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Happy anniversary!” she said as she threw a gift to (at) me while I laid in bed watching television. My wife had waited until midnight on our anniversary just to make absolutely certain that I had forgotten our special day.

You’ve seen it in a movie or on television- someone has forgotten their wedding anniversary (ALWAYS the husband) and at the last minute they try to save face and come up with some gift or at least a sorry excuse to get out of it. Well, my wife had obviously seen those shows, too – and she vindictively made sure I had no chance whatsoever.

As the clock struck midnight, the day had come and gone and I was officially THAT husband.

Was she angry and hurt? Absolutely, and justifiably so! Did I feel awful? You bet. Was our relationship um… tense for a while? Oh, you better believe it. Listen, in over 25 years of marriage, we have hurt each other in far worse ways. We have left scars. We laugh about The Forgotten Anniversary now, but we have done some things to each other that are absolutely not funny. Heck, we have both done things that many people these days would say are easily divorce-worthy.

But we are still together and happy and closer than ever. Our relationship has been strengthened by working through those hard, sometimes heartbreaking difficulties. We’ve bent but have never broken.

You see, from Day 1, we agreed that the “D word,” divorce, was not an option. It just wasn’t ever on the table.

We know we are not alone in our struggles. Have you ever thought any of the following in your marriage?

  • This used to be fun. It isn’t fun anymore.
  • We’ve just grown apart, simple as that.
  • I just don’t feel it anymore.
  • The romance, the warm, fuzzy feeling is gone.
  • I wish my husband/wife was more like _______.
  • I fell in love but now I’ve fallen out of it.
  • Marriage just isn’t what I expected or hoped it would be.
  • Maybe we both would be happier starting over with other people.

I’ll be honest – at some point I have thought ALL of those thoughts. I’m pretty sure my wife has also. (I’m too afraid to ask and confirm it. Why stir the pot, right?) Yet we have hung in there for 25 years, sometimes just surviving, other times thriving. How do we do it? Have we cracked the “marriage code?” Are we special? Nope.

We survived because we both agreed that divorce was never going to be an option. It just wasn’t ever even a consideration. We wouldn’t let it happen.

So… that just leaves a lot of intentional, hard work:

  • Learning how to manage conflict and how to communicate.
  • Learning that love is an action, not a feeling.
  • Having friends that are for your marriage.
  • Learning to say things like “Sorry” and “I forgive you.”
  • Having older couples as mentors.
  • Not keeping score and not looking to “even” it.

So many marriages are built on a wishbone.

I wish he was different, I wish our marriage was more fun, I wish she would change, I wish I still felt that romance. I wish, I wish, I wish. But there is no “marital wishbone.” Wishbones won’t support you, especially during the hard times.

Instead, you need a “marital backbone.” 

Backbone means, I understand no marriage is perfect and no person is perfect, even me. Backbone means we will keep working at it, get help, hang in there and have the hard conversations. It remembers that we made promises to each other. Most of all, marital backbone means doing the loving thing – even when we absolutely don’t feel like it.

(Yes, even when he forgets your anniversary.)

Marriage can be hard work. But what if you put your backbone into it?

***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 your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Looking for more resources for your marriage? Click here!

Your wedding day is one of the most stressful times of the engagement season. But there are things you can do the morning of your wedding to help you relax and enjoy the day!

Picture this: For two years you’ve been planning this awesome party for all your friends and family to enjoy.

You’ve got everything completely lined up, from the menu for the day to the height of every candle. Everyone involved has a detailed spreadsheet of where they need to be and when, and you are excited beyond belief! Not only will you get to hang out with all your favorite people, but you get to MARRY your most favorite person! Can it get much better than that?!

However, there’s this (ever so slight) hint of fear that’s always looming over. There’s a lot that could go wrong the morning of your wedding in all those details! And, on top of that, everyone constantly tells you that something will go wrong, and you’re just expected to accept that. Even more, you’re making a life-long commitment to one person that you’ve known for less than your family’s known you. It’s a big deal!

But there are a few things you can do to soothe those worries, calm your nerves, and fully enjoy the day! It requires focused attention to your emotional and mental needs, but here are 5 ways you can do just that!

To care for your emotional and mental needs the morning of your wedding:

  • Do some breathing exercises as soon as you wake up. And, if you have even just one extra minute, lie in bed and take a sec to really realize what’s happening today. Don’t run through the list of things to happen or panic about all that can go wrong. Just take in the fact that you’re marrying your best friend!
  • Have a poppin’ playlist ready to go! Your bridal party is going to want to get excited with you before you walk down the aisle! If you have too much on your plate, give the job to a friend – but just make sure you’re not taking it too seriously. Plus, singing and dancing will help with your stress levels, too!
  • Schedule time with your bridal party to have fun. Whether that means playing some card games or just sharing your favorite memories of the bride/groom, it’s a great way to distract you from the craziness around you and enjoy the time with your girls/guys!
  • Remember that it’s only one day. No matter what happens, it will all be done with in 24 hours. And, as long as you and your love are married by the end of the day, what else really matters? (The answer is nothing, in case you were wondering…)
  • Unplug from all devices. Even better, just pack your phone in your honeymoon bag! Give all the important contact info to a friend and trust that everyone will be able to figure things out. You need to focus on the only thing that matters: becoming one with your spouse – not whether or not your guests are supposed to follow the parking signs you put out, or just make their own path (which they’re going to do anyway, trust me). You don’t need the extra stress, so just avoid it all together from the beginning!

A wedding day really can be the happiest day of your life!

There is so much that goes into this one day, but it is truly worth it. And besides, once it’s over, you’ll have a spouse to adventure through life with! Hopefully, with the help of these 5 tips, you and your love can fully enjoy your special day and all that comes with it.

*(This is part two of a series. To see the first part, click here!)

Weddings are time-consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

Wedding planning: The thing that everyone tells you to enjoy, but you more so feel like you’re drowning without a lifeline. BUT you’ve made it! You’ve finally arrived to the morning of your wedding day! It’s here! Now… what was that thing you HAD to tell your DJ today? And why have THREE people asked you for your florist’s phone number?? And WHERE is your maid of honor?!?

The morning of a wedding can be kind of a mess! But I have some fresh tips to share with you!

Regardless of whether you yourself are about to be in this position or if you only know someone who is, there are 5 things the bride and groom can do the morning of the wedding to help fill their physical needs. (I’m NOT saying, though that these things will make everything run smoothly, I’m just saying they’ll help.) Anyway, without further ado… Here are 5 things you NEED to do the morning of the wedding! (By the way, this is the first part of a series. To see the second piece about caring for your emotional and mental needs, click here!)

Here are the first five things to care for your physical needs the morning of your wedding:

1. Drink. Water. And. Eat. Food.

This one might seem pretty obvious right now, but trust me. You’ll need to be reminded. Have your bridesmaids/groomsmen, mom, or whoever else is by your side throughout the day carry some snacks and water on them and periodically feed you! Trust me, no one wants a fainting bride or groom. (Pro Tip: Brides, bring a straw so you don’t mess up your lipstick!)

2. Only drink ONE cup of coffee, if any.

If coffee is part of your regular routine, don’t just cut it out together! Having a caffeine headache on the day of your wedding would not be pleasant. However, be sure to limit your intake. You’re going to be jittery enough as it is, and you won’t need caffeine’s help on that one!

3. Bring an emergency kit.

These can seriously be a life saver. I once had the zipper of a bridesmaid dress completely burst open 5 minutes before we walked down the aisle. The only way I made it through it was because someone was smart enough to pack a sewing kit in the emergency supplies. If you need a list, here’s a good one!

4. Practice your vows.

Whether you’re goin’ old school traditional or you chose to write your own, practicing those words (out loud!) will help prevent you from fumbling over them in just a few hours. Even though saying “waffely wedded wife” is funny, it’s still a little embarrassing…

5. Make someone in charge of getting your honeymoon items into the getaway car.

It might work that you yourself can do that, but having a friend double check is always a great idea! Have a list of what they need to check on before the send-off so that you don’t have to make an emergency trip back to your place (or worse, the venue) to grab whatever you forgot! (Bonus tip: Put someone in charge of taking your veil and bouquet, too!)

Don’t forget that this day is once-in-a-lifetime!

If you’re panicking about the suitcase you forgot or passed out on the stage from lack of food, it might not be the fondest of memories to look back on. To take a look at how you can fill your emotional and mental needs the morning of your wedding, click here!

Weddings are time-consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

“What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing…”

Sound familiar? Ever wonder what they’re really thinking about? Well, today, we’re going to find out. Usually, that “nothing,” actually means “nothing important,” and that can actually be a really fun place in their mind for you to see! It’s all about meaningless conversations!

Ask any couple, anywhere, at any time, what the key to a good marriage is, and there’s a near 100% guarantee they will mention communication in some way, shape, or form. Are they wrong? Not at all! Communication really is key to working your way through a whole lot of issues! But when communication is always focused on bettering the relationship, you’re missing out on a lot of fun, too.

Now, let me clarify this before we get too far into it. I am in NO way saying that the meaningful convos aren’t helpful. They are completely necessary to a fully-functioning, healthy relationship.

But hear me out on this: How many times have you looked at your partner and asked yourself, “We’ve been together for (fill in the blank) years now, so why don’t I feel like I know you as well as I used to?” Or maybe you have done an awesome job of having intentional, deep and meaningful conversations with your love, but something feels like it’s missing.

Well, good news for you. You might have stumbled upon the answer!! It just might be meaningLESS conversations: conversations that have nothing to do with the two of you (or anything else for that matter). They’re moments full of silliness, laughter, and fun where you and your partner truly connect. You get to learn more about your partner, you get to be goofy together, you find out things you’d never know otherwise, AND, most importantly, you both get a break from all the to-dos, the heavy topics, and the day-to-day crazies. You get a chance to fully enjoy your partner’s personality and company.

Still don’t get what I’m talking about? Here are a few questions you can ask your partner to get started. If you’re not used to asking questions like this, it might seem dumb at first. But I promise. It’s worth it.

  • If you were given $100,000 (totally tax-free and no strings attached) and had to spend it ALL this week (no investments or saving funds!) what would you buy?
  • If you could be any historical figure from the 15th century, who would you be and why?
  • What is your favorite scent? Does it have any memories attached to it? Would it make a good candle or not?
  • If you could instantly make one invention completely disappear from this world, what would it be and why?
  • If you could tell one thing to your great, great, great-grandson/daughter when they turn 16, what would it be?
  • Would you rather always have perfect hair or never run out of toilet paper?
  • What’s one thing your parents said to you that you will never forget?

Even though these types of questions have nothing to do with your relationship directly, you just might be surprised at how much a meaningless conversation here and there can do for the love you have for your honey.

Take some time today to let go of the heaviness of all the meaningful & important conversations. Instead, just sit and enjoy what your spouse has to say about the “nothings” of life!

Looking for more marriage resources? Click here!

Image from Unsplash.com

As I think back to when my children were first born, there are many memories that come to mind of being bombarded with all the things that babies need. I remember attending a presentation for a $1,000 high chair. It was implied that if I didn’t purchase the high chair, I really didn’t love or wasn’t very concerned about the safety of my child. And I’ll admit, I began to struggle with the paradox of what my child needs versus what I, in my parenting, want my child to have.

If I were keeping it totally honest, I really wanted that high chair. Not for all the safety reasons or the fact that it would grow with my child, but the honest truth was I thought it made me look good to others. I heard messages that said to be a good parent, you provide what your children NEED, but even more so what they WANT.

Let’s talk about this struggle.

I should’ve owned stock in LeapFrog due to the number of their electronic toys that I purchased for my son, only because they were educational and would help with his language skills, color recognition, etc., or so I thought. I felt so disheartened when I found him playing with an empty 2-liter bottle rather than the toys I bought.

That was a pivotal point for me. I recognized that I was seeking external approval from friends and family rather than looking inside, and I realized what I was really teaching my sons. While I had taught them that they could have everything they wanted, I never taught them that there was a difference between a want and a need.

I composed a list of things that my sons really need from me, emotionally. It included:

  • Love
  • Time with me
  • Support
  • Discipline (teaching)
  • Comfort
  • Consistency
  • Teaching them values of hard work, sacrifice, persistence, grit, etc.

That was the easy part. The hard part was changing the expectations and behaviors of my sons. Every time we went to a store, their expectation was to get something because they WANTED it. Really, they wanted it because I taught them to expect it by usually getting them something. They didn’t like the word NO.

After one especially rough trip, we had a meeting of the minds.

  1. I no longer took them to the store with me.
  2. I explained to them the difference between a want and a need in practical terms.

For example…

Need:  Food (home-cooked); Want: Eating Out

Need: Shoes; Want: $200 name-brand that you are going to outgrow in 3 months.

Need: Uniforms for school; Want: Name-brand pants that you are going to get grass stains in and holes in the knee.

You get the idea.

As I look back, I’m so glad I made that pivot.

Even though that $1,000 high chair was fancy, I can’t put a dollar value on the lessons learned. My sons have grown into young men who know their worth doesn’t come from things like the right shoes or clothes or cars. And when they start parenting, they will know the difference between a want and a need.

Looking for more parenting resources? Click here!

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5 Things Every Engaged Couple Should Know:

1. Marriage is a magnifier.

Some couples think a bad habit or irritating trait will disappear after they say, “I do…” The reality is that marriage is a magnifier – both positively and negatively. See a little bit of this trait while dating or engaged? You’ll be seeing a lot of it after you get married.

2. Money is a big part of life.

Have you had some honest communication about student loans, credit scores, spending/saving habits? Money is often the number one thing couples fight about in marriage.

3. Do they know how to “fight nice?”

How do they handle conflict, stress and anger? Life will flip you for real and you won’t always agree on how to handle it! Now what? Do they get loud? Do they withdraw? Can they disagree without it getting personal? Do they bring up past mistakes constantly? Learn how to fight nice, fight fair and argue constructively toward solutions – NOT tear down and just hurt each other. (And remember – marriage is a magnifier…)

4. Get around each other’s friends and family.

Love is blind but your uncle might be an eye-opener. He might see a quality or trait that you flat-out missed. What are their friends and family like? How do they communicate and manage conflict? Does his mom dote on him all the time because “he’s her little baby?” Is he going to be expecting that same doting treatment from you?

5. Saying, “I Don’t…”

It is better to break off an engagement than to move forward into a marriage that your heart really isn’t into, you have a bad feeling about, or all the people close to you are warning you about. It might feel too late in the game, you may have spent money, rented out space and even sent invitations, but until you say, “I do…” you can still say “I don’t…” And that may be best in some cases. Maybe you just need to date a little longer and get to know each other better. Maybe you have some real concerns that have to be addressed. Remember: Marriage is for life, “‘til death do us part…”

No matter what, these 5 things that every engaged couple should know can guide you and your potential spouse through this season of unknown, planning, and celebrations!

Looking for more engagement resources? Click here!

Image from Unsplash.com

Weddings are time-consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

Are you considering counseling? The Counseling Problem:

I don’t want people to know that I’m getting counseling! We can work this out ourselves! Counseling might do some good for other people, but I don’t need it.

Counseling is one of those things that sadly often gets stigmatized or viewed as good for other people. If you are brave enough to bring it up, you’ll see it is helping many of your friends work through issues in their relationships and their lives. Don’t write off counseling as a tool.

Have you ever had a friend who shared a problem with you and you were able to see the solution so clearly, you passed on some awesome advice? Problem solved!

But, when it comes to your life and your problems, that clarity is all out the window and you have no clue what to do.

Why is it sometimes so easy to see other people’s problems clearly, but our own problems feel so much more complicated? The difference between your friend’s problem and yours is that it’s difficult to see our own situations objectively (or from a third person perspective). We have all kinds of blind spots, biases, and really only have one perspective – ours.

The Counseling Solution

Our own inability to see our problems clearly is why counseling can be so helpful. There are several BIG benefits to seeking counseling or therapy, either individually or as a couple.

Benefits of Meeting with a Counselor:

  1. They help us see those things that are in our blind spots. This is often the biggest hurdle – admitting that we don’t see it all and know it all about ourselves.
  2. The counselor can help us talk about things that are difficult to talk about. They can be a safe person to talk to. They can function as a mediator and ensure that a conversation doesn’t become a confrontation.
  3. Some problems we wrestle with are flat-out complicated – they might involve chemicals in our brains or generations of our family history. We might not have the tools to tackle those issues.

Hopefully, you have some good friends that can help you can talk through problems, but don’t forget, sometimes you need to consider counseling. And, that’s totally ok.

Looking for relationship resources? Click here!

Image from Unsplash.com

If you’re anything like me, I used to (literally) dream about the day that the love of my life would take a knee, spout off some poetry, and say those four long-awaited words that made up the question that would change my life forever: “Will you marry me?”

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