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Fanning the flames

March 16, 2015

A great idea…

In her book, Why Talking is Not Enough, Susan Page says, “Each of us has a little flame deep within us. All life is an effort to keep that flame burning brightly. Every time you interact with your intimate partner, you are either throwing sand on your partner’s flame—or breathing fresh oxygen on it to make it glow brighter. A love relationship should be all about brightening and supporting the inner flame of the person you love. We have somehow acquired the illusion that if we throw enough sand and water on our partner’s flame in the guise of being ‘fair’ or of offering ‘suggestions’ (usually criticisms) or of insisting on change, we will both end up happier” (p. 31).

 In other words…

Why do we think that we have to make people feel bad in order to get them to do good? We are all motivated by encouragement and disheartened by criticism. Criticizing our partners will not get us encouragement back from them. When we feel ourselves preparing to throw sand on our partners’ flames, we can choose to set aside our buckets, and instead blow oxygen—encouragement and appreciation—on their fires.

How this applies to you…

Don’t let fairness get in the way of happiness. The next time your partner does something that irritates you, resist the urge to make things “fair” by reacting the same way. Don’t start a sand fight. Try instead to view your partner’s actions as a plea for a breath of encouragement.

To Find Out More…

about couple relationships, check out our FREE resources: The Marriage Garden or the Getting Our Hearts Right programs at, follow us at or contact your local county Extension agent. You may also like to read the book Why Talking is Not Enough.


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