All relationships have their ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ and we all hope that the relationships that we value the most have more ups than downs. Relationships like marriages. This blog tries to share thoughts on how one can keep the fire burning in a marriage.
In my twenty plus years of helping people in the gym, including the 7 years I owned and managed a gym, I met people of all ages, backgrounds, professions and class in society. From the very richest to the very poorest, in every sense of the word: financially, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and physically.
In those years I have helped many couples stay together and also helped individuals transition through a divorce to being a single again. Most of the time, children are involved. A very difficult phase of life for all parties involved. I have experienced some of the pain (through a women’s eyes and through the man’s) of the devastation of such an event. Sometimes it is quick and sometimes it is long and messy.
I learned early on that there are always 3 sides to every story – yours, the other person’s and the right one!
I was fortunate during my 7 years owning and managing my gym, I had a retired female client who was special. Her name was Margaret and was one of Sydney’s top family counsellors. She was lovely and I helped her with her health and fitness goals for almost 6 years. I gave her increased strength, health and vitality and lots of laughter and she shared some of her wisdom with me. I learned a lot from her. I asked her what was the success rate of a couple staying together when they finally saw her. She said it was a little over 30%. Very low indeed.
I’ll share one such story of a divorce in which I helped a lovely lady. Let’s call her Susan.
When I asked Susan, what was the reason for getting a divorce, she just said “The flame went out. It was as simple as that!”
“What?!” I thought to myself. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
Was that her way of “explaining away” the death of a 30-year marriage? There had been no bitter argument or disagreement, no extramarital affair. This female client/friend and her husband simply drifted apart – bored, indifferent, uncommitted.
Susan and her soon-to-be ‘ex-husband’ were definitely getting a divorce and there was nothing I could do about it. They were beyond repair and some of what Margaret shared with me about her experience in marriage counselling, I used to help Susan in her time of extra-need.
One thing I have learned is that without commitment, no marriage can succeed. As I see it, like all Christians reading this blog, when we were married, we made an unconditional commitment to each other and the wedding vow was not a promise “if”, it was a promise “always”.
I think many forget this small but very important point.
There are certainly many hurdles in life and most of you have experienced your fair share to date – crisis, disappointments, failure. These can all put a strain on even the strongest relationships. However, I believe one thing: success in marriage MUST BE a conscious choice, not a thing left to chance.
“So, what does it take to make a marriage work?” you may be thinking.
Well, from what I have learned in helping many couples (not just the ones going through divorces), a successful marriage is successful because of hard work, compromise, patience and a willingness to grow. This also applies to any valued relationship you may have – friend or business.
Both individuals in the marriage or relationship must make the conscious choice to make it work. Each person learns to raise their tolerance levels.
Before the fire goes out, each party to the marriage must try to keep the flame alive and the marriage relationship must be nurtured, if there is still a glimmer of hope. If it doesn’t then it will flicker out – as it did for Susan in this story.
Couples need to make their marriage the top priority and should not put it second to anything else – your work, your career or your children. Too many couples over-invest in their children at the expense of their marriage. This is dangerous because the children suffer in the long run, as a result.
One of the things that my lovely friend, Margaret the ex-family counsellor taught me about making marriages ‘work’ and keeping the flame burning was by –
“feeding it the right kind of firewood”, she would say.
I asked her what she meant by this and she said that an example of the ‘wrong kind of firewood” was that – too many couples try to meet every one of their child’s needs at the expense of their relationship (this was damp/wet firewood according to Margaret – will not keep the fire burning).
“That was not the way”, Margaret said, regarding parents trying so hard to meet every one of their children’s needs.
“Couples should always make time for themselves and they should make their children know the importance of their time.”
I have never forgotten this and have offered this bit of advice to couples in the past. Now that I have children of my own, my wife and I regularly let our children know that “mummy and daddy’ are enjoying a conversation and need 30 minutes.
As my children grow, they are starting to truly respect and somewhat accept this, indirectly embedding in their minds that my love for my wife and her love for me comes first above all else.
I believe this is very important for the childrens’ state of mind, mainly in their adult years and their perception of an aspect of love. It is quite clear that parents can’t help their child(ren) unless they first step back and get their marriage relationship right. So, ask yourself if you’ve honestly done this.
If you’re not already doing so, make your marriage a top priority before it is too late. However, making your marriage to be top priority shouldn’t and cannot be motivated by a desire to do what’s best for the children. You need to work on your marriage because it’s what you want to do and that is it.
If you’re a Christian, it’s what God wants you to do too. Ultimately, each party to a marriage is made to need each other.
And what is a ‘need’? It is simply something we cannot do without to survive – like water, like food, like shelter. This view of each other’s love is exactly the fuel needed to keep the fire burning in a marriage.
For those of you reading this that are married or in a long-term relationship, all the very best to you.
Remember though: use the right type of firewood to keep the fire burning and keep your marriage top priority. Always.
Until next time,