Marriage is very much like a work of art in that after many strokes and much time it reveals its truest masterpiece.

Many enter marriage with an unhealthy understanding of what sustains long-term relationships. Many believe, like the song says, “love is all we need!” and fail to understand that love will be tested and that there is a chance it will either grow weaker or stronger because of the testing. They believe somehow that their love will supersede the pain and pitfalls, the resentment and regrets that so often befall couples, eventually leading to divorce. For them, love is a perfect and unchanging gift. But for many long-term couples, marriage has been a continued effort toward mastery, forged by many trials and errors.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=””]For many long-term couples, marriage has been a continued effort towards mastery, forged by many trials and errors.[/su_pullquote]The concept of love can be broken down into two distinct categories – that which is sustainable and that which is most likely to fade away over time.  An unsustainable love is undoubtedly the kind of love where, after the feelings subside, as they often do, there is no lasting foundation upon which a couple’s vows remain realistic. Unresolved guilt, hurt, and resentment build, eventually overcoming the kind of idealistic love that makes up many of today’s marriages. A sustainable love is certainly the kind of love that endures all things as described in 1 Corinthians 13:7. It is freely giving and not a love given on demand; it trusts and hopes in all things. It is unconditional and it seeks out conditions that promote its health and sustainability.

A successful marriage relationship not only demands a realistic love but also requires the commitment, discipline, and fortitude that many artists employ to bring their masterpieces to fruition – the very things that every couple needs to have their “till death do we part” realized.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=””]A successful marriage relationship not only demands a realistic love but also requires the commitment, discipline, and fortitude.[/su_pullquote]Commitment is the dedication to an obligation, promise, or a goal. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” It does appear here that Jesus is equating love with actively committing oneself to a set of objectives. But we must not overly simplify the nature of love by defining it only by action. Not all actions that are done in the name of love are in fact received as love. Some actions that are thought of to be derived from feelings of love can be so abusive that they blur the lines of what active love should actually look and feel like. Action is more than doing what you think your partner needs but rather doing what your partner actually prefers done. This requires a special kind of fortitude and discipline.

Fortitude is defined as the mental strength and courage that allow someone to face danger and pain for the sake of something greater. It is about being reliable and dependable. It is determining to stick with it when the going gets tough. It is being reminded of the vows of ‘for better of for worse.’

Discipline is what your partner is relying on when you are not with them or when it comes to spending or sharing your gifts, time, and talents with others. And it is not about controlling your partner or spouse; it is about self-control. It is about one’s own willingness to keep, protect, and serve the agreements and conditions of the marriage covenant. Discipline is being aware of the threats are out there and avoiding putting the marriage at an unnecessary risk.

In addition, couples who desire a sustainable love in a sustainable marriage must also be open to patience, forgiveness, and compromise.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=””]Couples who desire a sustainable love in a sustainable marriage must be open to patience, forgiveness, and compromise.[/su_pullquote]It has been said that “patience is the ability to persevere and maintain composure in situations that necessitate understanding, entail a tolerance for delay, and incite emotional intensity.”[1] Some have defined it as the ability to wait without complaining or voicing one’s dissatisfaction. I like to say that it is the ability to practice a non-anxious presence in the face of a perceived crisis. But in all these, patience is indeed a virtue that must be practiced and perfected. It is essential to having a functional and healthy relationship. It will take time to develop. But it must be a continual learning process for both, you and your partner.

Forgiveness is key! It is the ability to accept each other’s faults and to pardon your partner’s mistakes. Forgiveness is not necessarily forgetting, but it is in remembering what you learned from past mistakes. Forgiveness is not necessarily avoiding the occasional revisiting of the pain associated with mistakes, but it is in not bringing them back up once you have released them­– understanding that every time you bring up past faults, there’s the potential or likelihood of assigning blame, which is the antithesis of forgiveness.

Compromise is king! Marriage is for any willing heart, but a long, happy marriage is for the faithful, the courageous, and those who master the art of compromise. As each partner learns to navigate, adapt, and adjust to the other’s quirks, styles, and habits, they have the potential to become master negotiators. Love and marriage are upheld by often ‘giving in’ over the pull toward ‘giving up.’ One might say it another way: the frame of love is compromise; if you don’t learn this art, you will never see the masterpiece.

Love seeks out the risk takers; it romances the adventurers; but it snares the fools that take it for granted. True love is the one thing that can supersede pain and heartbreak, but it must never be taken for granted. Love demands vulnerability, and the odds are that you will get hurt. But a real and sustainable love is well worth the risks!


[1] retrieved 2/12/2015

The following two tabs change content below.
I am a proud, passionate liberal thinker, social-justice advocate, entrepreneur, creative thinker, and songwriter whose mission in life is to try be the change that I hope someday would be in the world. I am also a husband, father, and community minister. I hold an undergraduate degree in Organizational Leadership, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a Master of Divinity degrees. Currently, I am serving as Managing Director of Clergy 211, an organization of inclusive and progressive clergy that provide non-judgmental rite-of-passage ceremonies for all people.

Latest posts by Rev. Randy Lewis (see all)