2020 might be the year everyone wants to escape from and/or forget for so many reasons. This means we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that many of us are looking for ways to escape the pain and fear. One of the escapes that has seen a dramatic increase in use during the coronavirus pandemic is porn. 

A variety of sources report a 16 to 30% increase in use in the U.S. since March. India reports a 95% increase. Pornhub, the world’s largest pornography website, reported an 18% increase in users after making its premium content free for 30 days. 

To give you some perspective, check out these porn usage statistics from 2018 tabulated by Webroot Cybersecurity:

  • Every second, 28,258 users are watching pornography.
  • $3,075.64 is spent on porn every second on the internet.
  • 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites.

Let those stats sink in for a second. Staggering to say the least.

Coronavirus and Porn

In a Psychology Today article, Dr. Justin Lehmiller explains that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting not just the amount and type of porn being produced. It’s also affecting how much porn people are consuming and what they’re searching for on major sites. According to Lehmiller, people are not just searching for porn, either. In one month’s time there were more than 9 million searches for coronavirus-related or pandemic porn, as in people wearing masks, surgical gloves and gowns engaging in sex.

He explains that porn searches are up, in part, because a lot of people are at home with more time on their hands than usual. But, he and other experts say there are other potential reasons for increased porn site visits. Some of those reasons include using sex as a coping mechanism for dealing with fear of disease and death, plus loneliness and the dramatic increase in experiencing anxiety, stress and negative emotions.

The Impact of Porn Addiction

So what about this “gift” that Pornhub has given to people, married, single or even teens, in the midst of COVID-19? The truth about porn is, most people don’t realize how pornography reaches out and grabs people. Research shows that when a person sees pornography, the brain releases endorphins that are 200 times more potent than morphine and more addictive than cocaine. They also give you an enormous false sense of well-being. Fight the New Drug likens it to eating junk food. It seems like it is really good and satisfies you in the moment. However, it actually leaves you wanting more and never feeling full.

Additionally, research consistently indicates that pornography use can hurt a couple’s relationship. This is especially true when one person is frequently viewing pornographic images online.

In an open letter discussing the dangers of porn, Drs. Julie and John Gottman argue that intimacy for couples is a source of connection and communication between two people. But when one person becomes accustomed to getting pleasure from porn, they are actually turning away from intimate interaction. Second, when watching pornography the user is in total control of the sexual experience, in contrast to normal sex in which people are sharing control. Thus a porn user may form the unrealistic expectation that sex will be under only one person’s control. Third, the porn user may expect that their partner will always be immediately ready for intercourse. Pornography can also lead to a decrease in relationship trust and a higher likelihood of affairs outside the relationship. 

Here are some red flags that may indicate your spouse is involved in this highly addictive activity.

  • Is their body language open and does he/she respond appropriately when you ask questions? Does your spouse look you in the eyes when he/she talks to you? One lie often leads to another. You may ask a simple question and get a very complicated answer or an answer that was different than the day before.
  • Does your spouse have appropriate boundaries? They seem to live in drama and chaos all the time. They may ask you to record yourself or take pictures of you getting out of the shower or at intimate moments. 
  • Does your spouse use lots of sexual humor and innuendos, even when the conversation has nothing to do with that subject?
  • Is your spouse preoccupied with sexual behaviors? Is he/she constantly wanting to push the boundaries and experiment sexually in ways that make you wonder where they got the idea from? 
  • Does he/she exhibit inappropriate anger? This anger appears to come from nowhere. For example, if you ask about household cash flow or what time they will be home, he/she explodes. 
  • Have they lost interest in you sexually? Or has their demand for sexual activity increased, although they seem to be “elsewhere” in the midst of sex? If so, sex at this point is not about intimacy. Instead, it’s about control and power and what he/she can get you to do. 
  • Do you seem to constantly have money problems? No matter how much money you have coming in, there just is never enough to cover the expenses.   

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and people being quarantined, many have commented on how they really didn’t realize how much they really needed in-person, face-to-face experiences for their emotional wellbeing. The research is clear: while a person may be using porn as a coping mechanism, the thirst for it is insatiable. And it still leaves them feeling empty, unfulfilled and needing more.  

Helpful Resources

If you or someone you love is struggling with porn addiction, the Fight the New Drug and The Addiction Center sites may help you determine best next steps.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

How long should a couple be engaged before getting married? Great question! There isn’t a “magic number” and it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. What matters is how well you both really know each other and if you are both ready—individually and relationally—for that big “forever” next step.

To help guide you through this thought process, let’s see what some experts have to say and what conclusions they’ve gathered from research. 

The average engagement length for U.S. couples was 15 months. The study represents feedback from more than 25,000 couples married in 2019. 

Different factors can play into having a longer or shorter engagement. It boils down to what is best for you two. It’s important to know the difference between having a reason for a long engagement or one of you not wanting to commit and pick a wedding date.

Reasons for having longer engagement:

  • Are you still in school?
  • Are you long-distance or living abroad?
  • Do you have commitments that are presently keeping you busy and you need time to plan?
  • Are you saving money for the wedding to pay for it upfront?
  • Most importantly, are you still getting to know each other?

John Van Epp, author and relationship expert, believes that within “three to six months you can begin to know someone, but like looking through a microscope at its lowest power, you can only see certain things in that amount of time.

Dating someone for an extended period allows you to see certain things that may not become evident right away. Having history together provides understanding into who each person really is. It allows you to see how each person handles different kinds of situations. So, you may not need a long engagement if you’ve already put in the relationship work to get to know each other well. The important thing is that you are ready for marriage.

A relationship needs time for things to normalize. Many people are very flexible in the infancy of a relationship, but as time goes by they become less flexible. By taking things slow and easy you give your relationship time to grow up and you get to see how the person will really treat you,” says relationship expert, Julie Baumgardner.

One study found that couples who dated for more than two years consistently scored higher on marital satisfaction than those who dated less than two years.

According to research by John Birtchnell and John Kennard, at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, “Couples which are better acquainted before marriage have significantly higher rates of marital quality.” Couples who are less acquainted experience greater problems when they face the inevitable difficulties of marriage.

Long engagements are helpful when individuals are at significantly different places in their lives,” says Scott Haltzman, author and relationship expert. So, if you or your partner are in the midst of some of those things listed above, it might be better to take some time on the front end to sort it out before the wedding. It also allows time for premarital education

Haltzman also says that a prolonged engagement gives couples an opportunity to engage in premarital education to learn skills to help them navigate the marriage journey. Premarital education is incredibly importantno matter how long youre engaged.

In addition, Scott Stanley, a marriage guru and research professor at the University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies, argues that one of the primary reasons premarital education has value is because it slows couples down and fosters greater deliberation. In Making a Case for Premarital Education, Stanley says the lack of time in a premarital relationship correlates with higher rates of divorce in the subsequent marriage.

However, there is a growing love for shorter engagements.

Remember, it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. Maybe you’ve dated a really long time and gone through premarital education. Perhaps you’ve seen each other respond to problems, differences, and stressors over time. If so, you might not need a long engagement. 

Being engaged feels separate from dating because of the mutual desire for commitment for the future. But there is some overlap in this limbo. You aren’t married yet and you’re more than a girlfriend/boyfriend. Nonetheless, you’re still dating and your goal is to continue getting to know each other so there aren’t any big surprises after you marry.

It boils down to figuring out what is best for you both based on where your relationship is right now. Have you laid a strong foundation? Are you rushing things? Are you listening to other people’s opinions versus making a decision that is right for the two of you? 

It’s a case by case basis, so don’t feel like you have to find a perfect equation. Figure out what works for you.

Consider these blogs for some additional resources:

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When everything else in the world is having to adapt because of a pandemic, why not throw romance into the mix! Thus “quarandating” is born.

Quarandating: Dating while in quarantine.

It’s an interesting concept I’m not sure anyone would have predicted-—though let’s be honest, 2020 has been an enigmatic year. Nonetheless, as you consider the involuntary long-distance relationship (even while living near each other), or finding yourself somewhere 6 ft in between, you should have an idea of what to think about and do.

Here are 5 Things to Know About Quarandating:

1. Take baby steps.

For your first date, start with the cameras off and just talk on the phone. Keep the conversation light and take the pressure off. Find out what you have in common, try and learn a little about their personality and see what your connection is like with just conversations.

Questions for 1st date:

  1. What do you love to do?
  2. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
  3. When was the last time you went out of state and where?
  4. What’s your favorite movie? (No questions asked.)

If the phone call went well, consider a video call for your next date over FaceTime or Zoom. You both enjoyed talking, so make it more interesting, change up the conversation topics and see if you have some chemistry.

Questions for 2nd date:

  • What does your ideal weekend look like?
  • If you could travel anywhere, where would you travel and what would you do while there?
  • Do you read spoilers? Explain why/why not.
  • Give each other a tour of your refrigerators (I’m positive there will be some follow-up questions that come naturally!)
  • What makes you laugh?
  • Who is the most important person/people in your life?

If you feel a little something between you and want to see where else it can go, consider FaceTiming a few more times or a socially-distant date.

Some questions to ask once you two feel more comfortable:

  • Someone who really knows me would know this…
  • When have you felt the most capable?
  • If there is an event that has really shaped your life, what was it and how?
  • What tells you that you’re valuable?
  • Where do you feel most at peace?

You have an opportunity to have some quality and fun conversations and learn about each other with some of the normal distractions and time-suckers out of the way. 

If you’re tired of all of the dating apps and swiping, but you’d really like to get out there still, you have options. There’s a dating website that was created during the pandemic called Quarandate. Essentially, it’s a safe blind date with a twist… 

Quarandate is an online dating service that pairs singles with a potential match, but there’s a twist. The two can then go on a date that’s live-streamed with a host who asks questions to see if you’re compatible. The virtual date can last up to 30 minutes and people watching at home get to chime in and rate the pair’s connection. According to the site, it’s a fun way to safely find a match during the coronavirus crisis.

Sounds pretty cool to me—it gives off virtual Bachelor/Bachelorette vibes.

2. Get creative while staying safe!

Dating doesn’t have to be boring while the world feels at a standstill with COVID-19 still being an issue.

Virtual Date Ideas:

  • Do a virtual show and tell (the funnier the story, the better). 
  • You can watch a movie together while apart with NetflixParty streaming.
  • Play games together on different apps like HouseParty, Jackbox games, etc.
  • Perhaps you two can keep each other company while you clean up around the house and just practice “being” together. 
  • Try a new recipe together. Pick out something you want to try, each of you pick up your own ingredients and FaceTime while cooking!

Social Distance Friendly Dates:

  • Take a hike together.
  • Have a potluck picnic—both of you bring your own meal and blanket.
  • Go to the zoo! This could bring up great stories from when you were a kid.
  • Go on a bike ride.
  • Get outside and exercise together

Find new hobbies, talk about what you want to do when the world opens back up and embrace the uniqueness of the time you have now while acknowledging it will be different in the future.

3. FaceTiming each other is a different experience than having real “face time” together.

The natural chemistry (or lack thereof) can sometimes be harder to read with only a screen to clue you in. However, during COVID-19 in particular, there’s a comfort with virtually dating. You have less to worry about, so less nerves. You have someone to talk to and the commitment feels less risky. (Not to mention you know you have other options truly at your fingertips.) 

Virtual dating in general has become much more common. You don’t have to worry about it being a taboo place to meet someone. In fact, 30% of US adults have used online dating; 12% found a “committed relationship from it” according to Pew Research.

However, there are things to be wary of, like people being dishonest. “Roughly 7 in 10 online daters believe it is very common for those who use these platforms to lie to try to appear more desirable.” Remember the potential for being “catfished.” The last thing you want to happen is find out the person you have been talking to isn’t who you think they are. “Talking on the phone and messaging back and forth only provides a one-dimensional perspective of your relationship. It is impossible to be in love with someone without seeing how they interact with others, how they handle anger and conflict, or how they treat you. You may be in love with who you think they are, but you have no proof that what you have heard or seen is real.” says relationship expert, Julie Baumgardner.

Know how much information is too much to share, remember that even though they seem nice, they’re a stranger you haven’t met and keeping your personal information personal for the first little bit will keep you safe. 

*Here’s a great blog on safety tips for online dating

4. Consider dating in person for a while before taking the next step.

You may have hit it off with someone and are considering taking it to the next step. With quarandating, the steps may look a little different. You may have been dating for the last 3-5 months, but what does your relationship look like under different circumstances? During this uncertain and definitely unprecedented time, it’s important to give your relationship space to materialize into its own thing without the stressful circumstances. 🔎 People act differently under stress and you need to see what they’re like without it.

A relationship needs time for things to normalize. Many people are very flexible in the infancy of a relationship, but as time goes by they become less flexible. By taking things slow and easy you give your relationship time to grow up and you get to see how the person will really treat you.” Baumgardner says.

John Van Epp, author and relationship expert, believes that within “three to six months you can begin to know someone, but like looking through a microscope at its lowest power, you can only see certain things in that amount of time.”

Dating someone for an extended period allows you to see certain things that may not become evident right away. Having history together gives understanding to who you really are because you have seen how each other handles different kinds of situations.

5. Decide what you want and DON’T settle.

There are challenges with dating online and even more so with this pandemic. It’s easy to feel anxious and lonely because of COVID and believe that you may as well take what you’ve got so you have someone. 

There will be a light at the end of this tunnel and being with someone who is good for you and makes you better is more valuable to your life than someone who is just there so you’re not alone. Figuring out if you’re in a heart-healthy relationship or if there are some red flags that are being avoided out of convenience will help prevent you from compromising what you want and need.

Times are difficult and you may have never wanted to online date, but with the limited options, you have the choice to make the most of this opportunity to spend a little more time getting to know someone before you are up close and personal. You get to decide what’s best for you and how to go about it. 

Now that you know what to think about, hope you meet someone special!

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I just want to do it right, I want to know what I’m supposed to do.” I kept saying this to myself while I was getting ready to be married. Plus, I wanted to prepare myself for anything that could come our way. I wanted a rock solid marriage with a foundation no earthquake could tear down. But when everyone started giving us advice, it was overwhelming.

My parents divorced and my amazing mom raised my sisters and me by herself. She taught me unconditional love with her selfless giving and consistent encouragement, but I wasn’t around a marriage relationship

Luckily, the tantalizing lie that I would mess up or something would go wrong was put to bed once Tyler, my husband, and I took inventory of the relationships we admire

His parents’ marriage was stronger than ever, a close family friend had been married for almost 50 years, a couple who were our small group leaders, and the list went on. Tyler and I were surrounded by people who loved us and would jump at the opportunity to support us.

☆ There are people in your life with good intentions who will give you lots of marriage advice before and right after you say “I do.” However, there are some people who might not necessarily be the right ones to speak into your marriage. Or it might be better to say that they may not be qualified to give you that kind of advice

How can you decipher what marriage advice is solid, who to listen to, and who’s a friend of your marriage?

Checklist:

  • Do you or your fiancé have a good relationship with the person giving advice?
  • Is this someone who you trust?
  • Did this person/couple know you and/or your fiancé before the engagement?
  • Is this a person who is where you want to be at in life?
  • Do you like how they handle conflict?
  • Have they already been through what you’re going through?
  • Are they supportive of your marriage?
  • Will the relationship with them continue in your marriage and not just before it?

There’s no better place to seek marriage advice than from someone who is in the place you want to be. Most people will give advice from the baggage they have had to carry and what they’ve already been through. There is wisdom in asking questions, and pure gold from listening to those who have done marriage well who know you well enough to be open and honest about their experience. Talk to couples who did not let trials cripple their relationship but used the challenge as an opportunity to grow from it. 

Ask them questions like…

  • What is the most challenging and most rewarding part of marriage?
  • What did you all do that has helped you get to the place you are now?
  • How do you solve problems that seem irreconcilable?
  • What would you have done differently with the experiences you have been through?
  • What grace do you wish you had given each other in the beginning of your marriage?

☆ There’s always room to grow-—more in love, closer together, and into stronger versions of yourself. Lean into the support system you have and keep the door open for conversations throughout your marriage.

In addition to talking with your trusted people, here are some resources…

☆ If you want to take it a step further, check out our free online premarital program!

P.S. There are a few other organizations we have found helpful, like The Gottman Institute, LoveThinks, and the work by Michele Weiner-Davis to name a few. Hope this helps. <3

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I value my friend who reminded me that summer doesn’t end just because we start talking about our children going back to school. In fact, we are just one month into summer! Summer means different things for different people. For some, summer is about being footloose and fancy free. For others, summer is composed of trips to see family and friends. To me, summer is a time when my husband and I can do fun things together while our children spend quality time with their grandparents. And that means summer date nights!

However, this year, summer looks totally different from any other. Covid-19 has impacted many of the normal rites of passage for summer. It’s critical that we don’t allow these unusual circumstances to take ALL the fun out of summer. But I’m not going to let it—especially for me and my husband!

Here are some fun dates that every couple must do before summer ends:

Date Nights On the Town:

  1. Dessert Date. (Go get ice cream or cheesecake… and feed each other!) Start off by off by sharing your favorite desserts during this summer date! It can be anything from ice cream, cakes, pies, cupcakes, candy or delicious juicy fresh fruit (peaches, grapes, cherries, etc.). Or take it up a notch—once you have your dessert, use a sight inhibitor (blindfold) and feed each other. You have to guess what you are eating.
  2. Outdoors Date. (Hike, walk in woods, paddleboard, kayak, fishing or tubing!) Whether you like the beach or mountains, a steady lake or flowing river, getting in the great outdoors will bring you closer to nature and to each other. 
  3. Recreate Your First Date. Remember your first date? Think about the ambiance and the food. Try to recreate it at home
  4. Town Tour Date! Learn more about your community and each other by taking part in a walking tour in your hometown or somewhere nearby. Or create your own tour. Are you sure you have explored your town and each other?

At-Home Date Nights with A Meal:

  1. Have A Picnic. (In your backyard or a local park!) It can be a meal out of your kitchen or purchased from a local gourmet shoppe. Grab what you like to eat and drink and put it in a basket. Get a blanket or old comforter, then head out to your backyard, to the beach or a national or state park near you. Find the perfect spot and have your meal together.
  2. Breakfast Date. (Or dinner for breakfast… or breakfast for dinner!) Get together and create the menu for your favorite breakfast meal and have it for dinner. Or your favorite dinner and have it for breakfast. Think about it—breakfast for dinner, after DARK…

At-Home Date Nights without A Meal:

  1. Twinkle Twinkle Date. (You’re not too old for this one..)  Awake that inner child and create a fort in your living room. You know the drill—place a blanket in the middle of the floor. Put chairs around the blanket. Use sheets or blankets to create the top covering. If you have some twinkle lights or a flashlight around, use that to light up your space. (You can play a fun questioning game like Never Have I Ever or 20 Questions to learn more about each other.)
  2. Virtual Summer Date. (Click on some romance! Virtual Date Night or DIY Date!) First Things First is an organization which focuses on helping people to have healthy relationships. They have hosted virtual dates where couples learned to dance Salsa and Merengue and learned to make crêpes together. Additionally, they provide guides for DIY date nights. Check them out at FirstThings.org or on Facebook
  3. Game Night. (You don’t have to ever be board…) It’s time to dust off your favorite board or card game. Agree beforehand what the winner gets…
  4. Home Concert Date! (You don’t have to go to an arena to rock out…) For this date night, create a playlist of your favorite artist or your musical memories on a music streaming platform. It can be in your living room or under the stars in your backyard. Dance the night away in the arms of your honey. (You could even watch a concert on television and pretend that you are in the front row.)

No matter what is going on in the world, couples need to spend quality time having fun with each other. Play and fun builds intimacy and adventure in your relationship. 

Now, go have some FUN!

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COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! Through this course, you will learn:

  • How to establish healthy communication habits
  • The secrets to creating a deep connection through communication
  • Skills to help you (and your spouse) be a better speaker and listener
  • How to celebrate and understand your different communication styles
  • And so much more!

Whether you are thinking about getting married or you have already jumped in with both feet, you may be wondering if it’s really possible to prevent divorce. Or, to put it another way, is it just wishful thinking to believe this is forever?

  • If you have lived through your parents’ divorce, you might be wondering if you have what it takes to prevent a divorce in your own marriage.
  • If you have ever heard the statistic that half of all first time marriages end in divorce, you might be questioning whether or not you will make it is just luck of the draw.
  • Perhaps you have read about or know couples who have been married for 50 years, and you might be asking, “What’s their secret?”

Regardless of your responses, I’m going to give you some good news, straight up. The answer (based on research) is YES! You really can prevent divorce, and the even better news is, it isn’t rocket science.

First, the reasons people cite for wanting to get a divorce:

The National Fatherhood Initiative conducted a national survey on Marriage in America and found that the most common reason couples gave for divorce was “lack of commitment” (73% said this was a major reason). Other significant reasons included too much arguing (56%), infidelity (55%), marrying too young (46%), unrealistic expectations (45%), lack of equality in the relationship (44%), lack of preparation for marriage (41%), and abuse (29%). (People often give more than one reason, so the percentages add up to more than 100%.) Other more recent surveys of adults have come up with similar findings.

Keys to Prevent Divorce

Clearly, there are some valid reasons people divorce. However, a huge percentage of couples are divorcing for reasons that are preventable with some intentional focus. So, if you are considering marriage or you’re already married and you want it to last forever, here are some things you can do to increase your chances of staying together:

1. Communicate!

Keep in mind that just because you love someone doesn’t mean you communicate well with each other. Be intentional about making time to talk with each other not just about intense things, but life in general. Pay attention to how you listen—or actually don’t listen. So often, people are more interested in what they have to say than what their partner has to say. As a result, they only halfway listen because they are preparing for what they want to say next. Practice being in the moment and really listening to your partner. This seems to come easier when you are dating than after you get married.

2. Pay attention to how you handle conflict.

Every great relationship has conflict, but it’s the way people engage each other in the midst of it that matters. If the win for either of you is to get the last word or to be right, your relationship loses. The goal with conflict is to actually increase intimacy in your relationship, not create disconnect between the two of you.

3. Commit.

This might be the super secret sauce for marriages. If you enter into marriage with the idea that if the going gets tough you can always leave, it will be hard to build a strong relationship over time because in the back of your mind you are always entertaining the notion of leaving. The thing about marriage is that it is challenging at times. It’s impossible to bring two people together and not experience some strenuous moments. However, healthy marriages aren’t challenging all the time and they take advantage of the challenges to bring them closer—as in, “Look what we just came through/survived together!” This makes you stronger as a team and also builds confidence that whatever the next challenge is, you can work together to get to the other side.

*To be clear, if you are experiencing abuse, addiction or affairs in your marriage, this is different and you need to seek professional help to determine your best next steps. These are unhealthy and potentially dangerous behaviors. You can be committed to your marriage and love your spouse and also know the relationship cannot continue along the same path with these unhealthy behaviors.

4. Be intentional about connecting.

When couples talk about lack of commitment, a lot of this centers around feeling disconnected. They are committed to the relationship, but slowly over time, children come along, careers get more intense, parents struggle with illness—all things that require your time, energy and emotional bandwidth. Before you know it, instead of feeling like a team, you feel distant from one another. When one or both people in a marriage start feeling disconnected, they consciously or unconsciously begin to look for connection elsewhere. And you know, the grass is always greener in the yard that gets attention. Take inventory of your activities. Every couple should have activities they do together and apart, but if you find you are doing more activities separately from your spouse, you may want to evaluate the impact it is having on your relationship connectedness.

5. Make time to play together.

Being playful together releases dopamine—the feel-good hormone. When you do things with your spouse that make you feel good, you create powerful positive memories and you associate those feelings with being with your spouse. The University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Family Studies research finds that the amount of fun couples have together is the strongest factor in understanding overall marital happiness.

6. Train your brain.

It is true that we teach our brains to think a certain way. If you start feeling negative toward your spouse and you avoid letting them know how you feel, you will probably start to notice the things they do that bother you even more often. Before long, you have built your case for why they are no longer the right person for you. On the other hand, if you look for the good in your spouse, it’s not that you never see their faults, you just don’t let them take up residence in your brain and impact how you see the one you love.

7. Look to the future.

Dream about things you want to do or accomplish together. Write them down and revisit them annually to see if there are things you want to add or delete. This gives you a future focus together. It also provides a focal point for when you face challenging times and need something to keep you motivated and forward-facing in your marriage. It’s kind of a reminder that in the midst of hard, it’s not always going to be like this. Kids get potty trained and sleep through the night. Teens eventually become adults. Illnesses go away or you learn how to manage them.

No marriage is 100% risk-free of divorce. However, there are definitely protective measures you can put in place to significantly decrease your risk for divorce, both before and after marriage. Guard against putting your marriage on auto-pilot. Be intentional about the choices you make on a daily basis. Avoid comparing your marriage to someone else’s, as you never know what’s going on behind closed doors. Think of your marriage as a never ending adventure. It’s going to have some insanely crazy times you don’t wish to repeat and some wildly exhilarating moments that you won’t want to end. But consider this—if you quit in the middle of a perfectly good marriage, you will have no idea what you missed out on.

Other blogs you might find helpful:

7 Ways to Reduce Your Risk for Divorce

Couples Who Play Together

10 Things Every Married Couple Needs to Know About Sex

Help! My Spouse Hates to Talk About Boundaries!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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While you’re engaged, conversations tend to hover endlessly around the wedding day, and naturally so. Though working out the details and planning your celebration is exciting, having conversations about other topics is important, too. 

You and your fiancé are stepping into something beautiful—a promise of commitment, a proclamation of loving each other now and falling in love over and over again, a 24/7 best friend, and a person who wants to love you at your best and through the worst. You owe it to each other to take the time to appreciate what you have and to continue the pursuit.

One way to pursue each other is to sit down and have important conversations. Continue to learn about each other, find a middle ground for things you may not have the same opinion on, and keep the door open to come back to these conversations down the road. As time goes by, things can change, and so can you. 

5 Conversations Every Engaged Couple Should Have Before They Say, “I Do”

1. Talk about the importance of marriage, what it means to you both and what you hope for it to look like.

Being on the same page about why marriage is important to you helps you both take ownership of your relationship and establishes its value. When you take the time to lay out your hopes and expectations, you invite your spouse into the opportunity to make those happen. If you don’t voice what you expect from your future spouse, you’ll set them up for failure and yourself up for disappointment.

2. Do you want children?

If one of you does and the other doesn’t, this could be quite an obstacle to get over. It is important not to assume the other’s answer in this particular conversation because it intimately affects what the future looks like. Talking about this as an engaged couple is a really big deal.

3. How do you handle conflict and what rules do you want to establish on how to fight when you do?

Conflict is inescapable for any relationship, says Psychologist Dan Wile, but some of the best news is that conflict handled well actually brings you closer instead of pulling you apart. You have to find what works best for you both. For my husband and I, we have two ground rules: 1. No yelling and 2. No cussing at each other. This works for us! If we feel like we are going to start yelling, we call timeout and revisit the conversation after we have had time to process.

With more than 40 years of love and relationship research under their belt, The Gottman Institute says that whether love will last is more about how couples address their differences and support one another’s needs and dreams. Here are some steps they suggest to handle conflict better.

4. Talk through your finances. 

What are your financial goals? Have you talked about a budget and about savings? This topic can take a turn for the worst pretty quickly if you don’t find a middle ground. Here’s some guidance on automating money in your marriage and saving thousands by The Gottman Institute.

5. Intimacy in your relationship.

It’s an often underrated conversation. Being intimate isn’t limited to being physical, though that is an important part. In fact, there’s emotional and spiritual intimacy, too. Each of these plays into each other and helps create a deeper bond with your partner because you are learning about them in a way that others may never experience. Spending quality time together is a great way to increase intimacy. Talk about what your dreams are, your spirituality, your feelings and what’s on your heart as well.

Get personal with your sweetheart. Start out your marriage with the muscle memory of talking through tough conversations, how you want to love each other and what’s important to you. The more you communicate, the richer the potential for a lovely life together. Now who’s ready to say I do?

Check out some other great blogs for engaged couples:

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Fighting with your fiancé all the time, aka, the person you are planning on spending forever with, can feel just exhausting. The uncertainty from COVID-19, the potential for rescheduling your wedding, fear of job loss, or navigating unemployment while trying to secure a future together, spending what may feel like too much time together, and so many unknowns right now can definitely stir the dust in the air. Just when you think the dust is going to settle, one of you kicks it back up again! 

I have seen far too many people fall into the trap of marrying a person thinking that they knew them, but in reality, they only knew about them,” says Dr. John Van Epp, relationship expert, and author. 

So, for starters, if you find yourself in constant conflict with your fiancé, what exactly are you fighting about?  

  • Finances around the wedding?
  • When you will actually get married?  
  • What the celebration will look like in the midst of “RONA?”
  • One of you is messy and the other is a neat freak?
  • Your mother?
  • Quarantining during the Pandemic?
  • The dishes in the sink overnight?
  • Money in general?

Fighting about things that matter is one thing, but if you find yourself fighting with your fiancé about Every. Little. Thing, that’s a whole new ballgame. It might be a good time to take inventory of your relationship and see if it’s unhealthy. 

An important thing to consider—if you are fighting about everyday things that you will for sure continue to encounter, and you are thinking that once you marry things will simmer down and those issues won’t be such a big deal or you will be able to “work on your spouse” to get them to change… Do not be fooled. If you see things that you need to work on individually or as a couple, the chances of change happening before the wedding are far greater than after the ring is on your finger

The hopeful news is that conflict is inescapable for any relationship, AND some of the best news is that conflict handled well actually brings you closer instead of pulling you apart. 

You for sure are not alone in this. Psychologist Dan Wile says it best in his book After the Honeymoon: “When choosing a long-term partner, you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unresolvable problems.” It’s true.  Every couple has around 10 things they will not necessarily agree on for the duration of their marriage. Despite this, relationship expert Dr. Gottman, who has studied couples for the last 40 years, has found that about ⅓ of conflicts can be resolved with the right approach. Even for those things that you might disagree on for forever, Gottman found that how you approach each other is the key.

Dr. Gottman’s Approach:

  • Step 1: Soften Your Start-Up. Are you beginning the conversation where you left off in your head? When your fiancé gets to your apartment you say, “Why should I ever be ready on time? You’re always late.” They respond with, “I got stuck behind an accident. I’m working on my timing.” Then maybe you go on to say, “It’ll be something else next time.” Soft Start-Ups don’t include the Four Horsemen (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling). Instead, you and your partner start the conversation gently and with intentions of understanding each other and coming to a resolution.
  • Step 2: Learn to Send and Receive Repair Attempts. Think of a repair attempt as slamming on the brakes when you see a red light. You do this to avoid a collision that could harm your marriage,” says Kyle Benson from the Gottman Institute. In the example above, acknowledging that your fiancé is working on their time management could have de-escalated the situation. Practicing sending and receiving repair attempts can help improve the quality of your relationship.
  • Step 3: Soothe Yourself and Each Other. If you know you’re too upset to have a conversation at the moment, take a 20-30 minute break and try and “focus on the positives of your relationship by yourself.” When you’re “Flooded, ” as Dr. John Gottman refers to it, your brain is flooded with stress hormones and chemicals that make it nearly impossible for your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for complex problem-solving, to function. As a result, you can’t physiologically function as you normally would. You can’t communicate as you normally should. Acknowledge what makes you feel flooded, talk about the best way and time to bring up issues to each other, how your partner can soothe you and what signals you can give each other to clue the other into how you’re feeling.
  • Step 4: Compromise. When you negotiate, you accept each other’s imperfections while recognizing your relationship is more important than the argument and being right.
  • Step 5: Address Emotional Injuries. Sometimes how you fight is what hurts more than what you were fighting about. Be open to talking it out and processing what you two went through. Accept responsibility and learn from your fights.

Fighting with your fiancé doesn’t have to be all bad—it can be an area for growth and an opportunity to understand each other’s differences better. A great way to fight for your relationship is by preparing for marriage. Consider premarital education or counseling to set yourselves up with the tools you need to thrive in your relationship.

Some other blogs you might find helpful!

10 RULES TO “FIGHT NICE” WITH YOUR SPOUSE

TOP 10 POTENTIAL MARRIAGE PITFALLS

10 GREAT DATES BEFORE YOU SAY “I DO”

10 RED FLAGS IN A DATING RELATIONSHIP

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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I just want to feel our love—the love we are spending time, energy, and money on celebrating. I miss the lack of urgency in answering questions and exchanging our ideas to spark conversations instead of polite compromises. When I was in the midst of planning my wedding I didn’t prioritize quality time with my fiancé. When we saw each other it was business. We sat in the tension of wanting romance but not knowing how to be both productive and passionate about each other. Learn from my mistake and get you and yours on a date! 

The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia did a study on how date nights affect couples. According to the study The Date Night Opportunity by W. Bradford Wilcox and Jeffrey Dew (University of Virginia, 2012):

In these data sets, husbands’ and wives’ reports of couple time were associated with higher relationship quality. For example, Figure 1 shows that husbands and wives who engaged in couple time with their mates at least once a week were approximately 3.5 times more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriages, compared to those who enjoyed less quality time with their spouse.

You are preparing for marriage as you prepare for your wedding. You will be someone’s husband or wife. Take what you see from the research and practice this habit so that it becomes muscle memory for your marriage! Don’t let the quantity of time you’re spending together blur with the meaning of quality time with your fiancé. 

How to Spend Quality Time with Your Fiancé While Planning a Wedding:

  1. Go over both of your schedules together. If you are making time to plan, to grocery shop, or to hang out with friends then you can surely make time to be intentional with your future spouse! Re-allocate your time and try to spend time together at least once a week. P.S. Try your best to refrain from talking about the wedding during this time—unless it’s about how excited you are!
  1. Be intentional with your time. Now that you have carved out some precious time together, don’t waste it! Put up the screens and put in the effort. Talk about how you two can love each other well. If you don’t know what your love language is, take the test and find out. Enjoy falling in love with each other over and over again (as well as learning to love each other better and better.)
  1. Cultivate intimacy. To have intimacy you have to spend quality time together. Communicating your desires, thoughts, feelings, and needs effectively and often are a sure-fire way to keep your connection with each other close. In this same vein, pursue each other. There’s nothing like the feeling of being worth someone’s time and effort. When you pursue your spouse-to-be, you are communicating to them they are valuable and deserving of your love. And for goodness’ sake—kiss! “A daily 6-second kiss will increase your emotional and physical intimacy.” According to author Dr. Kory Floyd, physical contact releases oxytocin (the bonding or trust hormone), can improve your mood (for days at a time), and can help you stay calm. To top it off, something as simple as holding hands, hugging, getting close, and yes, making out, can lessen your stress hormones (cortisol) and enrich your sense of relationship satisfaction.

You have your life together ahead of you. Let’s start it out with some healthy habits and making sure your relationship is the priority.

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to get the most quality out of your time set aside for each other, here is a link to date nights that perfectly mix together fun, romance, and facilitate natural connection… Pro-Tip: They’re free! (Which I know is a plus since weddings aren’t always cheap.)

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It’s nothing new to disagree with the ones you love, whether it’s about COVID-19, quarantine, religion, guns, racism, politics, football or something else. In fact, chances are pretty good that you completely disagree on certain topics with someone you care deeply about. The disagreements may be so intense you wonder how you can actually co-exist. 

The level of intensity might feel more so at this moment in time in our culture. In fact, many people can hardly believe that the people they love have such different perspectives from their own. The ongoing stress from trying to navigate these issues can take a massive toll on our relationships. FOR REAL.

What do you do when you strongly disagree with the ones you love?

Although you might be tempted to confront them and tell them they are just plain wrong, you might want to reconsider. That plan probably won’t go very well for you because it’s likely your loved one will feel attacked. Nobody wants to feel attacked, right?

Instead, start by asking yourself a few questions.

What is the goal of my conversation with this person?

Do I just want to share information?

Am I trying to understand their perspective?

Do I feel the need to convince them they are wrong?

Am I trying to prove that I have a valid point?

Do I have to WIN?

Taking the time to think about your ultimate goal can help you prepare to constructively engage with them.

It may help to remember that no matter how hard you try, you cannot change someone else or make them see something the very same way that you do. Yelling at them, belittling them, coming across as condescending, stomping out of the room or being sarcastic will only fuel the fire. And it will take you further away from your intended goal.

Plenty of married couples, extended family,, siblings and roommates have vehemently disagreed about things, yet their love and respect for each other was never in question. How you have the discussion matters.

Here are some tips you can use to make your conversations productive:

  1. Look for things you do agree on. It is likely that you agree on far more than you disagree about. 
  2. Kindness and respect goes a long way when trying to discuss difficult topics. Be aware of your tone of voice and body language.
  3. Avoid imagining how you think the conversation will go or how it has gone in the past. Playing negative scenarios in your head will actually increase your stress. It could also steer the conversation downhill straight out of the gates.
  4. Be prepared to genuinely listen to their perspective—even if you already believe you don’t agree with them and can’t fathom how they could believe what they believe. When people feel heard, you are more likely to keep the conversation going and avoid damaging your relationship. **PRO-TIP: Paraphrase what you hear and avoid using the word, “but.” Using “but” negates everything that the other person just said. Try using “and” instead.**
  5. If it feels like the conversation is becoming heated, remember that getting louder will escalate the situation for sure. Plus, it actually makes it harder to hear what is being said. If you are struggling to think clearly or keep your cool, take a break. Say you need to go to the bathroom or you need to get a drink of water—anything to take a break in the action and allow yourselves time to breathe. Pausing is powerful.
  6. Avoid using “You always, you never,” and “You should.” Instead, focus on yourself and share your perspective while using “I” statements (I feel, I believe, I want, I need, etc.).

These are particularly stressful times, and when you disagree with the ones you love, IT’S HARD.

This means that many of us are experiencing extended periods of heightened anxiety and are constantly in a fight or flight mode—which is totally not normal. Fuses are shorter and we are probably more easily irritated. And, we may react more quickly, especially if we’ve been thinking or dwelling on the topic at hand. Acknowledge this and think through the fact that how we handle difficult conversations can impact the quality of our relationships. 

It’s vital to remember that this is a process. If over time the conversation seems to go nowhere, you may need to set boundaries around this topic in an effort to keep from destroying the relationship. Keep in mind that if you choose to walk away from the relationship, you will no longer have the opportunity to present a different perspective.

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