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!

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.

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!

More Creative Valentine Ideas For You to Use All Year ‘Round!

valentines-day-2Let’s examine some creative Valentine ideas. Let’s not just expect to give chocolates and flowers! To be truly inventive, we approach celebrating this “Day of Love” as an opportunity for someone to grow in love and understanding of their partner, exercising unique expressions of that love.

Get to Really Know One Another!
Go on a unique date night with your husband or wife taking along your laptop to a coffee shop with wireless internet. Once there, take time to do some online tests to help you and your spouse discover and get to know one another in ways you may have never tried before!

  • Personality Test-Knowing each other’s personalities will help you relate and communicate effectively.
  • Motivational Gifts Test-Everyone possesses at least one of the seven gifts. Your gift determine your strengths, and the way you interface with the world.
  • Love Languages Test-All of us give and receive love in one of 5 ways. Find out your partner’s love language!

You can’t truly love your partner fully until you know them fully!

Romance Favorites
The Top 100 Romantic Movies Your choice of favorite romance movies speaks very loudly of your preferences in the complex matter of love! Check out Larry’s List and discuss your opinion. After you’ve chosen your favorite, why not rent it, and have a romantic movie night at home?!

PS. Some of our favorite romance movies didn’t even make the “Top 100″ List!

Expressions of Love
Take these creative valentine ideas as ways to say “I love you” in that special “media” way!

  • Valentine Text Messages!
    Here’s a cute idea… Check out all the romantic messages you can “text message” to your lover!
  • Valentine Screensavers!
    Send your love a favorite photo of you to use as their computer screensaver, desktop background, or wallpaper to remind them of you whenever they are at their computer!
  • Valentine Video Blog!
    Use your cell phone or video camera to record a special message for your valentine. Upload your video clip to YouTube. Email the link in a special valentine message to your lover! Tell him/her you want the whole world to know of your love!

Does He Love You? Does She Love You?

does-he-love-youDoes he love you? How would your spouse answer if that question was asked about you? Saying the words “I love you” is important but that’s not where the expression of love stops.

“They do not love that do not show their love.” -Shakespeare

Be intentional with loving. It is important that we follow through on our spoken “I love you” and express our love to our spouse in other ways as well. Don’t allow your love to be passive.

Does He Love You … Does She Love You?
… “Let me count the ways!”

1. Act On Your Love

“Love not acted on fades into familiarity.” – Henry James Borys

Use actions to reaffirm your love to your husband or wife. Write a loveletter. Help with the household chores. Do something for your spouse that you know will be meaningful for them. Give an unexpected hug! Say “thank you”. In fact, if you have a thought of appreciation for your spouse, stop whatever you’re doing. Right then and there, call your husband and let him know you appreciate him and why. Or write a thank you note to your wife expressing how wonderful you think she is and why. Don’t put it off! If you do, you’ll either forget to do it later or lose that spontaneous feeling of appreciation.

2. Be Giving to Your Spouse

“For God so loved the world that He gave…” John 3:16, The Holy Bible

“The love we give away is the only love we keep.” Elbert Hubbard

You may have heard of the “love language” concept. It’s true; your spouse will feel most loved by the “language” they understand the best. Love can be expressed in many forms including: verbally – “I love you”, by giving things, or by spending time with your spouse.

Being unselfish and giving is an important expression of love that needs to be a part of every marriage relationship. If your spouse’s primary love language is that of giving, then being giving and generous to him or her is all the more important.

Unselfish and thoughtful acts of giving will drive home the message of your love. Surprise your husband with his favorite meal, or tickets to a game or movie that you know he’ll especially enjoy. Let her know that you madly love her by treating her to dinner or buying that special item that you know she’d love to have.

Giving doesn’t have to cost money though. Be generous with your time. Turn off the TV, take time for a walk together, or pack a picnic and visit the local park.

Jim and I have a large family and there’s no end to housework. But sometimes I need to just take a break for 10 minutes, forget about switching the laundry loads, turn the stove down low, and sit with Jim. I know how much Jim appreciates me stealing away moments just to be with him. It’s another way for me to let him know how much I love him. As an added bonus, this simple expression of love has other benefits! It’s a great way for us to reconnect with one another during a busy day, it keeps me from being so frantic about “all the work that needs to be done”, and it helps me keep my priorities in line. Our marriage relationship is most important.

3. Keep Verbalizing Your Love!

“You really shouldn’t say I love you unless you mean it.
But if you mean it, you should say it a lot – people forget.” Source Unknown

“I love you.” Don’t let these important words be left unsaid. Say them to your spouse every day… often! Call your spouse from work just to say “I love you”. Say it when you feel the “warm loving feelings” and even when you don’t.

Be creative in your verbal expression. Here are a few suggestions.

  • “I love you because I’m yours and you make me feel special.”
  • “You are so thoughtful and caring that I can’t help but love you.”
  • “When I saw how beautiful you looked tonight, my love for you just filled my heart.”
  • “I was at my desk today, and thoughts of you made me realize how much I love you.”

If someone were to ask me about Jim, “ Does he love you ?” without any doubt or hesitation, I’d proudly shout “Yes!”. Jim is a master at letting me know how he loves me.

  • He acts on his love for me (bringing me a glass of milk and a toasted sandwich when I haven’t taken time for lunch; or massaging my feet… something he knows I appreciate!)
  • He is unselfish and giving (wants me to have the best, be most comfortable, go first, choose the movie; makes supper, tidies up the kitchen … no small task!, spends time with me)
  • He tells me “I love you” often. In fact, I know that Jim has influenced our children. Even our older teen boys tell us daily “I love you mom and dad.” “I love you” are words that I can’t hear enough. But Jim also knows that I like to know “why” he loves me so he often expresses that to me too. It’s wonderful!

Don’t keep your spouse wondering… Does he love you or does she love you … Be sure your spouse is confident of your love. Why not call him or her right now and verbally express it to them? If that’s not possible, write a loveletter, or make plans to express it another way today!

Living the Love of Your Dreams!

History glitters with shining examples of great romancers such as

  • Casanova,
  • Solomon, and
  • Shakespeare’s Romeo.

romantic-coupleUnfortunately, most of us aren’t nearly as suave or polished as these guys; most of us can use pointers on romantic prowess.

That’s what this corner of the internet is all about. Here, you can expect to find heaps of sizzling articles and scintillating resources guaranteed to inspire and motivate you to turn up the heat in your romantic relationship.

Whether you’re looking for

We’re glad you stopped by! May our resources help you increase romance in your marriage and live the love of your dreams!

Are We Compatible?

couplearmaroundshoulderEvery new couple must honestly ask the question, “Are we compatible?” Of the many fundamental factors influencing compatibility, values, perspectives, and life goals are among the most important.

Since relationship break-up will often be a result of compatibility issues, all pre-marriage counseling should examine the core values couples hold, and examine these fundamental factors.

Compatibility involves:

  • finding perspectives on life that do not clash
  • discovering common values and interests, and
  • creating shared expectations and life goals.

When couples hold different values, standards, and ideals authentic compatibility becomes impossible. Couples holding opinions which are by-definition mutually exclusive, can never agree—unless one of them change. For example, if you and your partner have major differences in deeply held religious convictions, then compatibility reaches an impasse.

For romance to blossom in a relationship, compatibility is vital. It’s not that couples need agree on everything; but they have to feel safe to hold their own values and ideals without threat or conflict: this is how trust is built. With this trust in place, couples can be honest and open knowing they are accepted and valued.

Romance is designed to find its eventual fulfillment in marriage—the ultimate expression of commitment to your romance. The deepened commitment in marriage, accompanied with the sexual component of intimacy leads to compatibility at its best!

Believe me when I say this experience is absolutely awesome!

Couples who take time to invest in their relationship before marriage will undoubtedly reap the wonderful rewards of a healthy, vibrant, loving marriage! Find tools to help you determine how compatible you are with one another.

99-QuestionsAn absolutely excellent resource for couples can be found here: 99 Questions Before Saying “I Do”