Marriage, Relationship, Valentine's Day

Love: Eleven Practices for Growing Love

Man and woman from the back, holding hands

@JeanneTakenaka

Twenty-five years.

Twenty-five years ago this month I met my husband. I hated Valentine’s Day. Not the day itself, but how it made me feel.

Isolated.

Alone.

Not wanted.

I’d accepted the fact that I wanted only God’s best when it came to a potential husband, but this day . . . when romantic love is most celebrated . . . was painful.

I suspect most people who are single-wanting-to-be-married have felt the same way at some point.

A wooden bowl holding heart-shaped rocks

A few days after Valentine’s Day that year, I joined my room mate on a ski trip with her singles group. And this man was among the crew. 

We hit it off. We ski-ed together, worshiped together, laughed together. And hope awakened in my heart that maybe . . . 

We got to know each other through letters (yes, the kind you actually write out with pen and paper) and long-distance phone calls, because he lived three hours away. Something in that intentional way of communicating drew us close. 

Tho hands displaying wedding rings

We married thirteen months later. 

And we learned what it means to love intentionally. 

We were both older when we said our, “I Do’s.” Merging two lives, two ways of doing things, two belief systems, two money-belief systems, and two of lots-of-other-things wasn’t easy.

Can I hear an “Amen?”

Meme with the words: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails..." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 on a backdrop of two decorated coffees and a man and woman's hands

As we near Valentine’s Day 2020, I’m thinking over eleven practices that helped our marriage grow strong through the trials life tossed our way.

1. Pray with each other. Soon after our wedding, we attended a couple’s retreat where the speakers encouraged us to pray before going to bed each night. For twenty-four years, we’ve maintained this practice. Sometimes, our prayers are brief, other times they’re in-depth. But we hold hands and mingle our hearts before our Father.

2. Pray for each other. Each morning, Hubs and I exchange prayer requests. Knowing my husband’s got my back in prayer, and I’ve got his strengthens me. Some days we’re the only ones who pray for our spouses. What a privilege.

3. Don’t talk smack about our spouse. We’ve been intentional about our words. By doing this, we protect character and how others view our spouses.

A heart made from browned leaves

4. Give grace. When he’s had a rough day and I pick up on this, it’s easier to let a tone go and give grace, rather than react. He’s an introvert, so time alone refreshes him. I show love when I encourage him to take time.

5. Listen without interrupting. As hard as this can be, especially for us women, when we listen without interrupting our men by finishing their sentence or cutting them off with our thoughts, they feel respected. The same is true when men listen without fixing before they’re heard their other half’s thoughts.

6. Think the best about each other. We rarely set out to make the other person mad. When I become angry about something he does or says, I step back and remember this wasn’t his intention. He loves me and this reflects through many of his other actions. 

7. Learn how we receive love. The Five Love Languages, by Dr. Gary Chapman, taught us a ton about loving well. Hubs loves through serving. My doing things for him—like making his lunch—speaks love to my acts-of-service husband.

A heart-shaped cut from where a branch used to be

8. Share hearts. Early in our relationship we had an argument where sarcastic comments zinged me. As I shared how painful those comments were, we established a boundary in our relationship that sarcasm would not be a part of our arguing. He’s become my safe place when I need to work through something on my heart. 

8. Encourage each other to pursue passions and callings, within reason. Hubs has a heart to disciple other men. I love to write. We encourage each other and make time for each other to do these things. These activities fill us and prepare us for family- and life-stresses.

10. Respect and Love. I learned early on (the hard way) what spoke disrespect to my husband. I’ve become a student of my man so I can show him respect in our interactions. And he’s learned what speaks love to me. 

11. Be intentional in what we say and do. We’ve worked hard to hold each other first above everything else. We’ve each given up certain things to honor the other person. When my husband’s given something up for me, it’s spoken deep love to my heart. And, when I’ve said no to things because he asked me to, that’s honored him.

BONUS: Kiss in front of our children. Yes, we still do this. Yeah, maybe I grin a bit at their “Ewwww!” Beyond that, our sons know our marriage is solid. This gives them some peace about the stability of our family bonds.

a yellow heart-shaped leaf on a bed of other autumn leaves

I’ve shared a lot. And with each tip, I could have offered at least three stories to illustrate the points. As you prepare to celebrate love on Valentine’s Day—and every day—consider what speaks love to your significant other and do it. 

What about you? What tips would you add to my list? What speaks love to you the most deeply?

Click to Tweet: Merging two lives, two ways of doing things and two of lots-of-other-things wasn’t easy

I’m linking up with #TellHisStory and #RaRaLinkup

39 thoughts on “Love: Eleven Practices for Growing Love”

  1. Romance and love are truly grand
    in the clear light of wedding day,
    but when the dying hour comes,
    you have to learn to step away.
    The downhill run’s intensified
    as things go from bad to ghastly
    and everything that you have tried
    just makes it all a bit more nasty.
    For the one, life is closing
    with unwelcome certainty
    that should not yet be imposing
    on the other, lonely misery.
    The greatest gift the dying give
    is to bid their mate the chance to live.

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    1. Andrew, there is a delicate balance for loving when the one you love is dying . . . and when you are the one staring eternity in the face. I won’t pretend to understand how difficult this season has been for you and Barb. But I pray for both of you as you navigate the letting go…as you encourage her to step back and begin to discover what the next chapters of her life can look like. I’m sending you a very gentle hug, my friend.

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  2. Congratulations, friend! Twenty-five years is a beautiful testimony to God’s grace and your obedience (and Amen to the “two of lots-of-other things”) What a tender and practical post at a perfect time.
    I only have one advice to add. It has often softened both sides as we stormed into the “lots-of-other things”.
    Often say, “You could be right!” (Over our thirty-one years of marriage a question mark at the end of that sentence slowly turned into the exclamation point.)
    Thanks for sharing, Jeanne ❤️

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  3. Jeanne, our stories bear several similarities 🙂 When we were dating, my husband and I lived 3 1/2 hrs. apart. Old fashioned, hand written letters were a treasure to receive as well as the long distance phone calls. Congratulations on your 25 years together! You have offered much wisdom for all, no matter the number of years married. Blessings!
    PS – We’ll be celebrating 41 in May 🙂

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    1. Joanne, I still have some of the letters my honey wrote while we courted. I would rush to the mailbox (yes, the one outside the house) hoping for an envelope with his handwriting on it. Congratulations (a little early) on forty-one years of marriage. What a legacy you are leaving for your family!

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  4. Jeanne,
    What a beautiful story of God bringing love into our lives when we least expect it. Like you, my husband and I exchanged written emails and talked on the phone a lot since we lived close to 5 hours apart. There IS something special in the written word. Speaking of writing, I would add…write each other love notes from time to time. I will stick a note in his lunch each day to let him know I love him and he will often pop in with a phone call, just to say the same. Random, unexpected love notes or calls is what I’d add to 11 great practices you’ve outlined!
    Blessings and congratulations,
    Bev xx

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    1. Bev, I love your suggestion! I actually haven’t written my husband a love note in . . . I don’t know how long. I guess I’ll be looking for ways to surprise him with some. 🙂 My guy calls me during his workday, and it means the world to me that he was thinking of me. Thanks for adding your suggestion!

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  5. oh Jeanne, this is beautiful and so thought-filled. sometimes we need to see things in black and white to give us the nudge we need to love better, more fully, and with more joy and purpose.

    i love what you’re modeling for your boys. and i love that you shared these helpful little graces, with us, too.

    even after almost 44 years of marriage, i’m still a student, ya’ know?

    ;-}

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  6. Congratulations on your 25 years together! These are great tips, and I liked reading more about how you and your husband met one another. Hope you enjoy your Valentine’s celebrations!

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  7. What a lovely Valentine’s Day tribute to your hubby! We do learn some things over the years, don’t we? For me, the learning was a slow and sometimes painful process. When my hubby and I married we were young and headstrong. It took us a while to figure out how to be a couple who could give each other grace. So glad we had the patience to get here, though!

    And I love your bonus tip! 🙂

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    1. Yes, Laurie, we do learn things as we traverse life’s path with our spouses. 🙂 It took me some time to learn some of these lessons too. 🙂 I love that you and your husband are creating a legacy of love for those around you!

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  8. Jeanne, one thing that speaks loudly through your post is that good marriages require us to, among other things, be intentional and invested. First in God, then in each other. Marriages need to be forgiving, grace-filled, kind and caring. Good marriages take work and time and energy. They cannot just happen. Just like in music, art, athletics or our jobs we have to practice and invest if we want them to improve. We have to be sensitive to each other’s needs and give each other the space to be honest and genuine. Marriage is a sanctifying process. I also agree with your comment about prayer. We pray each morning and our prayers are ones of gratitude, intercession and confession. They are our foundation for the day.

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    1. Yes, Anne. We must be intentional for our marriages to thrive! Intentional in growing in our relationship with God first, and then intentional in investing in our relationship with our spouse. I like what you said about having to practice. And goodness knows, marriage definitely gives us many opportunities for that. I loved all that you shared here. Thanks for offering your wisdom!!

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  9. March 3, 2020, my husband and I will be married for 41 years. We have learned over the years that the simplest gestures have profound meaning. For example, when my husband notices that I am “curled up in a ball’ under the bed covers, he will get an extra blanket to cover me. He doesn’t say a word, but I can feel the blanket cover me. He is covering me with love. 🙂 Each morning, I empty the tank in his breathing machine. I empty it and wipe out excess water. A simple gesture but one my husband appreciates. We both know we are loved. 🙂

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    1. Melissa, We are a March couple too (March 30). Congratulations, a few weeks early, on forty-one years together. What a beautiful legacy! I love the simple gestures you and your husband practice for each other. My husband does so many little things for me that fill my heart. I try to do things that are meaningful to him as well. As we study our spouses, we learn how to love them well, don’t we? Thanks for sharing your examples of how you and your husband love well!

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  10. Happy anniversary! Great points here. A good marriage doesn’t just happen. It takes work and a commitment to treat the other person and certain way. I also show love by doing things for people – acts of service. My husband feels love when I spend time with him. When I was first married I wondered why he wanted me to watch him mow the lawn. Go to the store with him, etc. I knew he didn’t need me and could do it without me and we could get twice as much accomplished. Gary’s book opened my eyes. Ah ha. Now I knew.

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    1. Thanks, Theresa! You’re right about a good marriage not “just happening.” I love that you are an acts-of-service gal. That’s my hubs as well. The Five Love Languages was instrumental in helping me learn to love my husband well!

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  11. Thank you so much for these wise and thoughtful insights, Jeanne. And I love the bonus one. 🙂 We both came from parents who didn’t, so we feel the importance of it. I always love all your photos, but the one of heart-shaped stones really warms my heart. As my kids and grandkids will tell you, I love hearts. 🙂 ❤️ 😍 I hope your hubby will be home on Valentine’s Day? It takes a truly strong relationship when a husband travels. 🙂 Love and blessings to you!

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    1. Trudy, I’m glad you liked the bonus tip. 😉 I really like the heart-shaped stones too. 🙂 My hubby will be home on Valentine’s Day. We’ll have a date night on Saturday. I hope your Valentine’s Day is a good one!

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  12. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story of twenty-five years. It is a beautiful gift to love each other as you do. The part I like best about what you shared is praying together and for each other. Oh, how I wish that had been part of my marriage. Keep loving and allowing God to lead you in your marriage. It makes such a difference.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. Prayer is such a foundational part of any important relationship. I’m so thankful God arranged for us to hear the wisdom of that couple so early in our marriage. Thank you for your gentle exhortation. Hugs, friend.

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  13. Did you keep all those letters, Jeanne? What wonderful memories you made through those letters, I imagine. Love & Respect book is one of my favourites on biblical marriage, and your points here reflect both those attributes!

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    1. I do still have those letters. 🙂 I have to find them though. 🙂 Love and Respect is another GREAT book for helping couples (and even parents and children) learn how to relate well with each other. 🙂

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  14. What a wonderful list of ways to connect, to interact, and to grow your love! No wonder your love has endured as you’ve overcome the challenges you describe. Thank you for sharing this! It should be required reading for engaged couples!

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  15. What a great list. So practical yet so often overlooked. Great advice for those newlywed…or those of us not so newlywed! I was right on board with you…until that whole kissing in front of the kids!! LOL Hubbie and both struggle with those displays of affection – in public or in the kitchen!! Haha:) Hope you and your valentine have a wonderful weekend!!

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer. :). I may have laughed at your “kissing in front of the kids” part. We don’t exhibit much PDA anywhere else. But, if one of the boys happens to walk into the kitchen while my husband and I are smooching, well, that’s on them. 😉 I hope you and your hubby have a wonderful Valentine’s weekend!

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  16. Full disclosure, how long a couple has been married doesn’t interest me. What interests me is the quality of the marriage. Do they like each other? Are they an example I want to follow? I come from an environment that focuses on years yet the marriage is miserable. I love the tips you offer specifically praying with each other and for each other. Exchanging prayer requests is great I had a friend who was a stay at home wife. I often witnessed her and her husband holding hands at the front door as she prayed over him before he went off to work. They’ve been married a lot of years and theirs is a model that makes my heart smile.

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    1. Yvonne, I would have to agree with you about the number of years a couple has been married not being an accurate indicator or the quality of the marriage. I know of women who were married 30+ years whose husbands left them. What a beautiful picture your friend and her husband offer. I appreciate your stopping by here!

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  17. I love these, Jeanne, and can amen probably all of them. I think it was Elisabeth Elliot who said that a good marriage needs two good forgivers. I especially appreciate your comment on looking at his intention rather than just reacting. I also just read a good post on the True Woman blog about taking “always” and “never” out of marital conversations, because they’re usually not accurate and they usually cause defensiveness rather than productive conversations.

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    1. I love this idea of two good forgivers, Barbara. Elisabeth Elliott always did have a way with words, didn’t she? Yes, I’ve learned how much more effective communication can be when “always” and “never” are not part of the vocabulary. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom!

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  18. It sounds like you have a beautiful marriage, Jeanne. I loved your list of practices … some I do well and others I need to work on quite a bit! Your bonus point made me laugh … something similar happens around here too. 🙂 Hugs, friend! And a belated happy Valentine’s Day as well!

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    1. Thank you, Lois. God has blessed my husband and me in our relationship, but we’re far from perfect. 🙂 There are things in here, I still have to work on too. Sending you a hug back!

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