Three flickers of love,
Determined to be,
Gifts from above,
Ensuring love’s free.
Most might assume the ‘perfect match’ that is a triadic love represented by three flames—intimacy, commitment and passion—is what completes love, especially as it subsists, in the romantic, wedded love of a couple living their lives together.
In other words, it is friendship love, willed love and physical love—all in a sense combined—which makes marital love succeed most powerfully.
These three flames, as Rob Bell refers to them, all need to flicker healthily and in relative balance for a marital relationship to know the blissful and seamless joy of two persons bonded as one.
And this fundamentally is also the critical step of maintenance for the relationship to survive the backwashing tides and the unpredictable throes of ocean swell that upset seemingly all marriages.
Flames that Flicker Out
It is inevitable that these flames might occasionally threaten to flicker out.
When one or more of these sides of this triadic love are faltering—or worse, completely missing—there is caused a primacy of pain in one or both partners that can often be just about impossible to bear.
These pains tear at the relationship’s core and partners can feel largely estranged to one another.
Commitment is usually the last flame that remains alight, and if the other two ‘pilot’ flames aren’t relit soon enough irreparable damage can ensue. It is important to add, however, that where both partners are equally committed—no matter how eroded the relationship is—the marriage can, as many cases attest, survive.
Troubleshooting for When Flames are Puffed Out
This article is not just about the negative end of faltering flames, but it’s important to cover these.
Intimacy is usually the first to go as couples forget to be friends first and foremost. What was most likely to be the first flame lit perhaps has been the first now snuffed out, but it is also most important as a healthy sign of relational ease and confidence to just ‘be’ together.
This is about spending time together and enjoying each other’s presence, a laugh, a glass of wine or coffee together and just chewing the fat with one another. Reparation of a lack of intimacy may require some effort initially but that effort which is consistently sown will be handsomely rewarded later.
Passion can diminish, usually as a sign of faltering intimacy. Many couples, however, can survive on a relatively passionless marriage if there’s sufficient intimacy and if it doesn’t bother them. Intimacy, alone, can buoy the friendly sense of willed commitment.
But most men, and many women, do need passion in their relationships, and this includes spontaneity, which also bumps intimacy along too. When passion is lacking it is best to think about being a young romantic couple again—this might generally lead to an increase in physical intimacy.
Commitment is usually the last flame to wither and wane. It’s the final straw in most cases as one or both ‘will it’ to either make the effort to continue or go their separate way(s). The hardest part about restoring this flame is, because it’s willed, it can’t just be simply reignited beyond one person’s desire. Here we can also see the failure to commit to action (on one or both parts) to restoring either intimacy or passion too. Commitment is the most important flame.
Improving relationships is a willed reality for both partners. They must both want it.
The Freedom of Love - All Three Flames Burning Brightly
Oh how we all want this! And it is even more so when we’ve both had it and lost it, or if we’ve never had it at all. For any relationship to be vibrant it needs sustained work and derived benefit from all three angles of the triad.
All three flames should be fanned so they may burn as brightly as possible.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgement: Rob Bell, Flame – Nooma 002 (