Is Your Marriage Missing a Spark? Here’s How to Rekindle the Flame

Learn how to rekindle a marriage with these tips.

If you find yourself settling into married life with a nagging feeling that some kind of spark is missing, you’re not alone. 

Marriage is a journey that begins with a high-revving engine in the early days of romance. A couple is learning about one another and excited to spend time together. When they reach the stage of engagement and planning a wedding, they are consumed with a flurry of activity to prepare for their new life together. Then the first year of marriage is full of transition.

Every marriage reaches a point, though, when spouses are comfortable enough to settle in together — to downshift from the high-revving engine to the rhythms of day-to-day life. This is what they wanted together — a shared life — but some can be thrown off by the fact that not every interaction is exciting or purposeful. One day, they look around and begin to wonder, “What’s next?”

In his book, The Seven Principles That Make Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman puts his finger precisely on this feeling:

But if you find yourself asking, “Is that all there is?”… what you may be missing is a deeper sense of shared meaning. Marriage isn’t just about raising kids, splitting chores, and making love. It can also have a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together — a culture rich with symbols and rituals, and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you and that lead you to understand who you are as a family.

Some couples start having conversations about a shared meaning while they are dating — but what if you are a couple who hasn’t? How do you start building a shared meaning into your own relationship? Dr. Gottman’s institute has studied successful marriages, and they outline four pillars that cultivate a deeper spiritual dimension in couples. 

Rituals of connection

Start by incorporating simple structured events you both enjoy that happen at regular intervals. This event should bring you both together and represent shared goals. 

One of the most common rituals recommended by family health experts is to have dinner together every night, setting the expectation that it is a sacred time of connection after a busy day where everyone has been going their own ways. Some couples incorporate a nightly prayer or meditation together. Weekly church attendance together (even when you don’t share the same faith tradition) and a weekly date night are other great examples. 

Almost anything can become a ritual of connection. Over time these simple habits bring intimacy as you share parts of yourself and your inner life that otherwise would remain hidden. 

Support for each other’s roles

We all have jobs and roles to fulfill — whether it is employee, employer, husband, wife, mother, father, son, or daughter. So which roles in your life do you identify with most? Which are most important to you, and why? Reflect on these roles for yourself, and then share your conclusions about this deep layer of your identity with your spouse. It will give them the opportunity to see and support the aspects of you that are most fundamental to who you want to be. 

Likewise, take steps to get to know what roles matter most to your partner. Offer that practical support for the roles they find most meaningful, and remind them of who they are when the going gets rough. This is how you help each other grow more fully into the people you were created to be. 

Shared goals

As a couple, set aside time to think about the deepest, broadest life goals you each hold individually. You might even articulate that direction by writing a mission statement for your life. Then come together and share the results with each other. 

It’s highly unlikely you’ll have the exact same goals, but coming together and sharing means that you can begin working together to mesh each other’s perspectives into a shared plan. The reflection you do will uncover deep desires, and when you bring those desires into conversation with your spouse, you’ll discover that even if they are different, there are surprising ways they can work together.

Maybe you want to find peace and healing after a tumultuous, traumatic childhood. Maybe you want to ensure your children grow up content with themselves, or with ambition to pursue their own passions. Maybe your goal is to strive for a meaningful marriage. Whatever it is, give yourself the space to articulate those goals — working on them together will unlock a sense of purpose and meaning to your marriage.

Shared values and systems

When we think of shared values, we tend to jump right to ideas of religious traditions. Although these are very important expressions of values, there are also many others. Regardless of faith tradition, what virtues matter most to you? What values do you strive to live your life by? 

For some, it’s loyalty. For others, it’s all about truth. Some strive to live by compassion and love above all else. Figure out what values undergird who you are, and examine the ways you intentionally incorporate them into your life. 

Chances are good that when you look around your home, you will see objects that symbolize or reflect your deepest values — religious or not. It could be a painting, a crucifix, a piece of furniture, or even the home itself. 

Share these values, these symbols, and these cherished beliefs with your partner. Your partner doesn’t have to be your twin in these values, but by having the courage to share with each other what matters most, you can begin to affirm each other’s deepest beliefs and help one another live in accord with them. 

All four of these pillars share the core: Your partner is your first priority — you want to know and share what matters most deeply to them. And when you do not share the same deeply held views, you still strive to reach for one another with understanding and support. This shared understanding takes time, patience, and courage — but what a gift to ground your shared journey together in the deepest levels of your identity. 

If you are bold enough to take on the challenge together, you’ll find that missing spark — and enough fuel to keep it burning for your whole marriage.

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