing but doing another). "If we say we have fellowship with Him, but walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth" says John (I Jno. 1:6). "He that saith, I know Him, but keepeth not His commandments, is a liar" (I Jno. 2:4). Hypocrisy is the failure to practice what you preach, not the denial of some inner emotion. When Jesus called the Pharisees "hypocrites," was He saying that they were not being honest with themselves? Did He accuse them of living contrary to their feelings? No, He accused them of giving lip service to the Law of God while refusing to practice its tenets. Society conditions us to think of feelings as the ultimate guide to behavior. "It can't be wrong when it feels so right," a song popularized in the 1970's suggested. Somehow, we have come to believe that emotions are indicators of reality and, to contradict them is tantamount to hypocrisy. Someone says, "I would have been at church yesterday, but I didn't feel very spiritual and I didn't want to be a hypocrite." May I suggest that the person who has "named the name of Christ" in public profession acts hypocritically by staying home, not by contradicting his emotions, because his action is inconsistent with the profession he made to follow Jesus Christ. The prevalent idea that a behavior orientation (i.e. doing right because it is right) toward life is sub-spiritual and that only a feeling orientation (i.e. doing right only if you feel like it) is pleasing to God is unbiblical.
Undoubtedly, because this husband had promised, before God, to love his wife until death, his hypocrisy was in the act of deserting his wife, not in staying with her and fulfilling his marriage vows. The world says, "at least he was honest." God's word says, "he was supremely dishonest, for he broke the vow he had made before God." Have you ever thought about such a familiar scenario as I've described from this Biblical perspective? I'm convinced many people have not. In fact, many Christian's would be surprised to know that the Bible says nothing about a kind of love one "falls into."
Fable #2 - Romantic love is the basis for marriage. Without question, most people believe that it is wrong to get married when romantic love is absent. In Biblical times, however, marriages were frequently arranged by parents. On many occasions, a husband never laid eyes on his wife until he removed the veil on the wedding day. Granted, such practices are difficult for people in a culture like ours to conceive. I am personally grateful that I had a choice in the selection of a life partner; nevertheless, the pre-arranged relationships of eastern cultures were just as viable, if not more, than modern marriages in the west.
It may surprise the reader to know that people actually once covenanted in marriage though they were not romantically involved and proceeded to develop a fulfilling, durable, and enjoyable relationship. How did they do it? They learned to love one another. Learned to love? Yes, learned to love. This does not sound nearly so foreign when one remembers the structure of the traditional wedding ceremony. During the ceremony, the minister does not attempt to discern whether the couple loves one another. He asks each to promise and to vow to love the other. He does not ask, "Do you really feel love, true love, for each other?" He insists that they consider love as an obligation of marriage: "Will you promise to love...until death do you part?"
Promise to love? You may wonder, "How can someone 'learn' to have a feeling? How can someone promise to feel a certain way until death?" That's exactly the point: he can't. Emotions are by their very nature unsteady, inconsistent, and ambivalent. They vacillate with the ebb and flow of circumstances. But love, according to God's definition, is not primarily a feeling, but an action. Biblical love is not the victim of one's emotions, but the servant of one's will. Marriages are predicated, consequently, on each partners pledge to commit themselves to act toward the other in a certain way, the way God's word calls "love." Even if the warm fuzzies of romance are absent; even when the novelty of the relationship has lapsed into the familiar; even when the initial emotional intensity has leveled off, a couple can still cultivate a loving, satisfying, and God-honoring relationship that is based on a mutual commitment to the other's welfare and obedience to the word of God. In fact, that is the marital ideal, according to the Bible.
Fable #3 - Loving oneself is basic and fundamental to a happy, stable life. It was once generally accepted that man's greatest problem was pride, an inordinate self-interest. Now society tells us that man's greatest problem is that he thinks, not too highly of himself, but too lowly. He has "low self-esteem." Virtually every vice, from disruptive behavior to murder, is interpreted as an expression of low self-esteem. Interpreting human behavior through the philosophical grid of "victimism," psychotherapists suggest that the perpetrator cannot really be blamed for his conduct. He is merely reacting to circumstances that displease him because he has no inner sense of significance and personal worth. What he needs, they say, before he can function properly in a social context, is a new appreciation for his own uniqueness, a new sense of his own importance and dignity. Once he has developed this "love of self," we are told, he will have the motivation to resist drugs, make good grades, and overcome the feelings of despair that come with life's inevitable disappointments. Pop singer Whitney Houston promotes the gospel of self-love in a contemporary song:
I believe that children are our future; Teach them well, and let them learn the way; Teach them all the beauty they possess inside; Give them a sense of pride...
The message is subtly packaged in a beautiful musical arrangement, accented by Houston's captivating voice. She continues:
I determined long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadow, If I fail, if I succeed, at least I'll live and die, believing, No matter what they take from me, They can't take away my dignity; Because the greatest love of all, is happening to me; Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.
Is "the gospel according to Whitney" consistent with the gospel according to Jesus? What did Jesus say was "the greatest love of all?" Learning to love yourself? Absolutely not! According to the Lord Jesus Christ, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (Jno. 15:13). The Lord interprets love in terms of self-sacrifice, or if you please, unselfishness, not self-centeredness and self-concern.
Far from producing happiness and stability, self-love breeds heartache and confusion. Marriages disintegrate, not thrive, when selfishness prevails. The moment each partner begins to prioritize self before the other, the relationship is destined to fail. What would happen to a family of five if every member adopted a self-absorbed mentality? If each lived for himself and not for the other, what would become of the family? Sadly, the answer to that question is all too apparent in the demise of the home in western culture.
"I'm not getting what I want out of this relationship," one mate says to another. "I don't think I love you anymore." I suggest that this person has not even started to understand the meaning of love. In fact, I maintain that many people who say "I love you" are really saying, in the words of the automobile commercial, "I love what you do for me." Self-love is not missing; love is. "I don't think I love you anymore" means "You don't do for me what you once did and I love myself too much to stay here any longer." Self-love, expressing itself in self-protection, self-defensiveness, self-assertiveness, and self-righteousness destroys relationships. It doesn't build them. Christianity, on the other hand, expressing itself in self-denial, self-humbling, self-forgetfulness, and self-sacrifice provides a rock-solid foundation for a marriage that sings.
People do not have to "learn" to love themselves. Because man was created in the image of God, he is a self-conscious creature. Sin has perverted and distorted this natural self-awareness, however, so that fallen man tends to idolize and deify the self, devoting his every energy and affection to the service of the self. "No man ever yet hated his own flesh" argues Paul (Eph. 5:29). If a man has a headache, he takes an aspirin, because he loves himself too much to allow his body to hurt. If he is fatigued, he rests, because he loves himself too much to allow himself to be uncomfortable. On the basis of this principle, Paul argues that men should love their wives like they love their own bodies. In other words, a man should take the same pains to relieve his wife's burdens and promote her welfare that he takes for his own body. His primary interest should be her well being, not his own comfort. That is real love - selfless, sacrificial behavior that "esteems others more important than self" (Phi. 2:3). This kind of love must be "learned" and developed, for it doesn't come naturally. But in a fallen world, it is the only kind of love that will produce the happiness that comes from a stable relationship.
THREE KINDS OF LOVE
What then is the Biblical view of love? It is expressed by the Greek word agape. Interestingly, agape was virtually a Christian invention. Prior to the New Testament, agape was used rarely in Greek literature. The New Testament elevates agape to prominence as the single concept that best expresses the meaning of love. Agape is the God-kind of love. It is a brand of love that is virtually unknown to modern man. Instead, people think of love in terms of two other Greek nouns, eros, passionate or romantic love, and phileo, friendship or brotherly love.
(1) Eros - Romantic Love: When most people think of "love," they think in terms of eros (from which we derive the English "erotic"). Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says concerning the Grecian concept of eros:
"This is the passionate love that desires the other for itself. The god Eros compels all but is compelled by none....eros masters us and confers supreme bliss thereby....the original idea is that of erotic intoxication." (p. 7) This passionate, self-centered, uncontrollable, intoxicating "love" is promoted by virtually every sector of our society. Romance novels, motion pictures, floral companies, and record labels feed on the public appetite for eros. Does such a thing as eros, that is, romance, really exist? Why, certainly. But it is not synonymous with Biblical love. In fact, eros is love in its crudest and lowest form. The high and noble concept of Biblical love is something entirely different. Yet when most people "look for love," claim to be "in love," or express love to someone else, they are thinking in terms of eros. To them, romance is life's supreme glory and matrimony's supreme achievement. When a couple possesses eros, they believe that they have finally secured that rarest of all gems, the priceless jewel of "love." They have "arrived."
They fail to realize, however, that this romantic attraction is, first of all, not very rare, and secondly, only the beginning, not the point of arrival, of a godly relationship. Eros is the kindergarten of love. It is the phase in a relationship when two people are attracted to one another, physically, emotionally, and/or intellectually with a magnetic fascination. It is the same kind of natural attraction that motivates a female bird to select one mate above several rivals, each vying for her attention. That is not to say that eros is strictly a form of animal passion, for, in contrast to animals, people may very well experience an attraction at the intellectual and emotional levels, as I mentioned previously. But, like the bird, different people have different personal preferences and what appears attractive to one person may not appeal to another. This attraction manifests itself by an unusual preoccupation with another person. When separated, the heart longs for his company. When together, the stomach flutters, the palms become clammy, and the couple becomes oblivious to everything around them. This is the kind of experience that makes young people "cow eye" and makes old people "feel young again."
I don't deny that such a phenomena as eros exists. Further, I concede that most relationships begin at this level. But this is not love -- not Biblical love, at least. Because so many people mistake romance for love, it is no wonder that married people "fall out of love" as quickly as they "fell into" it. Once the novelty and the sense of mystery is gone; once the initial excitement has been replaced by the routine of daily responsibilities; once one knows the other person through and through; once one becomes utterly familiar with the faults, foibles, and idiosyncrasies of one's partner, those mellow, dreamy feelings can all too easily slip away.
Neither is it a wonder when one partner suddenly announces that he has "fallen in love" with someone else and, in fact, has not been "in love" with his spouse for years. "How can these things happen?' someone asks. Why do people "lose that loving feeling"? Because they mistake eros for love. The individual who convinces himself that "love" lost in one relationship can be recaptured in an adulterous relationship will eventually leave that relationship for yet another, and that for another, for he is living by his feelings, and the intensity of romance inevitably wanes as the sense of mystery fades into the realm of the utterly familiar.
Just because someone may seem interesting, fascinating, or attractive to you does not mean that you are "in love" with him. In fact, everyone will periodically come into contact with others who possess characteristics that intrigue and attract attention. The individual who loves his/her spouse Biblically, however, will recognize this magnetism for what it is, an untrustworthy, temporary, and potentially destructive emotion, and will permit it no entrance into his thoughts.
Sadly, most people make the discovery and perpetuation of eros the goal of their relationship. Even in Christian circles, romance is frequently exalted as the marital ideal. Christian books on marriage often emphasize the "love as romance" model, suggesting that "the honeymoon doesn't have to end." Is this a legitimate emphasis? Perhaps. But the point is that romance is not, in and of itself, the essential ingredient of a marriage that glorifies God and brings fulfillment to each respective partner -- love is.
(2) Phileo - Friendship Love: Recognizing society's misdirected emphasis on eros, some married couples have aspired to a higher level in their relationship and have redefined the marital ideal in terms of "enjoying the other's company." 'My husband is my best friend,' says one wife. 'We just enjoy being together. We can talk to each other about anything and everything. Not only do we love, we also like each other.' The Greek word phileo, translated 'love' in the New Testament, conveys the thought of friendship love. English words philanthropy (love of mankind), philosophy (love of wisdom), and philharmonic (love of harmony) are compounds of phileo, as is the proper name Philadelphia (brotherly love). The word means "to treat somebody as one's own relative" and is used in common Greek for love between spouses, between parents and children, between employers and employees, and between friends.
Phileo conveys the idea of a common interest. Like eros, it is a concept that involves the feelings. The word carries various emotional nuances, including "to be content with," "to have warm affection for," and "to like or value." Unlike the Greek term eros, which never appears in Scripture, phileo appears some thirty times in the New Testament.
Is the friendship kind of love important in a relationship? Yes. In fact, God gave marriage, first and foremost, to satisfy man's need for companionship: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him" (Gen. 2:18). Togetherness, consequently, is essential to a godly marriage: "For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh" (Eph. 5:31). The "one-flesh" nature of the marital relationship makes the cultivation of a friendship between husband and wife a priority. It is imperative, therefore, that couples take time to communicate, spend time together, make eye contact, and be attentive to each other. By nothing more than mere negligence, many people lose that person-to-person contact that is so necessary to maintain a viable marriage. He becomes preoccupied with work, cutting the grass, servicing the car, and paying the bills, and she tends to throw all of her energies into cooking the meals and taking care of the children, until they one day awaken to the fact that they are virtual strangers to each other. Togetherness is the key word here, not mere geographic togetherness (though physical presence is important), but a sharing of the blessings and burdens, laughter and tears, hopes and disappointments, of every day experience as a team and a unit. In the harried pace of daily life -- in the mad rush to fulfill family responsibilities, husbands and wives who do not take time to maintain and improve interpersonal contact between themselves will soon discover a distance between them that seems impossible to bridge. Such a relationship is not consistent with the Biblical mandate to "cleave" to one another in a covenant of companionship.
Perhaps a wife who feels neglected or a husband who feels overlooked is reading my words. You can say a hearty "Amen" to the previous two paragraphs. This is the message you have been trying to get across to your mate over the past few months. You are dying for his/her attention. You feel unloved because your mate seems to have no time for you. Your marriage lacks, not passion, but friendship. This is, in your mind, your greatest desire in marriage. If you could just experience this kind of friendship with your spouse, a real relationship, not a mere coexistence, then you would have found "true love."
Well, as important as phileo is in a marriage, it is still not the essence of Biblical love. It is not the ideal. It is not God's goal for us. May I make a startling statement? Even in relationships devoid of romance and friendship, a couple may still learn to love. In other words, a successful marriage is not ultimately dependent on either eros or phileo. Even if you and your mate have long since lost the intensity of romantic passion, and even if you scarcely know one another any more, you can still cultivate a loving relationship through the practice of agape. A marriage without eros and phileo is not destined to fail, but a marriage without agape is.
(3) Agape - Sacrificial Love: I'm convinced that most people do not think about love Biblically. What we mean when we talk about "love" and what God means when He talks about "love" are two different things. In fact, the eros and phileo concepts are so deeply ingrained into our intellectual grid of life that agape may be, upon first glance, somewhat repugnant to us. After all, it sounds so "unromantic." "It is so contrary to what I've always thought," someone says. But agape is the word the Holy Spirit employs (and in fact, virtually coins) to define "love" over two hundred fifty times in the New Testament.
What is this foreign kind of love known as agape? It is the kind of love that God has for His elect. God does not love His people because He is attracted to them, for there is nothing attractive in them. God determined to love them in spite of their sin: "God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). God's love is an act of the will, not of the emotions. It is something He decides to do, not something He passively feels.
Further, he expressed his love by voluntarily giving His own Son to die for those whom He had purposed to redeem. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." (Jno. 3:16). He covenanted, unilaterally, to do everything necessary for their salvation. God the Son committed himself to bear their iniquities and to suffer the wrath of God in their stead. Voluntarily, He divested Himself of His divine prerogatives, subjecting Himself to death, even the ignominious death of the cross. John writes, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (I Jno. 3:16). Love, the God-kind of love, is defined by the cross. There we learn that agape involves a commitment to the welfare of another without any consideration of worthiness in the loved one. Agape is a love that gives to others, not that desires for oneself. It is self-sacrifice with an aim to make the loved one great. In a word, agape is selflessness.
The key words in the definition are "commitment," "others," "giving," and "self-sacrifice." In simple terms, love is a way of behaving toward another person, not a nebulous, mystical emotion. In Scripture, love is a command. We are commanded to love God and love our neighbor (Mt. 22:37). Jesus said, "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another" (Jno. 13:34). Paul said, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it" (Eph. 5:25). Note he does not say, "Husbands, feel affectionate and romantic toward your wives." No, feelings cannot be commanded, but love can, for love is an act of the will, something that one makes up his mind to do and then he does it. Paul's words, written in the imperative mood, express a command that husbands are obliged to obey. Husbands are under an obligation to sacrifice their own comforts and "needs" for the benefit of their wives, in the same way that the Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for the church. Likewise, Jesus issues the imperative, "Love your enemies" (Mt. 5:43). Does Jesus want us to drum up pleasant emotions for those who have abused us? Obviously not. He commands us to love them by choosing to show them favor and goodwill.
THE PROFILE OF AGAPE
In specific terms, I Corinthians 13:4-7 profiles the characteristics of Biblical love: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.
Did you notice that Paul does not describe what love is, but what love does? He does not use adjectives to describe love. He does not say "Love is beautiful" or "Love is wonderful." Instead, he uses verbs, words of action, to describe love: "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous, self-promoting, proud, rude, selfish, angry or suspicious...." If you really love someone else, says Paul, you will treat them with patience, kindness, and unselfishness. Do you realize what that means? That means that when one is impatient, unkind, jealous, and rude to someone else, he does not love that other person. The profile of love in I Corinthians 13 can be summarized in four categories:
(1) Love's Heart (vs. 4a,5c) - The person who loves another behaves in kindness, patience, and tenderness. Every action is born from a sincere desire for the happiness of the loved one. Love does not have a short fuse ("is not easily provoked") but is "slow to wrath," suffering long with the faults and imperfections of the loved one. Love is the act of showing patience, not irritability, when others falter, and kindness, which is the proof of patience. Love doesn't nitpick at petty annoyances. Do you love your mate? Let me rephrase the question. Do you respond to your spouse's little quirks and annoyances in patience and kindness? If not, start now, for God commands you to love.
(2) Love's Attitude (vs. 4b-5b) - Love displays itself by a commitment to unselfish living. Notice the emphasis on "self" in verses four and five: "Charity envieth not [i.e. is not self protecting]; charity vaunteth not itself [i.e. is not self-promoting], is not puffed up [i.e. is not self-inflated], doth not behave itself unseemly [i.e. is not self-glorifying], seeketh not her own [i.e. is not self-seeking]." In a word, love is not selfish. Analyze the next argument you have with your spouse. How many times did each of you use the word "I"? Nine times out of ten, selfishness is at the root of marital conflict. Pride, self-interest, and egotism are the antitheses of love. Love is never rude or jealous. It esteems the other more important than itself. Do you love your spouse? Let me rephrase the question. Are you denying yourself for your partner's benefit? If not, then start now, for God commands you to love.
(3) Love's Judgment (vs. 5d-6) - These two expressions, i.e. love thinks no evil and love rejoices not in iniquity but in the truth, express what might be termed "the judgment of charity." Love involves giving another the benefit of the doubt and assuming the best possible motives, not the worst. Love does not keep a record of past offences. It "thinketh no evil." It's judgment therefore is not colored by resentment. It does not take into account past wrongs. How many married partners have so allowed past hurts to fill their hearts with resentment that they automatically assume the worst motive when the other speaks. Instead of listening to what is said, they become very artful at "reading between the lines." They constantly ask each other, "What did you mean by that statement?" If the other replies, "I meant nothing more than what I said," they react, "Sure, I know what you were really saying." They are more inclined to believe the worst than to believe the truth. Conversation filled with innuendo is a destructive habit for couples to develop. But so is the attitude that insists on reading the worst motives into the things that one's partner says and does. It is, in fact, very unloving. Do you love your spouse? Let me rephrase the question. Do you automatically give him/her the benefit of the doubt and assume the best of motives? If not, then start now, for God commands you to love.
(4) Love's Tenacity (vs. 7-8a) - The final five statements suggest that love does not cease. Like the rabbit on the battery commercial, it keeps on going, and going, and going. In other words, it is impossible for love to die. Do you believe that statement? Think about it carefully. I didn't say that it's impossible for romance to die, or for happiness to die, but for love to die. Neither did I say that it is impossible for a person to cease to be committed to the other. But where commitment is present, it is impossible to destroy that relationship. Heavy burdens cannot destroy it, for love 'beareth all things.' Suspicion cannot destroy it, for love 'believeth all things.' Discouragement cannot destroy it, for love 'hopeth all things.' Difficult trials cannot destroy it, for love 'endureth all things.' In fact nothing can destroy it, for love 'never faileth,' that is, it never ceases. "Many waters cannot quench love." When one person is committed to self-sacrifice for the benefit of another, no burden will be too heavy. Love is the willingness to bear all burdens, to trust your partner implicitly, to expect the best, and to endure the worst. Love is the commitment to keep on keeping on regardless of circumstances around you, feelings within you, and consequences ahead of you. Charity never faileth.
Do you love your spouse? Let me rephrase the question. Are you committed to unselfish living for the long haul? Is that commitment the sole factor in the future of your relationship? If not, then start now. Take the initiative to be kind. Bear insult and injury meekly. Go out of your way to make your partner happy. Forget about receiving anything in return. Commit yourself to a life of serving your mate. Away with rude remarks, biting sarcasms, irritability, judgmental criticism, and petty egotism. Sacrifice your own happiness for the happiness of your companion. Focus on being the kind of person God requires you to be and don't attempt to make your mate hold up their side of the bargain. After all, you promised to love, until death, period. Regardless of your spouse's behavior, you vowed to love. This is the kind of love that God commands.
On the authority of God's word, I guarantee that every couple who lives like this will never meet a problem that will kill their relationship, because charity never faileth. Furthermore, as a by-product of sacrificial love, the warm feelings of romance and the quiet contentment of friendship will resurface, sporadically at first, and more regularly as your years increase - together.