If you go to enough Christian weddings there is a high degree of likelihood that you’ll hear a reading from Corinthians. As a young person it was often the only thing that would cause my attention to prick up. Despite not being religious myself I thought it was particularly practical and beautiful. The thing about enlightened love is that its lofty romantic parts are actually the same as its practical everyday parts.
Because it’s essentially a lesson in having a good relationship I figured it was worth it to try translate Corinthians into modern daily terms. Sometimes people include the portions before and after this section, and there are a lot of slightly different versions, but here’s an example of the English “original:”
Love is patient: this means that as much as possible you will earnestly try to let your partner function at their own natural pace, whether that’s getting up in the morning, sex you’d like to have, or deciding to have a family. You don’t like people making you go faster or slower than is comfortable for you either. So no verbal jabs at someone just for being themselves.
Love is kind: this obviously means that there should be kindness in your loving relationships. I know it sounds like I shouldn’t even have to mention it, but in most marriages this is the thing that disappears first. The absence of basic kindness does a lot of damage and it can and will lead to a marriage breakdown. It should be easy for you to remember lots of recent examples of kindness you expressed to your partner.
Love is not envious: this means you’re happy for your partner when good things happen for them and you don’t compare what you got to what they got. It also means you don’t compare what you were given to what they gave someone else. It also means you aren’t upset when they’re getting suitable attention.
or boastful: there is no need to elevate yourself around someone who loves you because true love denotes full acceptance. There is no need for striving—for ego. If we feel we have to impress our partner we’re working in the wrong realm and you need to get reconnected not more impressive.
or arrogant: even if your partner’s views aren’t as informed, they remain valid. Don’t assume you know what’s better for them. Allow them space to have their personality and their views. There are people who think a conversation is nothing more than them telling others how they should live, even if was no question asked and no problem was stated.
or rude: show your partner basic respect. Let them tell their own stories, let them learn from doing things wrong without sticking your nose into it. And if you have a criticism it’s really a request, so just skip the negativity and just make the request.
It does not insist on its own way: this means you don’t assume that what you want for you as a couple is the same thing that your partner wants. A lot of couples will have one person who innocently but unfortunately assumes that everything they want to do is a couples idea. You don’t need to pick your partner’s clothing or hairstyle or holidays unless they ask you to. More importantly, don’t assume you know what’s better for your kids. Assuming you’re the better parent is a very dangerous thing and the kids rarely agree with the parent who makes such a bombastic claim.
It is not irritable or resentful: as much as possible try to keep petty complaints to yourself and when people do display them do not resent it. You too will need the latitude when you’re ornery and looking to pick a fight.
It does not rejoice in wrongdoing: easy—no I told you so’s.
but rejoices in the truth: be grateful to your partner for sharing difficult things that are emotionally challenging. Those are difficult to bring forward and if we react negatively to honesty we will only promote dishonesty.
It bears all things: no matter what should enter the marriage—financial challenges, sick children, family deaths—these are inevitable parts of life and if we’re not prepared to bear each others challenges then we’re not prepared to be in a mature true-love couple.
Believes all things: do not doubt your partner. Yes they may lean hard on you when they are low, but the confidence you show in them will be reflected in the quality of your relationship overall. When a spouse is weak a good partner doesn’t attack them, they double their support. And that’s because they remember who the person fundamentally is so they don’t mistake weather for geography.
Hopes all things: of course you should want the very best of things for your partner. If you’re really evolved you’ll even want them to have the best partner possible—even if that’s not you. That keeps you on your toes and reminds you that we need to re-win our partners back every few years just as they need to do with us.
Endures all things: tolerance. Within a decade a person will go through a huge range of fortunes. They hardest thing is when you’re both down. But when one’s up and one’s down, the one who’s up must show patience and understanding to the struggling partner because one day the tables will be turned and we will need the help.
See? No matter what religious background you’re from that is a pretty good guideline for most relationships. But it can’t just be words you hear in a church on a wedding day. Whether it’s your wedding or someone else’s, that passage should remind you that your relationship is a verb—it is an action you take in your life.
You don’t get married and stay married. You fall in love and you continue to nurture the love or you don’t. That’s the difference between marriage and divorce the vast majority of time. It’s not that the people that can’t be together. It’s that they’re not being together.
Again: it’s a verb. Don’t forget you’re on a team. If you have a list of how your partner could make the relationship better then you know you’re lost. If you have a list for yourself (and its not overly critical or negative), then you’re on the right track.
Here’s to many happy relationships.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.