Monthly Archives: December 2011

Dec 30


By Dustin | Spirituality

As I reflect back on the past week, I realize just how lucky we are to be able to celebrate Christmas with our three kids at the ages of one, four and almost seven years old.

I don’t know how many more years we’ll have while they still believe in the magic of Santa Claus, our Elf on the Shelf and that clever NORAD tracking system on Christmas Eve night.  We are certainly enjoying it while it lasts.

I know that their belief in these things will eventually get spoiled by someone at school, something on television – some message that they’ll pick up from a common interaction with our society.  It’s inevitable, but it’s also okay.

This got me to thinking about all of the counter-cultural beliefs I hold dear, and how Bethany and I will have to do everything we can (starting now) to help our children continue to believe in what matters – even as they are bombarded with messages that will tell them otherwise:

  • I believe in God and his son Jesus.
  • I believe in Marriage.
  • I believe in Family.
  • I believe in Life.
  • I believe in Personal Responsibility.

What do you continue to believe in, even when the world tells you you’re wrong?



Dec 21

The Ultimate Diva’s Guide to a Hot and Happy Marriage

By Dustin | Book & Product Reviews

It’s not often that I recommend marriage resources created by others, and I don’t think I’ve ever recommended something created by a Diva…

But that was before I met The Dating Divas! 🙂

When I saw The Divas top the list this year as the Top Marriage Blog, it really got my attention.

And once I spent some time exploring their site and then read this mission statement, I knew these ladies had something truly special to share:


We are wives, mothers, sisters, and friends who strive to enrich marriages everywhere. We want to celebrate the gift of marriage while inspiring others to do the same. It is our goal to provide creative, inexpensive, and innovative dating ideas that will bring joy, fun, and excitement back into the relationship.

We encourage all married men and women to take a conscious and proactive approach to investing in their spouse. By putting our spouses first, we are taken back to the simple magic of being head over heels in love again. We desire to help make lasting marriages, which in return will create everlasting families.

To put it simply, I LOVE what this group of creative women are doing to help busy couples enjoy the most in their marriage and family life!

Let The Dating Divas Help You!

After checking out a few of their weekly date ideas and other tips, I was really pleased to see that the Divas have a really cool e-book available that shares their collective top secrets to a happy and healthy marriage.  I decided to check it out, and I have to see that I am really impressed with The A to Z Guide: 26 Ways in 26 Days to a Happier, Healthier Marriage!

If you are familiar with my own book, 15-Minute Marriage Makeover, you’ll notice some similarities in format and approach.  However, the content is different, and of course the Divas are presenting their advice from the perspective of four women, which really creates a unique guide that I think all wives should read.

As good as the A to Z Guide is, I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that the Divas recently released a new book that’s really in their wheelhouse – The Ultimate Date Night Book

The Ultimate Date Night Book is not only incredibly useful, but it’s beautiful and very well organized – they really make it easy to enjoy a one-of-kind date night.  If you take a look at all of the amazing date ideas that are already on their site, you’ll understand why this resource is so exciting.

Pick Up One (or BOTH) of the Diva’s E-books

If you’re looking for some unique and special ideas to romance your spouse, then you’ll definitely want to check out these books.

Just click on either image below to head over and check out the details, including free samples!

Dating Divas Ebook Review

How great would it be to have a regular, fun date night be part of your marriage?  Pick up these resources and you’ll be well on your way!

Dec 15

Arranged Marriage: A Look from the Inside

By Dustin | Marriage Preparation

Note: This guest post was written by Surabhi Surendra of Womantics.  I know I found this insight on arranged marriages to be fascinating, and I hope you enjoy learning about this cultural practice from a woman who is living it.

Arranged marriage.

This is how we refer to the practice that led me to my husband  in my home country of India.

Are you familiar with the term?  Whether you are new to the idea or understand how it works, I’d like to tell you more about it from my perspective.

It is an arrangement in which the parents or the close relatives arrange the marriage or, in better words, find a suitable match for their daughter or son.  In earlier times, marriage was solely a right of the parents or guardians and prospects hardly had any say in it, but with changing times and better education, the system has refined itself into a more friendly practice.

Today, prospects can not only voice their preferences, but they can even outright refuse a match if they are not comfortable with it.

My Personal Experience with Arranged Marriage

I will give my own personal experience.

Since my childhood, I somehow never believed in the concept of arranged marriages. Being a hard core romantic movie fan, I always dreamed of a prince charming who would suddenly appear (from no where) and would treat me like his princess. Being an Aries by sun sign added to my languidness of fairy world.

I told this to my parents. My father, an extremely understanding man, explained to me that I was free to get married to a man of my choice provided I complete my studies well and took up a secure job.

I did. At 23, I had an envious job and a likeable personality. Soon, I had the urge of falling in love.

I did.  Sadly, it was a bad choice. I tried it again with another man and failed despondently.

I spent around 4 years looking for my soul mate who was no where to be seen. Along the way, my parents were anyway looking for a match for me. They even introduced me to some of them – but I was not supposed to like them, I was waiting for my prince.

After four years of futile attempts, I became hopeless and started to believe that marital bliss was probably not in my destiny.

And then arranged marriage came to my rescue.

Dad introduced me to him. We talked on the phone and at once we knew we had a connection. We got married in three months, and I feel elated in announcing that today we are happily married and have a pretty daughter.

So what does the system of “arranged marriage” have to do with my story? A lot, I must say.

We all hanker upon the typical stereotypes associated with beauty, success and all materialistic attributes. So much so that we innocuously move away from reality and start chasing the non-existent. Meanwhile, our parents, being the more experienced and reasonable, know the harsh realities of the world and thus keep their expectations at a real level.

The only thing that distinguishes arranged marriages in the east from love marriages in the west is the way two prospects meet.

In the west, it is mostly an accidental meeting, while in the east the initial meeting is planned. From the first meeting on, the people involved decide how they take it forward. And nowadays this first meeting is often taken care of by the various matrimony websites where singles create their profiles and look for a matching partner.

Why Arranged Marriage is Not a Bad Idea

1)      Picking the best of the lot – the arranged marriage system lets one pick the best prospect. With preferences well chalked out, one can actually choose their partner instead of accidentally meeting their would-be mate.

2)      More informed decision with background check – as the prospects are suggested by family and relatives, one makes an informed decision. A thorough background check can be done to discover any hidden “skeletons.”

3)      Seeing the unseen – the biggest advantage of an arranged marriage lies in the fact that through it, we see what we don’t see otherwise. Sometimes in our endeavour to find love, we rush into things and mistakenly consider it as true love.

Arranged marriages let us see the not-so-obvious facts.

4)      Marriage is not an individual thing, it is a family affair – at least that’s what we believe in India. Here, marriages are about two families that bond together and not just two individuals. And thus when parents find a match, they take families into consideration and try to find not just a suitable match but also a suitable family.

5)      Arranged marriages are taken seriously – it is true. People take arranged marriages very seriously as two families are involved. One decision of divorce gives a jolt to two families.

The decision of getting married is taken with consent of elders and thus even the decision of divorce has to be pondered over by the entire family. Also at the time of courtship, the couple spends lot of time in understanding each other’s family and that simply adds to the foundation of the marriage.

6)      Love lasts longer – in a typical arranged marriage, two people meet, get to know each other, realize that they can spend the rest of their lives with one another and then get married. Once they get into the committed relationship of marriage, they discover each other more and with a sense of commitment, they fall in love.

In the process, they develop the trust, respect and deep love for their each other as well for the relationship. In this case, there is no fear of commitment and thus the love that develops out of it lasts longer.

7)      Parents know better – when I talked to my hubby for the first time on phone, I was not quite impressed initially as he seemed to be a tongue tied person very much in contrast with my extrovert nature. But one thing about him simply struck me – his honesty. He called me and the phone got disconnected. It took him 10 minutes to call back. When I picked up he said, ‘sorry, my phone ran out of talk time. In order to save money, I try to keep minimum talk time on my phone. The lesser the better for me ’.

Had it been any other guy, he would have certainly tried to flaunt his money, but here I was talking to a person who had no qualms whatsoever in accepting his financial constraints, despite the fact that he is an IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer, the highest civil service in the country.

That very moment, I recollected what my dad had told me about him-  ‘you just can’t refuse him. He is too honest to be refused’. I thought to myself, ‘I am not sure of finding true love but at least I should settle down with a true person’. And that’s when I decided to say yes!  Parents are involved in every step of the relationship, and thus their guidance and experience is always there to show the right direction.

I do not blindly advocate arranged marriages.  Of course, like every other thing, arranged marriages also fail at times. After all, the success of a marriage does not depend on how you first met your partner but rather on how you take that meeting forward.

What are your thoughts and/or questions on arranged marriage?

Surabhi Surendra, a blogger and home maker by profession, blogs at womanatics.

Dec 07

Love is Sacrificial

By Dustin | Spirituality

This guest post is written by my friend Lori D. Lowe, marriage blogger at MarriageGems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage, out Dec. 8, 2011.

After interviewing happily married couples across the U.S. who have overcome adversity and been strengthened by it, one of the twelve overarching lessons that emerged from the stories is that love is sacrificial, and that we need to create a virtuous cycle of giving.

This shouldn’t be a big surprise to the many Catholic and other Christian readers at Engaged Marriage who try to model their lives after Christ’s. After all, He never promised an easy road, and he modeled a life of sacrifice until the end.

Despite this spiritual understanding, most of us enter married life with a completely different view of what marriage will entail. We are in love with our sweethearts and envision a carefree life full of happiness and satisfaction and empty of pain, frustration or difficulties.

The reality is that marriage taught most of us (me, at least) how to grow up and learn to live in harmony with another human being who depends on us.

One of the couples I feature in the book is a couple married 50 years. They explained the way they live out the concept of the Paradox of Giving. The more they give—both inside and outside the marriage—the more their cups are filled in return.

Both became more focused on pleasing their partner as their marriage went on. That didn’t mean they never had disputes, but they genuinely focus daily on things that will please their spouse. And more globally, they look out for each other and make sure their partner is feeling fulfilled and successful in their life’s roles.

Sometimes that means they give in on something they wanted. Sometimes it means they sacrifice their own time or interests. However, instead of feeling put out or inconvenienced, they say after decades of this behavior, they feel more rewarded, more fulfilled than they ever hoped. They share a strong faith life and support each other spiritually as well.

Financially, giving for them has meant both tithing and charitable giving. They made a conscious decision not to accumulate too much, and not to increase their lifestyle each time their incomes increased.

They participated with their children in mission trips, providing medical and educational services as well as other forms of support. When they give time or money outside their family and community, again they feel more rewarded. Because of the relatively simple life they chose, they have no financial conflict, which we know negatively affects a large number of marriages.

In today’s world, we often view “freedom” and “happiness” as the most important ideals. Sacrifice is certainly not something our society celebrates, except perhaps in thanking the military for their sacrifice. Making a sacrifice doesn’t mean we will be unhappy, though, as we are often rewarded for working hard.

Shifting focus in our marriage from ensuring our own happiness to being sacrificial about seeking our spouse’s happiness is a major adjustment. In marriages where two people are committed to one another, giving in a sacrificial way creates a virtuous cycle of giving. You give, and your spouse appreciates you and in time gives a bit back, which makes you feel fulfilled and rewarded, so you give a bit more, and on it goes.

Instead of keeping score, focus on keeping the cycle going. Be willing to go first, and don’t act because you are hoping to get something in return. Just love.

The interesting thing I’ve learned is that couples who love sacrificially often end up the happiest  decades down the line, while those who are focused on personal happiness end up leaving because all their needs are not always met.

One of the other lessons in the book is that adversity is not a killer—it can be a strengthener. This was true for many of the featured couples who experienced adversity in the form of losing a child, stranger rape, addiction, financial crises, brain injury, cancer, raising special-needs children, and much more. Their stories and their lessons can teach us that happiness isn’t dependent upon ideal circumstances, and that marriage can thrive even amidst difficulty.

Do you find it hard to give in? (I do.) Is it difficult to focus on someone else’s needs and fulfillment, or do you and your spouse feel you do this naturally? Does the word “sacrifice” have a negative connotation in your mind? Can sacrificial loving be positive?

Lori Lowe is a journalist, GenXer and marriage researcher. She has been married to her college sweetheart since 1995. They have two children together, one crazy cat, and two aquatic frogs. Lori is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It will be available Dec. 8.

For details or to connect with Lori, go to You can also connect on Facebook at Read Lori’s most popular blog post at We all Married the Wrong Person.

Dec 01

Vote for Your Favorite Marriage Blog 2011!

By Dustin | General

Vote for Engaged Marriage!It’s time once again to vote for your favorite marriage blog!

My cyber-buddy and fellow marriage supporter Stu at Stupendous Marriage is composing a list of the Top 10 Marriage Blogs 2011, and I would love it if you can help by taking a minute to vote.

On the two previous years’ lists, you voted Engaged Marriage into the Top Ten.  As it turned out, this really helped us grow our community because people searching for online marriage advice would find Stu’s list, see Engaged Marriage and click over to check us out.

Once they were here and had the chance to interact with you fine folks, they were hooked! 🙂

How to Vote for your Favorite Marriage Blog:

1. Click here to find the short voting form.  It will take you around 15 seconds to vote.
2. One vote per person…but you can encourage your friends to vote.
3. Voting closes at midnight December 4th (but you should vote now so you don’t forget).
4. That’s it!

Thank you for helping out with this. Of course, I would love it if you voted for Engaged Marriage, but I won’t be offended if you choose a blog that you enjoy a bit more.

If you do vote for Engaged Marriage and you’d like to encourage others to join you, here’s a short message you can share on Twitter or Facebook:

I just voted for Engaged Marriage (@EngagedMarriage) as a Top Marriage Blog for 2011. You should too!

I think there is a real need for this kind of list, and it is so great to have a central resource to find all of the best marriage-rocking content on the web.

Remember, you have to click over to Stupendous Marriage to post your vote. It only takes a few seconds.


(photo source)