Connection Day Trumps Valentine’s Day, Any Day!

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For many of us, Valentine’s Day is too commercial, too syrupy-sweet, and too manufactured: it often seems nothing more than a Hallmark cash-grab we’re all supposed to get excited about.

If you’re feeling romance has been hijacked by V-D consumerism, why not make up a day of your own? I’m going to do it—and mine is going to be called, Connection Day!

love-you-everyday-valentines-day-quotes

On Connection Day, before I leave for work, I’m going to make 10 post-it notes and randomly distribute nine of these little love notes in places my wife can find with a little bit of searching. 

The first note I will hand to her, smile, and tell her there are nine others—and if she doesn’t find them, I’ll help her locate them when I get home from work (that will really make her anxious to find the rest of them!). Throughout the day, I will call home twice, just to let her know I’m thinking of her. When I come home from work, my wife will tell me about her post-it-note-hunting, and then I will hand her another, longer note that explains in detail why and how I love being connected with her! I know she’ll love it!

Who knows? Maybe together we can explore other creative ways to become more connected!

Book Review: XES – Why church girls tend to get it backwards…

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When Joy McMillan contacted me in 2014 about reviewing her newly published book, I was definitely curious. Her book title, “XES – Why church girls tend to get it backwards…and how to get it right” was certainly provocative! 

XES bookAs I read XES, there were moments I chuckled and plenty of moments I cried. I found myself pausing often to read portions aloud to my husband:  “Jim, listen to this…”  Besides that, my copy of Joy’s book now has highlighted portions on almost every page!

No doubt, women will be deeply moved to read Joy’s story as she shares it with such openness, honesty, and vulnerability. Despite her painful past with its shame, God’s redeeming grace has given Joy a beautiful confidence that is inspiring to read and understand.

Joy teaches and encourages wives to intentionally pursue God’s best for their marriage and gain a greater understanding of God’s heart toward sexual intimacy in marriage.  Her “Reflection and Action” sections at the end of each chapter help the reader apply the important topics she clearly discusses. Any Christian wife will find something in Joy’s book they can identify with and take steps to move their marriage relationship closer to God’s beautiful design.

Visit Joy’s website for more details.

Note! The Kindle version of XES is available now through Friday, Feb. 13, 2015 for only $2.99! Click here to get your copy today!

Just in time for date night/The City of Romance

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Did you know? The verdict is in: according to a survey by Amazon.ca, I’m in one of Canada’s most romantic cities! Guelph, Ontario!

downtown edited

I knew that. It had to be. I live here. 

But in actual fact, Amazon’s rubric for romance is totally sketchy! Their findings are based solely on the retail sales of romance novels, romantic comedies, and songs by Michael Bublé! So, I agree with Amazon’s conclusions—but totally disagree with their method of measurement. 

1. Romance can’t be measured by commerce. 

2. It’s not your pocketbook’s purchase power that determines your romantic potential. 

3. Your romantic potential isn’t influenced by the city you’re in, your monthly budget for romantic novels and CDs, or by the number of red roses you buy your sweetheart! 

Romance is the emotional feeling of excitement, ardour, and enthusiasm kindled through actions and expressions of love.  

How does romance grow? Through the creative intention to please your partner and express your love thoughtfully. Need some help in that department?

  • And if you’re not ready for 30 days, how can you resist just seven? The 7 Day Sex Challenge is something every married couple must do!

Looking to upgrade your romantic potential or go on a romantic date? Don’t move to Guelph. Your romantic potential can flourish right where you are!

Part V: Marriage Checkups

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Most of us think about the doctor when we think of a check-up. It’s interesting that most men have an avoidance towards check-ups! I might have this all wrong, but I wager most men would also balk at the idea that they should have a marriage check-up IF there is any hint that the check-up is really meant to be a check-up-on them

Let’s check-up on Bill to make sure he isn’t messing up too badly!  is an approach doomed for failure. On the other hand, if the attitude of approach is more like, Let’s check-in with one another to see how connected we’re feeling with each other, then the Marriage Check-Up will be a wonderful tool for your Marriage Tool Box.

The 3 Question Check-Up is brilliant in its simplicity:

First, schedule a conversation where you invite openness in a setting that is non-judgmental and caring. Your attitude is that of a best  friend, not a critic. 

The main goal is to strive to listen and understand; this is done by asking each other 3 questions:

1.    How are you feeling right now? 

2.    If there was just one thing about life, our relationship, or a current challenge that could change, what would you want it to be?

3.    How can I help?

1. How are you feeling right now?

This is a very open-ended question that could go in many directions, depending on the openness and trust you experience. Your spouse may touch on the stress of work, your sex life, or the pressure of your financial situation. Be open for them to reference hurt due to unresolved conflict.

Just talking openly and honestly with each other will be a tonic for you both.

2. If there was just one thing about life, our relationship, or a current challenge that could change, what would you want it to be? 

Asking for many suggestions may not get much of a response—your spouse may not want to complain, or there are so many things needing change they feel overwhelmed. However, to ask for just one thing will invariably get a response! There is always at least one thing that can change!

Let’s suppose there isn’t any situation that can actually change. In those cases, you can always pray. You can always express your confidence in your partner. You can always remind them of your love.

3. How can I help?

Simply volunteering to step into the situation—at the direction of your spouse—is a wonderful combination of humility and servanthood. This action is an attempt to understand and respond. Powerful connections in a relationship occur when both partners feel understood and loved. 

One caution—avoid trying to fix your spouse or the situation; rather, follow their lead.

Take turns doing the check-In, and see how conversation and loving understanding is stimulated!

Part IV: The One Habit that Changes Everything

 

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Two Words that Will Change Your Marriage

His breathing quickened at the sight of his wife’s naked body on their bed. She smiled and drew his face close to kiss him as their bodies intertwined. They gave in to passion and soon their lovemaking climaxed as he groaned with desire and then release! They held one another close in a gentle embrace as he whispered in her ear, “Thank you.”

Have you ever said “thank you” to your spouse after having sex? I suggest this is a very appropriate time to do so!

Thank you: two common words that, when expressed from the heart, are meaningful and powerful.

Unfortunately, we often stop saying “thank you” to those dearest and closest to us. Taking one another for granted can be common between close family or friends.

When a husband or wife expects their spouse to do or be something, a sense of entitlement sets in which leads to selfishness and ungratefulness.

Thankfulness is an expression that flows from a heart of gratitude. Saying “thank you” or “I appreciate you” will also help develop a heart of gratitude. When I express gratefulness and thanks to Jim, he feels valued, respected, and appreciated.

Do you recognize how powerful a simple “thank you” can be? Take opportunities this week to say (or write in a short note) “thank you” to your spouse, often!

  • “thanks for doing that for me”
  • “I appreciate your hard work”
  • “thank you for marrying me”
  • “I am so grateful for your love”
  • “thank you for sex!”

And while you’re at it (saying “thank you!” and expressing gratitude for your spouse), suggest the 7 day sex challenge to your spouse! I mean, who wouldn’t be thrilled with that suggestion? More thank yous (both ways) are sure to ensue!

Gratitude can and will change your marriage, and your life! Start making it a habit now.

Part III: The Benefits of Lifelong Learning

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The ABCs are always recognized as the basics: they represent the first principles of anything you’re learning. The ABCDs, however, represent Above and Beyond the Call of Duty! This is the approach of high achievers and winners who are willing to do whatever it takes to reach their goal! 

A lifelong learner is aware that they don’t know everything, they haven’t “arrived”, and their marriage can always improve. A lifelong learner is always looking for opportunities, resources, and activities that might enrich their marriage.

ABCD Learners, then, are willing to do whatever is necessary to grow and learn and enhance their relationships! Why not commit to win at the most important relationship in our lives—our marriages?!

Above and Beyond the Call of Duty (the ABCD approach) is an attitude that changes the way we talk, think, and act. The ABCD approach teaches us that investing in the on-going health of our marriage is no longer just a duty to discharge, an obligation to meet, or a responsibility to fulfil. It is a passion to pursue!

The ABCD Approach in Action

ABCD Learners are willing to experiment and try new things! Here are a few ideas:

  • Date nights: When we were married for about six years, we attended a marriage enrichment seminar with dozens of other couples from our church. One of the take-aways we had from this seminar was developing the habit of a weekly husband/wife meeting (a date night with a planning/strategy component). We were encouraged to talk about finances, parenting, our personal and spiritual development, areas of concern or conflict that had arisen since our last meeting, or ongoing issues we were working through. At the time, we did not know that it would become one of the major contributors to a successful marriage!
  • Leading a small marriage group: Find a few couples to connect with around the topic of marriage enrichment. Choose a book study, or a DVD-based study, and simply facilitate the group!
  • Keep a book handy for riding/walking: Carrie and I have gone on road trips together where one of us drives and the other reads aloud from our marriage book. In the same way, we’ve gone for long walks together taking turns reading aloud to one another from our marriage book.
  • Bedtime marriage devotional: Find a great devotional, try and stay awake, and read to each other!
  • Take the 7 Day Sex ChallengeThis is a week-long in-home marriage enrichment course that will change your life, both inside and outside of the bedroom! 

As you apply these principles (the significance of marriage habits, like weekly date nights) and approaches (a top-of-the-year marriage evaluation, a new ‘together’ activity), we are confident you will see positive change and much forward motion! 

We’d like to CHALLENGE YOU: which ABCD learning experiment will you try? Share with us on our Facebook page!

Part II: The Significance of Weekly Date Nights

4Can you imagine how weekly date nights for over 25 years could impact a marriage? Let us tell you: drastically! Hugely! Significantly. We’ve been doing weekly date nights since 1988, and though we’ve missed a few during the busiest times of life (raising 9 kids can do that), we have no regrets for making this a priority in our marriage!

Weekly date nights are an opportunity to:

  • Prioritize your marriage relationship by putting it first! Your marriage is your most important human relationship, and its health will affect every area of your life!
  • Check in with your spouse. This will help you identify challenges before they escalate into problems. As well, you’ll find out how to be a great support and best friend by regularly asking questions like:
    • “how are your love tanks?” (if you don’t know what a love tank is, we highly recommend Dr. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages book)
    • “how can I help you this week?”
    • “over the past week, have I hurt or disappointed you in any way?”
    • For more questions, our free resource 20 Date Questions for Married Couples will give you plenty of fodder.
  • Have fun together! Spice things up with your date nights by going out, staying in, doing something you’ve never done before, surprising each other—get creative! Don’t just exist together—working, raising kids, sleeping and repeating the cycle—live and enjoy life together.
  • Keep dating your spouse! Remember the excitement of dating?

Think you’re too busy? Here are a few tips to intentionally make date night happen every week:

  • Put it in the calendar! If you absolutely must cancel date night for an emergency/really important reason, be sure to book it in another night that week
  • Make childcare arrangements in advance so the thought of figuring it out doesn’t keep your from going ahead with your date.
  • Go to bed together and spend a few minutes cuddling, kissing, and talking (keep work, responsibilities, and the to-do list out of the conversation)
  • Keep devices (tv, laptops) out of the bedroom; science shows that electronic devices negatively impact sleep AND we all know they will distract you from focusing on your spouse
  • Have sex before bedtime!
The hope of a better marriage is often disguised in the consistent, daily steps we take to serve our spouse, keep the passion alive, and work on being a better lover!
Will you commit to talking to your spouse TODAY about starting weekly date nights? It’s not too late to START this week!

Ten Creative Valentine Ideas

Digital Image by Sean Locke Digital Planet Design www.digitalplanetdesign.comCreative Valentine Ideas can jump-start the romance in your relationship! That being said, we must resist the one-size–fits-all mentality, and recognize that one person’s romantic turn-on may be another person’s turn-off! Some wives love roses and others detest them—so you have to determine what your significant other will appreciate the most!

Even though we are going to use creative Valentine ideas, that doesn’t mean we won’t use roses and chocolates! The key here is the association of romance that works for your partner! In addition, we need to balance two somewhat opposing ideas:

  1. It’s the thought that counts.
  2. Actions speak louder than words.

Both are true—but must be applied at different times.

Now, let’s come up with some creative Valentine ideas! 

Take Note! Some of these ideas require a romantic note, or “reasons why I love you”. For inspiration, or to simply cut-and-paste with no guilt, refer to other articles on this site! Also, check out our son Josh’s ebook: 52 Love Notes to My Wife Just click here for access to love notes that are sure to inspire you!

Start Using Ideas 1-3 Before Valentine’s Day!

Idea #1: A Rose a Day
*This idea requires 19 roses, and a 7-line poem or a list of 7 Reasons Why I Love You.

Beginning 7 days before Valentine’s Day, give your love 1 rose each day, and a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day. With each single rose given, include a post-it note with 1 of the “Reasons Why I Love You”. On the last day, present a dozen roses with a note that includes a compilation of all “7 Reasons Why I Love You!” Be sure you read the note aloud to your lover!

Idea #2: Deciphering Your Relationship
Leading up to the Special Day, start leaving love notes around the house. The creative and fun part of this is that the notes are written in code! Try this sample one:

Efbsftu Mpwf,
Zpv bsf bmm J xbou!
Ivht Boe Ljttft,
Nf

Clue: Decipher the note by replacing each letter with the letter before it in the alphabet

Idea #3: The Romance Collection
In the days leading up to V-Day, why not start a collection for your partner? For example, why not gather an angel collection, a teddy bear collection, a piano collection (not the real ones!), or an eagle collection?

The item you choose to collect must have romantic affiliation from the past. If not, begin the collection this year to establish a romantic link with whatever you choose to collect.

Included in an angel collection, for example, might be:

  • an angel lapel pin
  • an angel ornament for a Christmas tree
  • a clock with angels
  • angel figurines
  • a sweater with an angel print
  • an expensive angel made from crystal
  • or an inexpensive one made from plastic!
  • angel dolls, angel pictures, and angel jewelry are all options!

As you can see, a romance collection scores big points (and not necessarily expensive ones!) Each small gift added to the collection is another spark of romance—and provides gift ideas for a long time to come!

Creative Valentines Ideas #4-10 Can Be Used
on the Actual Valentines Day!

Where is the surprise here? Isn’t your significant other expecting you to do something on V-Day?Yes, but you have to be creative, and throw them off the trail! This is done by giving them what they expect (a nice card and a box of chocolates)—and then blow them away with a surprise later!

Idea #4: Outdo Hallmark!
Make a huge V-Day card out of a cardboard box! Spend time decorating your card with colored paper, wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows!

creative-valentine-ideas-1Idea #5: Dozen Plus One
Buy 11 dozen red roses and 1 white rose. Attach a card that says, “There’s always one that stands out in every bunch. That one is you!”

Idea #6: Musical
Compile a custom-made song list on his/her ipod.

Idea #7: Past, Present, and Future
Write your spouse two notes: The first focuses on the long term … what you’re looking forward to in the future, what you’ve appreciate about your spouse over the years, what memories have been made and cherished so far.

The second focuses on the immediate …what can we do right now to bring joy and pleasure to each other? Massage each other’s feet? Serve her breakfast in bed, perhaps have sex right now!?

Idea #8: With and For Your Wife! 
Do something with your wife that you may dislike: go to a chick-flick, accompany her to the opera, help her pick out a dress. Then do something for your wife that you may dislike: do the dishes, laundry, and the shopping!

Idea #9: The One Day Coupon 
With a romantic home-made card, include a coupon “One Day of My Time Just For You”. Your spouse gets to dictate exactly what you will do for an entire day. No moaning or complaining! This will be a very special gift for the one you love!

Idea #10: Rewind and Re-Enact 
As men, we tend to forget how we acted when we were dating. Think back to the best date you ever had with your wife—what did you do? Rewind and re-enact that special date! Perhaps it was very simple, and to re-enact it, you might do something like this:

  1. Call your wife from work, and ask her out on a date!
  2. Take her to your favorite restaurant
  3. Over dinner, show her the list of 10 reasons why I love you, that you have compiled.
  4. Go to a movie of her choosing

Have fun using any or all of these 10 creative Valentine ideas! Think about what you know your lover would appreciate and use those ideas to spark more romance in your relationship!

2015 Marriage Evaluation Resource

Part I of our all-new 2015 Marriage Enrichment Plan brings us to a place of reflecting on the past year, and casting vision for the marriage of our dreams in the year to come: the Marriage Evaluation Worksheet.

Take some time to work through this evaluation of your marriage in 2014 with your spouse. You’ll do things like list the highlights and challenges, rate the health of your marriage, and then do planning and brainstorming so you can reap the benefits of renewed focus in 2015!

The truth is, we get what we inspect, so inspecting what you got in 2014 can help you better pursue the marriage you want in 2015.

→ Download your FREE copy ←

Stay tuned for Part II on our blog!

The 2015 Marriage Enrichment Plan

Marriage Enrichment Plan graphic

During this first month of 2015, we will offer regular ideas to facilitate your 2015 Marriage Enrichment Plan. We believe these regular additions to your own Marriage Tool Box will be a significant help in bringing your relationship to the next level in this New Year!

Some of the topics we will explore:

  • Reflecting on the past year; casting vision for the marriage of year dreams in 2015 (get your free PDF of Part I: Marriage Evaluation resource)
  • The significance of weekly Date Nights
  • The benefits of being a life-long learner: the best ROI
  • The one, simple habit that will transform your relationship immediately
  • The characteristics of regular check-ups

No matter where your marriage may be right now, when you and your partner are both willing to work on your relationship, you can achieve the marriage of your dreams!

In the days to come, we are excited to provide for our readers time-tested tools for success for every marriage—a new plan. The material we will deliver contains concepts and ideas that will bring new perspectives, assist in the formation of new habits, and in the implementation of new ways of thinking!

Our Marriage Enrichment Plan represents a new chapter in your marriage for a new year!