From Spectator to Participant – Tips to Grow Your Marriage with Hubby

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How would you rate the health of your marriage? Now check with your husband for his perspective.  My husband’s cup is always overflowing and mine tends to be half full.  Today I’m continuing with the series Life is too valuable to merely be a spectator, shape up and become a participant. We’re looking at the H in SHAPE.

 

Husband – Growing in the Relationship with your Husband.

  • Keep romance alive – Couples should not just date to get married rather they should get married to date. Make dating each other a priority.  Do you want to know WHY?   Never stop having fun together.
  • Communicate Daily – Set aside a daily time to talk so as not to become isolated. Communication means both talking and active listening.  Listen with the intent to understand and not just to reply. When our girls were young, Jon would call to let me know he was headed home which was a “cue” to get the girls settled so we can have time to catch up.  The girls and I would pick up toys and find a video to watch or books to read.  They excitedly would run out to greet daddy and then would watch a 30-minute video so Jon and I could catch up face to face.  We would also call or email each other during the day. Even when Jon travels, which was over 100 days last year, we will talk daily. Are you struggling with good communication? Last night I watched a brilliant Ted Talk 10 ways to have a better conversation.
  • Ladies, respect your husband as our love is not enough – Men would rather be alone and unloved than feel inadequate and disrespected according to research by Shaunti Feldhahn in For Women Only.  Emerson Eggerichs wrote Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs  which I highly encourage couples to read.  I’d been married for 20 years to a wonderful man that I thought I was respecting. I never realized, however, how many little things I said and did that made him feel so belittled. (And he certainly didn’t know how to share that with me!) It wasn’t until we were at a counseling session and had to share ways we thought we had offended each other, yikes!!!  I remember praying that God would reveal the many ways I had hurt or offended Jon. I was shocked when the word disrespect came to mind so I asked God how I had disrespected Jon and, let’s just say, it wasn’t a short list.  I can vividly see myself asking Jon to forgive me for being disrespectful. He sat shocked but then as I shared how I felt I had disrespected him, he began to weep.  I share this only because it was a turning point in our marriage. Are you questioning if you truly respect your husband? Ask him what respect looks like and be ready to listen.
  • Be covenant keepers, AKA committed – Eliminate the word DIVORCE from your vocabulary as it plants seeds for potential marriage failure as well as causing stress, anxiety, worry, and fear that the other person may just pack up and leave. Marriage only survives the difficult times when divorce is not an option. Have the attitude that FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION.
  • Invest in your marriage – A good marriage is worth the investment of time and money. Don’t be naïve thinking a few weeks of pre-marital counseling prior to marriage is all you need; continue to be teachable. Need ideas on investing in your marriage? (otherwise known as  fireproofing your marriage)  I’ve been married 30 years and I still have much to learn.  Jon and I attend a marriage conference every 2-3 years such as A Weekend to Remember, Art of Marriage, or a seminar like Love and Respect, or do a book study, or bible study with a community group. Find an older couple whose marriage you admire and ask if they would meet with you. How about a marriage cruise?  Family Life Today will be hosting their 5th year of Love Like You Mean It, Marriage Cruise  You will hear some of the best speakers and experts  on marriage. Jon and I went three years ago and truly recommend it.  A good marriage is worth the investment of time & $$$. Seek professional help when needed. The Center for Relational Care, in Austin, Texas, has great counselors and incredible marriage intensives which are costly but not nearly as costly as a failed marriage and attorney fees. Jon and I use CRC occasionally for a tune up like we did 10 years ago when we unexpectantly went through many changes (turning 40, loss of a job, selling our dream home to start a company, Jon working 60+ hour work weeks, a new baby and home schooling, insurmountable debt, etc.).

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  • Hard times will come – So be prepared & unified. Persevering through the struggles can bring you closer together than you were before. I often tell others that when you are in the midst of a storm you are so busy trying to stay afloat that you don’t remember the calmness of where you came from and often you can’t see the rainbow just on the other side.  Keeping a gratitude journal will help your remember God’s previous faithfulness to you.
  • Appreciate your man – It’s a hard world out there and our husbands need to know that we believe in their abilities.  Show and tell your husband how much you love and appreciate all he does.
  • Have sex!!! – Men spell love S-E-X. Plus, intimacy brings couples together better than anything.

 Go out and enjoy your man.  Does any one idea resonate with you? How will you grow your marriage?



Why Date Your Mate

I am privileged to be sharing over at The ART of Domesticity.  Sandra Maddox is an outspoken advocate for Christian Motherhood, a speaker, ministry leader, mentor, teacher, children’s book author and accomplished interior designer. She and her husband, Dr. Ron Maddox, live in Newport Beach, California.  Be sure to check out her lovely blog The ART of Domesticity.

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Before delving into the importance of why you should date your mate, my husband and I wanted to share a portion of our story to raise the question, is dating simply a prelude to marriage? Dating is important for couples who are exploring the possibility of matrimony, but it is also important for couples already in wedded bliss. 

Jon: I remember the first date I had with Cherie. We were in college and looking over my fraternity’s membership yearbook that had a picture of all the active members in alphabetical order. Cherie was doing an early version of tender by telling (swiping) which of the members she wouldn’t mind dating. We were friends at this point so this wasn’t as awkward as you might have thought 🙂 When she came to my photo, near the end as my last name starts with a “W”, she glanced up from the yearbook and said she wouldn’t mind dating me! I was shocked then quickly recovered and immediately asked her to go on a date to see a movie and grab dinner together. Thus began a year of dating followed by a year of engagement before I could call Cherie my bride.

Cherie: Before my prince charming came along I dated many toads.  While dating before marriage was fun, the process had several drawbacks including broken hearts, rejection, and confusion. During high school and my early college years I wasn’t  ready to settle down. For two years I had been a little sister for a fraternity that Jon was part of but we were not on each other’s radar. Thankfully, we both enrolled in summer classes my junior year. We were already friends so there was no stress to impress. We began hanging out, talking, playing tennis, jogging, watching movies, and sometimes he would hang out at the pool where I worked as a lifeguard. It was so much fun!  The intentionality of planning these fun outings together knit our hearts together over time and I began to wonder if he had any romantic feelings towards me.

While Jon and I are not always perfect in the field of marriage, we have over thirty years of experience and have equipped numerous couples for marriage by guiding them through premarital counseling. 

10 reasons we continue to date and counsel married couples to do the same:

  1. Dating is spending quality time together and we know that time strengthens any relationship. Couples that play together stay together.
  2. Dating builds oneness.
  3. Dating allows us to reconnect, eliminating the two ships passing in the night syndrome.
  4. Dating provides for deeper communication.
  5. Dating provides opportunities to create fun memories through shared experiences.
  6. Dating shows your spouse that they are a still a high priority and everyone wants to be wanted.
  7. Dating rekindles the flame of romance.  A fire that is not fed or tended to will eventually die out.
  8. Dating keeps things exciting which often leads to passion.
  9. Dating helps children feel more secure about their family dynamic and provides a great example for how they should treat their future spouse.
  10. Dating is a tangible expression of our love for each other and an example to others. 

Once married, dating your spouse should be done with intentionality. Block out time and put it on a shared calendar. Don’t let routine set in nor allow your career or children to push your dating aside. Dating is a simple way to nurture the most important earthly relationship we have by spending time together. To do this, it is important to intentionally disconnect from your everyday world and reconnect with the one you love.

Dating can involve simply doing fun things together to enjoy each others company. This looks different for everyone, but it is our opinion that couples should date as often as possible because it provides as safe space to reconnect. A date doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate in order to strengthen your marriage, however, it does need to be intentional. You are seeking quality time together. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Speaking of fail, a few date killers for us have been running errands, discussing finances, children, family issues, or work. Decide what boundaries you need to enforce ahead of time in order to enjoy the intentional time together.  

We have enjoyed sharing the responsibility of planning our dates. This allows for creativity, excitement, and fun. Part of the date should include hubby opening the door and gratitude at the end of your date.

Having lived in LA, VA, TX, OR, and CA we’ve been able to experience dates on the beach, hiking the Shenandoah Mountains, apple picking, visiting historical landmarks in Washington DC, hiking Multnomah Falls, and so much more. Depending on where you live, I encourage you to make the most of the free and fun opportunities that are around you. 

After thirty years of marriage, we have gone through numerous life stages that have impacted our dating. From having toddlers to teens, extensive travel, a demanding job, or a financial flux, it is important to keep in mind the season of life that you are currently in while planning your dates. 

2015 Dates with my mate

A few of the many dates we had in 2015. From mud baths, wine tasting, doing laundry, pedicure, hiking, walking, sunbathing, canoeing, etc… all of that with my hubby being on the road 100 days in 2015.

Below are numerous ideas to help you get your dating mojo going:

  1. Walking and talking. We do that several times a week.
  2. Biking 
  3. Have a picnic overlooking the ocean as the sun sets or out in the country after picking apples
  4. Serving the homeless or any other outreach in your community
  5. Gardening or landscaping
  6. Grocery or Home Depot shopping
  7. Being a tourist in your own city by visiting local attractions
  8. Visiting museums and historical landmarks
  9. Painting or wallpapering (when we were younger)
  10. Walking through model homes or visiting a parade of homes and talk about your dream home
  11. Test driving cars and talking about what your ideal car would be
  12. Planning vacations together and, of course, go on them together!
  13. Reminisce over old photo albums or your wedding album
  14. Watch your wedding video
  15. Explore local cuisine.  Your local magazine, newspaper, or a google search can help you compile a list of restaurants. Cut out//print out the places that interest you and then place them in one of three jars: (special occasions, casual dining, or inexpensive).  When it’s time to decide where to eat, randomly pull a place from the jar of choice.  
  16. People watch in a public place (airport, mall, downtown)
  17. Enroll in a class together (dance, cooking, educational)
  18. If struggling in a particular area regarding marriage (communication, respect, etc,)  buy a book to read aloud to each other.
  19. Visit the zoo
  20. Hang out at a local bookstore
  21. Take a scenic drive to enjoy the landscape and beauty of nature.
  22. Hot air ballooning is a once in a lifetime experience
  23. Find a couple’s devotion and nightly read from it together. One of our favorites is, Moments Together for Couples: 365 Daily Devotions for Drawing Near to God & One Another by Dennis and Barbara Rainey
  24. Once the kids were all in school we were able to have special dates in our house or meet up for lunch outings.  
  25. Plan and splurge once or twice a year for a weekend date away together.
  26. Learn each other’s love language and begin to give love the way your spouse best receives love. We give and receive love in one of the five ways.
    • Physical Touch
    • Acts of Service
    • Words of Affirmation
    • Quality Time
    • Gifts  

Do you feel like you are in a rut and stuck on planning a date?  Below are resources and blogs to help you become more creative.

  • 40 Unforgettable Dates with Your Mate by Dr. Gary & Barbara Rosberg
  • 10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage by David and Claudia Arp
  • 10 Great Dates for Empty Nesters by  David and Claudia Arp
  • 52 Fantastic Dates for You and Your Mate by David and Claudia Arp
  • The Dating Diva’s this blog was started by 11 women desiring to make sure they continued to date their husbands plus stoked the romance fire in their marriage. They have lots of ideas for various budgets.
  • Focus on the Family along with Greg Smalley’s expertise did a series dating your spouse.
  • 52 Date Night Ideas FREE printable cards categorized by
    • Outdoor & Active
    • Artsy & Cultural
    • At Home & Inexpensive
  • Date Box Everything you need for a fun and creative date delivered monthly to your door for about $30/month.

I hope you have found these resources inspiring and helpful. Have fun and enjoy planning your night out!



Staying Connected While Apart

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Cherie Werner at thewerners.org

Those dreaded words, “Honey, I will be out of town next week for business.”

Business trips have a way of interrupting a good routine, mom flies solo in the parenting department, kids tend to be out of sorts while dad in sleeping in strange beds far away from his domain. Have you ever noticed that once the “master” has left the premises major appliances malfunction, car idiot lights illuminate, wireless networks stop networking and the “simple” remote control no longer controls? At least that’s how it usually rolls in our home.

Let’s face it; business travel is hard on everyone.

Earlier in our marriage, I resented Jon’s travel. Over the years, however, with better communication, honesty and intentionality, my husband and I have learned how to stay connected making our time apart more bearable and fruitful. While I don’t relish his being away I have cultivated a few habits to help us all navigate his travel interruptions.

Growing Spiritually

  • Spend time in the Word daily. More than ever, while Jon is away I need God’s perspective on life.
  • Remember God is the only one who can meet your needs. “And it is He who will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory, because of what Christ Jesus has done for us” Philippians 4:19
  • Begin and end your day with prayer. Pray for much-needed energy plus love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 Pray for your husbands as business travel usually is lonely and exhausting.
  • Cultivate a heart of gratitude. Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life. Proverbs 4:23 (NCV) Thus, be grateful giving thanks for your husband, his job and all that it provides.
  • Find a friend to hold you accountable for your attitude and pray with and for you.  Knowing I have someone who is praying for me and cares has been a blessing.

Growing Personally

  • Get extra rest. I sometimes go to bed when my youngest daughter does.
  • Work on your favorite projects or personal interest. (Scrapbooks, painting, blogging, reading, gardening, etc.)
  • Start or join a moms group to encourage others. The more you give, the more you receive.
  • Build a support system of friends who are willing to help you out (babysitting co-op, play groups, etc.)
  • Phone a friend. I find a meaningful conversation both stimulating and helpful to carry on solo.
  • Keep things simple. Simple in regards cooking and obligations.
  • Keep your sanity (exercise, hiring a sitter, social interaction, daily quite time).
  • Ban yourself from nagging and complaining about his travel as well as comparing his job to others. Our husbands need to feel appreciated.
  • Plan a night out with friends or something special several days after his return thereby giving you something to anticipate.

Growing Together When Apart

  • Create a travel calendar especially when dad must go for an extended time. Include outings, obligations, and a welcome home celebration.
  • Plan fun outings while dad is away. Do a local search for “monthly family outings/events” in your area. Choose a few to do (a library reading for kids, free museum days, etc.). Planning gives kids something to look forward to and keeps all occupied.
  • Have dad map out where he will be traveling to so the family can follow his travels, AKA a geography lesson.
  • Have the kiddos hide notes or pictures in his suitcase. 
  • Tuck a love note in his briefcase.
  • Encourage dad to leave behind a special token with kids. Jon has a 1922 silver dollar that he gives to the girls to take care of when he is gone.
  • Plan special events the kids can look forward to when dad travels. When my husband is away, my girls get to sleep with me. Consequently, this is something that they have to look forward to. We eat breakfast for dinner.
  • Establish a daily time for dad to connect with the kids. Jon usually will call in the morning and before Cayley goes to bed. Today with the wonders of technology you can FaceTime, Skype, text, send silly movies and pictures to each other. Jon and Cayley have various ongoing games they play together (Scrabble, Draw Something, and others).

Growing Closer When Together

  • Welcome your husband home. Warmly greet him with a hug and kiss and teach your kids to do the same.
  • Create a cheerful atmosphere when he returns home. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:11-12
  • Ask about his trip and meetings. Jon likes when I show interest in what he does. The girls always ask him to share funny occurrences.
  • Plan a date night soon after he returns. 
  • Have a “staff meeting.” This is a tool that encompasses a weekly meeting and one soon after Jon returns to be sure we are on the same page in regards parenting goals and expectations, catching him up by sharing upcoming events, and other obligations.
  • Don’t forget that men spell love and appreciation S.E.X.

Now that we are re-experiencing parenting with our youngest daughter, it has become apparent that some things never change. Cayley cries like her sisters did ten years ago each time Jon heads out on a trip exclaiming, “Please don’t go, and “Do you really have to go daddy?” Secretly, Jon longs to hear these words as it reaffirms the special bond he has with our youngest and his desire to get back home as quickly as possible. My heart still aches with each departure but thankfully we’ve learned to stay better connected, joyful, and supportive of each other.

How do you stay connected while apart? What do you find the hardest to balance when your husband has to be away?  Which of the above suggestions might help your family stay better connected when future travel occurs?