Has Your Flame Died Out?
"Young love is a flame; very pretty, very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable."
- Henry Ward Beecher
Any couple who has been together for a while has likely experienced the fleetingness of love. The flames of new love can fade quickly. Particularly when a couple is blending two families.
Beecher's quote suggests unquenchable love is not the passionate flames of early romance. Unquenchable love is a deep-burning coal…an ember that has burned long enough for heat to live deep in its core.
The Honeymoon's Over
Step-couples often feel like their flames get "quenched" early in their journey. The passionate excitement you experienced during the dating season quickly gives way to problem solving and negotiation. You may have had a great vacation after the wedding, but if you're like most step-couples the honeymoon came to an abrupt end when you returned!
Parenting, scheduling, budgeting, dealing with the Ex and so many other dynamics scream for our time and energy. It's not really surprising that the step-couple's romantic relationship is the first thing to get neglected.
Kim and I certainly hit the ground running in our stepfamily too. For us, it was about nine years into our marriage that we started questioning if our love had been quenched. We had been locked in a court battle with Kim's Ex for about two years at that point. We were feeling financial, emotional, and relational pressures that seemed to take over our home.
During that season, we were just about ready to give up. It was tempting to throw in the towel. For a while our relationship survived on waning commitment and sheer grit.
You and your partner may not be at the end of your rope like Kim and I were, but chances are you've felt like the romantic flame isn't burning quite as hot as it used to. The good news is that every step-couple can ensure their young flames turn to deep-burning embers by focusing on only three things.
In their book Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts, Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott share a snapshot of some extensive research on love. They describe love as a triangle with each of the three sides representing one critical component of long-term love. The Parrott's suggest that deep and lasting love occurs when couples cultivate all three sides equally.
The first side is Passion - I know, I know…this is the side I just said tends to fade quickly in step-family life! While that is true, it doesn't mean you can ignore passion in your relationship. However, it is an unrealistic expectation to think passion will remain effortless as time passes.
One of the best ways to cultivate passion is to have fun together. Remember how you used to laugh and have fun when you were dating? That doesn't have to stop just because you are married. Sure, it takes a little more effort and planning these days, but it's worth the effort. If you want more passion in your relationship - increase your "fun quotient".
The second side is Intimacy - a simple definition of intimacy is closeness. When you and your partner cultivate intimacy, you each feel you are really known and have a sense of belonging. Deep intimacy feeds those deep-burning coals of love.
Two key ingredients for growing intimacy are time and the right attitude. The more time you spend together the more you'll learn about each other…it's critical to intimacy. However, if you spend lots of time together with the wrong attitude you'll lower intimacy levels rather than grow them. To make sure that doesn't happen recognize your partner is different than you and accept them for who they are…not who you might want them to be. Stay focused on what you have in common - don't get high-centered on your differences. Finally, listen more than you speak. Listen to really understand your partner. We all feel more known when we're listened to.
The final side is Commitment - whether you've officially declared your vows or have simply signed a lease together you have made a commitment. You, your partner and all the kids in your home are on a journey that requires stability and emotional safety which come through commitment.
The Parrott's state, "Commitment is the mortar that holds the stones of marriage in place." Commitment must be a priority in your relationship as well as your individuality. Honoring your commitment helps keep you whole. Broken commitments lead to guilt, shame and a broken heart. To grow your commitment, focus on meeting the needs of your partner. Meeting their needs helps them to really experience your commitment and reminds you of what you're committed to. Imagine what your home might be like if you both remained committed to meeting each other's needs.
Kim and I are both grateful that we didn't throw in the towel all those years ago. We had to learn how to cultivate these three areas in our marriage and still make them a priority today.
Your partnership might be in a challenging season like we experienced. You might be on relational cruise control heading toward boredom. Or you might be on a marriage mountaintop right now.
Whichever season you're in, you want those deep-burning, unquenchable coals of lasting love to be the symbol of your relationship. That will be your future if you cultivate passion, intimacy and commitment. Start today!
QUESTION: What is one way you can increase passion, intimacy or commitment in your relationship? Leave a comment below…