What happened to the spark?

Relationship Quandaries

September 3, 2014

by, Glori Zeltzer, MA, MFT

I listened to an NPR broadcast recently that was about marriage and it's questionable value for women. There was a lot of discussion about the "spark" dying out in relationships, and whether that meant it was time to move on, or if couples should still stay together. I felt a giant piece was missing. There was no mention about where the "spark" went when it disappeared, and how or why this happens. The conversation reminded me of building a campfire. You start by igniting bits of leaves. If you turn your back on the fire, out it goes.  If instead, you add bits of bark, kindling, and then logs you can keep the fire burning. It can't be left to grow on it's own, and you can't turn your back on it, no matter how big a blaze you have. If you ignore it the fire dies.  Unfortunately couples are not taught how to grow that spark into an enduring flame, nor how to properly tend the flame to keep it alive. Our collective image of marriage focuses on what our partners can do for, or give us. Nothing in the program I listened to addressed what couples can do to grow their emotional connection. In essence, we are looking for a partner to bond with when we marry. We are looking for someone to understand us, to listen. Most arguments occur because both people want to be listened to, and nobody is listening. We tend to retreat from the other when we feel wounded or scared. Power struggles for control erupt, then fighting or silence and distance. Relationships require both individuals to work on their personal emotional growth rather than expect their partners to provide whatever is missing.  Marriage is a wonderful, and safe place for this growth to occur. The fuel to keep that initial spark alive is in creating an environment for intimate connection.   So the new question is, "What do we need?"  or "What does our relationship(family) need?" Rather than "What do I need?"  Neither person's individual growth must be sacrificed; rather it is encouraged.  The greatest gift I received from my partner was something he said to me early in our relationship;  "I want you to be the best 'you' that you can be." We teach these tools in our couple's workshop.


Next Post