I’ve always said that my husband could never work from home. He’s far too social to feel fulfilled home officing. And, if I’m being honest, we’re both too high strung, strong-willed, and opinionated to ever be relationally successful working in the same vicinity all day long—or so I thought.

Enter Covid-19.

I was incredibly nervous about how life would go with him working from home, but now I sit after a long quarantine, looking at his desk chair vacant and his empty coffee cup sitting beneath the Keurig, and my heart aches. I miss him. A lot.

What happened?

An odd little relationship secret I like to call “The Jennifer Jones Principle.”

Jennifer Jones, a high school classmate of mine, and I didn’t have much in common. We had several classes together, but different groups of friends. The truth was that Jennifer didn’t have many friends. She was incredibly smart but tended to seem a bit socially awkward. Many kids had a hard time relating to her. Much to my shame, I admit, I found it difficult to relate to her myself.

Enter Spanish IV.

A class of only three students, Spanish IV took place on the floor of the audio-visual storage closet. Yes, on the floor. There wasn’t even room for a desk. We used the original distance learning method—listening to Senora Balloid’s prerecorded lessons on our cassette player—to independently study our way through our senior year of Spanish. Nothing about that setting was ideal—the location, the method, or the company—or so I thought.

In that less-than-perfect setting, I experienced some of my best memories and one of life’s most important lessons—the best way to learn to like someone is to spend time with them.

I thought I knew Jennifer well enough, but it wasn’t until then that I learned her story, discovered her likes and dislikes, and saw her heart. I learned to see, to listen, to understand, and to love Jennifer. She quickly became one of my favorite people. I felt grateful that I was discovering what a treasure she was and grieved that it had taken me so long to do so.

This principle has held true whether it’s been a co-worker who rubbed me the wrong way, my spouse, or even my children on a bad day. The answer is counterintuitive: spend time.

Now before I lose you, I know that you might be saying, “I’ve been quarantined with these people for months. They’re driving me crazy! The last thing I need is more time with them!” I understand. I’m not saying that we never need a break from each other. What I’d like to suggest, however, is that simply being in the same vicinity is not the same as spending time.

Spending time is intentional. Spending time creates a bond. That might look like a long, deep conversation, or little ways to check in throughout the day. It might be a lunch date or a movie night. It might include laughter or maybe tears. But it absolutely includes learning to actively see, listen, understand, and love.

Ironically, when we feel like spending time the least is when we need to the most. When someone hurts us or we’re just plain irritable, our inclination is to pull back. It’s then that we need to lean into the relationship more than ever.

Jesus gives us the ultimate directive to lean into relational conflict in Matthew 5:44 (NIV) when he says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” If he commands us to love our enemies, how much more those around us daily?

Have you and your husband been off-kilter? Spend time. Feel like you aren’t connecting with the new girl at Bible study? Spend time. Is one of your children getting under your skin? Spend time. Don’t like your new boss? Spend time. Learn to see, listen, understand, and love.

I’m not sure how much Spanish I learned that year, but I learned a lesson far greater. Leaning toward relationships can facilitate discovering some of life’s most priceless treasures—people. I am incredibly grateful I know Jennifer, love her, and call her friend. Don’t miss out on the relational treasures waiting to be discovered in your life. Spend time.