3 Steps to Fan the Flame in Your Marriage



Have you lost the spark in your marriage? Are you less like friends or lovers, and more likely to be competitors in a race to see who can ruin whose life worst...first? If so, then this post is for you.  



"...every day we decide anew whether to live by the guidelines of the mind of Christ or the imperatives of the natural man.  Everyday, every hour we decide whether we will continue to sing the song of redeeming love - or whimper in discontent"
~ Dr. Goddard (1, p38)









Below you will find 3 steps to fan the flame back into a marriage where FONDNESS and ADMIRATION can abide. 




"But fondness and admiration can be fragile unless you remain aware of how crucial they are to the friendship that is at the core of any good marriage.  By simply reminding yourself of your spouse's positive qualities - even as you grapple with each other's flaws - you can prevent a happy marriage from deteriorating.
(Gottman, p71)

Step One: 

BELIEVE that you have the 
POWER to CREATE YOUR OWN STORY (Goddard, p52)


This means you can decide to focus on the positive traits of your spouse and cherish the fond memories of your marriage, thus, changing the story of your marriage.  
This DOES NOT mean creating a "fake" story or "sugarcoating" your relationship.  What it DOES mean is taking a more REALISTIC PERSPECTIVE in your marriage (Gottman, p72).

 To help you remember the Eternal purpose of your marriage Elder Bednar suggests we think of a triangle. With God on the top, and the husband and wife on each corner.  Now picture the husband and wife focused on Christ, moving closer to him.  Do you see how they will also be moving closer to each other as they do this?  That is how keeping God the focus in your marriage will work. "By including Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in (your) relationships and unitedly living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, husbands and wives can attain the ultimate happiness that is the object of God’s plan." (4)



"The making of holy sacrifices is full of grace and truth.  The willingness to put our preferences on the altar in obedience to God and service of our partner is a sacrifice filled with grace and truth - goodness and eternal vision.  Our sacrifices are the key to our growth and possibilities."
 ~ Dr.Goddard (1, p.41)

Here is an example of how skewed our reality can become when we feed into a negative story of our marriage:

"Researchers Elizabeth Robinson and Gail Price created a study for observers to count the positive interactions between a couple.  Then they asked the couple to rate how many positive interactions they noticed during the same time period.  Most of the couples who described themselves as unhappy in their marriage only noticed half of the positive interactions that actually occurred.  This was because those couples were in the habit of tuning out the positive interactions with their spouse and only focusing on their mistakes." (Gottman, p72).



"94% of the time, couples who put a positive spin on their marriage's history and their partner's character are likely to have a happy future as well.  When happy memories are distorted, it's a sign that the marriage needs help."
 ~ Dr. Gottman (2, pg 70)


Step Two:

WAYS TO CREATE YOUR OWN STORY



In The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work, Dr Gottman teaches how to create our own marriage story through "LOVE MAPS".(2, p53)  These Love Maps to your heart can be found through questionnaires and games that help a couple remember why they got married in the first place.   
Did you know that couples start to forget the good times as contempt erodes their marriage? But when couples start to remember the good times, it becomes easier for them to deal with the hard times. 



 "Fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance...(a feeling) that the person they married is worthy of honor and respect...(to) cherish each other.  
Fondness and admiration are the antidote to Contempt." (Gottman, p69,71)



Honor, respect, fondness, and admiration can be reignited by fanning the flames of long-buried positive feelings.  

Here are 5 starter questions for you and your spouse to complete together (remember to focus on the positive parts):



Questions About Your Real Marriage History (2, p78)
1. Discuss how you met each other and got together. Your first impression.  What made your spouse stand out to you?
2. What do you remember most about dating? What activities did you do? What were the highlights?
3. Share your good memories of your wedding and honeymoon? 
4. Recall your first year of marriage.
5. What moments stand out as happy times in your marriage?




"We covenant to bring all to the alter.  The Lord cannot bless what we will not bring.  He asks that we bring our whole souls to Him so that He can transform us.  If we are willing to let Him be the carpenter, He can blend the two together. He will help us create new, better family traditions and learn to enjoy what our partners enjoy." 
~ Goddard (1, pg46)



After doing this exercise you may find some positive flames coming back to life.  Don't stop there.  I would strongly suggest buying Dr. Gottman's book and going through his questionnaires and games (found in Ch. 4-5) in order to bring the hot flame to full ignition.  This will be cheaper than a divorce and counseling.  I know some people shy away from seeking professional help.  A book like this is a soft start for you shy ones.  Why go through life in a suffocating marriage when you have the power to change your story?  While you're waiting for your book to come you can try another exercise:



 Cherishing your Partner:
Come up with 10 qualities you cherish about your partner. Write them down on a list, card, or something that will be easy for you to look at often and focus on those qualities in your partner.  This will help you feel gratitude for them.  
The second part of this exercise is to write these qualities down in a love note to your spouse and read it aloud to them during a romantic date. 

Step Three: 

MAKE YOUR POSITIVE STORY A HABIT



Now that you have started to bring back positive memories of your marriage, keep it up. Work on making this way of thinking a HABIT.  Dr. Gottman has a 7-week course in his book to help you work on daily tasks which will build your fondness and admiration for each other. (2, p82)  But if you don't have the book you can proactively come up with a list on your own. The web has great ideas.



I found a 40-day-to-do-list to fireproof your marriage, as shown in the Christian movie Fireproof. I will add the entire list for you below, because I love it so much.  It can apply to other relationships besides your spousal one as well.  Since I am not married, I can use these ideas on how to treat roommates, family, and friends with fondness and admiration.  
Wouldn't our life be so much sweeter?




"Tzvetan Todorov, a social commentator, invites us to think differently: "To care about someone does not mean sacrificing one's time and energy for that person. It means devoting (time & energy) to the person and taking joy in doing so; in the end,one feels richer for one's efforts, not poorer.'" (1, p48)




May the Lord be with you on this very important journey to bring the spark back into your Eternal Marriage. 
I will leave you with wise words from a Modern Day Prophet:


The 40 day to-do list for Fireproofing Your Marriage as found on The Romantic Vineyard (3)

Day 1:
Resolve to say nothing negative about your spouse today.
Ephesians 4:2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,”
Day 2:
Do at least one unexpected gesture to your spouse as an act of kindness.
Ephesians 4:32  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Day 3:
Buy your spouse something that says, “I was thinking about you today.”
Romans 12:10  “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Day 4:
Contact your spouse sometime during the day and ask how he or she is doing and if there is anything you could do for them.
Psalm 139: 17-18  “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!  If I would count them, they are more than the sand.  I awake, and I am still with you.”
Day 5:
Ask your spouse to tell you three things that cause him or her to be uncomfortable or irritated with you. You must do so without attacking them.
Proverbs 27:14  “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.”
Day 6:
Choose to react to tough circumstances in your marriage in loving ways instead of with irritation.
Proverbs 16:32  “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
Day 7:
On a sheet of paper, write out positive things about your spouse. At some point during the day, pick a positive attribute from the list and thank your spouse for having the characteristic.
I Corinthians 13:7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Day 8:
Share with your spouse how glad you are about a success he or she recently enjoyed.
Song of Solomon 8:6  “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.”
Day 9:
Think of a way to greet your spouse today to reflect your love for them, and then do it with a smile and enthusiasm.
I Peter 5:14  “Greet one another with the kiss of love.  Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”
Day 10:
Do something out of the ordinary today for your spouse.
Romans 5:8  “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Day 11:
What need does your spouse have that you could meet today? Example: Choose a gesture that says “I love you” and do it with a smile.
Ephesians 5:28 “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
Day 12:
Demonstrate love by willingly choosing to give in to an area of disagreement between you and your spouse.
Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Day 13:
Talk with your spouse about establishing healthy rules of engagement and resolve to abide by them when the next disagreement occurs.
Mark 3:25 “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”
Day 14:
Purposefully neglect an activity you would normally do so you can spend quality time with your spouse.
Ecclesiastes 9:9 “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.”
Day 15:
Choose a way to show honor and respect to your spouse that is above your normal routine.
I Peter 3:7 “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
Day 16:
Pray for three specific areas where you desire for God to work in your spouse’s life and in your marriage.
3 John 2 “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”
Day 17:
Determine to guard your mate’s secrets and pray for them.
Proverbs 17:9 “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”
Day 18:
Prepare a special dinner at home and focus this time on getting to know your spouse better.
Proverbs 3:13 “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding,”
Day 19:
Ask God to show you where you stand with him, and ask for the strength and grace to settle your eternal destination.
I John 4:7 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
Day 20:
Dare to take God at his word and trust Jesus Christ for salvation.
Romans 5:6 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Day 21:
Make time to pray and read your bible today.
Isaiah 58:11 “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
Day 22:
Choose to be committed to love even if your spouse has lost most of their interest in receiving it.
Hosea 2:20 “I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.”
Day 23:
Remove anything that is hindering your relationship, stealing your affections and turning your heart away from your spouse.
I Corinthians 13:7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Day 24:
Identify every object of lust in your life and remove it.
I John 2:17 “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Day 25:
If there is anything you haven’t forgiven in your spouse, forgive it today.
2 Corinthians 2:10 “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ…”
Day 26:
Ask for God’s forgiveness for your areas of wrongdoing, then humble yourself enough to admit them to your spouse.
Romans 2:1 “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”
Day 27:
Think of one area where your spouse has told you you’re expecting too much, and tell them you’re sorry for being so hard on them about it.
Psalm 25:20 “Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!  Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.”
Day 28:
Purpose to do what you can to meet the greatest need in your spouse’s life right now.
I John 3:16 “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
Day 29:
Before you see your spouse again today, pray for them by name and for their needs.
Ephesians 6:7 “rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man…”
Day 30:
Ask the Lord to reveal anything in your own heart that is threatening oneness with your spouse and, if appropriate, discuss it openly and seek God for unity.
John 17:11And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
Day 31:
Commit to God and your spouse to make your marriage the top priority over every other human relationship.
Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Day 32:
If at all possible, try to initiate sex with your spouse today (in a way that honors them).
I Corinthians 7:3 “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.”
Day 33:
Tell your spouse that you desire to include them in your upcoming decisions, and that you need their perspective and counsel.
Ecclesiastes 4:11 “Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?”
Day 34:
Verbally commend your spouse about a recent time when they demonstrated Christian character in a noticeable way.
I Corinthians 13:6 “[love] …it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”
Day 35:
Find a Christian marriage mentor. Ask God to direct your decisions and discernment.
Proverbs 15:22 “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”
Day 36:
Commit to reading the bible every day. If your spouse is open to it, see if they will commit to reading with you.
Psalm 119:105  “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Day 37:
Ask your spouse if you can begin praying together.
Matthew 18:19  Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
Day 38:
Ask yourself what your spouse would want if it was obtainable, then map out a plan for meeting some (if not all) of their desires.
Psalm 37:4  “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Day 39:
Spend time in personal prayer, then write a letter of commitment and resolve to your spouse. Leave it in a place where your mate will find it.
I Corinthians 13:8 “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.”
Day 40:
Write out a renewal of your vows and place them in your home.
Ruth 1:16 “But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
 

WORK SITED:

(1) Goddard, H. Wallace. Drawing heaven into you marriage. Joymap Publishing. Utah. 2009. ISNB: 9781441486547.

(2) Gottman, John M. Silver, Nan. The seven principles for making marriage work. Harmony Books. New York. 2015 version. ISBN: 9781101902912.

(3) Fireproof Your Marriage - https://theromanticvineyard.com/fireproof-your-marriage/

(4, Bednar) The Eternal Family Teachers Manual. Nurturing the marriage relationship. LDS.org. Lesson 18. 2015. https://www.lds.org/manual/the-eternal-family-teacher-manual/lesson-18-nurturing-the-marriage-relationship?lang=eng

All Photos found on the web. No copyrights found.


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