Keeping the Spark Alive

Whether you have been married for several months or many years the daily stresses and busyness of life can easily turn the passionate flame of relational intimacy into a dying ember. Every day, hundreds of couples file for divorce claiming that their once vibrant and satisfying marriage is now just a painful succession of conflicts and hollow interactions. Many more couples admit that most of their attention and energy is focused on merely surviving rather than on thriving. Their marriages have become boring and routine.

Research reveals that many divorces could be prevented and many dying marriages revived if the couple were willing to invest time and effort into learning simple strategies for rediscovering and maintaining the passion and intimacy in their relationship.

There is a fresh new year ahead of us, so I want to encourage you to make it a priority each month to sit down with your spouse to review the practical ideas listed below for making your marriage all it was designed to be. Challenge yourselves to add your own creative ideas to this list by focusing on each other's personal likes, interests, and needs. Have fun and feel free to pass this list along to your married friends and family!

1. Talk about your personal, relational, and family goals and dreams. Write them down and visit them at least every three months. Modify them as necessary.

2. Identify and develop mutual interests, like hiking, tennis, fishing, restoring antiques, painting, etc.

3. Be willing to try something new.

4. Practice daily "check-ins". Identify at least three adjectives to describe how you are feeling at any given time and describe the thoughts related to your feelings.

5. Develop and nurture friendships; his, hers and ours.

6. Plan a day or weekend for family outings. Make a list of nearby small, "off-the-beaten-path" towns and visit as many as you can in the next year. Keep a written journal with pictures of your adventures. (This is a wonderful time to look for antiques!)

7. Build up your mate in front of friends and family.

8. Plan weekend getaways, without the children, at least once every three months. Stay in a tent if you can't afford a hotel - it can be quite romantic.

9. Attend workshops on parenting, marriage, financial management, etc., every three months.

10. Turn off the television at least once a week and discuss each other's plans for the next week.

11. Leave notes for each other that express your love as well as words of encouragement.

12. Once a year, write your spouse a letter to say why you would marry him/her all over again.

13. Choose and play a song for your spouse that best describes how you feel about him/her.

14. Pick a special day once a year to express how important your spouse is to you. Pick an "ordinary" day (not a birthday or anniversary) and keep it a surprise.

15. Give yourselves permission to be spontaneous and playful.

16. Recognize when your spouse is having a tough day and give him/her time alone.

17. Keep yourself in good physical shape. Exercise and grow fit together.

18. Watch a sunset together at least once a month.

19. Commit to love each other for a lifetime and practice forgiveness as often as necessary.

20. Count your blessings together – including what you have learned from the hard days.

Putting some of these simple tips into action will open communication and remind you about what is good in your marriage. If it reveals some ongoing challenges, take the opportunity to address them. If you can’t overcome them by talking with each other, seek out a pastor or professional counselor to provide objective perspective.

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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