If you’ve ever built a fire, then you know that the kindling process is very important.  Once the smallest spark comes to life, a blazing fire is born. As the fire reaches its peak, maintaining the heat takes careful concentration and finesse. If not frequently stoking it, the fire will fizzle out. The same can be said about relationships. Neglecting it for too long is a sign that you might need to reignite the flames.

Whether you are newly married or married for 20 years, in order to keep passion alive, you need a constant stream of emotional kindling. The good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of work. In just a few small ways, your relationship can come roaring back to life.

Build A Secure Base

In her book Hold Me Tight, Dr. Sue Johnson describes relationships as lovers being poised delicately on a tightrope. When the winds of doubt and fear begin blowing, we go into panic mode. We either hold on tight to each other or turn away to steady ourselves. As we do this, the rope sways more and more, making our balance unsteady. To stay on the same rope, we must shift with each other’s moves and respond to each other’s emotions. Having the same rhythm means having a secure attachment to our partner. Coauthors Levine and Heller reveal in their book, Attached that attachment theory is the most advanced relationship science in existence today and their book offers a wealth of advice on how to form strong and securely attached relationships.

Spend Time Together

Research from the Gottman Institute found that strong couples spend at least 5 hours per week or more in intimate conversation. It’s founder, Dr. John Gottman reminds us that “friendship is the glue that can hold a marriage together.” A couple who is well-versed in one other’s love maps– their likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes and dreams- are the couples that stand the test of time. In as little as just 20 minutes a day of uninterrupted dialogue, couples can strengthen their relationship.

Small Gestures Have Big Meaning

We miss opportunities to connect- not on purpose or with malicious intent- but out of mindlessness. The first step to feeling more connected with your partner is to recognize how vital these micro-moments are. This is important not only for the trust in your marriage, but for romance and intimacy as well. For example, a quick glance at your spouse shows that they’re in deep thought and contemplation. If rushing out the door or not properly tuned in, you might miss the opportunity to ask them what’s wrong. Instead, you give a quick peck on the cheek and out the door you go, while your partner is left having to sort out the heavy load all on their own. Another example might be that in passing, your significant other mentions the fact that they feel unappreciated at work. This side comment is what Gottman calls a bid for connection. Even overlooking a simple request for more affection can cause a drift in connection. Frequent missed cues such as these create disconnect and loneliness in the relationship over time. Staying attuned to your partner builds trust and reliability. The message? “I’m there for you in your times of need and longing, and I’m going to answer your call.”

What You Say to Your Partner Sticks

Words have incredible power. They can build your partner up or tear them down. If you struggle in certain situations on what to say, rather than focusing on the “right thing,” stay genuine and show empathy, support and a listening ear.

John Gottman states that “understanding must precede advice,” and when it comes to conflict, learning each other’s position and the hidden meaning attached to the issue at hand is the first and most important step in finding common ground. Couples need to work through tough topics by holding hands, rather than arm wrestling their way through them.

Intimacy Fuels Connection

A sexless marriage is defined as sexual intimacy occurring fewer than 10 times per year. Intimacy is a healthy and important element of any relationship, yet the one thing that is often the most overlooked. It’s hard to make time for romance when you’re tired and have the competing needs of children, work and personal life. It often feels more attractive to zone out with Netflix than getting frisky with your spouse. If you find yourself in a sexless marriage, it’s time to spark a new fire in ways that get you both excited and eager to make love. Scheduling sex, watching an erotic movie in bed and date nights with a night of intimacy builds the anticipation and excitement needed to fuel romance and intimacy.

In summary, learning how to reignite the spark and connection takes time and continuous effort. With commitment and dedication, a lasting and passionate relationship is possible. It’s not the difficulties we face in life that cause the dying embers of our relationship to form but in how we tackle those moments side-by-side. These small intentions that adds a little more coal on the fire.