How Do You Keep Sparks In Your Relationship?

Fourth of July conjures up memories of steamed crabs, fireflies, and sparklers. Yeah, those things are kind of random, but that's the protocol for a late afternoon Baltimore cookout in the summer—oh, and terrible, terrible cheap beer.

One would have to head further South to get real fireworks, but in our earlier days my sisters and I were content to sprint around with sparklers in hand. As the Fourth approaches, I've been inundated with friends seeking advice and telling me stories about dating, and they always take a moment to acknowledge the presence or absence of "the spark".

So, sparklers are lame entertainment for Fourth of July, but "the spark" is actually that rare thing we seek in relationships.

The spark is a tough thing to define, but listing some characteristics of the spark will help us get there:

  • It does not occur often—we can date for years and never feel a spark with anyone
  • It is something we are almost always sure of—you can't "think" you're feeling sparks, you usually know it's there 100%
  • It is not always mutual: it is possible for only one person in potential couple to feel a spark
  • It is spontaneous: it doesn't develop, it kind of just happens. This is evident by the fact that sometimes friends suddenly feel sparks after years of platonic behavior
  • It can go away and come back

    So, this brings up other things to consider. How do sparks make us behave, and—more importantly—what kind of strategies can we use to keep sparks flying in our relationships as they blossom into long term unions or marriage?

    Sparks make me do crazy things:

    1. I start thinking irrationally...

    When I start feeling sparks, I feel like I can make anything happen with the girl. If I'm feeling sparks then I think we are destined to date. I don't care about odds or circumstances—I just give in to the power of sparks and believe I can work miracles. Even if I have a better chance of discovering clean and efficient energy for the world than getting with the girl I'm "sparking" with...I still keep trying until I'm worn out.

    2. I do anything and suffer any consequences to be around the girl...

    I had this huge crush on this girl in my Italian class freshman year of college. So, naturally, I kept signing up for Italian whenever she said she was going to continue. Little did I know she was majoring in Italian. By the third year, my Italian grades had plummeted and we were getting full on novels to read in Italian every semester (keep in mind I have enough trouble reading in English). Finally, after I was put on academic probation, I decided I should stop getting raked over the Italian class coals just because this girl was cute. Not a very romantic language, that Italian.

    3. I fight for positive attention...

    When I feel sparks for a girl, I love hearing her laugh at things I say and do. I want her to see me accomplish cool things and notice anything great that I'm doing.

    The spark is a great little marker for the chronology of relationships. We feel them in the beginning and get goofy and giddy. When it works, then we get together and we start dating, and that's when multiple sparks fly. But, like those lame sparklers we used to run around with on the 4th of July, they eventually go out. But...they can come back. So, when there are sparks in a relationship, there is passion, happiness, euphoria.

    Its impossible to keep these sparks alive indefinitely, so we ride the ups and downs of a relationship. Work, money, kids, health—these things all require attention. We need to be in the right frame of mind for sparks to fly.

    I tend to break up with a girl as soon as the sparks go out, so I don't know what it means to work on bringing them back. I see my parents go on vacations a lot, or they do special activities together. The holidays randomly bring sparks up for the married people in my family. Lots of people return to their first date venue, or somewhere that is a landmark in their relationship.

    Do you agree that it's impossible to keep the sparks flying indefinitely? And, is it a mistake for me to be breaking up with girls the moment the sparks seem to die down? Or when I finally meet the one, will I just keep going even though the sparks are not always there? What kind of things do you do to keep the sparks flying in your relationship? How would you define the spark? Do sparks make you act crazy like they do to me?

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