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What Effort in a Relationship Really Looks Like

Occasionally the reason for a breakup is presented as “lack of effort.” But what does that mean? Effort in a relationship can look many different ways. Each couple expresses and receives love in a manner specific to their personality (read more about love languages here!). This said, is effort subjective—or is there a universal way to recognize it?

While “making an effort” is individual to the couple, effort is also manifested in ways we all can recognize. These are actions based on love and respect, the biblical principles that make relationships not only honor God, but also bring peace between people. Whether you’re wondering if the guy you’re dating is lazy or you’re looking for ways to make more effort yourself, take note of the following points.


Intentional Pursuit

Our God is a God of pursuit. When we didn’t deserve love, He sent His only Son to make a way for us to be in relationships with Him (John 3:16). And He hasn’t stopped pursuing us since! His love does not give up. This is why the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13 are “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…love never fails.” Love takes effort. It is not a feeling; it is a conscious choice.

In a relationship, pursuit goes both ways. The Christian dating conversation often centers on men pursuing women. But in a relationship, women must also intentionally pursue their boyfriend or husband. They do this by expressing interest, setting up dates and considering what would bring joy to their partner. Both man and woman should be continually pursuing one another’s hearts from dating into marriage—just like God pursues us.


Emotional Availability

We live in a fallen world. Because of this, many men and women come to relationships from broken childhoods. They don’t understand how to have intimate relationships. Maybe they fear vulnerability. Perhaps they watched their parents divorce and are terrified of being hurt by someone in that way. All of these things can contribute to emotional unavailability. While the circumstances are understandable, this is not God’s intention for relationships!

Good relationships require emotional availability: opening our hearts to another person, being vulnerable, and being willing to give and receive emotion. This is harder for some people than it is for others. That’s why we need Christ! He helps us overcome our reservations, fears and our past in order to love freely and fully just like He does.


Grace for Growth

Lastly, it takes effort to give grace in a relationship. If your boyfriend isn’t pursuing your heart the way you wish, think about his current life situation. Is he trying to balance 16 college credits and a part-time job AND give you the attention you need? If so, pursuing you is going to look different in this season than it would if his schedule wasn’t so overloaded. Give grace.

God gives us grace every day. He is perfectly holy and we are unworthy to be loved by Him. As we understand the grace He gives us, we are better equipped to share that grace with people around us. Have faith in your boyfriend. If he’s a godly man, he will thrive as you pray for him, make an effort and give grace to him as he makes an effort toward a godly relationship.

By investing in our relationships, we echo the investment God has placed in us. God has made an incredible effort on our behalf. Learn from Him. Read how He does this in His Word, and follow His example in all your relationships—not just in dating.

Image: Lightstock | Aimee Whitmire


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