Relationships are very similar to fireplaces. They can bring warmth and comfort into your home making it a cozy place to escape the harsh elements we often face outside, but it takes work.
If you want a bigger and hotter fire you have to put more wood in the fireplace; and because wood gets consumed rather quickly, in order to maintain the same level of heat, you must put wood on the fire at the same rate that it is being consumed.
If you want to keep the fire burning in your relationship you must also put wood on the fire at the same level it is being consumed. When we first meet someone, it starts with a spark. We then feed that spark with fuel such as flowers, dinner, notes, poems, candlelight dinners, long walks going nowhere just talking etc. Over the years many couples allow other things to consume their time like work, the children and their activities, the house and yard work and they often forget to feed the fire. What happens? You got it, the flame goes out and the heat is gone. Instead of blaming themselves for not feeding the fire, many blame the fireplace and say that it stopped working and they all to often begin to look for warmth from other sources; TV, the children, the internet, work, food, hobbies, sports, chat rooms and even other relationships; any other place they find comfort and enjoyment. You can easily see who these couples are if you look hard enough; they usually never hold hands anymore, hugs are a thing of the past, dinner is spent reading the newspaper and when the meal is over, (if they even still eat together) he goes his way and she goes hers. He finds just as much warmth on the couch and she finds just as much affection in a book.
At this point, if you are still with me, many of you are probably thinking; Oh my gosh! He is talking about us!
Well if that is true, there is still hope: read on….
What can you do to prevent passion burn out? It takes intentional work to keep any fire burning and that includes the fire in your relationship. When I had a wood stove, I sometimes had to get up in the middle of the night to put more wood on the fire. I had to prepare and have wood on hand before things started getting cold and that cost time, effort and sometimes money. If you want passion in your relationship, it will take work, it will take effort on your part and it sometimes takes doing things you would rather not do.
1.Prepare for cold times before they get there. The worst thing one can do is to wait for the fire to start going out before you gather wood. This means that in advance, before things get cold, you have to store up time to get away, set aside a few bucks to go out to dinner or hotel, schedule baby sitters in advance, schedule vacations, plan special things for your anniversary, birthdays, valentines day etc. Sit down with each other; get a calendar and set aside dates that you both agree to keep no matter what. Put a Red Heart on those days; when life gets hectic and begins to suck the passion out of you, just looking at that heart can bring comfort and anticipation. Plan special surprise dates where each person is responsible for what is done and where you go without the other knowing in advance.
2.Dont wait for the fire to get too small No one likes having the temperature fluctuate too much; cold one minute, hot the next. We would rather have steady warmth. In order to do this with a fire and a relationship, you must feed the fire on a regular basis. Set aside weekly or biweekly date nights. Sometimes a night away in a different environment will do wonders, even if its a hotel around the corner from where you live. Go out to dinner, a movie or just a walk in the park; take a ride in the car with the radio off so you can talk with each other. Keep the cell phones off or at least screen the calls and only take emergencies. Send flowers or candy, leave love notes and words of encouragement in places only your loved ones go. Leave a message on the answering machine, letting them know you love them, remember the phone companies commercial from a few years ago? I just called to say I love you. It is still effective. Surprise them with lunch at work. Be creative.
3.Watch the fire. Sometimes because of the environment and type of wood that is used, you may need to feed the fire at faster intervals. Life is never the same every day. Some days we can coast and things go smooth and other days seem as though everything that can go wrong does. It is the busy and tough days that suck the life and passion out of us. Keep an eye on the fire; if your spouse is having rough times you may need to put a little extra wood on. Take some of their responsibilities away from them during these days to lighten their load. Be extra affectionate, run the bath and have a few candles lit. Send the kids to the neighbors for a few hours or better yet, you take them to the movies.
4.Load up for the long nights. If you foresee any reason that you may not be able to tend to the fire, make sure you have the fireplace loaded if you want it to still be burning when things return to normal. If a person leaves with a fresh memory of how warm and comfortable it is at home, they will be less apt to look for warmth elsewhere. Enough said?
5.Stay away from fire extinguishers. There are certain things that will put out a fire in a heartbeat. Phone calls during dinner, conversations about work, lack of money, reading the paper and not paying attention, complaining and nagging are all things that will put out the passion. Even children with their needs will put a damper on a well intended night out. Make arrangements for them to be away. Neighbors and in-laws can come knocking on the door with best intentions, hang a do not disturb sign out and let everyone know that they need to stay away.
6.Know your wood. You must know what fuel burns best. Know your partners likes and dislikes, know what they like to eat, the kind of movies they enjoy and what they enjoy doing. If you are not sure what turns their heat up, ASK! Trust me, it is easier to ask than it is to experiment. And hey! When they tell you what they like, dont think you know better. Men; a night at Lowes looking at the latest cordless drill may seem like a good time to you, but trust me, that wood is not getting lit; and ladies if your husband isnt the mushy love story kind of guy, movies like Pretty Woman are as wet as wood can get.
7.When its your turn to feed the fire, just do it. When its your turn to feed the fire, remember that you are feeding this time and not eating, so what you like really doesnt matter. Focus on what turns their heat up, not yours. If their fire is burning, dont worry you will get warm.
8.It takes two. There must be give and take in every relationship, it is called being thankful and appreciative towards each other. When selfishness gets in and it becomes all about me, all about I, then resentment may start to grow and that waters down any relationship. Stop blaming each other. You can say that you are not putting any wood on the fire because you are not getting any heat and the fireplace can say it is not giving any heat because no one is giving it any wood. Both parties are dependent on each other to have a warm relationship.
9.Dont hog the heat If you keep putting logs on the fire and you arent getting any heat or comfort out of it, you will eventually stop feeding that fire. You must give out as much as you receive if not more. A good fireplace is designed to give back a good portion of the heat it generates; a poor one allows all the heat to go up the chimney. If your spouse is giving and giving and you are taking and taking, dont be surprised when the giving stops. It is called balance. Everything in the universe survives on this principle and so does your relationship. You must give in order to receive and if you want more, you must give more. Again, if you are not doing your part, dont be surprised when the wood stops coming.
10.Take care of the fireplace Do you remember when you first started dating? You were always on time, dressed to kill, your hair all done up, makeup just right, car or truck all cleaned. Never said a harsh word to each other, some even apologized if they burped out loud. How is it now? Hair in curlers, no make up, yesterdays McDonalds on the floor of the car, fries in the seat, dressed in your work clothes for dinner and going to bed in what looks like your fathers old work out clothes? Do you force out that burp? Do you still hold your tongue when you get upset, or do you treat strangers with kinder words then your spouse? When the fireplace looks and acts like it is all worn out, people start to think about replacing it with a newer model. Take care of yourself, on the outside and the inside. Does it take work? Sure it does. So? A fireplace that is kept well will be well kept.
What if the fire is already or nearly out? Very often after the fire is almost out with only a few warm coals left, many feel they can throw one little stick on the fire and it will bring a blaze of heat back into the home. They see the sudden flame and feel a bit of heat and go to bed with a smile on their face but before the sun rises, things are just as cold as before. One night out, one bouquet of flowers, one dinner or one compliment and they feel everything should be the same the next day. For relationships that have grown cold, you have to start all over again, feeding it a little at a time. Just like in your courting or dating days; time spent with each other just talking, dinner, a note left behind, a late night phone call about nothing, flowers, candy, and perfume. Remember, when a fire goes out, it is not just the fireplace that cooled off; the entire home did as well. The bricks or stones, furniture, walls floors and ceilings all have to be warmed up and that takes time and energy. If you want that passion back, start small, be consistent and do not give up. It may take doing something small every day for weeks before you really feel the warmth coming back and as soon as you see that small flame, you better fan it and feed it cause it will go out quick if you dont. After it starts to burn, keep it going and never let it go out again!
Final thoughts: A relationship requires constant work and attention. The enemy wants us to take all of our focus off of the relationship and apply it elsewhere; knowing that if we keep our eyes off it long enough we will loose it. These principles not only apply for our relationship with our spouse, but also with our children, friends and family and of course our relationship with God. Jesus spoke to the church of Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2 when He said, You have done great works, but I have this against thee, you have left your first love, remember what you used to do and return to it and repent. Think back on how you treated each other when you first met, how you talked and the actions you took. Think back to the time when things were great and full of passion and do now what you did then.
Bob Wagner is a Pastor and Motivational Speaker. You may contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. or visit his website for more articles like this one.