October is traditionally Fire Prevention Month. This year it began with Fire Prevention Week and, as always, will end with the time change and the reminder to check the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. While it may be corny, we thought it might be interesting to look at fire prevention in marriage relationships.
Fires in our relationship are those things that drive us apart or cause tension or distress. We’ve learned a few things through the years to prevent those fires from occurring.
- Not everything is worth fighting over. We learned that we all have our quirks, our little habits, things that we do and things we forget to do. These may lead to tension or arguments. For the most part I’ve learned to ignore the little things or, at the least, when they bug me to mention them as something that bugs me rather than blowing up and creating a fire.
- Little acts of kindness nearly every day help me to know that I’m loved and cared for and help to prevent a spark of irritation from taking hold. I can return little acts to Bob as well. It doesn’t have to be a big thing or require spending money. Small things like please and thank you or just telling the other how much you appreciate something they’ve done for you go a long way. Bob usually puts gas in the car I drive the most. I try to thank him. Some mornings he makes the bed and I again am conscious of thanking him.
- If you are like us, as much as you may try, you can’t read each other’s minds. It helps a great deal to learn to communicate needs and desires and to speak the things that are in your mind and heart with kindness and compassion, not bitterness and anger.
- Cleaning out all the things that might lead to a fire is another part of fire prevention. Set aside a time in the right atmosphere, not when one is watching a favorite TV program or as you begin to make love to dump all the things that annoy you. It is a time set aside to share honestly, but with kindness, the things that are interfering with your closeness. We find that it sometimes leads us to laugh at the pettiness of the things that were annoying us. It allows for the clearing the air and may even put out a few embers that were starting to smolder.
Even with all the things we do that are supposed to prevent fires in our relationship on occasion they happen any way. We’ve learned a few things there as well.
- Learn how to detect the fire early and face it head on rather than trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. Stomping around the house, slamming doors or avoiding each other will not keep the fire from erupting. Be aware of stress between you and ask each other if everything is okay. Give each other the space to work things out so that things can be discussed as adults.
- Have an evacuation plan. When the fire erupts and becomes an inferno, have a plan in place to manage it. For some it is going for a walk alone to gather thoughts and ideas. For some it means holding each other for a moment and then dealing with whatever the issue is. Some couples make love first and then discuss the issue and others discuss the issue and then make love. The point is, don’t let the fire consume you. Find a way to stay ahead of the destructive force the fire could be.
- If a fire develops in your relationship it is good to have some guidelines by which you will conduct a clearing of the air or to put it out. We have a few that we apply such as – no name calling, know what you are actually fighting about, no third parties such as friends or mothers are to be involved, don’t bring up past history. We say don’t argue over anything older than the milk in our refrigerator. Stay in physical contact while you clear the air. Don’t hit and run. Always fight for your relationship, not to win. When we work out a problem, no matter whose preference may be adopted, we regard that as OUR win, not his or hers.
Test the smoke alarm.
- Learn how to “smell” the smoke in your relationship. If I am honest I can tell when Bob is irritated or upset. I can tell by his body language. How he acts says more than his words. Learn to pay attention and listen for the alarms that are a warning that smoke is on the horizon.
- Have a working smoke detector is a comfort and gives us peace of mind. Usually, when one goes off, it is letting us know that the fireplace chimney isn’t drawing properly or something is burning on the stove. It reminds us to pay more attention to what we are doing, so that it won’t go off in the future. Making the decision to say I’m sorry, then forgiving and asking for forgiveness are ways to keep the smoke detector in our relationship from sounding. We know it is there, but it is rarely set off and has never been the result of a fire for which we needed to evacuate. Having that smoke detector is a comfort. Set up a detector in your relationship. Know when the smoke is something you need to deal with.
- Recharge the batteries of your relationship periodically. Take some time for each other. As the last of the leaves turn color and fall, take a walk together, even if the kids have to walk with you. Share a little time together, either out for a quiet dinner or after the kids are in bed. Be tender and loving with each other. Kiss and hug when parting or coming back together at the end of the day. Send emails, texts or calls once in the while during the day just to say hello. Get away together if you can make that happen.
Fires can fill your relationship with light and warmth as well as destruction. Fan the good aspects of the fire in your relationship and then you might not need to use the fire prevention plan or need to evacuate. Enjoy.
Bob & Rita’s book: Forever and Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage That Lasts a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com or by contacting us. Also available for Kindle and Nook. Make a retreat with your spouse, at home, on your time. Readings, relationship tips, questions for discussion.
Daily Readings, Reflection, and Prayer
A good way to start your day