Keep the Flame Burning

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Gary and Norma Smalley share how to keep the marital fire burning—even when difficulties seem to dampen your relationship.

Gary: In this day and age, security in the marriage relationship almost seems to have gone the way of the public pay phone. Roughly half of all marriages end in divorce, and the statistics are about the same among Christians as they are in society at large. Yet feeling secure in the relationship is vital to true romance. How can you give yourself fully and without reservation to your spouse unless you’re confident he or she will still be with you, loving and supporting you, next week, next year, ten years from now, and so on until the day that death finally separates you?

Norma: One way I’ve tried to build security in our marriage is that I’ve consciously and deliberately never used the words "hate" or "divorce" or "leave" with Gary, even in our most heated “discussions.” I’ll admit I thought the words on a number of occasions in years gone by. But I’ve seen the devastation done to individuals–men and women as well as children–and families by separation and divorce, and I never want any part of that. Even more, when I vowed on our wedding day to love and remain faithful to Gary, I was making that promise to God. I was making it to Gary as well, but I was especially making it to God, and I take that very seriously.

Gary: Another thing that has helped to build security in our relationship is that we pray together about anything in our family or ministry that looks challenging. There’s a great sense of peace and oneness that comes from going to God together and placing a difficult matter in His hands.

We also know that when we’re both seeking His will for a particular concern, we’re on the right track to finding a good answer, because self-centeredness and ego have been taken out of play. We both want what’s best for each other, for our marriage, for our family, or whatever the case may be.

Norma: It’s nice to get flowers and to go out for fancy dinners. Those kinds of things do develop the feelings of romance that are so enjoyable, and I certainly like it when they’re a part of our relationship. I’ve learned, however, that as nice as the feelings of romance are, they’re no substitute for the security of a rock-solid commitment. Knowing that your love and your marriage will truly last “till death do us part” is the greatest feeling of all! During hard times, when I don’t feel love toward Gary, I always remember that feelings change so many times during the day because situations change—but my decision to love him was a commitment for life.

Gary: Intimacy does not start in the bedroom; it has its fulfillment in the bedroom. Romantic expressions shared throughout your days can keep the sense of warmth and desire alive even when difficult times arise. The small things, good or bad, often are the ones that shape your relationship in the long term.

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