6 Ways to Keep the Flame Alive in Your Relationship, Part 2
More thoughts on reading between the lines.
Posted Aug 30, 2018
Having written Part 1 of this article, I realized that there were several issues and points that needed further addressing and clarifying. What I was trying to emphasize in the first article were some ways to help us attend to that special relationship that often get lost in the course of daily living. When life is just moving along in its usual way, humans have a tendency to live life habitually; we find ways to get through each day so that it goes fairly smoothly, without too much interruption or distraction. We form habits and routines that provide a “shorthand” form for the way we live life. When there are no major crises or changes, these habits and routines work very well to help us do what we need to accomplish.
Keeping the flame alive in our most precious relationship is what is often neglected, not because we don’t want to pay special attention to our partners — most of us do — rather because the number of hours in the day are filled with so many tasks and obligations that we often feel too exhausted to make the effort, let alone think about it. Part 1 was meant to provide suggestions about how to make the time and effort to keep that special spark alive in your relationship, and the importance to continue to do this throughout the course of your life together.
In addition to the points included in Part 1, I felt that several other pieces needed to be added in order to flesh out what it means to have an intimate, committed relationship, where partners thrive as individuals, where partners function to accomplish common goals, and where the core of attraction — whatever it is that brought you together in the first place — is remembered and honored on an ongoing basis. It reminds me of the idea that, in ancient times, keeping the “literal” flame burning at all times was essential for the continuing life of the community. The hearth was the center of life. It provided vital warmth, a place to prepare nourishment, and a place to gather together. As humans, we will always need this flame.
Here, then, are some essential additional pieces that I think really cement together the things I talked about in Part 1. They are, as such, the foundation of a deeply and fully committed relationship, one that allows for and encourages the “business” of successfully carrying on life, day to day, year to year, but also one that allows for the ongoing respect, appreciation, and love that make each partner’s life satisfactory and fulfilling, both personally and as a couple.
1. Renew commitments. It’s so important to make the time to have ongoing conversations about what is happening within the relationship. Are you both still as committed as you once were to accomplish certain goals together? Have other issues/problems/interests diverted your attention away from a certain commitment you once had? Have your commitments for the relationship changed over time? These conversations help you to see if you are on the same page with each other, and if you are not, help you to get back on track or shift your focus away from one commitment to another that is currently more important to you as individuals and as a couple.
2. Share your personal goals and growth with your partner on a regular basis. I cannot emphasis how essential this is. We often forget that in an intimate relationship, although we are a unit, a pair with shared interests, goals, and aspirations, we are still a separate entity unto ourselves. The relationship may represent a very large part of the “pie chart,” but that chart should have a large wedge that represents our individuality, totally separate from our partner. People frequently forget or ignore this and end up merging identities with their partner. And as such, often there are these “un-lived” portions of a life that never see the light of day. You must always remain yourself, who you are as an individual, even in the closest relationship. Your individuality and uniqueness are what add the spice to the relationship, keeping it fresh and always contributing new dimensions to the relationship.
3. Redefine your relationship. What do you mean to each other moving forward, especially in light of who you are becoming as a person aside from your partner? Inevitably, as time passes, you will have had many experiences together. Who you are and how you have been affected by these experiences will change you to varying degrees. How have life’s challenges together, both successes and tragedies, changed your relationship? Can you as individuals as well as partners “go with the flow” of life, making the necessary adjustments to changes in your behavior, attitude, and beliefs? Discussing what these changes are and mean to the relationship is essential to its continuing success. Often, we change and forget to tell the people we are most intimate with what has happened to us. They may not know or understand what your internal life is all about, what you feel most intimately, if you do not tell them.
4. Address major issues directly and head-on. Life throws a lot of things at us. Many situations are within the realm of normal living; in other words, these are common issues many of us will experience. And we’ll get through most of these. However, there are certain challenges that may arise in a lifetime that are dramatic, drastic, devastating, and even dark. How to deal with these?
Well, invariably, we have no time to practice what to do in very challenging circumstances. But if we have gotten into the habit of talking about the possibilities of what can happen, and have even discussed what to do if such situations should arise, we may be better prepared to handle challenge and change. We can pretend just so much that nothing bad will happen to us, but, inevitably, if something bad does happen, we’ll have some idea about how to deal with it. Ultimately, it is far better to have some idea about what to do beforehand than to wait for the other shoe to drop and panic.
5. Keep no secrets. No one may ever know you as well as you know yourself, and there may be parts of you that you choose to keep to yourself — thoughts, fantasies, wishes, and dreams. That’s fine; that’s not keeping a secret. What I’m talking about here are those parts of your life that you attempt to hide away, because you are ashamed, guilty, or fearful. If there are major pieces of your life that have had a huge impact on you and have molded who you’ve become, it’s essential to openly and fully share those with your partner. This is not meant to be a confession; you’re not asking your partner to forgive, pardon, or absolve you. You are laying on the table everything about you, so that the intimacy you share in the future is based on honesty and truthfulness.
6. Never assume anything. Another way to say this is to always be open to communicate so that there are no big misunderstandings. If you are not sure about an issue, ask for clarification. You think you know someone so well for so long, but that doesn’t mean you know everything about them. Life changes all of us, sometimes in big ways, and what we once thought and did may no longer be appropriate at another point in time. As well as you may know your partner, it’s always important to check in with them.