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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.

Discover the 8 Essential Lessons to Build an Unbreakable Marriage Right from the Start! 

Preparing for Marriage is a self-guided online course that will guide you and your bae on a journey to build a solid foundation for your marriage! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME. All the essential tools to create a thriving marriage are jam-packed into 8 fun and fast-paced lessons guided by relationship experts.

How you’ll build an unbreakable marriage:

✅ You’ll get 8 essential lessons that you can work on when you want & where you want.

✅ Each lesson is divided into 3 parts, “Past You,” “Present You,” and “Future You.” Each part has a brief video led by marriage experts, Reggie & Lauren. You’ll have questions to talk through together and a handout to dive deeper. 

✅ After watching the videos and completing the lesson, there will be a quick pop-quiz* to make sure you’re getting the information you need! (And remembering it!)

✅ BONUS: You’ll have access to Reggie & Lauren by email every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement!

When you dreamed about your wedding experience, did you ever think so many people would participate in the process? 

Your mother is hurt because you aren’t wearing her wedding dress. The maid-of-honor has forgotten it is your wedding – not hers. Your fiance’s family thinks the wedding plans are too formal. How will you choose two flower girls when you have six cousins who are the right age?

“These are the landmines that often hit brides out of left field,” says Elizabeth Thomas, co-founder of The First Dance.“After planning our wedding and finding out the hard way that lots of people had strong feelings about certain aspects of ‘our’ day, I wondered if there were other brides out there feeling the same way. I found out there were tons of them. My father and I decided to build this website to help engaged couples manage the people stress of wedding planning and have more wisdom to carry over to their marriage.”

Checklists can’t predict which wedding tasks or people in your life have an emotion, opinion, or stake in how to complete a task.

To make matters worse, sometimes the person with the emotion or opinion doesn’t even know it until it’s already final or it’s too late. Thomas discovered this when her wedding invitations arrived.

“I was so excited!” Thomas says. “I went into the living room to show my dad. Keep in mind that up to this point he had not seen nor expressed any interest in the invitations. He took one look at the wedding invitation and panicked! He started moving from room to room, but no matter what lighting he was in they were too difficult to read. They were unique invitations with red ink on red paper, orange ink on orange paper and yellow ink on yellow paper. We have a ton of middle-aged and older guests who will have similar eyesight to my father. Reprinting the invitations was out of the question. Needless to say, it was an emotional moment!”

Ask any bride what they are experiencing.

You’ll find that underneath the “it’s my day, my way” mentality is the desire to have a joyous wedding planning experience. Nobody enjoys making their mom angry, stressing their dad about invitations or frustrating their groom. Some brides stress so much trying to maintain their ground that they just give up and let someone else have the final say.

After surviving her own wedding, Thomas believes that couples can intentionally make the wedding planning experience pleasant for everyone involved.

Here are a few ways to make that happen:

To the bride: Over-communicate about wedding plans that involve your groom. Whether you two agree that he’ll do a few tasks or you want his opinion on something, if he has no clue then he will have no idea what the decision is about. He needs to know who is impacted by it, the work involved and the timing of the task. Huge breakdowns happen when grooms are not given specifics around tasks. Then, the bride invariably believes he doesn’t care or is not being supportive enough.

To the parents: Keep your cool when others lose theirs. It’s not your wedding, but you do have a stake in it. Don’t be passive or pushy, but recognize that this is about more than money. It’s about emotion, relationships, loyalty, obligation, influence, control and competition. Money should not trump relationships. Don’t use it to blackmail, threaten, or manipulate – or you will pay a big price.

Know your role in decisions. There are three general roles:

  • enthusiast
  • adviser
  • partner

Roles will vary issue by issue and family by family, but should be as clear as possible to avoid problems. Sometimes clarity only comes after a disagreement or conflict.

“I think the best wedding day is when the people you care about most feel loved, heard and valued,” Thomas says. “Every wedding checklist item is ultimately about your values, communicating those values with your spouse and about, well, married life!

“Weddings, like marriage, involve hundreds of routine decisions, big and small. They involve small and large sums of money, and require a lot of work. The outcome of the planning and wedding day itself will stay with you and your loved ones forever. It can change your relationships for better or worse and set the stage for how you go through life in the future.”

Discover the 8 Essential Lessons to Build an Unbreakable Marriage Right from the Start! 

Preparing for Marriage is a self-guided online course that will guide you and your bae on a journey to build a solid foundation for your marriage! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME. All the essential tools to create a thriving marriage are jam-packed into 8 fun and fast-paced lessons guided by relationship experts.

How you’ll build an unbreakable marriage:

✅ You’ll get 8 essential lessons that you can work on when you want & where you want.

✅ Each lesson is divided into 3 parts, “Past You,” “Present You,” and “Future You.” Each part has a brief video led by marriage experts, Reggie & Lauren. You’ll have questions to talk through together and a handout to dive deeper. 

✅ After watching the videos and completing the lesson, there will be a quick pop-quiz* to make sure you’re getting the information you need! (And remembering it!)

✅ BONUS: You’ll have access to Reggie & Lauren by email every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement!

What makes a marriage really work? Is there any way to guarantee that love can last forever? Here’s how you can get your marriage off to a great start.

It has been said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

Many people are in love with the idea of marriage. However, many couples fail to prepare for inevitable bumps in the road ahead. Some are just not ready to handle the tough times. Before you take a walk down the aisle, consider making some wise choices that will help ensure a successful marriage.

Get premarital education

Education allows couples to identify potential areas of conflict and discuss them before saying “I do.” Experts say that some premarital inventories can predict with 80 percent accuracy which couples have the potential for divorce. These inventories can give couples an idea of what issues to work on, therefore avoiding the divorce pitfall. Premarital education can resolve some important issues before they get out of hand and make it easier to seek help down the road. Some of the most hotly debated issues among couples are finances, in-laws, sex, employment, expectations and children.

Learn how to resolve conflict and communicate effectively.

How you manage conflict is a strong predictor of marital success or failure. Danger signs include withdrawing or leaving during an argument, attacking the other person’s character instead of focusing on the problem, and escalation. When you listen to each other and talk as friends, you can learn a great deal about your partner and what is important to them. Resolving problems together is a win/win situation that encourages intimacy in the relationship.

Learn what your partner expects from marriage.

Knowing what you expect from each other can prepare you for the years ahead. Unrealistic and unmet expectations often lead to resentment. Knowing what to expect and how to meet each other’s needs can be the glue that holds your marriage together.

Be committed to the permanence of marriage.

Commitment, as well as love, is a choice. Couples who believe that divorce is not an option are less likely to take steps toward ending their relationship. In addition, older, more experienced couples can provide much wisdom and support through the years. Sometimes, mentor couples can give insight on handling difficulties constructively within the marital relationship. Marriage is not a 50/50 relationship, as we often hear. It requires 100 percent from both partners. If you want to make your marriage last, it must be a top priority for both of you.

Discover the 8 Essential Lessons to Build an Unbreakable Marriage Right from the Start! 

Preparing for Marriage is a self-guided online course that will guide you and your bae on a journey to build a solid foundation for your marriage! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME. All the essential tools to create a thriving marriage are jam-packed into 8 fun and fast-paced lessons guided by relationship experts.

How you’ll build an unbreakable marriage:

✅ You’ll get 8 essential lessons that you can work on when you want & where you want.

✅ Each lesson is divided into 3 parts, “Past You,” “Present You,” and “Future You.” Each part has a brief video led by marriage experts, Reggie & Lauren. You’ll have questions to talk through together and a handout to dive deeper. 

✅ After watching the videos and completing the lesson, there will be a quick pop-quiz* to make sure you’re getting the information you need! (And remembering it!)

✅ BONUS: You’ll have access to Reggie & Lauren by email every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement!

Make Holiday Memories, Not Misery

Navigating the in-law situation takes some skill.

Although it has been many years ago, Deanna Brann, clinical psychologist and author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law, has no problem recalling “The Thanksgiving from Hell.”

It was the first Thanksgiving she and her husband spent with her son, new daughter-in-law and granddaughters. Although looking forward to seeing them, Deanna was quite uneasy. Her daughter-in-law was apprehensive, too. The stress and tension on both sides caused a huge explosion. That’s why that particular holiday is remembered as hellish by both women.

There have probably already been a few interesting discussions about this year’s holiday gatherings with the in-laws. While a first holiday together can be awkward for everyone, you may also be dealing with the stress from annual pressure from both sides of the family. Maybe each side wants you to be there because, “It just won’t be the same if you aren’t here.” Yet trying to please everyone can make the whole season miserable.

If you are the in-laws, remember what holidays were like when you were newlyweds or raising children. What would happen if you backed off on the pressure to be at your home on a certain day? Everybody might enjoy celebrating the holidays more when there’s a little flexibility.

For couples trying to navigate the holidays with in-laws, Brann offers tips to help you create great memories instead of misery.

  • Have realistic expectations. Hope for the best, but be realistic. Families are families – and they are going to act how they act.

  • Don’t take it personally. Stressful times and tension can cause behavior to be exaggerated.  Remember that your in-laws’ indiscretions are more about them than they are about you. And your mother-in-law is probably not trying to get on your nerves. Keeping this in mind can help maintain the peace.

  • Be a team player. Remember you really aren’t on opposing teams. Different opinions about certain aspects of the holiday are okay. Find ways to share the workload. Plan fun outings that can help keep people out of trouble.

  • Hunt for humor. Finding humor in situations can help maintain your sanity by helping you create enough emotional distance so you won’t take people’s words and actions so personally. Plus, you’ll have some great stories to tell your friends.

  • It’s just one day. You can make it through one day of just about anything. Knowing that there is an end to the evening – and that soon you’ll be seeing their taillights (buckling your seat belt) – can make all the difference. If you or your guests are staying overnight, you can close the guestroom door soon enough.

  • Plan your exit strategy in advance. Visiting couples should agree beforehand how long to stay – and then leave at the predetermined time. If you’re traveling, getting a hotel room or staying elsewhere can lessen the stress.

Don’t let others steal your joy. A little advance planning (along with a good attitude) can help you make holiday memories, not misery.

 

Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV 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 that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Potential Boundary Issues

Consider talking about some things with your in-laws.

Before you take that walk down the aisle, sit down with each set of in-laws and talk about potential boundary issues in your relationship.

For example, when a couple considered purchasing a house close to his mother, the mother-in-law said, “I am OK with you living close to me, but you will call before you come to visit and I will do the same.” That was one smart mother-in-law!

Things To Consider

  • If your in-laws have a key to your home, how will they use that? Are you OK with them dropping in whenever or is the key for emergencies only? AND, how do you define an emergency?

  • Is there an unspoken expectation that you would come over for dinner once a week?

  • How do you feel about your spouse talking with his/her parents about issues within your marriage?

  • Do they expect to talk with you every day?

  • How will you handle unsolicited advice?

  • What are your in-laws’ expectations surrounding holidays?

Looking for more? Go here, and check out this episode of JulieB TV!

After a long 10 months, many parents (and kids) are ready to walk away from the usual school-year routines. Who wouldn’t want a break from alarm clocks, the morning sprint, evenings filled with homework, school projects and a set bedtime?

While this break from the school routine sounds great, most people are creatures of habit who like to have order in their world – even children. Though they may complain about structure, children are used to routines and rituals. In fact, that is the environment in which they are most likely to thrive.

A Review of 50 Years of Research on Naturally Occurring Family Routines and Rituals: Cause for Celebration?, conducted by Barbara H. Friese, Ph.D. and colleagues at Syracuse University, concluded that rituals are powerful organizers of family life and the presence of family routines and rituals in general is beneficial. The review of 32 studies showed that family routines are associated with:

  • stronger academic achievement,
  • better health and adjustment in children,
  • a stronger sense of personal identity for adolescents,
  • better-regulated behavior in young children,
  • greater marital satisfaction, and
  • stronger family relationships.

With summer right around the corner, now is a great time to think about a more relaxed summer schedule that includes routines and rituals to help you keep your sanity.

You may decide to give your children the first week or so to catch up on sleep and celebrate the year’s accomplishments. Beyond that, your family will most likely have a better time if everybody understands the summer playbook. If you haven’t done this before, here’s how you can start.

  • Set the stage. Before talking with your kids, consider what you are willing to do this summer. Will your kids go to camps? Do you expect them to do chores before they go out to play? Will you take a family vacation? Is it OK to sleep until noon? What about technology usage? Is going to the pool every day an option? What is negotiable and what is not? The whole conversation will be easier if you already know the answers to these questions.
  • Call a family meeting. Pull everybody together to discuss the summer months and plans. Clearly define your expectations and establish guidelines. Cover things like picking up after themselves, having friends over, raiding the refrigerator, family meals, bedtime, etc. Being on the same page will hopefully decrease the potential for chaos and unnecessary drama.

Most parents want a happy, healthy and relaxed home, especially during the summer months when everyone is there. Routines and rituals are great tools to help create that type of environment. Children and adults do best when they have consistency in their world, even though they may fuss about it.

Children are less anxious and whiny when they know they can count on things being a certain way every day. Establishing a structured environment may be more work for parents initially, but over time it makes life much easier for everyone.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Before school starts, you can’t go into a store without seeing school supplies. Kids are cramming in their summer reading and some parents are relieved that summer is almost over.

The new school year seems like a natural time to think about your child’s future. Parents often say they want health, happiness and success for their children, but do their actions actually help or hurt when it comes to preparing their kids for these things?

“Many parents micromanage their children’s lives,” says Charlie Sykes, author of 50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education and Dumbing Down our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write or Add. “Between parents who are extremely anxious to make sure their children are always happy and the obsession of the education system about self-esteem, we have this weird stew that profoundly impacts our children in lasting ways.”

How do children become responsible adults if they don’t work through problems, experience failure or deal with difficult people?

Numerous media stories highlight parents hovering over their children in the young adult years. Some parents even call employers and involve themselves in their child’s love life.

“Instead of allowing them to experience adversities, parents bubble-wrap their kids,” Sykes says. “This keeps children from developing coping and problem-solving skills. People learn how to be competent adults by working through the bumps and bruises and ups and downs. If parents do this for them, the kids have no immunity to the normal curve balls life throws at us.”

Sykes contends that parents who really want to help their kids be successful must learn to say no. Unfortunately, many parents want to enable, be a good buddy or be constantly concerned about staying on their kids’ good side.

“I think I had wonderful parents,” Sykes says. “I guarantee you they were not obsessed about what I thought or felt about them. They did not freak out when I was unhappy about their decisions. They stayed the course as my parents. Instead of being concerned about how I felt on a particular day, they were focused on the end results.”

Sykes believes we aren’t doing children any favors by insulating them from reality and responsibility. He encourages parents to pick positive and negative role models, and find out what they do with their children. Use them as examples of what you want to see and what is not appropriate.

“If you inflate your children’s expectations, every area of life, including work, marriage and parenting will disappoint them,” Sykes says. “Parents who believe it is their job to meet every single ‘want’ of their child run the risk of creating unrealistic expectations. This will probably lead to great disappointment in life.”

So, step back and evaluate the things you currently do for your child. If those things aren’t moving your child toward adulthood, it’s a great time to try something different.

For more insight on parenting, download our E-book “4 ways to stay connected after Baby” Download Here

Before marriage, engaged couples usually have a few expectations about their day-to-day roles. Who will manage the money? Who should initiate romance? What will the arrangements be if or when children arrive? Who will be responsible for housework, laundry and such?

If someone warned you before marriage or in its early stages about some real tension-causing issues most couples face, you may have dismissed any such idea. You probably thought your relationship was different than any other.

After the wedding, things do change, but not always the way anyone thinks it will. When conflict arises, some couples may even question whether they have what it takes to keep the marriage afloat. Add unmet expectations, misunderstandings and hurt feelings to the mix and things can get messy. What can couples do when this happens?

“Though people are trained from an early age to analyze problems and create solutions, we must be careful to remember that marriage is a relationship to be nurtured, not a project to complete or a problem to be solved,” says Dr. Gary Chapman, relationship counselor and author of The Five Love Languages.

Chapman wants couples to understand that love is not the only foundation for marriage. “The tingles,” as he calls it, is that early-stage feeling of euphoric love which only lasts for about two years. When that feeling is gone, couples enter the stage of marriage where they must intentionally nurture their love and grow together as a couple. Additionally, they must be prepared for common stumbling blocks that occur.

Chapman offers some guidance to help all couples intentionally move toward a healthy, long-lasting marriage.

  • Understand that allegiances change after marriage, even as you are marrying into a family. When two people become one, they become each other’s priority. Let the in-laws know this as you make your own decisions together, but honor them in the process. And in-laws – it’s best not to give advice unless someone asks you.

  • Learn your mate’s love language and speak it often. If you don’t know if their love language is gifts, physical touch, acts of service, quality time or words of affirmation, watch them around others or listen to their complaints and their requests for some clues. Complaining about something or asking for something repeatedly can usually indicate what they need from you.

  • Realize that all couples have conflict and struggle with selfishness. Make sure you understand what you expect from each other, before marriage if possible. Be a good listener. Try to understand your mate when you disagree, then affirm what your mate says and share with one another. Don’t try to prove you are right and he/she is wrong. The relationship loses when one person has to win. “Two people arguing goes downhill fast,” Chapman says, “But two listeners build each other up.”

According to Chapman, two selfish, demanding people cannot have a good marriage. It takes time to master the art of loving each other well and learn how to give each other pleasure in a relationship. In the end, the most satisfied couples make an effort to serve each other, not themselves.

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

Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

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

Inside, you’ll find:

  • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
  • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
  • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
  • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
  • AND MORE!

PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.