When a person comes to Christ, he or she experiences the unconditional love of God, and begins to show Agape love to others as the Apostle John puts it in 1 John 4:19, "We love because he first loved us." This is the foundation for all Christian relationships-the unconditional love of God for everyone. It doesn't matter if the object of our love is young or old, rich or poor, male or female. We love like God because we are loved by God.
Agape love is essential in a marriage relationship because this love enables one to love not just his friends but also his enemies: "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:44-45). There will be times in any marriage when the relationship may be strained to breaking point. In times like these, our spouses might seem more like our enemies than our friends--and that is when Agape is needed to keep the marriage going.
But marriage is not built on Agape alone. Agape provides a strong foundation, but marriage should also be nurtured by Philia (friendship). Friendship love grows based on shared goals and values. A marriage is only as strong as the friendship between the partners. The key to developing friendship love is to spend time pursuing common interests together. Friendship takes time. Without friendship, married couples lose the fun and excitement of romantic love.
Sometimes, the caretaking of children becomes the couple's shared interest. While this can be the basis for friendship love, children eventually grow up and leave home. Therefore, it is important that friendship love in a marriage is built on more long-lasting common interests, such as ministry and recreational pursuits.
While shared interests can make us friends, only Eros (physical attraction) can make us lovers. Physical desire is what turns friends into lovers. But the gratification of the physical desire will have to wait for marriage. Eros is an essential part of the "one flesh" experience of marriage. Therefore, cohabiting couples and those who have engaged in premarital sex may lose the anticipation and excitement of marriage.