When you follow healthy relationship guidelines, you significantly increase the odds of true love and genuine relationships.
In a world where relationships seem complicated, self-serving, and fraught with issues, the quest for a healthy, long-lasting relationship can feel like an impossible goal. But what if the key to a fulfilling relationship lies in understanding the true essence of love itself? The secret to healthy relationships lies in understanding what love is, where it comes from, and how to foster it through the essential relationship guidelines grounded in biblical love and wisdom.
What Is Love, Really?
Many people think love is an emotion, a feeling that you "fall into" or "fall out of." This misconception often leads to temporary, conditional relationships that are more about yourself than the other person—creating an almost transactional view of love. As long as you get what you want from the other person, you’ll continue to feel “in love” with them.
And yet, the Bible frames love differently. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us precisely what love is and what it looks like:
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
Love, or it might help to refer to it as true love, is selfless, sacrificial, serving, righteous, and above all, unconditional. True love is God and what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. In all our familial, platonic, or romantic relationships, we are to love others the way God loves us: wholly, unconditionally, and without thinking of what we are receiving in return.
Love is a Decision, Not Just a Feeling
"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." —Romans 5:8
Contrary to popular belief, love is not a fleeting emotion. It's a decision to which your feelings respond. When you decide to love someone, you commit to pursuing their best and giving them yours, regardless of your emotional state. Love is an action, a choice, with deeds and respect that follow in its wake. We do this not because they deserve it but because Christ first loved us even when we were at our worst.
When both parties in a relationship decide to love (pursue their best patiently, kindly, sacrificially, and unconditionally), relationship problems get resolved. Love has the power to transform even the most challenging relationships into havens of peace, joy, and contentment.
4 Relationship Guidelines for True Love
While agape love is what we should all strive for, unfortunately, we are still human. We will mess up, have baggage, and bring our selfish and sinful wants and desires into a relationship. To combat this and continually promote healthy, unconditional love in your relationships, here are 3 relationship guidelines to follow.
1) Pursue Their Best
THE most critical and foundational of all relationship guidelines is to pursue the best for the other person continuously. This means being patient, kind, and sacrificial in your actions and decisions. This also means believing the best about and encouraging the best out of them, even when they have a hard time seeing it for themselves.
Whether the person is in the room or not, always pursue what honors God and is most honoring of their needs, wants, character, and future.
When you love a person, you understand the math of relationships: it takes 2 to say YES for great relationships and only 1 to say NO to destroy relationships. Please be the person who says YES unconditionally!
2) Practice Freedom
A healthy relationship is one where neither person is controlled by the other because they accept that both parties have the freedom to make choices, even bad ones. And when bad decisions are made, the other person uses their freedom responsibly to "share the truth in love..." about the decision. Those times too often become "all about ME," pointing out the flaws in the other person instead of working together to grow and develop each other to look more like Jesus.
Always remember that freedom can be used responsibly and irresponsibly. When used responsibly, it is under the umbrella of love, pursuing their best. That means you give up some of your freedoms, typically those that are irresponsible. When your freedom is irresponsible, it is selfish and unloving!
Additionally, never forget that you do not GIVE anyone freedom; they already have it because God created us with the freedom to choose. Yes, you may remove their physical freedom, but they are still free in their mind or thoughts.
Healthy relationship guidelines foster growth, happiness, and safety in the relationship—regardless of type. Are you being responsible with your freedom?
3) Prioritize Forgiveness and Confession
Healthy communication is critical for any healthy relationship. But what is most often unspecified is the most important communication. The most significant obstacle to healthy communication is unresolved issues.
Love, pursuing their best, is the ultimate solution for superior relationships. Understanding and applying love will limit irresponsible freedom, easily displayed in unforgiveness and lack of confession. Without forgiveness and confession, you create the obstacles of unresolved issues.
Healthy relationships always prioritize forgiveness and confession and do not get stuck in the past because of unresolved problems.
Foster a space within your relationship guidelines for honest, open communication between all parties where feelings can be expressed and heard. Don’t only honor communication but prioritize it—creating weekly check-ins with a partner or frequently asking thoughtful questions to promote connection. Remember that healthy communication involves both vulnerability and a nonjudgmental attitude.
How to Apply These Relationship Guidelines
1) Be Honest with Yourself
It is easy to justify your behavior when you see them doing something wrong. That means you react and respond to their bad behavior and justify your behavior because they "made you angry."
The best way to be honest about your behavior is to pray for a sensitive conscience so you will hear the Lord speak to you. Otherwise, your sin nature will block the words of your PERFECT Father God, and you will trust something other than God - most likely your lousy thinking.
Whenever you are angry, irritated, upset, discouraged, disappointed, etc., remember to ask yourself, "How am I making this about ME right now?" When I answer that question honestly, I am always making the situation about ME and not looking to serve God, them, and the relationship.
2) Be Consistent
Consistency is vital in any relationship. Your actions should consistently reflect your decision to love, even when circumstances change or feelings lessen. Remember that true love is a choice.
When you decide to love someone and act accordingly, day in and day out, your feelings will follow.
3) Be Unconditional
This is the most important and the most difficult. Unconditional is impossible without relying on the power of the life of Christ in you and the energy of the Holy Spirit to live that life THROUGH you!
Unconditional will be quickly overlooked when you do not believe the other person is pursuing your best. That leads to focusing on their behavior instead of yours.
Love them even when it's difficult, especially when they don't "deserve" it. Not only is this kind of love a reflection of God’s love for us and what we’re called to emulate as Christians, but by extending unconditional love and grace to others, you control the only thing you can control: yourself.
The Best Relationship Guidelines Come From God
If you're looking for relationship guidelines to improve your life and connections with others, start with Jesus Christ. He is Love! Every action He took was to pursue the best for those He related with, and He is doing that with you right now.
When you focus on Him and allow the Holy Spirit to mold your heart as you engage with His Word daily, God will display true love in you for others. When Christ is the foundation of your love, everything else falls into place.
The key to a healthy relationship is understanding and practicing a godly definition of love. Following Him and these essential relationship guidelines will unlock the secret to a fulfilling, lasting relationship with the people around you. Will you decide to love? If you don't, you certainly will not "fall into it!"