The Tetrahedron of the Fire Marriage

by | Everyday

Danielle Dunne, a Firefighter Wife, recently wrote about her rejuvenating experience going to a Fire Wife Sisterhood weekend getaway. She came up with some pretty profound views on the healthy balance within a successful marriage.

Through a sisterhood weekend with and, I shared a cabin for a weekend in upstate New York with seven other wives. Before this weekend, I had only met two of them in person, but we had all talked online prior to coordinate and discuss the arrangements.

The purpose of the sisterhood weekend is to allow for bonding and relaxation as a contrast to the marriage commitment weekends the organization provides. The commitment weekends, which are typically done in the spring and summer time, are for couples to recommit to their relationships, bond as a couple and meet other couples in the fire service who are doing the same. I didn’t know going into it what it would be like, but it was better than I could have imagined. It allowed me to reflect on my marriage and receive support from other wives in the fire service, as well as take a much needed break.


During the course of the weekend, we all cooked, did the minimal chores for the cabin and gathered firewood for the gorgeous fireplace (it was chilly up there!). I absolutely love building a fire, fireplace or fire pit, it doesn’t matter (perhaps that’s why I’m married to a firefighter-someone has to be in charge of putting out the fires I create!). I quickly signed up for chief fire builder, committed to keeping it going all day to keep us nice and toasty.

As I was building our first fire, I yelled out to the crew, “What’s the tetrahedron that keeps the fire alive?” A group of fire wives quickly responded the three essentials for creating the chemical reaction for fire: heat, fuel and oxygen. If you’re missing one part or have too much of one part, it won’t work.

Once a fire starts, the chain reaction is enough to keep it alive, unless you block one of the three essential elements of the reaction. It got me thinking about marriage and what you need to keep a marriage stable. Allow me to paint the symbolism on thick for you.

FUEL: For our fire scenario, this is any item that stores potential energy that is released through being burned. Which leads me to the question—what fuels your marriage? Do you and your partner keep energy reserves up for when fuel is scarce? Is your wood pile stocked for the winter or did you forget to add to the pile when your supply gets smaller? Are you aware enough to detect when your marriage needs more?

HEAT: It was clear in our cabin that heat for our fire was sufficient. Because we had dry wood and some kindling, simply striking a match was enough heat to get the fire started. By building a firm foundation, heat and fuel could easily continue to connect. What do you do to continually light the fire in your marriage? You can start off really strong with a huge flame, but if you don’t continue to monitor it, add kindling and relight it as necessary, I can guarantee you that it will burn out.

OXYGEN: We had to open what’s called the flue or damper to allow air from the chimney in. This serves the purpose of essentially giving the fire room to breathe. If oxygen is stifled to the fire, it will begin the process of burning out. Too much oxygen will also result in the fire going out, so it’s a delicate balance.

This is just like your marriage. I am an advocate for doing your own thing in marriage, finding your own passions, spending time apart and then coming back with all of these new topics to talk about. Being apart makes you want each other more and makes the time you have together all the more special. You may all think I’m crazy, but going away for a weekend with the girls is just what the doctor ordered for my marriage. It made me want to see Matt when I got home and start planning our own adventures. But remember also, too much time away from each other and you need to work harder to make sure a breeze or heavy wind doesn’t knock over your fire. It’s all about balance.


Lastly, I just want to talk about the foundation you build your marriage on. Who do you surround your marriage with? Is it people who also support marriage, support couples, and support the fire service and what it means for marriage? Or is it the exact opposite? Is your crew the type to “surround and drown” your marriage to put the fire out? For me, I try to choose people who support marriage and it makes it a little bit easier to keep this tetrahedron in order.

We sat up, well after my bedtime, because the fire we had built on such a strong foundation refused to go out and let us go to bed! The three elements plus a strong foundation had allowed it to run on its own, even after we tried everything to get it to burn out. If you have all of these elements in your marriage, it makes it stronger and when your marriage is strong, life tends to be smoother. Other times, you have to work a little harder to get the parts in order, but the fire is all the more beautiful for your hard work. And it always helps to have a team when you have to haul a lot of firewood.

~Danielle Dunne, a Firefighter Wife

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On a mission to be and inspire us all to be better humans, to strengthen fire families & marriages, to nurture and encourage fire wives, do "good business" in all areas of my life and of course, love on my 4 kids.

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