Honour is one word that people rarely associate with relationships. We understand honouring God, honouring parents, but rarely do we directly associate honour with our love relationships. Yet, honour is a stance without which a relationship cannot thrive. It’s a mental and emotional positioning that plays out in our physical actions from day to day and determines whether or not a relationship will last the distance.
It is breathtakingly easy to slide into behaviours that dishonour a relationship without realising it, principally because consciously honouring your relationship takes more effort than just letting things be as they are. Honouring takes effort. It cannot be achieved with passivity; it is an active position which you take to vigilantly defend the integrity of your relationship. An honour mind-set requires you take a stand against anything that threatens your relationship’s wellbeing.
Honour simply means you treat something with great respect and high esteem. One of the biggest mistakes people make is taking their relationship or partner for granted. This is often not a conscious decision but rather a result of unconscious actions or inactions which communicate a latent disrespect for the relationship. The tragedy is that this attitude spills over into marriage and grows until it chokes the life out of a once-vibrant relationship. I honestly believe that unconscious disregard is one of the greatest threats to the survival of any relationship.
Scripture gives an incisive illustration of how honour functions. In just two verses recorded in Matthew 13:45-46, a story unfolds of a man who comprehended the true meaning of honour.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
The lesson in this parable is clear. The value you place on a thing will permanently alter your relationship to everything else that surrounds it and could compete with it. To put it another way, what you are prepared to give up for something indicates clearly how much that thing means to you. The merchant in the illustration exchanged everything else he had for the one thing he valued most; in this case, the kingdom of heaven. It is crystal clear from scripture that after your relationship with God, the relationship God prizes most is that between a husband and wife. What are you willing to give up to create the marriage of your dreams?
Honour indicates that you recognise the intrinsic value in a thing and accord it a respect commensurate to its value to you by your actions. If you consider the relationship you have found to be precious, you should treat it as such. How you conduct yourself in your relationship demonstrates how much you value that relationship and what you’re prepared to give up for it.
Set appropriate boundaries
My husband and I thrived in a seven-year long distance relationship by ruthlessly cutting off anything that would feed disrespect for our relationship. I met him in my first year of university while he was in his final year. He left me in school and went into the world of work while I pursued my first degree and Masters. There was no lack of men on campus showing interest in me but anyone who tried to come too close with an agenda was quickly dropped like a hot potato. I was not prepared to entertain any male friendships that had the potential to compromise my relationship. My boundaries were very clear. That was how I chose to honour him because of the value I placed on our relationship.
Be professional with work relationships
Work relationships with the opposite sex can be a minefield if not managed appropriately. Often you are required to spend copious amounts of time with a colleague on a project and this can easily degenerate into making them your confidante if you are not vigilant. This is even more risky once you are married. As soon as you begin to discuss your marriage, particularly any difficulties you may have, with a ‘sympathetic’ colleague, alarm bells should start ringing. You are about to cross a line which could endanger your marriage. Office affairs rarely begin with sex; they usually start as a fairly innocuous friendship but bonding begins to occur when no effort is made to deliberately keep the relationship professional.
Manage your communications
One of my continual amazements is people in a committed relationship who maintain inordinately close communications with other members of the opposite sex. I frequently receive mail from people who have to contend with their partner’s frequent calls and text message exchanges with other members of the opposite sex. I am certainly not advocating that you isolate yourself because you’re in a relationship but if you truly honour your relationship or your marriage, you will weed out or reconfigure any associations that could potentially pose a threat to it. Most people who engage in this practice habitually claim that those friendships are innocent – and they may well be. They declare that they know how to juggle such relationships without losing focus on their commitments to their fiancé or fiancée – and that may well be true. But the real question is this, “What does your attitude say about the value you place on your relationship?” If companionship with your fiancé or fiancée does not meet your deepest needs for friendship, you are probably in the wrong relationship. If you are married, consider the fact that if you invested as much effort in your marriage as you do in friendships outside your home, you would have an amazing relationship with your spouse.
Let your Ex remain Ex
From time to time, I come across people who are still ‘close friends’ with an ‘Ex’ and they cannot figure out why their partner is threatened. Maintaining a close relationship with an ex says two things. Firstly, it is dishonouring to your partner. Secondly, it means you want to have your cake and eat it. It is also dangerous to your current relationship on many levels, particularly the risk of comparing your current partner to your ex. My philosophy is this, when you find something truly precious, you should be so enraptured with it that every other human relationship, past, present or future, becomes secondary.
Honour your partner when absent
People pick up cues about the state of your relationship by how you conduct yourself in your partner’s absence. My husband and I have always been scrupulous about honouring each other while absent. Before we married, if you had met either of us and spent any amount of time with us, you would have been left in no doubt that we were committed to each other and there was no room for compromise. I vividly remember the first time I walked into his office in a city nearly 600 miles away from where I lived. I was greeted like a celebrity by his colleagues because they had heard so much good about me. My photo was front and centre on his desk. It was evident that he had honoured me in my absence. A great relationship is something to shout about. If you are in a committed relationship and no-one who matters to you knows about your relationship or if you feel the need to hide your relationship, you need to re-examine whether it actually means that much to you.