Monthly Archives: October 2012

Oct 25

Recreate the Honeymoon in Your Own Backyard

By Dustin | Romance

Marriage is about many things – forming a lifelong partnership with your best friend, finding a loyal teammate with whom you can face life’s ups and downs, a covenant.

But with children, careers and mortgages, sometimes we can lose focus of a key part marriage of a great marriage: romance.

Every once in a while, it’s beneficial to strip away the hassles of adulthood and find time to solely appreciate your spouse, which is why I suggest that couples “recreate the honeymoon.”

Though flying to a faraway island might sound ideal, it is also unnecessary. Couples can evoke the same romantic magic within the comfort of their own backyard through a few simple practices.

  • Remember that the honeymoon is only about spending time with your partner and nothing else. Therefore, ship the kids off to spend the night with a trusted adult and then turn off your cell phone.

    There should be no phone calls, texts or emails exchanged with the outside world during this time, as this will distract you from truly embracing and enjoying your spouse.

    Furthermore, make the most out of your romantic time by jointly agreeing that certain stressful, sensitive subjects are not to be discussed; overdue bills, career responsibilities, past arguments, etc.
  • Treat yourself to a restaurant that neither you nor your partner have visited before and embrace your adventurous side. Perhaps try an exotic cuisine, take a dance class, watch a performance by an unknown musical group, or relax side-by-side with an unfamiliar spa treatment.

    Even if the activity isn’t something you two would normally enjoy, the experience of jointly exploring uncharted territory will bring you closer together.
  • While splurging on a hotel room is an obvious option, there are also ways to turn your own bedroom into a lover’s paradise. The first step is to dim the lights and light up the romantic candles; seeing your spouse bathed in candlelight will undoubtedly arouse those deep seeded passions.

    Secondly, consider purchasing new sheets to spruce up the bed. While listening to a preselected playlist of romantic songs, drink to each other with champagne and special toasting flutes.

    Take your time when romancing each other; remember that there are no children to take care of and no pressing responsibilities to rush off to.

    Consider learning a new sexual technique that is aimed to surprising and pleasing your partner. Women might want to buy special lingerie for the occasion and men could wear a freshly purchased scent.
  • Finish off your stay-at-home honeymoon with breakfast in bed. Do your research beforehand to determine whether a local restaurant can deliver food to your house; if not, pick up the food the night before and have it ready to go in the morning.

    The most important thing is to relax with your husband or wife. While lying in bed, resist the temptation to put on clothes, turn on the television or go for a morning jog, as this time should be exclusively designated for you and your lover.

For the evening, the most important thing to remember is to live in the moment with your partner. Diets can be temporarily put on hold, and it is not the end of the world if you miss your favorite television show.

While we don’t recommend spending extravagantly outside your means, remember that this night is special and an investment in building a long lasting marriage with the love of your life.

This post was written by guest blogger Jackie Mandell.

Oct 22

Find Your Love Language & Speak to Your Spouse’s Heart

By Dustin | Communication

Five  Love LanguagesCommunication is the core of any good relationship.

And it’s especially vital to communicate well within your marriage.  Remember how much you used to talk early in your relationship and how much you enjoyed it?

As our relationships mature and life gets increasingly complicated, it’s really easy for our conversations and our actions to grow a bit stale.  And it’s not just that life changes, but we change as individuals as well.

Whenever couples reach out to me with concerns about a lack of quality communication, or even just lamenting that the level of intimacy in their relationship isn’t what they desire, I consistently point to one resource.

The Love Languages & Why They Matter

I’m quite fond of my own book 15 Minute Marriage Makeover and the positive impact it’s had for hundreds of busy couples, but it’s not my first recommendation when it comes to marriage books.

The book I tell every couple I know to read is The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Dr. Gary Chapman.

This amazing (and refreshingly simple) resource is all about understanding how our spouse/significant other best communicates so we can live happier, healthier lives together.

While working as a marriage counselor for more than 30 years, Dr. Gary Chapman identified five specific love languages:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

I bet that even without reading the book you can immediately relate to some of these categories. Can you already see which areas you speak best in, and which areas apply to your spouse?

The Five Love Languages will lead you through a fun and rewarding process of discovering the love languages in your marriage. And with that knowledge, you can improve all aspects of your relationship with your spouse. See what I mean about the importance of great communication?

Finding Your Love Language

I highly recommend you and your spouse each read this book and benefit from Dr. Chapman’s experience and down-to-earth style.  It’s helped over 7 million couples, including Bethany and I, take their marriage to the next level.

Dr. Chapman also offers a free online assessment that you can do right away to learn your love language and start the conversation with your spouse – check out the free assessment here.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Chapman for Engaged Marriage on a variety of topics including the keys to great sex, marriage preparation and of course Love Languages.  You can listen to my interview with Dr. Gary Chapman for some additional insights.

Have you put the Five Love Languages to use in your marriage?  I’d love to hear your Language and how discovering it has impacted your relationship in the comments below!

Oct 17

Make Your Bedroom a Sanctuary & “Get Away” Anytime

By Dustin | Romance

When you envision a romantic atmosphere, do you see toys, laundry in piles, or clutter all around?

No?  Then why do our bedrooms seem to become that way?

When we were first married, very little clutter invaded our bedrooms.  Yet, as each child made an appearance into our family, our room seemed to gather more junk.

A pack-n-play, toys for when the kids were around as we were getting ready in the mornings, books, shoes…all the goodies our children like to leave around.

I realize that sometimes the kids need to be around us in our bedroom, but more recently we’ve discovered how wonderful it can be to keep the kids (and their stuff) out of the room.

Our bedroom is now OUR room alone – a place to relax, hang out as a couple, be intimate and enjoy quality, stress-free time together.  It’s a sanctuary right inside our otherwise chaotic house.

No Kid Zone

Most of us have homes in which nearly every room has something for the children…and why not?  It’s their house, too!

I have come to the conclusion that in our house, our bedroom is the room where the kids shouldn’t be if at all possible.

I enjoy being able to go into our room at night and have it be clean and organized.  It isn’t an easy habit to break if you already have a routine established where the kids are in your room, but it’s totally worth the effort to give it a try…and see how small changes can make a big difference.

Building a Sanctuary on a Budget

We’d all love to have a beautiful room with lush, posh surroundings, but most of us live on a budget and can’t afford a total room renovation.

Here are some suggestions for making your bedroom a sanctuary for very little cost!

  • Clean it up!

Take the time to de-clutter your shelves, dressers, nightstands, etc.  Give your tables a good cleaning and you’ll notice your room will be a little more welcoming for you and your spouse.

  • Put it away!

When telling our kids to clean up and put their toys away, I say, “It has a home, so put it there.”  The same applies to us adults and our laundry and other belongings.  Put your books and remote controls in a drawer and aim for being able to see as much of your table and dresser tops as possible.

Also, try to remember to make your bed every morning – it is more inviting when it’s time to get in it at night!  If everything is tidy, it’ll feel more like a hotel room…and who doesn’t like hotel sex??  🙂

  • Make it over!

Now, if you’re on a budget, you may need to plan a bit for this.  Sometimes just a new color on your walls (or just one wall as an accent) can make a big difference in how you feel about your room.

If you have a few extra dollars, buy some high thread count sheets…they really are worth it!  Making a change in your bedroom to distinguish it from the rest of the house may help you to accomplish that rule I mentioned earlier…

  • No kids allowed!

Okay.  I know there are some people out there who feel strongly about the family bed.  I’m just not one of them.

I’m happy to snuggle with our kids on the couch, read to them in their beds, watch movies on the living room floor, but our bed is OFF LIMITS!

When we were new parents, and trying to catch a few more winks of sleep when our baby would wake in the morning, we’d bring him in and let him snuggle with us.  Really though, I don’t think I got a single extra minute of sleep with him in there.  He would roll, babble, and later try to lay on my head.

So, after our second child was born, the bed was off limits.  When a child woke, either one or both of us would get up and start the day.  This has helped us (and the kids) to reinforce the fact that Mommy and Daddy’s bed is only for them.

They really aren’t even allowed on it when it is made.  As a bonus, we never have to worry about juice spills or cracker crumbs when we are ready to relax.

To sum it up, keep the room clean and the kids out.  With a few simple changes, your bedroom can be a special place for you to enjoy time “away” with your spouse…right inside your home!

Do you treat your bedroom as a sanctuary?  What tips would you add to make it happen?  Share in the comments below.

This article was written by the better half of Engaged Marriage – Bethany Riechmann is a super-busy Mom to three little rascals.  When she’s not reading or working to keep the house in order, she enjoy shooing her children off the bed. 🙂

Oct 10

4 Financial Problems Every Couple Faces and How to Fix Them

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Whether you are fresh off your honeymoon or have been together for decades, financial problems have surely come up in your marriage.

In fact, numerous studies cite finances as the number one reason couples divorce. That said, it’s possible for a couple to work through concerns related to money and spending; it simply takes patience and a willingness to communicate.

The following are several financial issues you may encounter during your marriage, as well as simple hints for easing these problems.  As you’ll see, the solution always come back to healthy communication.

Joint Account vs. Individual Accounts

The question as to whether to merge your finances may very well be one of the first you face as a married couple.

One system is not inherently better than the other; it all depends on your overall approach to marriage. These days, many couples are opting for a middle ground approach, with both spouses keeping some money in individual accounts and also saving a certain amount in a joint account. Later on in your relationship, it may be easier to merge everything into a joint account, but this is not a necessity right off the bat.

Note: For much more on this topic, be sure to check out Dustin’s article – Should Married Couples Have Joint or Separate Bank Accounts?

Shopping Habits

Are you an impulse shopper or a spendthrift? How about your partner?

If the two of you have completely different approaches to shopping, you may be in for a few nasty arguments. In many marriages, one partner is labeled the spender and the other is labeled the saver.

However, in most cases, this arrangement is not based on the facts. Studies suggest that men and women spend the same amount of money on average; they simply spend their money on different things.

As a couple, you should sit down together and draft a budget, recognizing the fact that one partner’s spending habits are not necessarily superior to the other’s.

If you need help setting a budget that works for both of you, check out this post for a step-by-step guide.

Handling Debt

SmartMoney survey found debt to be the most contentious financial issue a couple will face. Arguments might arise as to the amount of debt a couple is willing to take out in order to pay for a home or a car. Worse yet, one spouse may enter the marriage with absolutely no debt while the other carries a load that seems unmanageable.

Blaming each other for debt will only lead to more problems. Regardless of whether one spouse entered the marriage with debt, you now need to think of it as a joint debt load and figure out how you’ll pay it off together.

Planning for Emergencies

Couples may argue about whether saving money for a rainy day fund is worth it. Hopefully, the stagnant economy has taught you that saving is definitely worthwhile.

How you save and how much you save may present more of a problem. Should the money go into the bank, into real estate or in stocks? These questions may best be resolved with the help of a financial planner, but you can get some tips on setting up an effective emergency fund here as well.

In the end, your relationship can survive and even thrive in the face of these common financial problems – if you and your partner are able to keep an open mind.

Discuss any issues in a civil manner and don’t be afraid to seek help from a financial counselor when necessary.  Above all, talk about it!

About the author: Zach Buckley is a freelance writer based in the Midwest. He enjoys exploring developing trends in education, technology and culture.  When he isn’t reading or writing blogs, he enjoys sampling good music and good food. Follow him on Twitter! @Zach_buckley

Oct 03

Why We Love Natural Family Planning in Our Marriage

By Dustin | Sex & Family Planning

Note from Dustin: This is a personal story from EM readers Mike and Mandy Young. When I got to know Mike from crossing paths online, I quickly discovered we were kindred spirits. As it turns, out their NFP story is very similar to the journey that Bethany and I have shared.  Enjoy!

We were no different from most college-aged couples.  We wanted to be “responsible”.

That’s what everyone had always taught us, right?  The smart thing to do was for Mandy to start taking the pill.

There really wasn’t that much thought or discussion put into it.  It is kind of scary to think about how cavalier we were about it.  Both of us had gone through over twelve years of Catholic school and had been told that birth control was “bad”.

We were just completely unaware of the reasons why.  We never took the time to learn.

All of that changed about two years into our marriage.

Mandy and I were involved with youth ministry at our church.  There was a traveling missionary who came to our parish for a week and he came to our normally-scheduled Sunday night youth event.

He spoke about many things, but towards the end he turned his attention to birth control.  Once he said that some birth control could potentially be an abortifacient (could cause an abortion), it stopped us dead in our tracks!

That night began our journey of living without contraception.  When we got home, Mandy cried and cried about what she had been doing to her body.

It actually caused us to discuss why we were preventing the possibility of conception anyway.  We weren’t really sure.

We decided to start trying to have a baby.

As God’s plan would have it, we had a really hard time conceiving.  Each month would come and go and nothing.

It was really hard for Mandy.  She would cry and I would have no idea what to do.  She had read that a doctor would normally not discuss fertility issues with you unless you had been trying for at least a year.  Then, they would have you track your ovulation.

As a year approached, we started tracking her ovulation figuring we would get a jump start on the pregnancy process.

Lo and behold, as soon as we started tracking ovulation we got pregnant!  After we were blessed with our beautiful daughter Aly, we weren’t sure how to proceed.

We knew the pill was never going to be an option again.  Basically, we decided to do nothing.  It took so long to conceive with Aly, we just figured we would let it unfold in God’s time.  Three years later, we got pregnant again and had our second beautiful daughter Brooke.

This whole “whatever happens happens” approach was working out pretty good.  Three years between kids worked for us pretty well.  However, when Brooke was nine months old, we found ourselves pregnant with number 3!

That wasn’t exactly in our plan, but we were still excited once the shock wore off.

Enter Natural Family Planning

After our third beautiful daughter, Leah, was born, we knew we needed to be more proactive in our family planning.  Mandy and our checkbook couldn’t handle another baby soon.

We had always knew of Natural Family Planning, but never really knew much about it.  We started doing research and realized that it was the exact thing we needed for our marriage and our faith.

We signed up for classes here in our town through CCL (Couples to Couples League) .  It actually was kind of funny because the class was made up of all engaged couples (whose priest required them to attend before their wedding) and then us.

Needless to say, we were the only couple in the class that already had three children!  It was great though.  We learned all about NFP and how to do it correctly.

As we became more informed about NFP, we realized how awesome it was for our marriage.  We communicated more and it was something we did together.

We chose to use a fertility monitor in addition to taking Mandy’s temperature and tracking other fertility signs.  We felt more comfortable using the science of the monitor in addition to relying on our own ability to take and chart temperatures and fertility signs.

I participated by taking Mandy’s temperature every morning when I first woke up and then wrote it on the chart.  We had learned that the divorce rate among those that practice NFP was only 3 percent!  That is crazy low, but we were starting to see why considering how much it brought us together.

There are so many things we love about Natural Family Planning.

We love that it gives us a stronger marriage.  We love that after periods of abstinence, our intimacy is enhanced as we both look forward to times of being together again. We love that Mandy is not pumping her body with unnecessary hormones.

(Sidenote: it is very interesting to us that there are many women who are concerned about eating animals who are given antibiotics or growth hormones, but have no problem taking extra hormones into their own bodies.)

We love that we are using Mandy’s amazing  God-given cycle in order to plan our family.

NFP has been amazing for our marriage.  I encourage you to give it a try.  It may just be amazing for your marriage too!

Mike Young, and his wife Mandy, are hosts of the Beyond Your Wedding Day Podcast.  They are also the creators and coaches of the Beyond Your Wedding Day Marriage Preparation Course.  They have three beautiful daughters, with another baby on the way.  Having a financial coaching background as a Dave Ramsey Certified financial coach, Mike is passionate about helping young couples start off their marriages on the right foot.