If you’ve ever started a fire with flint and steel, then you know how frustrating it can be—or at least, it frustrated me. There I was with my small steel striker, charred cloth, and the only rock I could find in the wild that barely made a spark. I hit that rock for probably an hour, bloodying up my knuckles in the process, and getting colder by the minute.
And then it happened: I started a fire, and in the process, I learned a lesson.
In life and in marriage we can find ourselves doing all the right things, striking in very different ways at the rocks (or relationships) in our life, getting a spark but no fire. It can get frustrating, and yes at times it can be easy to give up, but if you don’t keep striking, you don’t get a fire. You don’t even get sparks.
So when marriage gets hard, what do we do to keep the sparks flying and to work at keeping that fire? Here are just a few resources married couples can use.
- Prayer and Scripture Study
First and foremost, your best resource is the third member of your relationship: God. Coming together as a couple to pray and receive guidance and inspiration from the scriptures should be the first thing you do when the going gets rough. Spend time searching the scriptures and praying not just on your own, but together.
- Speak with an ecclesiastical leader
This can be a Bishop if you are LDS or a Priest or other religious leader if you are of a different faith. The important part here is that you go together. Ecclesiastical leaders can receive inspiration for you and your spouse; however, it’s important to remember that if you are dealing with a more serious and sustained problem, couple those visits to the bishop with seeing an actual professional.
- Consider marital therapy
Therapy and professional counseling sometimes come negative connotations. However, most professional therapists advise couples to see a counselor before any problems arise. For example, premarital workshops and therapy can help prevent future problems in a marriage.
- Go to a marital workshop
Universities will sometimes host marital workshops, as well as professional counseling organizations. These workshops can be especially insightful about communication styles and how little adjustments can drastically improve a couple’s communication. For example, BYU Counseling and Psychological Services holds a six-week marriage prep course each semester.
- Go on a couple retreat
A couple retreat doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, even a simple date or series of dates can be a way for couples to reconnect and stay connected.
- Read a good book
And by “good book” I specifically mean marital books (although I don’t oppose reading aloud to each other your favorite book every night). Some well-known, successful marital books have been The Seven Principles of Making a Marriage Work, His Needs Her Needs, and The Art of Intimacy. If you are seeing a counselor or ecclesiastical leader, ask them what books best meet your needs, or do this research together on your own.
- Do what you love
Think of the last time you and your spouse were at your best. Think of all the things you were doing at that time of your life and then do it. Maybe you were serving more, or you were more attentive, or you went on more dates. Whatever it is, try to revive those good habits.
Of course, it’s always to easier to keep a fire going than to start one. Don’t be afraid to use these resources before you’re in the dark striking at a rock and praying for sparks. And if you are at that point, keep striking, keep going: the ember will catch and the fire will come.