Monthly Archives: December 2010

Dec 30

Life Is Too Short

By Dustin | Communication

Note: This is a guest post by my friend Brad Allen.  You NEED to read this and then take action with your spouse to answer the questions at the end.  This is just too important to ignore, even though I definitely understand why it’s easier to keep this topic out of your mind.  Deal with it…for the sake of your spouse and your family.

“Life is too short.”

That’s an interesting phrase. People use it often. I use it often too but a recent, tragic event happened that really put the phrase into perspective. Tragic events do that.

On December 15th, without warning, my Dad had a heart attack and did not survive. He was 54 years old. Nine days after that, I turned 31. Both of us were way, way too young for that to happen.

My Dad and I had a great relationship and, as much as it hurts to lose him, I can’t imagine how my step mom must feel. My wife and I are best friends, and while I’m learning to deal with the loss of my Dad I’m not sure how I could “learn to deal” with losing my wife.

The reality though, unfortunately, is that you may kiss your spouse goodbye when you leave for work in the morning and that may be the last time you see them alive ever again. Death is inevitable and in some cases without warning.

I Appreciate the Warning, But What Can I DO About It?

Engaged Marriage is such a great resource because Dustin writes about taking action on those things in marriage that often lead to unhappiness or divorce. Preparation is a big part of it. Preparing your family for financial disaster is important of course, as is preparing for the birth of a child, etc.

Preparing for death, though, is something a lot of young couples tend to overlook because, well, they’re young. “That’s not something I need to worry too much about because it’s a long way off.” Says who?

Being prepared is a lot more than simply writing your spouse’s name in the “Primary Beneficiary” box on your HR paperwork at work.

Talk to your spouse. Make sure you both fully understand what will happen in the event that one or both of you dies. Cover as many scenarios as possible. You will truly never know when something tragic might happen, but you will damn sure know whether or not you were prepared for it. The death of your spouse is not the time to have figure things out.

Sit Down & Answer These Questions With Your Spouse

I’m not a professional, however, having gone through both the planning phase with my own wife and the “now what do I do” phase with my step mom I feel I can at least offer some questions that you and your spouse can answer together to get you started.

Answer these questions and then turn those answers into actions by talking to a professional and getting the necessary paperwork in order. Most importantly, secure the information in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box and make sure someone outside of your marriage knows how to access the information.

Some basic questions are:

  • Does each of us have enough life insurance to cover our current way of life? Put another way, how will our debt (mortgage, car loans, etc.) be paid with only one or no salary? Hopefully you’re following Dustin’s advice and you’re well on your way to not having any debt, but if you’re like my wife and I, you’re only part of the way there…and what about the other bills? Utilities, cable, internet…
  • Who will care for our children if we both die? Pets?
  • What are our final wishes? Cremation, burial, open/closed casket, etc…
  • Are there certain things that I’d rather my children have then my spouse? A family heirloom to be passed to a son perhaps…

One final question that you should ask only yourself… Losing a loved one is bad enough. Losing your spouse would be unbearable. In the event that something unexpected does happen, wouldn’t you rather spend your time grieving with your surviving family and coping with that reality instead of scrambling to make sure you don’t lose everything you both worked so hard to achieve?

That question should be easily answered…

Life is too short. A little effort now can ensure that your surviving family will be taken care of later.

(photo source)


Brad writes about technology and gadgets at his blog  Go check it out for some education and entertainment, or just to thank him for sharing this excellent post.  You can also share your thoughts with him on Twitter at @bradwallen

Dec 29

What Are Your Goals for 2011? I May Be Able to Help

By Dustin | Ask the Community

Well, here comes the New Year!

It’s a great time to reflect on the blessings, struggles and lessons from the past year and start planning for an awesome next 365 days and beyond.  I’d love to hear what goals you have in mind for 2011, so please share those in the comments below!

If you were around a year ago, you’ll remember the incredibly fun and successful Improve Yourself! 2010 event that we held here.  Everything from that series of posts is still relevant (other than the giveaways!) if you’d like to check them out to help with your goal planning.

I’ve had a few folks ask me if there will be a similar challenge as we enter 2011.  Well, I thought about it, but decided to do something different this year.  I want to do something that is more specific, practical and impactful.

Why the “Big Thing” for 2011 Will Not Actually Be Hosted Here

While I plan to continue to tackle all the big issues impacting marriage here on the blog and in my new e-book 15 Minute Marriage Makeover (coming out soon), I’ve had a particularly strong interest in helping couples and individuals improve their fitness (and their relationships) lately.  That’s why Fit Marriage was created with my friend Tony DiLorenzo, and the early growth and popularity of our site makes it clear that we are addressing a real need!

However, I also recognize that many of the readers here at Engaged Marriage may have no interest in fitness-related content or help.  So…the “Big Thing” to kick off 2011 will be taking place over at Fit Marriage, and I’ll try to refrain from talking about it much here.

Here’s the “Big Thing”

Actually, there are two “big things” and one of them will start before the New Year even arrives!

I can’t actually disclose the first event (for reasons that will be evident when it is released), but if you are looking to improve your health and fitness in a way that enhances your family life rather than competing with it, you’ll love this.

The second event is something I am very proud to have pulled off (with Tony obviously).  It’s a series of video interviews with 12 of the top experts in the world on fitness, nutrition and motivation for busy individuals and couples.  It is seriously helpful and inspiring.  The best part is we are able to offer access to the full program (called the Quick Fit Formula) for FREE for a limited time when it opens up for registration.  It’s not open just yet, but it will be shortly after the New Year.

How You Can Get Access to Both Awesome Fitness-Improving “Big Things”

It’s easy.  You just need to get signed up for the Fit Marriage newsletter.  Click that link and enter your name and email, and you’ll be all set.  And if you don’t like anything we send you, you can “unsubscribe” with a single click…no worries.

The only way anyone will know about Big Thing #1 is through the Fit Marriage newsletter since that’s the only way we’re announcing it.  And Big Thing #2 will be opened up first to our newsletter audience.  It’s our way of saying “thanks” for being an active part of the Fit Marriage community and allowing us to share our content with you via email every week or two.

So, if you are looking to reach some new fitness goals as we enter 2011, or you just want to improve your marriage by living an active, thriving lifestyle with your family, we are doing our part to help you. 

If this interests you, please go get signed up for the Fit Marriage newsletter before you miss Big Thing #1. 🙂

And please share your goals for 2011, fitness and otherwise, below!

Dec 24

Wishing You All a Merry, Merry Christmas

By Dustin | General

As we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus and reflect back on the year that we’ve shared, I’m amazed at all that 2010 has held both personally and here at Engaged Marriage.

It’s no exaggeration to say that I consider our community to be an extension of my family.  Thank you for letting me share so much and for the amazing feedback and support that you continue to provide on a daily basis.

As a little gift, I’d like to share a great Christmas music video that I found over at the site of my cyber-friends Tom and Debi of The Romantic Vineyard.  Enjoy!

[youtube width=”525″ height=”420″][/youtube]

May God Continue to Bless You and Yours!


Dec 22

Buying Better Gifts for Your Partner

By Dustin | Romance

Note: This is a guest post by Sarah Simpson.

When shopping for that perfect gift for your partner, you want to make sure it is something that they want or need, not just something that you want them to have. Gifts should be personalized. For example, for a hunter, buy hunting gear. For someone who loves fashion, buy some shoes or accessories.

Even in the event of a wife buying for a husband, listen to your partner, they will tell you what to buy. In many cases, you may know what to buy but not know where to buy it or exactly what to get.

This is when you should find someone who does know about the item and get advice from them. With many gifts, you can find others who know about what you need and let them point you in the right direction.

Figuring Out the Best Gift

When shopping for your partner, always remember that what you consider memorable may not be considered memorable by them. For example, if you are a wife searching for that perfect gift for your husband who is a hunter, you can probably recall him pointing out something in a store or on a website that he would really like to have.

It may be a gun or a bow, something that you wouldn’t consider memorable or particularly interesting. However, to the recipient of the gift, it will be a very memorable gift that he can enjoy for years to come.

With husbands, things such as kitchen appliances and the like are something that they consider memorable, but the wife does not.  Trust me, you don’t want to go there!

The wife thinks of things such as jewelry or nice clothing as being memorable, and kitchen appliances as something that just requires more work. 🙂

How to Determine a Great Gift for Men

When a woman is shopping, they usually find lots of things presented as “gifts for him,” such as cologne, razors, sweaters, dress shirts and other things. However, in most cases, this is not a memorable gift for a man.

Men will tell you exactly what they want if you are listening, and many guys are not really interested in surprises either. A gift card to the local sports shop may be a perfect gift if you cannot figure out what to get them.

Another thing to keep in mind when shopping for a man is that they tend to like really expensive, large gifts rather than several small gifts. Buy gifts based on their personality and hobbies, and you will give a gift that they absolutely love.

How to Determine a Great Gift for Women

Many women will treasure jewelry and perfumes as gifts.  Also soft, fluffy throws and blankets to wrap up in on cool nights are appreciated.

With women, it is not necessarily the cost or size of the gift but the thought behind it that will make it truly memorable.

Please share below: What special gift are you giving your spouse for Christmas this year?

(photo source)

Sarah Simpson loves shopping! But she also likes to make sure that she’s truly picking up a bargain! She currently operates Offer UK, which lists a wide range of discounts and coupon codes, including the Miss Selfridge discount codes and those offered by other leading retailers.

Dec 17

We Did It…Thank You!

By Dustin | General

Thank you for being one of the best and most supportive online communities I’ve encountered.  And thanks for your continued endorsement of Engaged Marriage!

I am excited to share that we have once again been named as one of the Top Ten Marriage Blogs in all the land.  This year’s competition was stiff with more than 2,000 votes cast in total for the 45 finalists.  That’s a lot of votes, but we were fortunate enough to be among the top ten vote getters among an incredible group of great marriage resources.

Thanks again for the early Christmas gift! 🙂

Dec 15

Getting Free: Marriage Advice from Eddie Vedder?

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Bethany and I have never shied away from being a bit counter-cultural.

After all, we practice Natural Family Planning, live debt-free other than our modest mortgage, value sex for more than the pleasure it brings…and I write in support of an institution that seems to be viewed with skepticism by our society more and more every day.

Well, I have to say that the past few months have been filled with introspection, tough decisions and honest conversations that scared the hell out of us at times.  Despite the nervousness that comes with change, even when we knew it was the right thing to do, we have embarked upon some major changes in our careers and lifestyle that don’t fit what many have come to value as the mark of success in our culture.

In short, we were faced with a crossroads in our marriage, and we chose the path less traveled:

  • I left a job I had really enjoyed for the past 10 years to pursue something new and challenging.
  • Bethany submitted her resignation as a special education teacher to become a stay-at-home Mom to our three little loves effective at Christmas break.
  • I gave up several opportunities I loved and enjoyed to follow a desire to help couples improve their health and marriage in new ways.
  • We decided that our “dream home” and other material wants needed to wait so we could pursue these new challenges and put our focus squarely on doing what is in the best interest of our family and faith.

As we approach Christmas, all of these decisions are coming to fruition, and it’s time to hold hands and leap headfirst into some scary new territory as a single-income household.  With a mixture of support, skepticism and even doubt from family and friends, we are holding firm to what we feel is right and just going for it.

I have much more to share about the details of this process and how we’ve prepared for it as best we can, but for now I thought I’d share some lyrics that help to sum up both the pressures and clarity that come at times when making these tough choices.

Enter Eddie Vedder

It just so happens that I love Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder as a solo artist.  What can I say, I’m a child of the ’90s. 🙂

I was reading a post by Adam Baker at Man vs. Debt the other day about What Christmas is NOT About, and he cited some lyrics that I’d enjoyed a hundred times but hadn’t really “heard” until I read them.

Please give this a listen or a read.  I’m listening now as I write this post, and it helps to bring me some comfort that our decisions make sense even though we are choosing not to “want more than we need” and instead see with clarity what it is our family really needs at this point in our young lives to be free.


Oh, it’s a mystery to me
We have a greed with which we have agreed
And you think you have to want more than you need
Until you have it all you won’t be free

Society, you’re a crazy breed
Hope you’re not lonely without me…

When you want more than you have
You think you need…
And when you think more than you want
Your thoughts begin to bleed
I think I need to find a bigger place
Because when you have more than you think
You need more space

Society, you’re a crazy breed
Hope you’re not lonely without me…
Society, crazy indeed
Hope you’re not lonely without me…

There’s those thinking, more-or-less, less is more
But if less is more, how you keeping score?
Means for every point you make, your level drops
Kinda like you’re starting from the top
You can’t do that…

Society, you’re a crazy breed
Hope you’re not lonely without me…
Society, crazy indeed
Hope you’re not lonely without me…


Thanks for all of your support and the kind words so many of you continue to share about the mission we share here.  Stay Engaged, friends.

Dec 02

Have Yourself a Home Life: Simple Ways to Cut Down Office Time

By Dustin | Time Management

Are you used to coming home from work after everyone else has gone to bed? Do you set yourself up at the kitchen table with stacks of files and your laptop, ignoring your family while you try to meet a deadline?

No one likes to feel that they live to work, and no one feels good about neglecting their family. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Here are a few simple ways that you can spend more time at home with your loved ones, enjoying yourself, instead of glued to your computer screen pounding out those final emails.


You may have a legitimate reason for staying at the office late. However, a lot of this extra time can be avoided if your work is prioritized, starting at the beginning of the week.

Set a schedule for yourself, and work on the most urgent tasks first. There’s no reason to blow most of your working day on something unimportant when you have a massive presentation due in a couple of days.

You’d be amazed at how much prioritizing your tasks will cut out excessive time at work.

Take a Shorter Lunch Break

The one-hour lunch break is normally the highlight of every employee’s day. You get to turn your brain off for a minute and enjoy the company of your coworkers, call home, or take some time to yourself.

However, if you cut your lunch break in half, that’s half an hour more you get to be at home. Would you rather be spending quality time with your sandwich or with your children?

Go in Earlier Instead of Staying Later

Most of time spent together is in the evenings, after your spouse and kids are home from work and school. The mornings, however, are hectic. Everyone is running around showering, getting dressed, and inhaling breakfast before they’re out the door to get to work or school on time.

Getting to the office early instead of staying late has a few benefits. First, you’ll be one of the first there, which means you’ll face fewer distractions. If you start early you can finish early, which will give you the chance to be with your family when they’re winding down the day, instead of creeping in when they’re asleep.

Avoid Procrastination and Focus

In 2008, conducted a study related to work practices, and found that 36% of workers waste at least two hours a day at work. Getting up five times a day to get coffee, talking to coworkers about non-work related matters, and reading personal emails are all distractions that keep us from getting work done.

There might be a big project to finish or a phone call to make that isn’t very appealing, so you put it off. You waste your work day instead of working, so you end up spending more hours trying to cram all the work in you’ve been avoiding before it gets too late.

A big part of working less is biting the bullet and trudging through the work you would rather put off until tomorrow.

Check E-mail Twice a Day

Is it really necessary to keep your inbox open and check it obsessively? In reality, there are very few jobs in which this is required. If you can, reduce the reading of emails to twice a day.

You’d be amazed at how much more productive you can be if you aren’t fielding the office chain letters that come in every five minutes.

Spending less time at work and more time with your family will make everyone happier.

(photo source)


J. Stephenson is a guest blogger for Pounding the Pavement and a writer on the subject of earning your High School Diploma at Home for the Guide to Career Education.