How do you keep love alive?

L is for the way you look at me

O is for the only one I see

V is very very extraordinary

E is even more than anyone that you adore

Every couple has ‘their’ song. You know that song that transports you back to when you first fell in love. For us, it was Lionel Richie’s “Stuck on You”. Ah, young love.

Science tells us that when we fall in love our bodies release a hormone known as dopamine.  Aptly named eh? Science also tells us that this hormone starts to diminish after 18 months. So how do we keep love alive?

We were performing one of our Ultimate Date Nights in a small town in Ohio. The local ministerial association had joined churches together to bring us in and the event was held at the local middle school Cafetorium.  What is a Cafetorium?  It’s a large room used for a number of activities such as a cafeteria for lunch, a gymnasium for PE, and an auditorium for performances.

We were on the stage, there were chairs on the gym floor and then there were bleachers on the other side of the gym. The place was packed! We were having a great time making couples laugh and connect with each other. We noticed one particular couple was having a little too much fun.  We noticed them because there was a light that shined right down on their seating area and we also noticed them because they were all over each other. Oh, and did we mention they had to be in their mid 80’s!

After the show, we were signing books on one end of the gym and this 80 year old man vaulted over the railing that separated the gym floor from the bleachers.  His wife came scurrying up behind him with a huge grin on her face.

We said to the elderly couple “We saw you two… you were both getting a bit ‘handsy’ up there!”  Without skipping a beat she said, “That’s what keeps us young!” Then he immediately said, “You tell the youngsters to remember ­- what you did to get your spouse is what you need to do to keep your spouse.”

What sage advice!  Keep the dopamine flowing in your marriage by practicing those actions you took when you first fell in love! Date her like she’s the only girl on the planet. Flirt with him like he’s the cutest boy in school. Kiss her passionately for no reason. And whisper in his ear “I’m all yours!”

It takes work to keep the romance alive but let’s be honest, it’s FUN work. Make your marriage and the love you share last long into your 80’s and be the couple everyone looks at and says “Wow they’re still in love!”

New Beginnings

Are you as 100% disciplined as youd like to be in your marriage?

We figure most of you would answer “NO”.

The devastating answer is that you ARE as 100% disciplined as you will EVER be!  You are 100% disciplined to the good habits in your marriage and 100% disciplined to the poor habits in your marriage.  The only thing we can do is change a poor habit into a good habit.  Social science tells us it takes 21 days to form a new habit.

So here are a couple healthy marital habits you can start changing today!

Uninterrupted Planned Conversation

Some of you might be thinking Do they know how crazy our life is?  How can we have Planned” conversation?Simple, schedule it.  We make appointments for work, to workout, lunch appointments, Dr appointments, car maintenance appointments.  Why not have a standing daily conversation with your spouse!

Daily conversation is a habit that will greatly reduce the stress in your marriage.  All too often we THINK weve communicated something to our spouse but really weve only thought about it in our own minds.  Daily conversation allows you to cover the bases” making sure you and your spouse stay on the same page with schedules and important events.

Gentlemen, it also makes your wife feel valued.  Nothing says I value you” to your wife more than her watching you shut off the TV, put down your phone and look at her when youre talking.  Trust us when we say she will feel closer to you than ever when you communicate eyeball to eyeball. And remember, when she feels close she will want to be close.

Intentional Planned Intimacy

Planned Intimacy? It sounds so unromantic.”  While we are talking about bedroom activities, intimacy goes SO much deeper. Here are some tips for creating intimacy outside the bedroom which will lead to greater intimacy in the bedroom. 

Fun Intimacy 

Doing something FUN together creates a great deal of intimacy between a husband and a wife.  We like to cook together. Working together in the kitchen is almost like dancing as we help each other prepare delicious meals.  We also like to golf together, shoot guns together and garden together. Having fun together as a couple requires a LOT of compromise.

If you are not necessarily doing an activity thats on the top of your fun list, watch how much fun your spouse is having and enjoy their fun.  I (Jay) had to learn this about shopping with Laura.  I dont like malls. Laura does and Ive learned to enjoy watching her have fun in the mall.

Romantic Intimacy

DATE!  Thats right go out on DATES.  Its what fanned the flame of love early in your relationship and its critical to keep the flames burning.  Dating doesnt have to be expensive. Rent a $1 Redbox movie, put the kids to bed early, pop some popcorn and enjoy.  Pack a picnic lunch and go to a local park.  Whatever you decide simply put it on the calendar and make it happen!

This year begin to develop good healthy habits in your marriage and watch your love grow deeper and richer this year!

What is with Double sinks?

Watching TV is one way Jay and I wind down at the end of a busy day. One of our favorite shows to watch is House Hunters. We love to see the houses in different cities across the country. We love commenting on how selfish some of these people are, of course believing we are above that!

However one feature that seems to be a priority on every house hunters list is double sinks. We don’t get it!? Let me be more clear – double sinks in the master bath. We have a master bath with a single sink and we actually enjoy the sharing of this sink. We like bumping into each other, dancing around the sink, and spitting on each other! Think of all the fun we would miss with each having our own sink!

This is just me but I am not a fan of the huge master bathrooms where you could both be in there and not even be aware of each other! Marriage is about give and take. Sharing a sink is just one way we give and take-spit and all. Now don’t be offended if you love your double sinks- this is just my take on sinks and bathrooms!

We would love to hear from you and your thoughts on sinks!

Making The Most of a Messy Marriage

Let’s face it, there are times when marriage is messy. Okay, it’s messy most of the time! Let’s be honest, we’re two fallen creatures living in a fallen world trying to honor God in the midst of our mess. So we’re going to share with you 4 ways we’re all a mess and how to make the most of your messy marriage!

We’re all a mess.

Mentally. Let’s face it, men and women think differently. So how do we make the most of our mental mess? Mentally meld. We often joke that between us we have ONE brain. It’s true, when we operate best is when we both think on a matter, come together and meld our thinking into one unified thought. It’s not his way or her way but our way.

We’re all a mess.

Emotionally. You’re both adults, so how do we make the most of our emotional mess? Emotionally exercise self-control. We love this statement. “My response is my responsibility!” You can’t control your spouse’s response to a situation and your spouse can’t control yours. Only YOU can control how you react to any given situation. So the next time you’re about to blow up, count to 10 and exercise self-control.

We’re all a mess.

Sexually. How do we make the most of our sexual mess? Sexually submit. Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Nowhere in marriage is this more important than the bedroom. Intimacy in marriage is critical for a healthy relationship and husbands and wives have very different needs in the intimacy department. Communicating intimacy needs is often a difficult discussion, but one that will reap great rewards as you, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

We’re all a mess.

Spiritually. We know we’re a mess Spiritually as Scripture says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” So how do we make the most of our spiritual mess? Spiritually surrender. We try so hard to be the perfect wife, the perfect husband and the perfect couple, but we can’t. In our own power we fall short everyday, but when we surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit we walk, talk and connect on a deeper level as a couple.

One of the best actions you can take to spiritually surrender is to pray together. Many couples struggle with this but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply start by speaking out loud the things that you are thankful for and you’ve begun a prayer life. Ladies, sometimes you can take the lead. There will be days he just doesn’t feel spiritual and he needs you to be spiritually strong.

So take these steps to make the most of your messy marriage.

Sex? Check it off the list

Ladies, this one is for you. Listen closely, sex is NOT a CHORE! Stop treating it that way.

So many times we have seen a married couple portrayed as the husband wanting sex and the wife continually acting annoyed because of it. Picture it, the husband and wife are laying down in bed and the husband tries to initiate sex with the wife. The wife turns to him, rolls her eyes and say “You’re kidding, right?”. That is not healthy. That is not funny. That is not marriage. STOP doing that.” – MELISSA RUFF

Jay and I frequently talk about the fact that your marriage needs to be a priority above your kids, your jobs, your hobbies, etc. I love the way Melissa Ruff says it in an article she wrote for XXX Church.

She uses marriage and spouse interchangeably in her rant. However I think for a healthy mindset we need to distinguish the two. Your husband must be your priority about the kids, the jobs, the hobbies. This is a subtle difference yet a huge one! Many of us could say “ my marriage is my priority” yet still not make our husband a priority. We make our husband a priority by meeting their needs whatever they might be.

The mindset of sex being a chore is one I find frequently in the minds of married women. We can make our marriage a priority by setting aside date nights, getting marriage education regularly, getting away for a couples getaway YET still not make our husband a priority. When it comes to meeting the needs of our husband we have allowed our children, our jobs, our hobbies to zap us of energy needed. We have to set aside not only time but emotionally energy in order to make our husband a priority.

This takes planning ahead and saying no to some good thing in our lives in order to yes to the best. The average man needs sexual release every 72 hours, that is every 3 days! So when you think your man is acting a little “testy” check the last time you met his need! Plan ahead and make it happen!

Forgive So That You Might Be Forgiven!

What did Jesus come to do? He came to forgive! Luke 6:37 NIV states, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” If we are going to build a marriage around the person of Jesus, then as Ruth Bell Graham says, “Good marriages are made of two great forgivers!”  Again, not talking about forgiving the big things, although that is a must, we often forget to forgive those little daily annoyances!

I married a drama king – The leftover hot chili episode.

Have you heard of the movie, “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen?” Well, here is my movie, “Confessions of a woman married to a middle age drama King!” Seriously, I am married to a drama king!  Don’t believe me? I had made chili one night for dinner and for lunch the next day asked Jay if he would mind leftovers. “Sure!” He said. So I heated us up some leftover chili for lunch. I put it nice bowls, laid out nice placemats, lit a candle, I mean hey it was leftovers, but it could be a nice lunch. I called Jay down from the office for lunch and he said, “Ohhh, it all looks nice honey!” He sat down, and took one sip of his chili and the atmosphere went right out the window. You burned my mouth! Why did you make this so hot, you know I have a tender tongue! He stood up pushed away the chili, spilling it and stomping around the kitchen, complaining about the hot chili on his tender tongue!

This is what we have to forgive! We have to forgive when the chili is too hot and when our spouse makes a simple mistake something bigger than it actually is! Ladies and gentlemen, a good marriage is made up of two great forgivers. We forgive because Jesus has forgiven us!

So remember that forgiveness walks on two legs. The first leg is repentance. In order for the forgiveness process to begin we have to have a repentant heart. Genuine repentance breeds forgiveness.

The second leg is Grace. When true repentance is shown it allows Grace to step in and do its job, namely forgiving without expectation. We live in a world where every action seems to have “strings attached”. Strengthen your marriage by regularly practicing genuine repentance and God sent Grace.

How great a God that forgives us all the little simple mistakes we make.

Be Intentional

Do you do devotions together?

We get asked this question ALL the time: “Jay and Laura, do you do devotions together and don’t you think a husband and wife should?” The answer is no and no. Now before you go and think we are not spiritual or shallow, let me give you my thoughts on this question.

First, Jay and I both have devotions every morning. We spend time reading and studying. I guess in my rebellious way I do not like the word “devotions”. I prefer study. I believe as Christ-followers in this culture, some of our “christianese” can actually be a detriment when talking to someone who is not a Christ-follower. We all understand what it means to “study” so when someone asks how you spend your time and you say “ studying” the next natural question will be, “ What do you study?” Then the opportunity presents itself to share what you study. If your answer to the question was, “ I do my devotions”, chances are the conversation stops there.

Second, Jay and I study very differently. We enjoy studying different topics and different authors, so we study separately. Do I think that is a problem? No. We can learn from each other’s studying and can talk about what we are learning and what the Lord is teaching us through our study. Do I think a couple should study together?  That is up to you as a couple. What works for us may not work for you and vice versa.

Third, I am always leery when we get asked this question because 99.9% of the time it is a wife asking because she does not feel her husband is doing enough “devotions” for his spiritual walk. As a husband and wife, we can only be responsible for ourselves and our own faith walk with the Lord. We are responsible for what we study, when and how we pray, and the opportunities we give the Holy Spirit to move and speak in our lives. We are not responsible for our spouse.

However if you are looking to do something with your spouse for your marriage on a daily basis? Check out our book: Celebrate Your Marriage: 365 Daily Readings for Couples

Staying Best Friends With Your Spouse

Think back to what it was that first attracted you to your spouse. You may have met participating in a sport, hobby, or class. You may have met on a blind date. Whatever the scenario, marriage resulted because you enjoyed being with each other. You liked each other and you became and remained friends. In order to celebrate your marriage, you have to “like.” Now I know that some of you reading this right now are saying, “Like? Friends? You’ve got to be kidding. We hardly even cross paths anymore with our jobs, our children, our hobbies, and our committee involvements. How are we supposed to be friends?” By having fun together! Most importantly, you must find commonalities; things in which you share an interest.

Think back to when you were first dating. What were the things you enjoyed doing together? Why not experience them again? I cannot think of a better illustration than the process of Laura developing an appreciation for golf, my hobby of passion, although, it didn’t start out so smooth. In Alma, Michigan, we have no less than 15 golf courses within a 30 minute drive. Folks in this locale spend their free time in the summer chasing the little white ball. Laura never had much time for golf. “Stupid game!” she would remark as I watched the Masters Tournament being televised at the beautiful Augusta National on Sunday afternoon. Laura is very social, so her passion was any sport that involved a team. Slowly but surely, she would find the time to play a round with me under the guise of a fun summertime “date.” There is no substitute for good timing, and it all came together when Laura’s friend Beth asked if she wanted to attend golf school. Three days away with her friends was incentive enough for Laura, plus it gave her the chance to hone her skills. Her love of the game was enough incentive for me to shell out the bucks, so off went my little weekend hacker and back came by dream girl! The love of my life now shares my most passionate hobby. Now instead of me begging for “golf dates,” I am given the day and tee time to enter into my schedule. Now instead of dreaming of a golf vacation, Laura has developed specifications for the accommodations which include a view of the greens. It is a tribute to her flexibility and willingness to learn that has given us golf as a common interest. Now she says all I have to do is learn to love to shop! ARRGH!

Declare Your Interdependence

Declare Your “Interdependence!”

Declare Your Interdependence defines interdependence  as, “The quality or condition of being interdependent, or mutually reliant on each other.” What a great word for marriage! The truth is, so called wedded bliss is never blissful without it! We believe every couple can enjoy the spiritual blessings of interdependence by clinging to Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

Blessing One: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 New International Version).

Laura and I say we have one brain between the two of us. It may not be true for everyone, but after 32 years of marriage, we find that we do our best work when we work together. We see things from different perspectives, and that allows us to see the entire picture when facing a challenge.

Blessing Two: When One Falls Down

See if you recognize this blessing of interdependence, “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10 NIV). One winter, I (Jay) contracted pneumonia. I slept all week so I could travel the next weekend for our Ultimate Date Night shows. Gratefully, Laura took care of everything around the house. She handled both her weekly duties and mine. There is no doubt in my mind that without her help, I would not have been able to keep my commitments each weekend.

Blessing Three: Keeping Warm

Here’s another blessing of interdependence, “Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:11 NIV). While this passage certainly applies to cold winter nights (and maybe not so much summer ones), we also think it suggests the importance of having someone alongside you through the “cold days” life can throw at us. A spouse can speak encouraging words during tough times. A spouse can remind another spouse of God’s faithfulness in the past. And sometimes just being there,“alongside,” is enough and no words are necessary.

Blessing Four: Three Strands

A final blessing of interdependence, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV). When we stand together, whether the issue relates to the kids or a life decision, we can stand strong. And when Christ is at the center of our relationship, it makes us even stronger. He is the third strand. Keeping Christ as the focal point of any marriage does not mean hardship will not come, but it does mean you and your spouse will have the strength to fight the battle together.

Let’s declare Interdependence in our marriages.