3 WAYS TO FAN THE FLAME OF LONGING FOR ONE ANOTHER
As I write, I’m sitting before a fire in my living room. The fire is slowly going out. If I wanted to revive it, I would need to fan the flames a bit. This can be done by moving the logs around a little to stoke the embers. Or, I could simply blow a little air on the coals causing them to reignite. To keep a wood burning fire going in the winter time requires attention, effort and time.
Intimacy in marriage is no different. Much like the effort required to keep the flame going in a fireplace in the cold of winter, to keep the flame of intimacy in marriage going requires an equal (if not greater) amount of attention, effort and time. What once seemed to happen rather effortlessly in the formative years of our relationships now requires, for most married couples, focused intensity.
If you want to keep the flame burning between you and your spouse, if you want to remain faithful “till death do you part,” you and your partner will need to consistently fan the flame of longing for one another. How do you do that? Here’s 3 suggestions…
1. Cling to what is good in your spouse.
This probably seems rather evident to you. But, you’d be surprised what a little time and familiarity can do to a relationship (if a couple is not mindful). You’ve heard it said that, “familiarity breeds contempt.” In our experience in working with couples, we don’t find that to be quite the case. We’ve found that “familiarity breeds complacency.”
If a couple is not careful and mindful to pay close attention to their relationship, the day-in and day-out monotony and routineness of life can inadvertently breed complacency. The marital flame begins to flicker. A flame that once burned red hot is now without notice becoming smoldering coals. And, here’s the sad part. It most often is not intentional. We’ve yet to meet the couple who allowed the flame of their relationship to go out on purpose. It just happened. Both partners began paying less attention to the flame than what they once did.
Here’s a rather simple way to fan the flame of love for your partner. Cling to what is good about them.
Romans 12:9 (NASB) states, Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
In marriage, we can often do the exact opposite. Over time, without notice we can begin to cling to what is “evil” about our partner and abhor what is “good” about them. The “evil” that we tend to cling to in our partner is often not even “evil”, it’s just different. Your partner may squeeze the toothpaste differently than you do. They may put the toilet paper on the fixture differently than you. He may leave his underwear on the floor. She may leave her shoes everywhere in the house. Cabinet doors may never seem to be closed. He snores. She leaves her makeup all over the bathroom counter. You get the idea.
Our spouse’s differences begin to cling to us. They stick to us like a dryer sheet in the cold of winter. Understand this though - you choose what you cling to. We may not have chosen for the dryer sheet to cling to us, but we do choose what we cling to in our spouse.
We encourage you to focus on what is good and right about your spouse; not on what is bad and wrong. Afterall, what may seem to be “bad” or “wrong” to you often is neither, it’s just different. Be careful of making a moral issue out of something that is just a difference. Your way is not necessarily the “right” way and your spouse’s way the “wrong” way. More often than not, your ways are simply different.
We want to challenge you to attempt to catch your spouse doing something good. When you catch them doing something that is pleasing to you, affirm them in what you observed. You’ll be amazed how the loving temperature of your relationship will rise. In so doing, with this small gesture you will begin to fan the flame of intimacy between you and your spouse.
2. Treat your spouse as desirable.
Men, can we say something to you? If your wife is like a majority of women, she often does not feel as though she is desirable. When she sees herself in the mirror, it’s likely that she is not very happy with what she sees. She sees lines. She sees wrinkles. She sees imperfections. And the sad reality is that she often thinks that’s what you see as well.
Ladies, can we say something to you? If you see yourself the way we just described above, we can almost assuredly declare to you that’s not the way your husband sees you. If your husband is like the vast majority of men we’ve worked with, he loves and accepts you the way you are. When he says that you’re beautiful, he really means it. He’s not just trying to flatter you. You may not believe it about yourself, but it’s highly likely that he believes it to be true. So, accept his words as the truth - even if you don’t believe them to be true yourself.
King Solomon said this to his Shulamite bride (who doubted her own beauty as well), “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you” (Song of Solomon 4:7).
Ladies, this is true of you. It’s how God sees you (afterall, He’s the one Who created you as you are). It’s more than likely the way your husband sees you. Men, quote this verse to your bride regularly. Even if she struggles to believe it, keep speaking it to her. It’s how God sees her. It’s how you see her. Affirm her in that reality.
Now, when it comes to love and marriage, you will always find what you are looking for.
The writer of Proverbs said…
“He who seeks good finds goodwill; but evil comes to him who searches for it.” – Proverbs 11:27
If you’re looking for good in your partner, you’ll most likely be able to find that. Conversely, if you're looking for evil (selfish ambition or motives), you’ll most likely find that as well. We’ve found when it comes to love and marriage, you will always find what you’re looking for.
So, let us ask you…
“What are you looking for in your spouse?”
Chances are, if we’re right, you’ve found what you’ve been looking for. Now, with what you’ve found, what has it done for you? If it’s caused you to be discontent, dissatisfied, distraught, downtrodden, or depressed - it’s highly likely you’re searching for the wrong things in your partner.
Let us help you shift gears mentally. Take a moment and read Philippians 4:8 carefully -
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”
Spend some time focused on how your spouse displays those traits. What is true about your spouse? What is honorable about them? What is right and pure about them? Continue to work through the various descriptors. Then, record your reflections in the notes app on your phone. Or, write them in your journal. Afterwards, take some time this week to share your thoughts with your spouse. We’re pretty confident that as you do, the flames of intimacy between you and your and your partner will be fanned.
3. Remember that sex in the head erodes sex in the bed.
It goes without saying that you should have eyes for your spouse and your spouse alone. That is a prayer we pray for the two of you as well as for ourselves.
Job put it this way, “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. – Job 31:1 (NIV)
Having eyes for your spouse and your spouse alone is a choice. It’s a covenant. A covenant is in place regardless of the actions of the other partner within the covenant. Covenant says, “I choose to die to any wish, desire, longing, or ambition that would be detrimental to the health and well-being of our marital union.”
In speaking of covenant, the writer of Hebrews states, “For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it” (Hebrews 9:16).
You and I are afforded the opportunity almost daily to die to any desire or longing that comes our way that would detract us from the covenant commitments we’ve made to our spouse. For many, that is either taking our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), or bouncing our eyes when we’re tempted to stare with lust (1 John 2:15,16). Women tend to be stimulated emotionally through thoughts of fantasy. Men tend to be stimulated by what they see visually. In either case, be it from what is thought or what is seen, we are tempted to fan a flame for someone other than our spouse.
Remember, sexual thoughts about anyone other than your spouse will erode the flame of intimacy between you and your spouse. Sex in your head (with someone other than your spouse) will erode sex in your bed.
Pray that you would have eyes for your spouse and your spouse only. As you notice the beauty or handsomeness of someone other than your spouse, remind yourself of these 2 things:
1. That is not my spouse.
2. That person is someone else’s.
As I once again stoke the logs on our fire to warm our house on this cold winter morning, may you and I give even greater attention, effort, and time to fan the flames of longing for our spouse.