Strong families, communities, and nations are founded on effective marriages. Most people understand that loving and supportive relationships help to create effective marriages, but not everyone comprehends how to create loving relationships. Family researchers have developed ideas that should be helpful to all who are searching.
Jason S. Carroll, professor of Marriage and Family Studies at Brigham Young University (BYU), shared these concepts while speaking to students at the university in April 2019. The first idea is that love is a choice, and the best kind of love is Christlike love. Carroll quoted Lynn G. Robbins who wrote in his book Love Is a Choice: “Because love is as much a verb as it is a noun, the phrase ‘I love you’ is as much a promise of behavior and commitment as it is an expression of feeling.”
Carroll said that family researchers recognized that there are “different types of love” and some types of love work better to form and maintain strong relationships. Dr. Patricia Noller, family psychologist from Australia, discovered in dozens of studies that strong and happy family relationships are built on “mature love.”
Mature love has three dimensions that are interconnected: emotional (feelings and emotions), cognitive (attitudes, priorities, and choices), and behavior (actions and behaviors). Immature love is based primarily in the emotional dimension where choices and behaviors are conditional on the emotional state of the relationship.
According to Noller and other experts, the emotional quality of love is an important part of marriage and family, but it is often the most unstable of the three dimensions. Feelings ebb and flow because of physical conditions – hunger, fatigue, fear, etc. Yet, priorities, choices, and behaviors should be intentional and consistent. Individuals with mature love understand that they can choose to love their spouse and to act lovingly, whereas a person with immature love often believes that the marriage is over because they are no longer “in love” with their spouse.
Carroll taught five principles that create loving relationships. “Principle 1 - Thoughtful Service Produces Love; Principle 2 – Commitment Produces Love; Principle 3 – Equal Partnership Produces Love; Principle 4 – Practicing Virtues Produces Love, and Principle 5 – Sincere Discipleship [of Jesus Christ] Produces Love.
In closing his remarks, Carroll quoted Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
You want capability, safety, and security in dating and romance, in married life and eternity? Be a true disciple of Jesus. Be a genuine, committed, word-and-deed Latter-day Saint. Believe that your faith has everything to do with your romance, because it does. You separate dating from discipleship at your peril. Or, to phrase that more positively, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the only lamp by which you can successfully see the path of love and happiness for you and for your sweetheart.”
Carroll taught that there are two ways to gain Christlike love. The first way is to pray to be filled with charity, and the second way is to follow Jesus Christ. Parents can strengthen their family by developing Christlike love, and their strong family can assist in strengthening their community and nation.