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When was the last time you and your mate played together? Seriously… can you remember the last time you did something crazy fun together?

In far too many marriages, couples throw play out the window and replace it with serious adult responsibilities like careers, raising children, taking care of elderly parents, household chores and community commitments.

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.

The more you invest in fun, friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will be over time. The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high and significant.

TAKE THE CHALLENGE!

For the next four weeks, intentionally set aside time every other day to do something fun together. It doesn’t have to be something that will take hours; it could be a 30-minute activity. Watching television together or sitting next to each other while online does not count as play.

In an informal survey, couples say they do these things:

  • Play games like Scrabble, Dominoes, Rook, Wii, Uno, Quiddler, Frisbee or Catchphrase.
  • Take a walk or run together.
  • Play a practical joke on each other.
  • Cook together, try new recipes and enjoy a great meal together.
  • List activities for each letter of the alphabet that cost less than $10, then work your way through the list.
  • Work a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Do an activity together like horseback riding, bowling, fishing or canoeing.

Play isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. So don’t just sit around reminiscing about how playful and adventurous you used to be or lamenting the fact that you never do anything fun anymore. Take the challenge and remember—playful people are a lot of fun to be around!

***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.***

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, and they love helping couples jazz up their marriage.

“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!”

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

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

***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.***

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 your anniversary and what you have. 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!

***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.***

David and Claudia Arp and Curt and Natelle Brown found that many seriously dating and engaged couples had questions. Turns out, many couples wonder the same thing.

“In many of our seminars, couples told us they were in love and wanted to feel confident that they could make their relationship work,” say David and Claudia Arp, co-authors of the marriage preparation book, 10 Great Dates Before You Say “I Do.”

“While there are no total guarantees, there are certain areas couples can look at ahead of time that will give them a good indication about the potential longevity of their relationship. We wrote this book with seriously dating couples and engaged couples in mind. For seriously dating couples, the dates give them specific focus areas to help them determine if they should take the next step in their relationship. For engaged couples, it is great preparation for marriage.”

When you are in love it is hard to imagine that any differences in opinion could really cause a rift in your relationship. After the Arps married, the honeymoon was over and their hormones settled, they discovered something. Marriage didn’t quite meet their expectations, and little things irritated them.

Surprisingly, after going through the 10 Dates, couples discovered a number of things they had not discussed that could be cause for irritation. For example, one couple discovered they didn’t agree on how to decorate their house. Another couple didn’t believe it was important to talk about how they will handle their combined income.

“We looked for fun and creative ways to cover topics such as sharing hopes, dreams and expectations and appreciating your differences to managing your money and celebrating intimacy in your relationship,” the Arps say. “It was important to us to help couples talk about things they might not otherwise discuss.”

Marriage preparation can help couples better decide whether or not they are ready to marry each other at this time. The 10 Great Dates give couples a road map to help them get to know each other better.

What are your expectations for your marriage?

Couples contemplating marriage shared a few of their expectations with the Arps:

  • I expect my partner to always understand and encourage me.

  • Our marriage will always make us happy.

  • We will talk about everything, and therefore we will avoid serious disputes.

  • With two incomes, we will be financially secure – especially since two can live almost as cheaply as one.

  • Our love life will always be exciting and satisfying.

  • I expect my mate to meet my needs—to be a lot like me.

“Obviously, these people were shocked when their mates were unable to live up to their expectations,” David Arp says. “It is hard enough to meet expectations when we know what they are, but it is impossible when we don’t.”

Even in the best of relationships, these expectations would be hard to live up to. Marriage is a choice.

If you want to get your marriage off to a great start, do yourself a favor – get 10 Great Dates and go through it and/or participate in marriage education classes. Hopefully, these activities will help you understand each other better. Then, you can make wise relationship choices now and in your marriage in the future.

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!

Is date night dead? Date night may need some serious resuscitation. Redbook magazine found that 45 percent of couples rarely have date nights, while only 18 percent said they go out once a month.

This is sad news, since marriage experts say you can keep your marriage strong, healthy and adventuresome by spending regular time together doing something you both enjoy. Couples who intentionally spend time together often marvel at the positive impact it has on their marriage and family.

An astonishing 80 percent of marriages crumble, but it’s not because of something huge. It’s because they say they have become disconnected.

According to The Date Night Opportunity, a report by the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project, couples who devote time specifically to one another at least once a week are way more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates.

How can a simple date actually help a marriage? 

Researchers say date nights provide opportunities to talk that may help couples deepen their understanding of one another and the relationship. Couples who engage in new activities that are fun, active or otherwise arousing — from hiking to dancing to travel to card games — enjoy higher levels of relationship quality. They also counteract the tendency to take each other for granted. Regular date nights may especially benefit couples who do more than the old standby of dinner and a movie.

Date nights may also:

  • Strengthen or rekindle that romantic spark in order to sustain the fires of love.
  • Strengthen a couple’s sense of commitment to one another. Partners who put each other first, steer clear of other romantic opportunities and cultivate a strong sense of “we-ness” or togetherness are happier than less-committed couples.
  • Relieve stress. They allow a couple to enjoy time away from the pressing concerns of their ordinary life.
  • Give couples an opportunity to support one another emotionally in trying times.

The report found that couples who spend time together at least weekly:

  • Are about three times more likely to say they are “very happy” in their marriages;
  • Report higher levels of communication and commitment;
  • Express higher satisfaction with their sexual relationship than couples who spend less couple time together.

If you haven’t been planning date nights, maybe you could try it out for the next six weeks. Consider setting aside an hour or two each week for a little adventure. If you don’t have a clue where to start or just need some fresh ideas, here are some tips.

Agree not to talk about the kids, your job or the in-laws. You don’t have to spend a ton of money – just play together! At the end of the six weeks, discuss any changes you have experienced in your relationship.

“Couple time” can make a serious difference in your relationship. Try it and see for yourself.

***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.***

When Kyle and Kate Jackson were on the dating scene, they didn’t want to meet people in bars or by chance. Since both of them were shy, they knew that even if they met someone they wouldn’t have the guts to ask the person out.

“I used to make fun of people who went online to find a date,” says Kate. “Once I got to the point that regular dating wasn’t successful, I decided to give it a try. For me, it made the whole process so much easier.”

A study published in 2013 by the University of Chicago indicated that 33 percent of couples who married met online. And, a Pew Research study in 2013 revealed that 59 percent of Americans believe that online dating is a good way to meet people.

When Kate and Kyle met online, they initially communicated by email. After sending emails back and forth, Kyle asked for permission to call Kate. They talked by phone for several weeks and when both felt comfortable, they decided to meet in person.

“I went to her house where her roommates were present and then we went out on our date,” says Kyle. “We made sure everyone knew where we were.”

Kate and Kyle met on Valentine’s Day 2008 and dated for a year before getting engaged on Valentine’s Day 2009. They wonder if their paths would have ever crossed without the online dating site.

If you are considering dating online, keeping yourself safe is a concern. These tips from Online Dating Magazine can help you safely navigate the world of online dating:

  • Arrange to meet in a public place. Never allow your date to pick you up from your home, and do not give out your home address. Consider going out with a group or on a double date when you first meet.
  • Go Dutch. This way you won’t feel any obligation to “return” the favor.
  • Realize that alcohol affects your judgment. Not only does it affect your judgment, but alcohol also lessens your inhibitions. Try to avoid alcohol on your first date.
  • Use your own mode of transportation. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you won’t have to rely on your date to get you home.
  • Don’t assume that your date is safe. Never let your guard down on a first date.
  • Avoid secluded areas. Stay in a public place for your first date and avoid secluded areas such as parks.
  • Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, so leave immediately.
  • Always let someone know where you’re going. You might even consider arranging a time to call and check in.
  • Give your cell phone number. It’s safer to give out a cell phone number instead of your landline (if you still have one).
  • Always remain alert. Even if you’re having a blast and the chemistry is great, it’s a good idea to remain alert the whole evening. Make sure you have a cell phone on you.

No matter how you meet, taking your time can help you make wiser choices when it comes to choosing a mate.

Do you want an awesome, amazing, mind-blowing marriage?

The answer to that question is usually a resounding YES! But, it’s quickly followed with something like, “I could only hope for that,” or “Only in my dreams.”

“Based on my experience as a counselor, I think a lot of people feel like they are sentenced to a life of boredom when they marry,” says Darlene Karst, counselor, marriage educator, and wife. “The reality is that could not be further from the truth … if you are willing to put effort into making your marriage fun, romantic, passionate, and intimate.”

It would be unusual for someone to be an exceptional mechanic, golfer, artist, or chef without training and a lot of practice. Yet people often expect to be excellent lovers and great at marriage overnight.

“The truth is, if you want to have an awesome, amazing, mind-blowing marriage, you have to set your mind to it and work to make it happen,” Karst says. “We might be in the middle of hard economic times, but that doesn’t mean it has to be tough on your marriage. You don’t need a lot of money to make your relationship more romantic and intimate.”

Karst suggests that there are certain things couples need to guard against because they are passion-killers in a marriage. When people think about passion and romance they often don’t consider how certain things can rob you of those feelings while others can set the tone. Consider the color of your room and the textures you have in your bedroom. Do they inspire romance?

“I always ask couples if they have a television in their bedroom,” Karst says. “If they do, I tell them to get rid of it. The bedroom should be a sanctuary where you can be together without distractions. Other things that can rob you of romantic moments include old worn-out nightgowns and underclothing, sports memorabilia, and other things that clutter up the bedroom as well as fighting in your bedroom.”

With busy careers, children, and outside commitments there is no question that life is hectic. Unfortunately, even the best-laid plans can end up out the window when a child gets sick, the boss hands out an urgent deadline or a disagreement comes along.

“More often than not, those things are exceptions to the rule and not the rule,” Karst says. “Therefore, I encourage couples to make a plan. Make sure you set aside time during the week to talk about children, bills, meetings, etc. Just as you set aside time for these things, set aside time to be together.”

If you’re lacking in the creativity department, try these suggestions for a mind-blowing marriage:

  • Take turns planning a special evening of pampering for your spouse. Think about what’s important to your partner and plan an evening to indulge him or her. Be intentional about being with your partner physically and emotionally. Because men are so visual, one wife wore one of her husband’s favorite outfits and did things he really liked. On another night, he drew a bath for her and gave her a massage.
  • Do things differently. If you always make love the same way, change that so it doesn’t become routine. Consider these questions to help spice up your love life: What brings you the most sexual fulfillment? How often would you like to make love? What changes do you need to make to keep sex fresh and growing? (Read 10 Things Every Married Couple Should Know About Sex)
  • Teach the kids that your bedroom is your bedroom. When the door is closed, it means that mom and dad want a timeout. While this may sound totally unrealistic, it might surprise you how well it works once they get the idea.

Perhaps now is a great time to kick off an ongoing celebration of your marriage. To learn more about having an awesome, amazing, mind-blowing marriage, click here.

 ***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 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.***

When it comes to romancing your mate for special holidays like Valentine’s Day or birthdays, some couples have a head start on the celebration. Why? They’ve discovered that making regular time for each other is linked to lots of relationship benefits.

According to The Date Night Opportunity, a 2012 report released by the National Marriage Project, couples who manage to devote time specifically to one another at least once a week:

  • Are markedly more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates, compared to couples who do not devote as much couple time to one another;
  • Are about three times more likely to report that they are “very happy” in their marriages;
  • Report higher levels of communication and commitment;
  • State that they have a highly satisfying sexual relationship compared to couples who spend less couple time together; and
  • Take that time as a chance to de-stress and engage in novel activities that are fun, active or otherwise arousing – from hiking or dancing to cooking together or playing cards.

Regular date nights can for sure boost your relationship, but they probably benefit couples most when they do more than dinner and a movie. Doing fun things together feels good, and your brain associates these times with pleasure.

Report co-author W. Bradford Wilcox states that:

  • The couples who find date night particularly valuable are those who are less integrated into the local civic or religious fabric of their communities and those who are less committed to one another; and
  • Couples with a more fragile foundation for their marriage need to devote more time to one another to keep their marriage strong.

It is always a good time to celebrate your own marriage and/or the marriages of those around you. Marriage is like anything else in life… cars, plants, or your body. If you don’t do preventive maintenance, a major overhaul could be on the horizon.

Most marriages begin with romantic love that is linked to passion, excitement and an overwhelming attraction to each other. Over time the passion fades, but date nights have the potential to make your ho-hum marriage spicy and meaningful again.

Date night can really boost your relationship. If couple time hasn’t been a part of your regular routine, here’s a challenge:

  • Start by making a 6-week commitment to set aside an hour or two each week for a date night.
  • Agree that you won’t talk about the kids, your job or the in-laws. You don’t have to spend a ton of money. Just play together.
  • At the end of the six weeks, take time to discuss any changes you have experienced in your relationship.

Who knows? “Couple time” might surprise you with the difference it makes in your relationship.

Need some guidance in creating good, strong boundaries for your marriage? 

Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

Inside, you’ll find:

  • How to talk to your spouse about opposite-sex friends
  • What a good boundary for your marriage looks like
  • Practical ways to build trust between you and your spouse
  • 4 ways to connect well with your spouse & strengthen your relationship well
  • How to create boundaries with the parents and the in-laws
  • The 4 main thefts of intimacy and how to protect your marriage from them
  • AND MORE!