Keeping the Spark Alive: Going Back to Basics
Have you noticed that wonderful things happen when you least expect them? They suddenly appear, suddenly happen, take your breath away, and your world is infused with wonder and gratitude. As a couple, we are perfectly agreed on this one thing: we love nice surprises! And we have learned a fundamental truth about great surprises: you can help make them happen to you, if you are willing to do the hard work needed to set them up. Let us explain how this works.
Several years ago, the two of us, along with our teenage daughter, decided to go camping for the weekend. We chose a nearby location that we knew little about. We didn’t know if it would be ordinary or extraordinary. We took a chance. We pitched our tent in a narrow valley alongside a river. By the second day we were getting a bit restless, with limited options for entertainment. We decided to climb up the mountainside as a way of getting some fresh air and exercise, and to see what one could see from higher up.
The climb was tiresome, we had to wait for each other, and at one point it seemed we would not get high enough to see very far. One of us was eager to climb ahead, another was thinking of climbing back down. We decided to keep together, helping those who were tiring, and encouraging one another along in the steeper parts of the climb. This decision strengthened our emotional connection, which in turn kept us moving forward. We were so concentrated on the climbing that reaching the top came as a surprise. But even more surprising was the view: we could look off across mountain tops into the farther reaches of the valley. It was a wonderful gift, after a hard climb.
That experience was more than just a climb and a view. It was a life lesson about how surprises can be set up to happen. The key is what happens between the joyful start of the climb and the surprising view at the end: hard but necessary work! Marriage is like going on many climbs together. If you want to share “surprising views” on a regular basis, you will have to stay together in the tough times, speak encouragement to one another, and be willing to slow down when one of you is struggling. If you do this for one another, step by step you will advance until you reach the top. The view will confirm that the effort was worth it.
Something that will give you, as a couple, a renewed commitment for staying together and keeping the spark alive, is the answer to the question: What made you fall in love with each other? It might be tempting to brush that aside as something that was only good for getting things started between you, but the truth is: those reasons should stay with you and continue to motivate you, especially when staying together and keeping the spark alive seems very difficult to do. The middle of the climb, so to speak. The only way you will be able to achieve the big surprise is by staying together, encouraging one another, and helping each other along the way.
The motivation comes from remembering what made you fall in love; the emotional connection you established. Was it her sense of humor? Be a great companion so that the sense of humor will stay alive. Was it his zest for life? Be aware of ways you can share in his burdens and keep the joy alive. Was it her kindness? Be one who deserves kindness so that kindness can continue to be there.
The person you married is still there, beside you. He or she, too, wants to hold on to the things that made you love them in the first place.
The secret to keeping the surprises coming will be the hard work of keeping each other in love, by still sharing the things that made each of you special at the beginning, when you first fell in love.
You can get things started by looking into each other’s eyes and taking turns finishing this sentence: “when we first met, what I loved about you was ________ .” Do it back and forth several times, so that you can make a whole list of those special things that eventually convinced you to choose to do life together.
So, are you ready for a surprise-filled marriage? Get to work. Bring out, in you, the dashing, fun young man she fell in love with. Bring out, in you, the witty, daring young lady he fell in love with. Together, hand in hand, walk into your next adventure ready to work at it… and prepare yourselves for some “unexpected” surprises!