Monthly Archives: May 2015

May 25

Summertime and the Romancin’ Is Easy – 10 Must-Do Summer Dates

By Debi Walter | Romance

Ah! Summertime.

The time when we look forward to enjoying life outdoors and lots of sunshine.

10 Must-Do Summer Date IdeasInstead of letting this summer flash by in a blur of kids activities, trips to the pool and a few family barbeques, set aside some time on the calendar to enjoy with your spouse.

To help you out, I thought it would be fun to share 10 awesome Summertime Dates that are easy and very romantic.

Pick your favorites and make it a point to give them a try before school begins…it will be here before you know it!

TEN MUST-DO SUMMERTIME DATES

1. Bonfire Date

Whether you have an outdoor fire pit in your own backyard, or you know of a place in your town where they have one, I encourage you to plan an evening to sit by the fire after sunset and reminisce.

Talk about your favorite summer vacations growing up, or discuss places you dream of visiting one summer in the future.

You might even want to start your own vacation Bucket List, which is basically places we’d love to see in our lifetime.

2. Picnic Date

Everyone has enjoyed a picnic together at one time or another. But why not take your picnic to another level?

Here are some variations to get you thinking:

  • After dark in your backyard
  • On the roof
  • In the pool
  • Breakfast at the beach
  • Sunset on a boat
  • Make a day of it having breakfast, lunch and dinner in three different places or in a park you both love
  • Outdoor concert picnic (make this one by buying the food from your favorite restaurant and setting up a table complete with candlelight.)

Surprise your spouse by fixing a picnic and meeting them in their parking lot at work. Tom did this last one for me when I worked at a private high school campus. He set up a table behind our car with the lift gate open so I could hear the music playing from his CD player.

It was a day I’ll never forget!

3. Water Date

This could include a trip to a local water park, or spring. You could go kayaking, rafting, canoeing or snorkeling. Whatever is near you.

Another fun date is to buy two really nice water guns and have a showdown in your backyard. If there aren’t any kids around you could make it more fun by wearing white t-shirts and shorts with nothing on underneath. ūüôā

The guys are sure to like this one!

4. Ice Cream Date

Plan a trip to your local ice cream parlor and enjoy your favorite. Or you could do this one at home making ice cream sundaes.

If you’re really motivated you could make your own ice cream using an ice cream maker.

Nothing says summer like some delicious ice cream!

5. Bike Ride Date

Take your bikes and hit the trail together. Pack some snacks and drinks with you, and look for a secluded, shady spot along the route.

Stop and enjoy being alone in the woods together. Variation on this would be to go hiking – leave the bikes at home. But don’t forget your bug spray and sun screen!

6. Farmer’s Market Date

Visit your local farmer’s market and buy ingredients for your dinner date at home that night.

Once the kids are in bed, cook up your fresh ingredients while watching movies that highlight farmers’ markets: Sleepless in Seattle (famous Pike Place Market) or You’ve Got Mail (New York City) to name a few.

7. Sandcastle Competition Date

Buy all the right tools to make a fantastic sandcastle. You can either work together to build your mansion, or build separately and have a vote for the best.

You could ask those passing by to cast their vote, or take pictures and put them on Facebook and have your friends vote for the best. Finish this date by knocking the castle down and burying each other in the ruins.

8. Yard Game Tournament Date

There are many games available that would be perfect for a little one-on-one challenge. Yard darts, horseshoes, hillbilly golf, corn hole, croquet, badminton or bocce ball.

Check out Amazon for lots of varieties and find a couple that you know will be great for your tourney.

Make the games more fun by adding your own incentives for the winner…use your imagination here!

9. Outdoor Concerts

Check your local listings to see what concerts are taking place in or around your town.

Summer is usually full of such opportunities and gives you the chance to hear bands you might not hear otherwise.¬† Whether it’s an orchestra, a local cover band or a national act at the regional amphitheater, a concert under the stars can be fantastic.

10.  One Tank Road Trips

I remember growing up it was popular to take a Sunday drive. There was no destination other than to enjoy the scenery as well as the time together.

Check out one-tank road trips near your home and make plans to spend a day driving and talking.

There is no better way to slow down and enjoy each other.

There you have it! Ten great dates to try at some point before Labor Day.

As you can see, summertime really is the best time for romancin’…and we’ve made it easy as well. ūüôā

In closing, enjoy this classic song by Ella Fitzgerald, which is sure to help you slow down and smile…or maybe you’re more into the Sublime version. ūüôā

What is your all-time favorite summer date?

May 21

How Alcohol Dependency Affects Your Relationship

By Dustin | General

How Alcohol Dependency Affects Your RelationshipTo keep a relationship stable is challenging; whether it involves two people sharing their lives, communicating with friends and family, or just getting along with teammates at work.

Add to the picture a silent partner like alcohol, and the challenge increases substantially.

Not everyone who consumes alcohol develops dependency. In fact, studies show that moderate amount of alcohol intake has some health benefits. However, some women may be more in danger of developing dependency.

Women who are considered dependent have the following experiences:

Withdrawal: This means a person experiences unpleasant side effects upon leaving alcohol. This is why some women adopt a ‚Äėhair of the dog‚Äô routine near morning, or keep alcohol near them. Mild symptoms of withdrawal include shakiness, nervousness, and an abnormally fast heartbeat.

Tolerance: This is when the individual needs to consume larger amounts of alcohol to feel the same effect they used to feel with less consumption. For example, a woman used to relax with two glasses of beer, and now it takes the double to feel the same state of relaxation.

Loss of control: This can include consumption for longer periods than intended, or more frequently than intended. Loss of control is when the functioning of the brain is disturbed to an extent than the individual can’t remember what they are doing. The person then gets told by others about their activities.

If you are concerned with alcohol dependence, either your own, or an individual you care about, perhaps this post can give you some useful insight.

What are the costs of dependency?

A relationship in which a partner is dependent on alcohol can become problematic; such couples are often unhappy, and dependence may lead to call for counseling. As addiction gets worse, it takes more time away from the relationship, and creates an emotional distance between partners that becomes challenging to overcome with time.

When substance abuse creates a situation where couples fight often, things can become violent. And when the abuse becomes the main reason for arguing or fighting, a vicious cycle can develop, in which alcohol dependence causes conflicts, and leads to more abuse as a way to reduce stress.

It can be difficult to know what to do if you are dependent on alcohol and in a relationship because it between the ‚Äėgood‚Äô times, life can become disturbing. The alcoholic may try to change the patterns that are causing the trouble.

But just when you feel you are starting to do well, problems crop up and you are back to where you begin; anger, sadness, and fear of being stressed out because of leaving alcohol. These are the reasons why alcohol problems shouldn’t be left untreated.

Overcoming alcohol dependence

The route to recovery begins with regaining control and redefining your life.

A womens recovery center can provide options for customized programs that help you get rid of shame, guilt and stress of your relationship with alcohol and back to managing your life again.

Has your marriage been impacted by alcohol dependence? Please share in the comments below.

May 18

What Do You Like About Sex?

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

What do you like about sex?

This is an important question. ¬†A lot hinges on what you and your spouse would each say in response to “What do you like about sex?”

what-do-you-like-about-sexNothing? Everything? Some things? Most things?

“I like the pleasure, but not the mess.”

“I don’t like the vulnerability.”

“I do like the oneness.”

“I hate how much he wants it.”

“I love how much she wants it.”

“I don’t like that we fight about it.”

“I love the desire, the passion, the uninhibitedness.”

“I like the way it makes me feel.”

“I don’t like the awkwardness.”

“I like the way he caresses me when we make love.”

“I like her body next to mine.”

“I don’t like the painful memories it stirs in me.”

“I like how we are¬†nicer to each other afterward.”

“I hate it that I can’t relax.”

“I just don’t like sex and I don’t know why.”

Recently, someone suggested to me that I give the impression that sex is the most important thing in marriage ‚Äď that marriage is just about sex and little else.

Of course, that’s not my take on it. After all, like most of you reading this, I am married.

I know marriage is a complex weave on so many levels that it could never be reduced to being ‚Äúonly about sex‚ÄĚ (no more than it could be reduced to being only about children or only about finances).

But.

Sex in a marriage carries more significance than many people give it. That is sad truthful commentary.

In many marriages, sex is a side note, an extra “we’ll get around to if we ever have time and energy.” ¬† Some marriages don‚Äôt get around to it at all, beyond the babies they created in the early years.

And then there are some people who¬†would be eager and excited to answer the question “What do you like about sex?”

From the Lord’s perspective, marriage is the one place sex is not only permitted, but designed to be celebrated, pursued and mutually enjoyed.

A husband and wife who thoroughly pour themselves into profound sexual intimacy have found a bit of a jackpot. Sure, there is richness in their bed, but it is a unique kind of richness that amplifies richness outside the bedroom as well.

The question “What do you like about sex?” seems simple, doesn‚Äôt it? But how two people in a marriage answer that question sheds light into their relationship.

And when there is sexual disconnect in your marriage (because let‚Äôs face it, there likely will be at some point), how do you handle that disconnect?¬†¬† Do you ignore it? Seek to heal it? Refuse to give up … or give up easily?

I‚Äôm not saying everything in a marriage banks on your answer to, “What do you like about sex?”

But it’s definitely an area worthy of investment.¬†What about you? ¬†What do you like about sex?

For more reading on this topic, check out 5 Ways to Like Sex in Your Marriage.

May 12

These 4 Letters Could Destroy Your Marriage

By Dustin | Sex & Family Planning

Covenant EyesThere’s an incredibly serious problem facing many marriages today. It’s also the fastest growing addiction in North America.

It’s spelled¬†P-O-R-N and there’s a good chance that you’ve either been affected by it or will be at some point. ¬†

In this recent post, a counselor shares the first-hand accounts of several women who have been hurt by their husband’s use of pornography. ¬†

It’s pretty chilling, and these real-world examples show that porn impacts all areas of our marriages – even though our culture tries to minimize it as harmless fun.

If you or your spouse have experienced the grasp of pornography, you know all too well about the damage that it causes to your intimacy, trust and communication.¬† It’s very difficult for porn and a healthy marriage to co-exist for any length of time.

But there’s more to the story than just husbands getting sucked in and hurting their wives in the process. ¬†This is an issue that impacts all of us, especially if you have children.

  • Did you know that 43% of kids first view porn before the age of 13?
  • Did you know that the fastest-growing group of porn users is WOMEN age 25 and under?

As a Dad, that first fact in particular sends chills down my spine.  Porn is extremely easy to access in our connected world, and our kids are targeted more than we would ever imagine.

So what can you do about it?

The only way to combat this issue in your house (and on all those mobile devices that you and your kids have) is by being proactive.  

That’s why¬†I highly recommend a service called Covenant Eyes to protect you.

Specifically, Covenant Eyes’ Internet Accountability service allows you to see a detailed report on the online activities of each of your family members.¬† This not only cuts down on the temptation to visit questionable websites, but it allows for a conversation to take place among family members to help everyone make wiser choices about their web usage.

In addition, Covenant Eyes offers filtering services to ensure your kids, your spouse and yourself don’t access harmful sites in the first place.¬† Both services work across all of your devices, so you can rest assured that your family is being protected at all times.

Covenant Eyes also has some incredible free resources on their site:

Click here to grab the “Porn and Your Husband” e-book

Click here to get the “Your Brain on Porn” Christian e-book

Thank you for taking a few minutes today to think about this issue and take some action to protect your marriage and your family.

It’s one of the most important things you can do to protect your marriage and your kids.

May 11

Enabling your children can weaken your marriage

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

enabling your children can weaken your marriageWhen Kansas farm girl Dorothy closed her eyes and murmured longingly, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!” she was speaking as a twelve year old who had come to recognize the true magic of home, not as a young adult comfortably and seemingly permanently ensconced under your roof.

Home¬†is¬†a wonderful place, and it’s no surprise that millennials find the idea of moving back in‚ÄĒor never leaving‚ÄĒappealing.

Certainly there can be healthy arrangements for adult children and families living under one roof based on respect, gratitude, and good communication.

However, if you are ready to throw your door open wide¬†in the spirit of financial helpfulness, or if you already have, you’ll want to be vigilant so you don’t weaken your marriage.

How do you know if you are helping or enabling?

Christian Personal Finance defines the difference:

Helping is doing something for someone else that they are not capable of doing for themselves.

Enabling is doing things for someone else that they can and should be doing for themselves.

It is all too easy, as my hubby and I and many other parents will attest, to subtly and unwittingly transition from a situation that began as helpful to one that is enabling.

Helping, for example, is allowing your newly minted graduate to move back home for the summer while they continue to look for a job.

Enabling is still having that same child, now 27 years old, living at home, while you provide for their every need, plus footing the bill for those college loans, because they’re still weighing their options for the future.

If you have become an enabler, what’s driving you?

So many emotions might be at play:

Guilt:¬†You are your child’s protector and provider.

Fear: Your young adult will fall onto extremely hard times, become homeless, go hungry, or will suffer in other ways.

Doubt:¬†¬†You’ve never seen evidence they can actually take care of themselves financially.

Shame:  What will people think if they see your child living in poverty while you lead a comfortable life?

Discomfort:¬†It’s easier to just keep giving the money than handle a confrontation.

Control:  As long as you write the checks, you get the major stake in continuing to run their life.

Pride:  You feel self-righteous as you sacrifice, believing you owe your children everything.

Responsibility:¬†¬†It’s your fault you never taught them how to be self-sufficient.

Enabling your children can weaken your marriage

Very simply, it may put the opinions, needs, and the desires of your spouse below those whom you are enabling, thereby going against one of the most basic foundations for a strong marriage: putting your spouse first.

Husbands or wives may disagree on the amount and length of support needed, feel they are being taken advantage of, and especially may resent not being able to enjoy this season together as empty nesters.

Even if you agree as a couple that you both have become enablers, the financial stress in addition to the other difficulties that arise from this arrangement can spill over and create tension and arguments in other areas.

Learning to let go of enabling behavior

Remember that when you financially enable, you are effectively saying your offspring is not capable and is devoid of marketable talent or skills.

It’s time to change the message you are sending.

Get on the same page as your spouse. This may be the first of several uncomfortable conversations, but it is foundational to the ultimate success of launching your child into self-sufficiency. Here are a couple of terrific communication resources right here on Engaged Marriage: Thinking Styles, Improve Communication

Put some breathing room into your life. When you are overwhelmed in general, problems can loom larger than life, and your response is often outsized in return. Use the ideas here to brainstorm with your spouse to create an environment that works for you, your marriage and your family.

Love your child enough to say¬†No More Money,¬†it’s time to make a plan to go. It is the ultimate in tough love and frees your child to behave like the responsible adult they have the potential to be. For more in-depth help on the how-to, here are some resources:

Slouching Toward Adulthood:  How to let go so your kids can grow up, by Sally Kowlow

How To Stop Enabling:  When Our Grown Children Disappoint Us, a thorough round up of articles and books

The Enabler:  When helping hurts the ones you love, by Angelyn Miller

Realize you may feel worse before you feel better.¬†When you are asked to imagine your favorite dessert, you conjure up an image of an incredibly delectable dish. Conversely, when you think about how the conversation will go, you imagine the worst about what will happen to your relationship and for your son or daughter’s future. Generally, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Your situation likely has taken years to evolve, and you have been a party to prolonging it.

It’s time to draw that line in the sand.

The kids know what is appropriate, but they will push the boundaries just like they did when they were 2, and 7, and 12 and 16 years old.

Be the adult in the room and the loving parent you were designed to be and provide the guidance and wisdom and boundaries your children need so that your marital and family relationships can mend.

My husband and I have walked this path in addition to helping a single mom get the ball rolling, and I know you can do it, too!

Comment: What is your opinion on enabling your children?

May 11

Try These 10 Romantic Snapshots For Fresh Eyes

By Debi Walter | Romance

I love the scene in Toy Story when Mr. Potato Head puts on his angry eyes.

Or when Mrs. Potato Head takes out her ears and says, “I can’t hear you!”

Those are classic scenes that make us laugh. Wouldn’t it be nice at times if we could hand-pick¬†the eyes we want to express the emotion of our choice?¬†We probably do this already, but not consciously.

As the years pass in marriage it’s easy to become lazy and look at our spouse in the same way day after day.

This is why romance is vital to a healthy marriage. It helps us put on different eyes to see our spouse the way we did when our love first began.

Back then My Eyes Adored You, to use the title of a popular love song.

Do you still adore your spouse?

Or have the cares of life and the responsibilities of parenthood and careers robbed your vision?

Below are some ways to help you regain those romantic eyes. Try one or try them all. See if it doesn’t spark some fresh affection.

Ten Romantic Snapshots

1. Watch your wife as she takes a shower. Remember what it was like when you saw her naked for the first time.

2. When your husband reaches for your hand, think of all his hands do to lead, guide, love and protect you. And consider how hard he works to provide for you and your children.

3. When in a crowded room, look for your spouse and make eye-contact. Let the look linger and enjoy it.

4. Try looking in each others eyes for one minute without saying anything. Let your eyes express your affection.

5. Listen while looking at your spouse when they’re talking to someone else. Give thanks for the ways they express themselves and their ability to cultivate friendships at work, church and in the community.

6. Watch your spouse play and interact with your children. Step back and appreciate the sacrifices they’re willing to make in order to raise healthy and happy children.

7. If your spouse is strong in a certain area take time to observe them doing what they do best–whether it’s serving, entertaining, counseling or evangelizing.

8. Watch your spouse as they sleep. Appreciate the blessing it is to share a bed together, to know the rhythms of rest, and the patterns that make them unique.

9. Watch your spouse do something they love to do, whether it’s yard work, playing an instrument, watching or playing their favorite sport, joking with friends, and pay attention to their expressions as they do it.

10. Observe your spouse doing a mundane task like clean the kitchen, shave or make coffee. Notice how they do it and how different they are from you. Rather than let this be an annoyance, be grateful for how your lives have intertwined in such unique ways.

After you’ve spent some time observing your spouse with fresh eyes, plan some time and share with them what you’ve noticed. You can go all out and make it a date night, or talk around your kitchen table after the kids are in bed. The key is to communicate clearly to your spouse how you see them. If you’re uncomfortable talking about it, try¬†writing out your sentiments in a card or love letter.

We all get distracted.

And when we do romance is usually the first thing to get pushed aside.

I hope you won’t let your love wane, but will instead be intentional all the years you have together. Then, when the end of your life comes there will be no regrets, only precious snapshots of a love that lasted a lifetime.

 

(photo credit)