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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.***

It isn’t unusual for people to make time to attend training to increase their job productivity, improve their golf swing or even enhance their cooking or gardening skills, but when was the last time you took time away to invest in your marriage relationship?

Imagine getting away for a week with your spouse and a few other couples with no worries about what time it is or who needs to be at what practice. No kids yelling, “Mommy” or bosses calling. No cell phones, computers, or television and no clue about the news of the day. In fact, you really have no need to know what day it is or what your next meal will be. The focus of the week is just to enjoy each other’s company and to spend time with your mate.

If you feel totally disconnected from your spouse, this could sound like torture or a total impossibility.

Additionally, the thought of leaving technology behind can send chills up the spine. For others, this seems like something that would only happen in their dreams.

One group of couples took some friends up on the challenge of getting away for a week – on a sailboat. They were a bit apprehensive about how things would go but by day two, they loved not having a clue about what time it was, and it really didn’t matter.

At one point the couples were chatting after dinner. It was dark and people were yawning so everybody decided it must be very late. When they discovered it was only 8:30, everybody got a good laugh. A thoughtful discussion followed about how hard we live life and yet often forget to nurture the things that matter most to us because we are just too busy, stressed, selfish or just plain worn out.

Throughout the week people napped, read books, chatted about their children and other things that were just silly. They also soaked in the sun, played in the water, ate together and spent time learning from each another.

Here are a few lessons they learned about how to invest in marriage while on the boat:

  • It’s good to get away. We think we can’t afford to take the time, but we really can’t afford not to take the time.
  • Play is a good thing. Laughter and playing hard rejuvenates the soul and relationships.
  • Fasting from technology and the news of the day can be a very good thing. Spending time away from it made them realize how much time can be wasted just sitting in front of the television or answering emails instead of focusing on their spouse and family.
  • The kids can survive without parents for a few days. Time away from the kids can be a beautiful thing for everyone!
  • You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a fancy vacation to reconnect with your spouse. Camping, sailing or even staying at home while the kids visit the grandparents will work.

At the end of the week no one was disappointed in their adventure. In fact, spouses felt closer to each other and re-energized.

Consider how you can reconnect with your spouse and be intentional about making it happen.

 

***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.***

For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. Starry-eyed in love, couples stand before friends and family and recite these vows with total commitment to each other. Then they come home from the honeymoon and reality hits. Is it possible to keep the “honey” in honeymoon?

“Many people believe that if they have found their soulmate and are deeply in love, they won’t have disagreements or bad things happen in their marriage. If they do, they think something must be wrong with their relationship,” says Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education.

“I believe one of the biggest disservices we do to newlywed couples is not giving them expectations about how things are going to be when two lives come crashing together. They get married, go on a honeymoon and then come home thinking things are going to be great, only to find that there are these little things that keep coming up that are wreaking havoc in their relationship.”

For example, one newlywed couple lived close to the husband’s family and saw them all the time. Since they lived close to his parents, the wife thought they should go visit her family for Christmas and Thanksgiving. He thought that was totally unfair. She thought it was so fair it made her extremely angry and upset. He didn’t see the logic between where you live and splitting up the holidays. This was an issue in their first three years of marriage.

Studies indicate that every happily married couple usually has approximately 10 irreconcilable differences.

“Learning how to live with your spouse is a constant adventure that requires advance planning,” Sollee says. “I think the first years should be called the ‘clash of civilizations stage’ instead of the honeymoon. This stage is when two people actually get to set up a new civilization determining how they are going to do everything from eat, sleep, work, raise children, deal with in-laws, make love, keep house, pay bills, etc. Couples who believe that because you love each other you will simply agree about how all of this should work are in for great disappointment. Instead of seeing these differences as part of the marriage adventure, this is the very thing that sends what could be a great marriage over time into a tailspin.”

It might come as a surprise to know that noted marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, found that happily-married couples disagree the same amount as couples who divorce. Studies show that all couples fight about money, sex, kids, others and time. Couples who understand that these disagreements are normal and learn to manage those areas do better.

“Finding these areas of disagreement is part of the adventure. It shouldn’t scare couples if they prepare for the journey,” Sollee suggests. “Entering into marriage without preparation would be like planning to climb Mount Everest and only hoping you have what it takes. When people first started climbing that mountain, many people did not make it because they did not know what to expect. Now the success rate is much better because people know how to prepare and often do so for years before they actually climb the mountain. The same is true with marriage. We know the tools couples need to be successful.”

If you’re marrying soon or are a newlywed, think of it as if you were preparing to climb Mount Everest.

It’s a great adventure with potential danger at every turn. You want to be as knowledgeable as possible about what to expect. That way, even the simple things don’t pose a threat to your relationship. There are ways you can know what to expect from marriage—including how to navigate those annoying disagreements that keep rising to the surface. And knowing what to expect can help you keep the “honey” long after the honeymoon is over.

For instance, you can take a premarital or marriage education class where you can practice handling the hard stuff.

“You can do almost anything in life if you know what to expect,” Sollee shares. “If you don’t know what to expect, you can fall in a crevasse and blame it on all the wrong things—your spouse, your mother-in-law, etc.”

 ***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 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.***

Are there more fireworks going on outside the bedroom than inside? Probably, say marriage experts.

Data collected from the 2014 General Social Survey indicates that married couples have sex approximately 58 times a year. If you are under 30, however, it’s around 111 times. Approximately 15 percent of married couples haven’t made love with their spouse in the last six months to a year.

In a TEDx talk, therapist Michele Weiner-Davis describes this phenomenon as the sex-starved marriage. It’s a marriage where one spouse is longing for more touch and passion and the other is thinking, “What is the big deal, it’s just sex?”

“When disconnect happens in a marriage, intimacy on all levels goes out the window,” says Weiner-Davis, whose life work is to help resurrect flat-lined marriages. “These couples are the ones who have stopped laughing at each other’s jokes, sitting next to each other on the couch, holding hands or looking into each other’s eyes.”

Many people automatically assume that all men think about is sex. But according to Weiner-Davis, low sexual desire is as much an issue for men as it is for women; it’s just a well-kept secret.

Weiner-Davis says it is not uncommon for even long-married couples to never discuss sex. (Here are 10 Things Every Married Couple Should Know About Sex.)

In a session with Weiner-Davis, a husband of 15 years shared that there is only a two-hour window on Friday night when his wife might be interested in sex. He turned to his wife and said, “When I reach out to you in bed and you aren’t there for me, the only thing I think about is, do you find me attractive anymore, do you still love me, do you want to be with me? I lie awake thinking at night that this is the loneliest place to be.”

Surprised, his wife responded that all she ever considered was whether or not she was in the mood. Never had she ever thought about what it must be like to be in his shoes. This was the beginning of a breakthrough in their marriage. But, Weiner-Davis cautions that it doesn’t work this way for all couples.

“It’s interesting that couples share decision-making on so many things. But when it comes to sex, one person makes the decision and expects the other person to accept it, not complain about it, and be monogamous,” Weiner-Davis says.

Weiner-Davis contends that the primary cause of a sex-starved marriage is easy to fix. A few basic changes can help you move from little sparklers to fireworks in the bedroom:

  • Everybody has different ways of feeling connected to one another. You need to become an expert in making your mate feel connected to you.
  • If your spouse wants sex more often than you do, don’t delude yourself into thinking, “It’s just sex.” Sex is a powerful way to connect. (Here’s how to have better sex.)
  • When you understand your spouse’s way of connecting, you don’t have to agree with it or understand it. You just need to do it.
  • Healthy marriages require mutual caretaking. Take care of each other. It is an act of love.

“When we learn to be better caretakers of each other, we will make this world a better place one marriage at a time,” Weiner-Davis says.

 ***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.***

Is your marriage unexciting and dull? Have the feelings you had for each other on your wedding day become a distant memory? Do you ever look at other people and envy the spontaneity and freedom they seem to have? If so, you aren’t alone.

According to marriage experts, many couples enter into marriage with the expectation that it will always be exciting and romantic.

Then careers, children, in-laws, and other demands come along and often throw couples for a loop. They begin asking themselves questions like, “Did I marry the wrong person? Why should I stay in a relationship when I am not happy? Did I marry for all the wrong reasons?”

“Love is an interesting emotion,” says Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages. “It begins with what I refer to as the ‘tingles.’ You are emotionally obsessed with someone. You go to bed and wake up thinking about him, and have a hard time getting anything done because you can’t get him off your mind. This is accompanied by irrational thinking, believing that this person is perfect and there is nothing more important in life than being with him/her. Some people tell themselves that they will never be happy without this person in their life.

“This is accompanied by an illusion of intimacy. When you encourage couples to attend a marriage education class, they look at you like you are crazy to suggest working on the relationship since they believe their relationship doesn’t need any work. The illusion of intimacy blinds people to their differences in things like taste, values, music, priorities, etc.”

Emotional obsession, irrational thinking and illusion of intimacy lead to faulty conclusions such as, “I will never be happy unless we are married.” According to research, these feelings are not always permanent. The average lifespan of an obsession is two years—then people come off their high.

How does this relate to a ho-hum stage in marriage, you might ask?

When the “in-love obsession” subsides in marriage, people begin to see what they didn’t see before. All those things that were so cute when you were dating now get on your last nerve.

“Many couples are shocked by their loss of feelings for each other and are traumatized by conflicts,” Chapman says. “In many instances, they have no idea how to deal with the conflicts. The conflicts lead to fights. Then they think things like, ‘I wish I had married the other person.’ Walls go up and there is a loss of intimacy. Each person can give volumes of evidence as to why their spouse is at fault for the failing marriage.”

Then it happens. In the midst of your marital struggles, someone else comes along. The person is funny, spontaneous, full of life, neat, etc. He/she seems much more exciting than your current spouse. This person seems to have all the qualities you love in a person and you get the tingles all over again.

“This is when people start thinking ‘I never did love her’ or ‘I got married for all the wrong reasons,’ to convince themselves that their marriage was not right from the beginning and to somehow justify divorce,” Chapman says. “The problem is, they don’t understand that in two years they could potentially be in the very same place. Some people marry multiple times because every time they get the tingles they think they’ve finally found the right person.”

So, what do you do?

  • Recognize the tingles for what they are—they aren’t always trustworthy.
  • Keep your guard up—when there are troubles at home, you are vulnerable to misinterpreting the attention of others.
  • Seek out professional help from someone who is marriage-friendly.
  • Be leery of those who want to give you advice—even people with the best intentions can give you BAD advice.

Understand that it is normal to experience ho-hum stages in your marriage. Even the healthiest of marriages go through this. The key is to recognize it and do something about it. The ho-hum phase should be temporary. You really can feel the tingles again for your spouse.

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 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.

If you could have paradise however you imagine it, what would it look like?

And if you could have that kind of paradise, do whatever you wanted to do there and be in charge of it, would you go there?

But if you could have that kind of paradise, but with no one else, would you still go?

“These are questions I ask couples across this country and internationally,” says counselor Dr. Rick Marks. “As fed up as they might be with their marriage or relationship and as tempting as it may be, these questions actually create tension in a person because human beings were not designed to be alone. I rarely come across a person who says they would take that kind of paradise. Yet, I talk with hundreds of couples who are married and living a lonely existence.”

Marks contends that the remedy for human aloneness is intimacy.

Everybody craves intimacy, and people will find ways to get it.

“Pain pursues pleasure,” Marks says. “Your brain is wired to avoid pain and pursue pleasure. We are all driven by our needs until the day we die. When you don’t feel loved, you search for ways to get that need met. This is why some people will say to you, ‘Bad love is better than no love at all.’”

Consider this: If you had not eaten in five days and someone gave you a bunch of hamburgers, would it satisfy your hunger? Yes, because the message to your brain is that you are eating something. Eating rat poison instead of hamburgers would also satisfy your need initially. Why? Because your brain would still release the same squirt of dopamine to signal that the need had been met.

“This is what people often do in marriage when things aren’t going well,” Marks says. “If I need attention and I get any kind of attention, I feel love—even if the attention comes from the wrong person. People will go to rat poison to get their needs met, because it satisfies the need in the moment. Needs—met or unmet—affect how we think, feel and behave.”

How would you respond to the question, “Do you feel loved and valued in your marriage?”

Believe it or not, creating or increasing intimacy in your marriage isn’t only about your spouse. Sometimes husbands and wives actually hinder getting their intimacy needs met due to prideful self-reliance, exalting their own needs as more important than those of their spouse and being hypersensitive.

“Your spouse could actually be trying to love you, but due to your pridefulness, you refuse to receive it,” Marks says. “We are often so focused on our own needs that we don’t pay attention to the needs of our spouse. This is a recipe for disaster. I, along with many others, have experienced this miserable existence.”

So, what can you do to increase intimacy in your marriage?

  • Discuss with your spouse: When do each of you feel loved and valued?
  • Then ask yourself: Do I make it difficult to create intimacy in my marriage?

Honest answers to these questions will help you pinpoint the areas where each of you can meet the other’s needs. This healthy balance of give and take can help you produce a more intimate and fulfilling marriage relationship.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear 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.***

DISCOVER DEEPER INTIMACY IN YOUR MARRIAGE

READY TO HAVE AMAZING, MIND-BLOWING SEX?

A better sex life is totally possible.

Your marriage goes through ups and downs, highs and lows, crazy passion and mundane routine-filled days. But sometimes you can get stuck in that monotony. Not only does your sex life go out the window, you may find conversations are lacking and that you’re both just generally not connecting with each other.

Discover Deeper Intimacy in Your Marriage offers simple, practical strategies to help you reignite the passion and connection with your spouse in 5 intimacy-building modules.