Married_articles

Articles for Married Couples

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    Thoughts on Dealing With Grief and Loss

    Dan Summerlin loved sports and had started a softball team at his church, First Christian Church. While he was playing on the FCC team, his arm broke while he was throwing the ball from shortstop to home. Little did Dan and his wife Scottie know that his arm breaking would lead to the discovery that Dan had cancer. 

    From his diagnosis in May of 2016 until the day he left this earth on July 30, 2017, Dan Summerlin lived life largely. In spite of treatments and all that goes along with that, Dan did like he always had done: he lived. And when he was no longer with us, we grieved.

    On the one-year anniversary of Dan’s death, Scottie shared some thoughts that are worth passing on about grief and what she has learned in the past 365 days.

    “First, in my opinion, this can be a messy age in life,” says Scottie. “Many people are dealing with marriage troubles, parents passing, children leaving the nest, health problems, career crises, financial strife; you name it. All of these things cause grief and it’s not a competition. There’s no prize for the most pain. Starting over at any age is hard. And scary. Change is challenging.”

    Immersed in grief work through reading, counseling and talking with others facing major life changes, Scottie has put every type-A bone in her body to work in order to move forward. It’s her only choice. She is acutely aware that Dan is never coming home again.

    “What’s helped me most is trying to be understanding of others,” Scottie shares. “When someone cuts you off in traffic or can’t remember your name in the grocery store, or isn’t friendly to you, they might be grieving a loss of some kind. You don’t know what they’re dealing with. Grief is overwhelming. You’re very distracted. It takes months for your brain to get back to normal.”

    Somehow it nevers seems like the right time to have the hard conversations.

    “Have you talked with your spouse about what you would want if something ever happens to you?” Summerlin asks. “Spend some time doing it. People who lose their spouses tend to really struggle if they never talked about their wishes.

    “Do you have a will? Do you have a plan for your children? When something happens to a loved one, the people left behind are in no condition to make hard decisions. You can never have enough health, disability and life insurance. No one ever thinks something is going to happen to them. But if it does, it’s often too late to change policies. Money in no way buys happiness. But not having to worry about how you’re going to pay next month’s bills is a huge stress reliever.”

    Summerlin reminds us that people in pain are emotionally reactive. 

    “They can’t help it, so please be forgiving of them and decisions they make that you may not agree with,” Summerlin says. “Until you’ve walked in their shoes, you truly don’t understand their struggle.”

    If you have people in your life struggling with the loss of a loved one, give them your permission to move on so when that person is ready, he or she can give themselves permission to move on. The timing and what moving on looks like is different for everyone.

    Staying stuck in grief with the pain of the past is no way to live. Everyone deserves to look forward to the future with the ability to find some joy, peace and comfort each day.

    “Today I am thankful for Dan Summerlin for so many reasons,” Scottie says. “He was a wonderful man, husband and father. Was he perfect? No. Did we have the perfect marriage? No. We had real 15-year marriage struggles just like everyone else. But what I can say is we both always wanted what was best for each other. Now we were both strong-willed, so we could for sure disagree on what was ‘best,’ but I always knew no matter what, we loved each other and we would work it out.

    “The one advantage of anticipated death is the ability to plan. Dan and I were able to have all the conversations needed and he certainly set us up for success in his passing. He left the boys and me with a strong foundation of love and support. We could not be more grateful for our friends, family, school, church and community. They have helped us each day: before and after the cancer.

    “There was very little I didn’t know about Dan. I’m thankful for that. I have no regrets with him. He swept me off my feet from the first night I met him and I loved and adored him, as I held his hand as he took his last breath. I’m looking outside this morning, remembering what the sun looked like coming through the windows at the moment he passed. Honestly, yesterday felt more like the one-year anniversary to me since last year, July 30th was on a Sunday.”

    Summerlin shared that after Dan passed, she found the sweetest, yet most heartbreaking note that she thinks he meant to give to her before he died. He wrote it in the last few weeks when his faculties were leaving him. She wanted him to write letters to the boys, but he wrote one to her instead. 

    “Because he knew the best way for the boys to be happy was for me to be happy,” Scottie says. “And he gave me his blessing one last time, in writing, for me to move forward and find joy. And that’s what I try to do each day. Happiness is 100 percent a choice. No one or nothing can make us fulfilled. We have to choose it for ourselves.”

    After Dan's passing, Scottie started a support group for Widowed Moms Raising Children. The group, called Turning the Pages Together, is open to all women in the active stages of parenting, from birth through college and beyond. They meet twice a month, once during the day and once at night, at First Christian Church in downtown Chattanooga on McCallie Avenue.  For more information, contact Scottie Summerlin at [email protected], the organizer, Lisa Hale Gilvin, at [email protected] or go to http://firstchristian-chat.com/what-we-do/.

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    The Impact of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing on You

    For many years social scientists have been warning society about the cost of family fragmentation. There have been ongoing discussions concerning the impact on children and adults emotionally, educationally, economically, physically and in other areas of life. A 2008 report reveals the economic cost of family fragmentation to taxpayers.

    According to The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing, by the Institute for American Values, The Georgia Family Council, The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and Families Northwest, divorce and unwed childbearing conservatively cost taxpayers $122 billion annually. The costs are due to:

    • Increased taxpayer expenditures for anti-poverty,
    • Criminal justice and education programs, and
    • Lower levels of tax revenue from those negatively affected by family fragmentation and increased childhood poverty.

    “In 1970 the number of children residing in two-parent families was 85 percent,” said Dr. Ben Scafidi, principal investigator for the report. “In 2005, only 68.3 percent of children reside in two-parent families. This is a dramatic decrease over a short amount of time. Clearly we are seeing the impact.”

    Long-standing research shows the potential risks to children from broken homes include:

    • Poverty,
    • Mental illness,
    • Physical illness,
    • Infant mortality,
    • Lower educational attainment,
    • Juvenile delinquency,
    • Conduct disorders,
    • Adult criminality, and
    • Early unwed parenthood.

    “This report isn’t just about the money; we are talking about real people and real suffering,” said Randy Hicks, president of the Georgia Family Council. “The economic and human costs make family fragmentation a legitimate public concern for all of us. Historically, Americans have resisted the impulse to surrender to negative and hurtful trends. We fight problems like racism, poverty and domestic violence because we understand the stakes are high. And while we’ll never eliminate divorce and unwed childbearing entirely, we can certainly be doing more to help marriages and families succeed.”

    The 2008 report sponsors say this is not a slam toward divorced people or single parents. It is purely providing information that we have never had before, and it could be an opportunity for communities to take grassroots prevention efforts to the next level.

    So what can YOU do?

    • If you have a teen, encourage them to participate in healthy relationship skills class.
    • If you're engaged, participate in skill-building classes that teach you how to have a healthy, long-lasting marriage.
    • If you're in a healthy, long-lasting marriage, encourage newlyweds and offer wisdom along their journey.
    • If you belong to a religious organization, look for ways to engage couples and families in ongoing programming that seeks to meet them where they are and give them skills, hope, words of encouragement and a network from which to draw strength in tough times.
    • If you're in a business setting, make sure your employees know about community resources and encourage them to take advantage what is available.
    • If your marriage is in trouble or distress, seek help.

    It has been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The report states that a 1 percent reduction in rates of family fragmentation would save taxpayers $1.1 billion annually. This doesn’t even take into account the heartache and emotional upheaval that could potentially be prevented if this report is seen as a call to action to the people of our country.

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    Education, Marriage and Child Wellbeing

    Over the years, there has been a shift in the sequence of marriage and parenthood. Remember the rhyme? 

    "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage...”

    Not so - at least anymore. In fact, 57 percent of mothers between the age of 26 and 31 are unmarried when their child is born.

    While you may think this is the “new normal,” it isn’t the norm for everyone.

    A study by Andrew Cherlin at Johns Hopkins University shows that a college education has become more than a pathway to higher paying jobs. A college education is now a definitive factor in childbearing. Of mothers without a high school diploma, 63 percent of births occur outside of marriage. Among college-educated young women, 71 percent of births occur within marriage.

    How does this trend affect children?

    Research shows that this set of circumstances creates two distinct paths for children where marriage and education are the deciding factors. When children grow up in a home with their two married parents, they are more likely to experience a stable environment with access to an array of resources and educational opportunities.

    In a non-married home, children are less likely to grow up with stability or opportunity to access the same type of resources.

    Children from single-parent homes are five times more likely to experience poverty. But, children who grow up with their married parents in low-income homes are at far less risk of being poor.

    Children need stability.

    But in an interview with the news site, Vox, Cherlin shared his concern about the stability of family lives for children. Cohabiting unions typically break up at higher rates than marriages. About half of all cohabiting couples will either marry or break up within two years. Those who break up will likely create more cohabiting unions - and creating more instability.

    If you believe that people with a high school diploma or less are not as likely to want marriage, think again. Katheryn Edin’s research (Promises I Can Keep) with 150 low-income women clearly indicates that these women want marriage, but they have to wait to find the right person to marry. However, getting pregnant is something they can do right away.

    Most teens (74%) see marriage and children in their future - in that order. This is according to a June 2014 National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancies report.

    Clearly, there is a disconnect concerning the significance of marriage and its impact on child well-being. Our society often emphasizes the importance of higher education for young people. It usually fails to address, however, the sequencing for success and the significance of marriage.

    There are profoundly different outcomes for children when people attain higher education, work full time, marry and then start families. Their chances of living in poverty drop from 12 percent to 2 percent. Also, the chances of joining the middle class move from 56 percent to 74 percent. Imagine how future generations would be impacted if more people realized the benefits of following this “success sequence.”

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    How Family Structure Benefits Women, Men and Kids

    Dads don’t matter. Seriously, dads don’t make a difference - unless it matters that children are physically and emotionally healthy and achieve educational success. If those things matter for your children, then fathers DO make a difference.

    Dr. Alma Golden, pediatrician and former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on the Family, has a lot to say about marriage and children.

    “As Baby Boomers we were told these things:

    • Marriage is old-fashioned and confining;

    • Open relationships are healthier and more conducive to personal development;

    • Fathers are nice but not necessary;

    • It is better to live with a divorced mother than two unhappy parents;

    • The kids will be okay, they are flexible; and

    • Financial disparities are the reason for the differences in health and educational achievement.

    “What we believed changed our world and started driving personal decisions. People started getting married later. Women are having fewer children and having them later. Single mothers are giving birth to more children. Fewer children are living with their married biological parents,” says Golden.

    So how do these changes affect children?

    A study of 294,000 families released in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control indicates family structure makes a huge difference for children.

    The CDC study indicates that when children grow up with their two married biological parents, they have a lower rate of delayed medical care. They're also less likely to have ADHD regardless of income, education, poverty status, place of residence or region.

    Additionally, an earlier study found that in sixth through 12th graders, the strongest predictor of getting a diploma and going to college is having a father who attends PTA meetings.

    “When dads show a clear commitment to their children, encouraging them in their educational endeavors, children do better,” Golden says. “The research also indicated that a married daddy at home doubles the chances that a child learns self-management.

    "Conversely, non-nuclear families seem to struggle with a lot of issues. For example, cohabitating fathers have less than half the income of married fathers. They tend to bring less commitment to the family as a general rule. The implications for the children are they have fewer resources available to them. Additionally, seven in 10 children of cohabiting couples will experience parental separation.”

    Findings from the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force in 2003 showed that:

    • Married men and women are physically and emotionally healthier. They are less likely to participate in risky behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse.

    • Married men and women live longer.

    • People behave differently when they are married. They live healthier lifestyles and monitor each other’s health. And, the increased social support also increases the family's chances of success.

    “If we look back at the baby boomer list, what we now know is that marriage is actually beneficial for men, women and children,” Golden says. “Cohabitation is often of low-trust, stressful and more prone to violence and dissolution. Fathers are a necessity. Good enough marriages produce better outcomes than divorce. The kids are NOT flexible and may not be okay and family structure and stability are more important predictors of outcomes than finances.”

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    The Power of Words

    Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

    You probably recognize this childhood rhyme, but is it true?

    Social media posts, letters to the editor and rants to American newspapers increasingly spew angry and hateful words. In the spirit of supposedly expressing opinions and being helpful, writers name-call, judge from afar and are just plain mean. The words are cringeworthy, yet the writer somehow believes they are acceptable. Are we crossing a line?

    The words we use can either build others up or tear them down. Is our society so angry and insecure that we need to tear others down to feel good about ourselves? Can we discuss an issue without verbally attacking someone?

    In 2014, pop artist Taylor Swift took things to a whole new level. Responding to the hateful things people say about her, she wrote Shake it Off - and it skyrocketed to the top of the charts.

    In an interview, Swift told Rolling Stone magazine the meaning behind the song.

    "I've had every part of my life dissected — my choices, my actions, my words, my body, my style, my music. When you live your life under that kind of scrutiny, you can either let it break you, or you can get really good at dodging punches. And when one lands, you know how to deal with it. And I guess the way that I deal with it is to shake it off."

    Shake it Off has become an anthem for millions striving to shake off haters, players and fakers in their lives.

    There's another childhood saying, too: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.” Either we have forgotten the saying’s wisdom or a whole generation apparently never learned it.

    In Let it be Christmas, Alan Jackson sings:

    “Let anger and fear and hate disappear. Let there be love that lasts through the year.”  

    We all have hearts and minds. Some hearts harden over time and are a little rough around the edges, while other hearts are broken and in despair.

    So, what would happen if we remember that the words we speak and write have power? Communication has power to incite anger, discourage and create distrust among people. It can also encourage, give hope, affirm and bring out the best in people.

    Our words matter. If we intentionally give life through our words and actions, can it make a difference?

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    Caring for the Caregiver

    As part of her job, Amy Boulware walks alongside caregivers. So when she found herself caregiving for her grandmother and mother, she thought she had the tools she needed.

    “I did not expect to be caregiving for two,” says Boulware. “My grandmother moved closer so we could take care of her. Shortly after she moved, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I quickly realized caregiving is very different when it is your own family.”

    At one point, Boulware found herself running between hospital rooms trying to care for her mom and grandmother. On top of her caregiving responsibilities, she continued working and taking care her own family.

    “I was definitely burning the candle at both ends trying to keep up,” Boulware says. “One night, I came home late. As I walked through the door, my youngest daughter yelled from the bathroom, ‘Mom, can you get me some toilet paper?’ I went to where we usually keep toilet paper, but there was none. I searched the other bathrooms.  There was no toilet paper in the house. I had a complete meltdown over no toilet paper. As I’m lying on the bed sobbing, my oldest daughter comes in the room with a very large package of toilet paper.

    “She says to me, ‘Mom, Daddy and I talked on the way to the store and we are pretty sure this really isn’t about toilet paper, but here is toilet paper and a pint of chocolate ice cream because we thought you needed it.’”

    Surprisingly, the "toilet paper incident" made Boulware realize she was exhausting herself.

    “Carrying the load by myself was not the answer,” Boulware says. “I called my uncle and asked him to take over the finances. I called my sister and asked her to come home more often. We hired caregivers to help with my grandmother and we did some other creative things that made a huge difference.”

    Since she has walked this road, Boulware offers words of wisdom for caregivers:

    • Ask for help. Recognize other people's strengths and ask them to help you in those areas. Help can come from many places, including family, the faith community, friends and paid caregivers.
    • Time off is a must. Thursday night became date night for the Boulwares, and nothing interfered with it. Caregivers, family, friends and co-workers all knew that evening was sacred, so they helped them to have much-needed time away. The Boulwares turned their phones off and decided not to discuss caregiving at all.
    • Routine changes can help. Boulware’s grandmother lived close to her daughters’ school so the girls went to her home in the afternoon. The family ate dinner there one night a week. Making this change eliminated a lot of stress. Plus, they made memories with their grandmother that are forever etched in their minds.
    • Be a supportive spouse. Never once did Boulware’s husband tell her it was too much. In fact, she describes him as supportive and as a great gift as he walked alongside her. It brought them closer together as a couple.

    Being a caregiver is innately stressful, so properly caring for yourself is a vital part of the process. If you are running on empty, it is difficult to effectively care for others, but asking for help is not a sign of weakness. A helping hand or two can make all the difference.

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    For Richer, For Poorer

    Does marriage matter? People have been asking this question for decades.

    For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America examined how family structure impacts the economic fortunes of American families. Dr. Brad Wilcox, senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and Robert Lerman, professor of economics at American University, conducted the research.

    They concluded that marriage is key to productive adulthood, stable families and healthy communities.

    Five significant findings emerged from this study about the relationships between family patterns and economic well-being in America:

    • The retreat from marriage is key to the changing economic fortunes of American family life. The median income of families with children would be approximately 44% higher if the United States enjoyed 1980-levels of married parenthood today.

    • Strong associations exist between growing up with both parents in an intact family and higher levels of education, work and income. Young men and women from intact families enjoy an annual “intact family premium.” The premium amounts to $6,500 and $4,700, respectively, over the incomes of their peers from single-parent families.

    • Men obtain a substantial “marriage premium” and women bear no marriage penalty to their individual incomes. Plus, both men and women enjoy substantially higher family incomes compared to peers with otherwise similar characteristics.

    • Growing up with both parents increases the odds of attaining higher education. Higher education leads to higher odds of marriage as an adult. Both the extra education and marriage result in higher income levels. Men and women from intact families who are currently married enjoy an annual “family premium” in their household income. The premium exceeds that of their single peers from in non-intact families by at least $42,000.

    • All populations benefit from growing up in an intact family and being married. It applies about as much to blacks, Hispanics and whites. The advantages also apply to less-educated men and women. Men with a high-school diploma or less enjoy a marriage premium of at least $17,000 compared to single peers.

    Strong and stable families are economically vital. Consequently, Wilcox and Lerman contend that business and civic leaders and policymakers should strengthen and stabilize marriage and family life in the U.S. And since the poor and working class feel the impact of the nation's retreat from marriage most, Lerman and Wilcox believe the efforts should be focused on them.

    The authors also recommend:

    • Public policy should “do no harm” when it comes to marriage. Policymakers should eliminate or reduce marriage penalties.

    • Civic institutions, private and public partners, businesses, state governments and public schools should launch a national "success sequence" campaign together. This would encourage young adults to sequence schooling, work, marriage and then parenthood. It would also stress the benefits of being born to married parents with a secure economic foundation.

    Lerman and Wilcox contend that the nation's retreat from marriage is worrisome. It not only affects family inequality, but men’s declining labor-force participation and the vitality of the American dream.

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    Family and Finances

    Everywhere you turn these days it seems everybody is talking about the economy and its impact. Financial experts often discuss the dangers of people living beyond their means, and it seems that many are reaping the consequences of doing so. But despite the financial woes, is it all bad?

    Clearly families are getting hit hard. Studies indicate that for years now, close to 43 percent of American families have spent more than they earned, buying anything they wanted. Now, they are being forced to rethink their spending habits - and it is incredibly painful.

    Research shows that although money is not the number one thing couples consider when planning to marry, it is the number one thing they argue about. Instead of being happily married, they find themselves arguing about spending habits, credit card debt and unpaid bills.

    An analysis of Federal Reserve statistics in early 2015 revealed that the average U.S. household owes $7,281 on their credit cards. Average indebted households carry $15,609 in credit card debt.

    When it comes to spending money, the temptations are plentiful – shiny new cars with the latest gadgets, flat screen televisions, traveling sports leagues, private schools, a new house, surround sound systems, trendy clothing, iPhones - and the list goes on.

    Believer it or not, emotions typically drive spending decisions instead of affordability. When it comes to money, a lot can be said about the value of self-discipline and saving to purchase certain items or participate in an activity.

    People often complain that family members are like ships passing in the night because of busyness. Maybe the upside of an uncertain economy is that people might step back and evaluate what really matters. 

    When asked what is most important in life, people consistently say “family” is the single most important priority; yet their lives indicate that money and things are number one.

    These ideas can help you make family a higher priority than money.

    • Focus on building strong, healthy relationships instead of empires. Children spell love T-I-M-E, not T-H-I-N-G-S. There is no downside to living within your means - both financially and time-wise. It could actually mean less stress, more family time, less maintenance, more downtime, fewer arguments and stronger relationships.

    • Evaluate all of your family activities. Find ways to exercise together, not apart. Exchange gym fees, travel sports and golfing alone to play with the family instead. Instead of paying to play, choose free family hobbies like playing tennis, biking or hiking. It will save you money and time.

    • Learn how to control your finances instead of letting them control you. Many people believe that more money, a bigger house, and tons of toys are necessary for happiness. Money and toys are no substitute for time, so spend time with the people you love.

    • Look for opportunities to encourage your loved ones and affirm them as a person worthy of your love. 

    When you look back on an economic crisis, perhaps you will see that less of some things is more of the best things. You may also see that many of the best things in life truly are free.

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    Celebrate Your Anniversary!

    Do you remember the date of your wedding anniversary? If you didn’t cheat and look at the engraved date on your wedding band, give yourself some points.

    How many years have you been married? If you had to think to figure it out, take away some points.

    How did you celebrate your last anniversary? Did you remember without having to ask your spouse what you did?

    If the answer is yes, give yourself a few more points. Add some points to your total if you did something fun as a couple. 

    If you let it slide by with no real celebration because you didn’t have time or were too tired, take away a few points. 

    If you completely forgot your wedding anniversary, you just lost ALL your points.

    Couples marry and even a year or two into their marriage they are still planning crazy fun adventures to celebrate their love. But after a few years, things begin to settle down. Children come along and creativity often flies out the window. Who has time or even feels like planning to celebrate a silly anniversary?

    We do a great job of celebrating birthdays and holidays, but lots of couples let their wedding anniversary slide by. Think about it - how many wedding anniversaries do you recall celebrating?

    Birthdays and holidays are certainly things to celebrate. But, considering how much time, effort and energy it takes to make a marriage really hum, wedding anniversaries are cause for celebration. If your marriage faced exceptional challenges during the year, some anniversaries might deserve a huge celebration to acknowledge making it through the tough times.

    When life is coming at you full speed ahead, you can easily take your marriage for granted. But doing this over the years is like watching a sinkhole form. Erosion is taking place underneath the surface. And while there may be a few signs things aren’t right, it may not appear to be anything major until the whole thing caves in and people are shocked.

    Don’t take your marriage for granted. It's up to both people in the marriage to intentionally make every anniversary something you won’t forget. Every time you make it another year, celebrate what you have and dream about your future together.

    Whether your anniversary is this weekend or nine months from now, take the time to make it special. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Re-create your first date, plan a romantic evening, write a love letter to your spouse or plan a surprise getaway. Do married well!

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    Fun Ways to Jazz Up Your Marriage

    David and Claudia Arp believe that fun in marriage is serious business. They have written several books on marriage together, including the 10 Great Dates series.

    “In our 30-plus years of marriage, we have learned important things like, if you don’t say what is on your mind when it is on your mind, it may not be there later,” says Claudia. “We have also learned that it is critical for people to be intentional about having fun in their marriage. Most of us lead such busy, stressful lives that many times there is very little left over for the marriage, especially when it comes to anything fun. When the fun dies in a relationship, it is hard to keep the marriage alive.”

    Through the years, the Arps have made it a point to enjoy each other’s company and to have fun. One time when they got lost, instead of getting irritated with each other, they realized they were lost together. The kids weren’t with them, so they decided to make it into a 30-minute get lost date.

    “We believe it is important to model a healthy relationship for your children,” says David. “Research has shown that the level of a couple’s friendship is a determining factor in whether their marriage will go the distance. In order to keep a friendship alive, you have to nurture it.”

    The Arps have many good ideas to help grow the friendship in marriage, including this fun assignment: Kiss for 10 seconds in the morning before leaving for work with your eyes wide open. When you return home in the evening, do the same thing.

    The key is to understand that you can turn any situation into a date, even a frustrating one. For example, you can go on a flu shot date. Or, if you find yourself in an airport with an extended layover, go to a gate where a plane is getting ready to take off. Pretend you are saying goodbye to each other. Once the plane leaves, move on to another gate and start all over again. You can do this for as long as your layover allows.

    If your marriage could use some jazzing up with a heaping helping of fun, these great dates can build a stronger friendship into your marriage.

    • Take a trip down memory lane. Remembering your past can energize your relationship for the future.
    • Celebrate your differences. Reclaim that unity and diversity you felt before you married. List ways you are alike and ways you are different. For all the ways you are alike, figure out how to compensate for those areas. For all the ways you are different, determine how you can make sure the differences complement your marriage relationship instead of creating friction.
    • Make a date to talk about “us.” Lots of couples talk over each other. They talk about the kids, work, community service, etc. On this date, the Arps encourage couples to talk about “you.” Talk about positive things, your hopes and dreams, what you want your marriage to look like.
    • Have an encouragement date. Verbalize all those things you keep in your head, like when you think he looks really good, but you forget to tell him or when she cooks a great dinner, you think about how great everything tastes, but you never say anything.

    “A number of years ago, we moved our office and David gave in to using an answering machine,” Claudia says. "The past few days had been rough so I decided to leave a message of encouragement for David on the new answering machine telling him I was really looking forward to seeing him at home and suggested some activities we could do.

    "What I didn’t know is that David had some friends at the office who ended up helping him install the answering machine. Then they all went out to lunch. When they returned, one of his friends noticed he had a message. David hit play and the whole group proceeded to listen to my message. When it finished, the friends turned to David and wanted to know who that woman was leaving that kind of message on his machine. My red-faced husband tried to convince them it really was his wife. Needless to say, we have had more than a few good laughs over that one!”

    Fun in marriage is serious business! To find out more ways to create fun and adventure in your marriage, take look around our website.

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    4 Keys for Taking Up a Hobby Together

    During the Yamadas' adventurous marriage, there haven’t been many dull moments.

    “I wouldn’t describe either of us as risk-takers, but we are definitely not afraid to try new things,” says Mrs. Yamada. “We enjoy ballroom dancing, mountain biking and scuba diving, but I couldn’t see either of us bungee jumping.”

    Several years ago, the Yamadas decided to take up a new hobby – flying.

    “I have always had a love for aviation,” says Mr. Yamada. “I used to build model airplanes as a kid. Learning to fly has been a lifelong dream. My wife loves to travel so getting our pilot’s license greatly expanded our travel options, which makes her very happy.”

    Getting their pilots' licenses would not be without its marital challenges. While Mr. Yamada seemed to innately know about spark plugs, electrical systems and mechanics, his wife would definitely not describe them as second nature. She had to work hard to keep up.

    "We are both very competitive people,” Mrs. Yamada says. “There were moments while we were taking lessons that the tension was elevated in our relationship. My husband might get ahead of me in an area and I would work extra hard to catch up.”

    A real sticking point for Mrs. Yamada was when she was flying the plane and he would give her instructions. "Don’t forget to make your ten mile radio call," or "Don’t forget your carb heat." That unsolicited advice would get under her skin. Mr. Yamada agreed that he has that tendency, but has found that this experience has motivated him to improve in that area and enjoy the ride while his wife flies the plane.

    It usually takes six to 12 months to get a pilot’s license. The Yamadas got theirs in 90 days. They would tell you it was a great experience and ultimately a good thing for their marriage.

    “This forced us to learn how to manage our personalities,” Mr. Yamada says. “I can be bossy and a know-it-all at times. However, that doesn’t work well in the cockpit. We also came to the realization that when we are flying the plane is not the time for an argument. Taking flying lessons together has taught us how to work better together as a couple team.”

    The Yamadas learned some additional valuable lessons to pass along to couples planning to learn a new hobby together.

    • Make the ground rules ahead of time. There will be conflicts and disagreements. How will you handle them when they arise?
    • Be patient. It is easy to get impatient with each other if you aren’t moving forward at the same pace. Keep the end goal in mind!
    • Guard against being critical. There are some things that each of you do better than the other. Take advantage of this by learning from each other instead of criticizing.
    • Apologize when you are wrong. This did not come easily for Mr. Yamada, but over the years he has learned he is not always right.

    “Getting our pilots' licenses actually improved our marriage,” Mrs. Yamada says. “We had to learn how to communicate better, trust each other’s decisions and manage conflict. We have been on several trips already. It has been awesome to be in the cockpit with my best friend!”

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    5 Ways to Stoke the Fire of Passion in Marriage

    In his song Too Cold at Home, Mark Chesnutt sings, “It’s too hot to fish, too hot for golf and too cold at home.” Even if it’s boiling outside, it can be cold at home when it comes to your marriage.

    Over time, many people seem to be willing to let sexual intimacy fly right out the window. Yet experts tell us that healthy intimacy is foundational to long-lasting, loving relationships.

    In a letter to Ann Landers, a woman wrote about how her parents could not afford a honeymoon so they made a promise. Every time they made love, they would put a dollar in a box and on their 50th anniversary they would take a honeymoon trip to Hawaii. In spite of hard times, they never took money out of the box. Some nights the husband would come home from work exclaiming he had a dollar in his pocket. His wife would tell him she knew just how to spend it!

    When each of their children married, they gave them a box and shared their secret. The couple took their 50th anniversary trip to Hawaii for 10 days and paid for everything from the money they saved in the box. As they were leaving on the plane, the husband turned and said, “Tonight we will start working on a trip to Cancun!”

    Many pieces of recent research cite how much humans crave intimacy, but many married couples experience a void in this area due to hectic schedules, children (young and old), jobs, stress, etc. Whether you have been married a few months or many years, sex can be exciting, adventurous, fun and creative. 

    You may be asking yourself how that couple made and kept intimacy in their relationship a priority for 50 years...

    Well, here are some things relationship experts encourage you to think about:

    • Do you always make love in the same place, at the same time in the same way? If your answer is yes, consider doing something different to spice things up.
    • Describe what a romantic time with your spouse would be like. What would be your spouse’s description of a romantic time together? If you don’t know the answer to this question, do some detective work and find out.
    • Does your spouse do romantic things that you really like? If yes, tell him/her so. If not, help him/her to know what you like.
    • Consider sending love messages to your spouse during the day. Stick-it notes in the wallet, voice mail, e-mail, lipstick messages on the bathroom mirror, a special delivery, flowers with a message, a snail mail letter, or a note on the dashboard are all great ways to communicate “I love you,” “Let’s get together,” or “Looking forward to this afternoon.”
    • People find all kinds of creative ways to flirt when they are dating. Think about some of the ways you used to flirt with your spouse. Consider resurrecting those that worked best. The outcome might pleasantly surprise you!

    According to Dr. Paul Pearsall, author of Super Marital Sex, “The marriage comes first. All other people and events come after the marriage. Children, parents, work and play all benefit most by marital priority instead of marital sacrifice, because the marriage is the central unit to all other processes. If it is true that we reap what we sow, then marriages are in big trouble - if we put as much time in our working as we allow for our loving, we would end up unemployed or bankrupt.”

    If the temperature on the thermometer outside is not reflective of the passion level in your marriage, get creative. Be adventurous and take it up a notch. Even if the passion in your marriage is nonexistent, it can get good. And if it is good, it can get even better!

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