The words that Ruth spoke to Naomi always move me. Take a look:

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.  Ruth 1:16-18

What grabs your attention when you read those words? Determination. Promise. Devotion. Love. Passion. A daughter-in-law speaks in such a way that the whole world admires her “death do us part” relationship with Naomi. And so, sometimes we hear or read these words on wedding days.

As we spend years together in marriage, God’s plan is that things mature and grow sweeter. If it is true in our marriages it is even more so in our relationships with God. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25) As we learn to love our mates “as Christ also loved the church,” we will discover some pleasures and joys that never grow old. They are so good, we just keep on repeating them. And, as we move forward in life together, we will discover new pleasures and joys as well. This is God’s plan for husbands and wives who know Him.

Discovering new pleasures and joys does not usually happen by accident. We have to think with purpose and act intentionally. Failure in this area will cause couples to forget their promises, forsake their passion, and just quit.

Here are some ideas to consider for re-energizing your love relationship with your spouse (and the Lord).

1. Work on it. A lifetime of love and romance takes effort. Few things in life are as complicated as building a growing intimate relationship. You need to work on it constantly to get through the trying times when extra effort is needed. Remember that you have a real enemy who is determined to destroy your marriage. Relationships require work; Ruth said, “I will… I will… will I….”

2. Think “team.” When making important decisions, like to work overtime, to accept a transfer or promotion, or to take on an extra job, ask yourself this question: “What will the choice I am making do to the people I love?” Talk it over with your mate and your children. Make “we” decisions that will have the most positive impact on your marriage and home. Talk together and when you are talked out, come back later and talk some more. Pray all along the way and remember that where one goes, so goes the other.

3. Be protective. Guard and separate your marriage and your family from the rest of the world. This might mean refusing to work on certain days and nights. You might turn down relatives and friends who want more of you than you have the time, energy, or wisdom to give. You might even have to say no to your children to protect time with your spouse. The kids won’t suffer if this is done occasionally and not constantly. It will actually be beneficial for everyone. Watch out for in-law interference. Ruth’s declaration is all about caring protection that looks out for one another.

4. Accept that good (and not perfect) is okay when it comes to your mate. No one is perfect, other than our Lord. You married a real person who will make real mistakes. However, never be content with bad. Always aim for great, but settle for good. That means sometimes get biblical counseling and godly advice. Acceptance is foundational to a loving relationship. Get those conflicts resolved.

5. Share your thoughts and feelings. We have seen the value of this suggestion over and over. Unless you consistently communicate, signaling to your spouse where you are and getting a recognizable message in return, you will lose each other along the way. Create or protect communication-generating rituals. No matter how busy you may be, make time for each other. For example, take a night off each week, go for a walk together on a regular basis, go out to breakfast if you can’t have dinner alone, or just sit together for 30 minutes each evening simply talking, without any other distractions. Open up; Ruth was steadfastly minded to declare her thoughts and feelings for Naomi.

6. Manage anger, and especially contempt, better. Try to break the cycle in which hostile, cynical, contemptuous attitudes fuel unpleasant emotions, leading to negative behaviors that stress each other out and create more tension. Recognize that anger signals frustration of some underlying issue. Avoid igniting feelings of anger with the judgment that you are being mistreated. Watch your non-verbal signals, such as your tone of voice, hand and arm gestures, facial expressions, and body movements. Remain seated; don’t stand or march around the room. Deal with one issue at a time. Don’t let your anger about one thing lead you into bombarding your mate with a list of issues. If different topics surface during your conflict, make note to address them later. Try to notice subtle signs that anger or irritation is building. If you are harboring these feelings, express them before they build too much and lead to an angry outburst. Keep focused on the problem, not the person. Do not turn a fairly manageable problem into a catastrophe. Emphasize where you agree. Ruth and Naomi may have gone separate ways had it not been for Ruth’s passionate expression.

7. Declare your devotion to each other again and again. True long-range intimacy requires repeated affirmations of commitment to your spouse. Remember that love is in both what you say and how you act. Buy flowers occasionally. Do the dishes and take out the trash without being asked. Give an unsolicited back or foot rub. Committed couples protect the boundaries around their relationships. Share secrets with each other more than with any circle of friends or relatives.

8. Give each other permission to change. Pay attention. If you are not learning something new about each other every week or two, you simply are not observing closely enough. You are focusing on other things more than one another. Bored couples fail to update how they view each other. They act as though the roles they assigned and assumed early in the relationship will remain forever comfortable. Remain constantly abreast of each other’s dreams, fears, goals, disappointments, hopes, regrets, wishes, and fantasies. People continue to trust those people who know them best and who love and accept them. Commitment allows room for changes.

9. Have fun together. We usually fall in love with the people that make us laugh, who make us feel good on the inside. We stay in love with those who make us feel safe enough to come out to play. Keep delight a priority. Put your creative energy into making yourselves joyful. “Produce a relationship that regularly makes you feeling like recess.” – Unknown Laughter is an essential part of a loving relationship. Learn to laugh at yourself and not take yourself so seriously, especially when you make a mistake.

10. Make yourself trustworthy. People come to trust the ones who affirm them. They learn to distrust those who act as if a relationship were a continual competition over who is right and who gets their way. Always act as if each of you has thoughts, impressions, and preferences that make sense, even if your opinions or needs differ. Realize your spouse’s perceptions will always contain at least some truth, maybe more than yours, and validate those truths before adding your perspective to the discussion. Listen with your head and your heart. This always builds trust.

11. Forgive and forget. Don’t be too hard on each other. If your love and passion are to survive, you must learn how to forgive. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32) This verse must be front and center of every intimate relationship. Regularly wipe the slate clean so that anger does not build and resentment fester. Holding on to hurts and hostility will block real intimacy. It will only assure your mate that no matter how hard you otherwise work at it, your relationship will not grow. Do what you can to heal the wounds in a relationship, even if you did not cause them. Be compassionate about the fact that neither of you intended to hurt the other as you set out on this journey.

12. Cherish and applaud. One of the most fundamental ingredients in the intimacy formula is cherishing each other. You need to celebrate each other’s presence. “Not to leave thee” means “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:20) If you don’t give your spouse admiration, applause, appreciation, acknowledgement, the benefit of the doubt, encouragement, and the message that you are happy to be there with them now, where will they receive those gifts? Be generous with your praise. Be gracious in your expressions of love. One of the most painful mistakes a couple can make is the failure to notice their own mate’s heroics. These small acts of unselfishness include: doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, running errands, preparing the taxes, keeping track of birthdays, calling the repairman, and cleaning the bathroom, as well as routine everyday tasks. People are amazingly resilient if they know that they are appreciated. Work hard at noticing and celebrating daily acts of thoughtfulness by your mate.

What is the state of your relationship with your mate? There is always room for improvement. Perhaps the first suggestion is the best suggestion: “Work on it.”

How are things right now between you and the Lord? Again, there is always room for improvement. Press on; never give up.