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5 Healthy Date Ideas

March 4, 2016

5 Healthy Date IdeasPhoto by Heather Chipps Photography

I love, love, love thinking of new date ideas. Sure, I adore going out to fancy dinners with my husband, but in all honesty, we can do that anytime. It’s so much fun for us to think outside the box and go on dates that are new and different for us. And bonus points if we’re making our minds and bodies healthier at the same time!

Here are 5 healthy date ideas for you to surprise your significant other with this weekend:

Sweat it out. Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m talking about the gym! Make a date with your significant other to get your sweat on a the gym. Spot each other as you lift weights, do some cardio side-by-side, and then when you’re done, treat yourself to a smoothie.

Head to the farmer’s market. Ahh, one of my and my husband’s favorite things to do together! Schedule an early Saturday morning date at the farmer’s market to enjoy the warmer temps, get some fresh air, and snag some delicious, healthy grub. Bonus points if you score some yummy produce to make dinner with that evening for your second date of the day! (Another one of our favorite things to do!)

Take a garden tour. Now that the weather is starting to warm up, schedule a tour of a local garden for you and your spouse. Enjoy the fresh air, admire the new blooms, and then get your energy back at a local coffee shop.

Take a hike. No…literally. Pack a picnic for just the two of you (I won’t tell if you sneak in a bottle or two of wine) and go hiking at one of your favorite locations, or a new-to-you trail! Once you’re done and have worked up an appetite, find a spot to enjoy a picnic together.

Head to the dog park. Grab your pups and head to the dog park for a fun-filled day of play, fetch, and walks! Your sweet fur babies will thank you, too.

Now if you’ll excuse me…I have a picnic to pack.

What are your favorite healthy dates to go on?

Marriage

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Recipe for the Best Leisurely Weekend Morning

February 26, 2016

Recipe for the Best Leisurely Weekend MorningPhoto by Heather Chipps Photography | Styled by Amanda Day Rose | Venue Seven Springs Farm

Oh, weekend mornings, I adore you so. There are few things better than waking up and knowing I have absolutely nothing on my plate for the next 48 or so hours (except, perhaps, some tidying around the house, but if I stay on top of that during the week, there’s even very little of that needed!).

I’m a big fan of most mornings, not just weekend mornings, which means weekend mornings are that much sweeter. And when shared with a spouse? Well, you’ve got a recipe for pure bliss!

Here’s my recipe for the best leisurely weekend morning:

A dollop of coffee. This is important, you guys! My quiet coffee ritual is my absolute favorite of each and every day. Even if you’re not a coffee drinker, find a leisurely way to enjoy those quiet few moments each morning…especially on the weekends!

A dash of yoga pants and messy hair. What would mornings be without this luxurious duo? I’m a poster child for yoga pants and messy hair, so on Saturday morning, you’ll find me quietly sipping my espresso all decked out in my best yoga pants and a horrifically messy top-knot.

A splash of brunch. Did someone say brunch?? Be still my heart…my favorite meal of all time! Whether we plan on a late brunch out at some of our favorite local joints or we cook brunch at home together, my husband and I are a huge fan of brunch (he even mentioned it in his wedding vows to me, but that’s a story for another day).

A side of hilarious husband. What’s coffee, brunch, yoga pants, and messy hair without some major fits of laughter mixed in? There’s nothing I love more than my husband making me laugh with his witty jokes and unending stories.

Mix them all together and you’ve got the absolute best leisurely weekend morning around! Oh, I am so looking forward to this exact scenario tomorrow morning! If you need me anytime between 8am-noon, you know just where to find me…

Now share your favorite brunch recipes with me so I have something new to make tomorrow morning!

Marriage

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Three Ways to Argue Smarter in Marriage

February 22, 2016

How to Argue Smarter Photo by Heather Chipps Photography | Florals by Amanda Day Rose | Handwriting by my sweet husband

I hesitated about writing this post. 99.9% of the time, in the wedding industry, we read about how absolutely blissful marriage is. About how we should love our spouses well and honor them. And all of those things are true – oh, so true! My husband and I are coming up on our five year anniversary and I am still in the blissful stage – and hope I never leave it!

But when you’re immersed in the wedding industry where engagement and marriage are rosy and sweet and charming, you can sometimes feel like the odd person out when you’re feeling frustrated with your spouse. Believe me, friend, you are not alone! When you are spending hours upon hours and days upon days with one person for all of eternity, you are bound to get frustrated with one another!

Not the most fun thing to read about, but important nonetheless, here are three tips to argue smarter in marriage so you move forward into that blissful state much quicker:

Communication is key. Just like any other aspect of your marriage, communication is so important when you and your spouse have differing opinions. Be open, honest, and willing to listen, too. Don’t talk for the sake of talking, but talk so that it moves the conversation forward so you can come to an agreement quicker.

Know and understand your arguing patterns. Some of you may feel it’s best to walk away from a disagreement for a little while, but some of you may want to nip it in the bud right away and get back to your normal routine. And you and your spouse may just have opposing views on that, too. Understand and respect each other’s patterns and decide before disagreements occur how you’ll compromise on finding a solution. Will you be okay with handling it right away if you normally prefer to take a breather? Talk these things through (read: communicate!) so you’re on the same page if you do have a disagreement.

Agree that you’re always on the same team.  In the end, know and understand that you’re both on the same team and are working towards the same ultimate goal of a happy, fulfilling marriage. Think about whether or not your disagreement is really worth arguing about. Bring your conversations full-circle and remind one another what it is you love about each other and your marriage and move past it.

I know there’s so much more complexity involved in each individual relationship, and that some disagreements dig deeper than others, but for the most part if you agree to remain open with one another, and communicate clearly, you’ll be able to move past your disagreements much quicker and build a stronger bond between the two of you in the long run.

Marriage

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3 Honeymoon Destinations That Don’t Cost a Fortune

February 17, 2016

3 Honeymoon Destinations that Don't Cost a Fortune
Photo by Caroline Lima

You may be cringing at the thought of shelling out thousands of dollars on a honeymoon immediately after shelling out thousands of dollars on the wedding of your dreams. Or you may just have no desire to travel for from home and just want to spend some quiet time as husband and wife, no matter where you are. Either way, there are so many great, more affordable alternatives to the extravagant honeymoon destinations that are just as fun and romantic!

So if this sounds like you, here are three wonderful honeymoon destinations that don’t cost a fortune:

Your own city. Yep, you read that right. Be a tourist in your own city for a week! Get a hotel room, map out the restaurants you’ve always wanted to try, museums others seem to enjoy that you take for granted, and the side streets you’ve never really thought twice about. Tour your own hometown for the week, enjoy being married, and don’t worry about breaking the bank either! Not only will it be a refreshing vacation “away”, but it will also shed new light on the city or town you may have been taking for granted. My husband and I have done this on three separate occasions already (one was the two nights following our wedding!) and we’ve made some of the best memories on these excursions.

A state-pride road trip. Wanting to venture a little further than your own hometown? Map out the places in your own state you’ve always wanted to visit, and take a mini road trip throughout your home state! It can be across the state, or just a few areas close by – it’s your call! You’ll see your own state has so much to offer outside your hometown, without breaking the bank! And you’ll get to enjoy a little QT as newlyweds along the way. (Another trip some of our favorite memories started with – mini road trips with no schedule or care in the world!)

Home sweet home. Really wanting to have a great honeymoon, but just don’t have the budget for it right now? There are millions of ways to create your own honeymoon right in your own home. Take the week off work, order takeout from your favorite restaurants, load up on movies you’ve been waiting to watch, plan a board game night with prizes for the winner….the possibilities are endless! The only restrictions? You must turn off the internet, home phone, and not worry one second about any cleaning or laundry that needs to be done! Pretend you’re in a hotel room for the week and take advantage of all the amenities this hotel has to offer! (And if you need ideas for how to make this feel like a honeymoon…I’ve got your back, just shoot me an email! As much as we love to travel, my husband and I are also the king and queen of vacationing in our own home!).

I’m sure you think I’m crazy, but I promise you this could set a new precedent for your future vacations! You may want to start taking one or two vacations a year in your own home after your honeymoon!

Now spill the beans…which one will you choose and what activities are you planning to do?

Marriage

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52 Weeks of “I Do’s”

February 15, 2016

52 Weeks of "I Do's"Photo by Caroline Lima | Styled by Amanda Day Rose

My absolute favorite part of wedding design is the marriage that comes afterwards! We create these amazingly spectacular events, centered around those who love us most and the heartfelt details that make us who we are all as a beautiful prologue to marriage.

To me, it’s so important that those blissful days during your engagement and as newlyweds last forever, not just during this special season in your life!

So now that we’re well into a fresh new year, I want you and your spouse/fiancé/significant other to think about something…and hopefully turn it into an activity you can communicate to one another and share throughout the year! I want you to think about the ways you can honor your vows and commitment to one another every single week (and day, hour, minute!) of the year. Make them personal to you as a couple so they are even more meaningful! Celebrate your unique relationship and personalities. Share the commitment you plan to honor in the coming week with your spouse and communicate about the previous week’s commitment to one another. Communication is key when it comes to fulfilling marriages, y’all, and what better way to strengthen this bond than by sharing the most special vows with one another every single week?

Here’s a list of weekly “I Do’s” to get your ideas flowing:

  1. I do promise to “unplug” at the end of each day and spend time with you.
  2. I do promise to spend one leisurely, relaxing meal with you each day this week.
  3. I do promise to take out the trash because I know that’s your least favorite chore.
  4. I do promise to make the bed every morning.
  5. I do promise to check in with you during the day just to say “hi.”
  6. I do promise to make you my first priority every morning and every night.
  7. I do promise to encourage and support you during a big project this week.
  8. I do promise to stop what I’m doing and greet you when you walk in the door.
  9. I do promise to turn the light out when I leave the room.
  10. I do promise to give you my full attention when you are telling me a story.
  11. I do promise to share honest feedback when you ask for my opinion.
  12. I do promise to pray with you each night.
  13. I do promise to celebrate your accomplishments – no matter how big or small – daily.
  14. I do promise to complete that lingering home improvement project that’s been waiting for me.
  15. I do promise to lift you up when you’re feeling sad or scared.
  16. I do promise to make you laugh at inopportune times because I know that’s when you secretly enjoy it.
  17. I do promise to challenge you to be a better person.
  18. I do promise to cherish even the shortest moments with you, no matter how busy we are.
  19. I do promise to celebrate and love your quirks and unique traits.
  20. I do promise to comfort you when you’re feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.
  21. I do promise to relieve some of your burden when you are busy.
  22. I do promise to hold your hand in public because I know it means so much to you.
  23. I do promise to share my dessert with you.
  24. I do promise to support your decisions, no matter how great or small.
  25. I do promise to share my dreams and thoughts with you.
  26. I do promise to take you for who you are and not try to change you.
  27. I do promise to keep your dreams and fears close to my heart in confidence.
  28. I do promise to choose you above all else every day.
  29. I do promise to reach out to you first when I need someone the most.
  30. I do promise to respect you with everything I am.
  31. I do promise to protect you.
  32. I do promise to try my best to understand your viewpoint.
  33. I do promise to make our home a place of comfort and joy.
  34. I do promise to be not only your spouse, but also your confidante and best friend.
  35. I do promise to love you with everything I have, no matter what.
  36. I do promise to provide you with courage when you are feeling weak.
  37. I do promise to always be honest with you.
  38. I do promise to value the gifts you offer to me and our family.
  39. I do promise to appreciate the little things you do for me.
  40. I do promise to take a step back and look at the bigger picture when I feel angry.
  41. I do promise to let you have the first cup of coffee, because it’s the best one.
  42. I do promise to date you as often as possible.
  43. I do promise to keep your needs in mind when making decisions.
  44. I do promise to celebrate your successes.
  45. I do promise to fight for our love and our family.
  46. I do promise to remind you every day of the reasons I fell in love with you.
  47. I do promise to love you more and more each day.
  48. I do promise to share with you all the ways you amaze me.
  49. I do promise to listen when you just need to talk.
  50. I do promise to try and provide answers when you need guidance along the way.
  51. I do promise to add items to the grocery list when I take the last of them.
  52. I do promise to be the best spouse I can possibly be for the rest of our lives.

Marriage

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Meal Planning 101 for Newlyweds

February 12, 2016

Meal Planning 101 for Newlyweds

When my husband and I tied the knot almost 5 years ago, I honestly had not even considered the idea of meal planning. As a result, we dined out more nights than we cooked at home. I had no idea how to properly grocery shop and often got frustrated at the grocery store. And then I got frustrated again when I had to throw perishable food away later in the week because it spoiled and I never used it.

These days, though, meal planning is a standard part of our week. In fact, I’ve come to enjoy planning our meals each week. Not only are we saving money, but I also have a very specific list when grocery shopping, making the entire trip much more focused and enjoyable.

Even if you hate cooking and don’t spend much time in the kitchen, I encourage you to try meal planning. Plan meals you know you’ll be comfortable (and enjoy!) cooking. Keep the whole process easy on yourself so you don’t get overwhelmed or frustrated. Who knows…you may end up enjoying your time in the kitchen!

Here are some additional tips to help you start meal planning for two:

Set aside a dedicated block of time every weekend. I prefer to do my meal planning on Sunday mornings, but pick a time and day that works best for your schedule. Keep in mind you’ll want to do your grocery shopping after planning your meals for the week, so make sure you meal plan in plenty of time to shop for the week, too. I spend about 30 minutes each Sunday jotting down each night’s dinner, a list of items to have on hand for breakfast and lunches, and then I create a grocery list based off our meals for the week.

Prep your food after grocery shopping. If at all possible, prep any foods for the week you can ahead of time. For instance, wash and dry all your fruits and vegetables, bake any protein you plan to use, and place individual portions of items in Ziploc bags or tupperware to quickly grab for breakfast or lunch.

Take the week’s schedule into account. If you know you’ll be late returning home on night, plan to have extra leftovers from the night before ready or put your slow cooker to use. This will ensure you’re using the food you’ve paid for and not deciding to order takeout because you’re starving and haven’t even thought about dinner.

Buy bulk items and prepare them differently throughout the week. Bulk items are often going to be cheaper than smaller quantities. Buy in bulk and prepare the same foods in different ways throughout the week to save money. So you don’t get bored with the same foods, switch up which bulk items you get each week.

Plan meals around your coupons. If you’re a coupon clipper, check your coupons before planning your meals. Plan meals around the coupons you’ve clipped to save money on your grocery bill.

Buy what’s in season. For produce, stick with items that are currently in season in your area. Seasonal items are much fresher, taste better, and are cheaper than out-of-season produce.

Leave room for leftovers. This is a new tip I’ve just recently learned after weeks and weeks of meal planning. I found I was still wasting money by buying excess food we weren’t eating and throwing away. We have leftover food two or three nights a week, so I always build in one or two days each week that I don’t plan to prepare dinner. On those nights, we have leftovers or I turn our leftovers into a new meal. Another option is to have leftovers for lunch and you won’t have to plan any lunch items during your meal planning session each week!

What other tips do you have for meal planning as a newlywed?

Marriage

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Easiest Ever Valentine’s Day Date Ideas

February 8, 2016

Easiest Ever Valentine's Day Date Ideas

For long-term couples and married couples, Valentine’s Day can sometimes feel like one of those last minute “What are we supposed to do?” holidays. I, admittedly, never really know if we should celebrate it or not, because I love my husband fully and completely every day, and we share so many fun adventures together throughout the entire year. But it is really fun to do something a little different on Valentine’s Day as a couple, even if it’s as simple as staying in and ordering takeout.

Here are some quick and easy Valentine’s Day Date ideas that you may just want to do all year long:

Pack a backyard picnic. Pack up your favorite bottle of wine, a favorite meal, some disposable utensils and a few candles and head to your backyard for a romantic evening “out”!

Plan a game night. Grab you and your significant other’s favorite cocktails, a few easy appetizers (crackers, cheese, fruit, vegetables, and sliced chicken are a great start!) and pick out 2 or 3 favorite board games. Turn the electronics off, and enjoy spending time together without any distractions!

Cook an elaborate four-course meal together. If you both enjoy spending time in the kitchen, research some really amazing, elaborate recipes together ahead of time, pick up the ingredients the day before, and spend time in the kitchen creating a gourmet meal to share.

Put your dreams on paper. Order your favorite takeout, grab a pen and a notepad, and plan out the rest of the year’s dreams together. Where do you want to travel, what goals do you want to accomplish, what adventures do you want to have together? Write them all down, pick out your top three, and start putting an action plan in place to make them happen.

Settle in for a movie marathon. Pop some popcorn, change into comfy PJs, grab a few beers, and take turns popping your all-time favorite movies into the DVD player.

Get all gussied up for a date night in. Put on your Sunday best, set the dining room table with your finest china and some candles, turn on some music, and invite your significant other to join you for dinner. Whether it’s leftovers, takeout, or a gourmet home-cooked meal, enjoy the quiet time together!

Watch the stars. Grab a few cozy blankets and head outside to watch the stars and share your dreams together. Leave the electronics inside and enjoy the night sky and each other!

Plan a coffee date. Grab some extra-good coffee, some gourmet muffins and chocolate, a couple of good books and spend the morning (or evening!) curled up together sharing coffee, sweet treats, and a good book together.

Whether you prefer an elaborate date night or a laid-back evening in, I hope you enjoy spending a little extra quality time with the one you love most!

Easiest Ever Valentine's Day Date Ideas

Photos by Heather Chipps Photography
Styling by Amanda Day Rose

Marriage

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The ONE Product That Keeps Our House Organized

February 5, 2016

The One Product That Keeps Our House OrganizedBackground photo by Andrea Pesce Photography

Yep, you read that right. Just ONE THING helps keep the clutter in our home at bay. Now let me also follow that up with a little disclaimer – we do still have plenty of messes and clutter in our home (who doesn’t?), but my personal pet peeve are the little things lying around that you just have no clue what to do with and can’t find a home for. You know those things I’m talking about? Tape dispensers. Scissors. Safety pins. Extra dog leashes. Batteries. The list goes on and on.

Oh, and then you know how annoying it is when you can’t find two AA batteries to save your life because you have no idea where you put them, so you buy more at the store, only to find an economy-size box of AA batteries as soon as you get home? Drives. Me. Bananas. That’s where this one product comes into play and will save you money and trips to the store for duplicate items forever!

A canvas shoe tote.

That’s right, folks. Who knew a canvas shoe tote could be so brilliant? I have to admit, this was not originally my idea. My husband and I were visiting friends of ours and my husband needed a pair of scissors and they told him to check behind the pantry door – and there it was in all it’s glorified brilliance. A canvas shoe tote filled with all of those little knick knacks you’ll ever need. We keep ours behind our bedroom door, and you could actually get multiples if you wanted to keep one in a guest bedroom for guest toiletries and items they may forget, too!

We have a lot of little knick knacks in our house, and it’s such a breath of fresh air to now know exactly where those things are, and that they have a proper home (my rule of thumb is, if it fits in a shoe compartment in the tote, that’s it’s new home). We haven’t even filled ours halfway up yet, either!

So if you ever come to our house and need AA batteries, AAA batteries, Scotch tape, packing tape, scissors, safety pins, glue, an extra phone or laptop cord, a dog collar, miniature lightbulbs, a new phone case, pens and pencils, paintbrushes, or miniature wrenches…just check behind the master bedroom door.

Marriage

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Are You Ready to Adopt A Pet?

January 28, 2016

Are You Ready to Adopt a Pet?Photo by Heather Chipps Photography

So you’re newly married, settled into your home together, and thinking you may want to adopt a dog as the next stage in your life. Does this sound like you? Well first of all, bless your heart. As a mama to three sweet, hilarious fur babies, I know firsthand the perks of pet-parenthood. But believe me, y’all, there are also some cons to pet ownership, too, so today I’m going to be really honest with you about both the pros and cons to help you make an informed decision!

Before heading to the animal shelter, ask yourself these questions:

Does my and/or my spouse’s schedule have room for a dog?

If both you and your spouse have busy professions outside the home and are away for more than 4-6 hours during any given time, it may not be the best time for you to adopt a pet…unless you’re willing to shell out a little cash for your fur baby to go to doggy day care (which is totally fun, too, by the way). If, however, you work close enough to come home and take breaks, or one of you is home at least every 4 hours or so, it may be a good opportunity for you to add a furry friend to the mix!

Do my spouse and I have the time (and energy!) to train a dog to fit our lifestyle?

Training a dog is serious work, y’all. It takes plenty of time, patience, and energy. I don’t have kids of my own, but I imagine the beginning stages of bringing a dog into your home are not much different from bringing a baby into your home, quite honestly. Younger dogs require frequent potty breaks, often have to eat more times throughout the day, and really need plenty of playtime and attention so they are constant balls of energy. Properly training a pet requires putting them on a schedule that fits your lifestyle and strictly maintaining that schedule for several months, if not longer. We’ve trained, raised, and owned many dogs over the years, so we have learned a training routine that works best for us, but if you’re new to pet-parenthood, you’ll need to research training techniques ahead of time. If you don’t feel this is something you have the time or energy to do right now, it might be best to wait. On the other hand, if you’re ready to take on this adventure and don’t mind sticking to a puppy schedule in the coming months, now may be a great time to adopt!

Can our current living conditions comfortably accommodate a pet?

If you’re currently living in an apartment with little to no yard access, you may consider waiting until you have more space for your dog to play. It’s not, however, a deal breaker if you’re willing to walk your dog frequently and/or take them to a dog park for plenty of playtime! You’ll also want to make sure there’s plenty of space inside your home for your dog to relax comfortably.

Can we even afford it at this time in our lives? 

While it may seem like adopting a dog is not a financial investment, it absolutely is! Dogs require routine vet visits (especially as a puppy), check-ups, and shots that aren’t always cheap. They also require toys to keep them entertained (believe me, you don’t want a bored dog in your home!), flea and tick medication, crates/beds, and food as some of their basic necessities. These items add up quickly, so if you don’t feel financially sound already, I can guarantee adding a pet to your family isn’t going to make it any better!

Can we provide a good home for a dog?

If you answered “Yes!” to all of these questions, you just may be seeing a sweet furry friend in your future. Now is the time to really communicate with your spouse about whether or not this is something both of you want, and if you’re both willing to provide a loving, comfortable environment for your dog. As a mom to three dogs right now, I know first-hand that they have the sweetest, funniest, most caring personalities if you treat them with love and respect.

My three babies; Kip (shown above), Bridget (shown below), and Buckley (our newest baby, shown at the very bottom) bring so much job to my life every day, so if you’re ready, I promise you won’t regret taking the plunge! And if/when you do adopt, send me all the pup photos to “ooh” and “aah” over all day long!

Are You Ready to Adopt a Pet?Photo by Heather Chipps Photography

Are You Ready to Adopt a Pet?

Marriage

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Communicating Marriage Expectations

September 27, 2015

Communicating Expectations in Your Marriage

Marriage is fun. I love being a devoted wife to my husband who is constantly encouraging me, supporting me, nudging me to continuously grow and learn, and cheering me on. (Not to mention putting up with my crazy antics and horrendous singing that only he gets to experience because I’m a textbook introvert.) I love that every evening feels like a school-night sleepover and that my morning routine includes my best friend by my side (even if I’m not quite ready to talk before my coffee).

And while marriage does involve a little work (hello, anything you do with another human being involves a little work – not everyone thinks, feels, and acts just like you!), continuously communicating your expectations will make it seem like almost all fun and very little work.

While I can’t tell you exactly what expectations to communicate (that’s something you need to think about for yourself and your marriage), I can help get your wheels turning on communicating marriage expectations.

Here are some ideas to consider communicating in your marriage:

Household duties. If an outsider were to see my husband I taking care of the household chores, they would probably be really confused by the convoluted ways we work together. But it works for us, and is a system we’ve managed to (almost) perfect over the years. Consider communicating who will be responsible for various household chores so you’re not resenting your partner down the road for something they had no idea you wanted them to do.

Children. While you’re probably already aware that it’s extremely important to discuss whether or not you plan to have children (likely something you’ll discuss before you say “I do!”), it’s also important to communicate when you would like to grow your family, if kids are in the cards for you. Down the road, as you continue communicating your expectations, you’ll also want to consider your children’s education experience and how you’d like them to be raised.

Communication. It seems a little silly to communicate about communication, doesn’t it? But believe me, it’s not. You may want to discuss how you’ll address conflicts, if it takes you more than one cup of coffee before you’re willing to even say “Good morning”, and even your personality traits with regard to communication. An introvert like myself will certainly not want to chit-chat as much or as often as an extrovert. Making sure your spouse understands these traits will help them understand when you need some quiet time or (for extroverts) when you need to chat away.

Spirituality. I highly recommend discussing religion and spirituality with your partner. This is a line of communication you’ll likely want to keep open indefinitely as your relationship with spirituality grows and strengthens. Discuss how your spirituality will affect decisions throughout your life and how you plan to practice your beliefs.

Friendships. What better companion to discuss friendship with than your best friend? Consider discussing how often you’d like to spend time with friends away from your spouse. If you’d like to see your girlfriends every weekend, but your spouse’s expectations are much different, you could be setting yourself up for conflict sooner than you think. You also may want to discuss what activities are within reason when you’re out with friends.

Major purchases. Keep the lines of communication open when it comes to major purchases. This will ensure you’re on the same page financially, but it will also help you negotiate and communicate with salespeople who are pushing you to purchase a higher end countertop for that new kitchen, or a fancier car you’ve already told your spouse was just not necessary for your household.

Continuously keeping the lines of communication open in your marriage is just one way to help set your marriage up for success. Be open to hearing your spouse’s point of view, clearly communicate your expectations, and understand that you’re on the same team! If you keep that in mind, your marriage will win every time.

If you’re looking for more inspiration and guidance on communicating expectations in your marriage, Family Life has a great article here.

Marriage

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Let Love Grow: Gardening & Marriage

July 1, 2015

Let Love Grow: Gardening & Marriage
Let me tell you a little story. When my husband and I first got married, I didn’t know a single thing about gardening. I was a horrible cook (unless you asked for spaghetti!) and the thought of growing my own produce seemed really daunting to me. We spent our honeymoon in Spain, and I was in awe of all of the beautiful, fresh food we were easily able to get our hands on, and how easy it looked to prepare. Both my husband and I came home with a sense of energy about gardening, growing our own food, and using our own food to prepare meals. That’s honestly how we became interested in gardening.

A few months after we got married, we bought our first home together, and that spring we planted our first garden. I was instantly hooked. I checked my garden every single day (I still do to this day – I’m always amazed at watching how the plants grow and change every day) and gave it the TLC it needed. That first year, I learned what vegetables I was good at growing and what vegetables I should probably just purchase from the farmer’s market. I learned what I should grow more of because I love to eat it, and what I probably didn’t need to grow at all, even if I was good at it. I also learned that I really didn’t need to plant an entire bed of herbs because, y’all, herbs grow like weeds and I had way more cilantro, basil, mint, and oregano than I knew what to do with!

Gardening started off as just that for me – a hobby that I could use to lower my grocery bill and eat more fresh produce without batting an eye.

Since then, though, gardening has planted a much bigger seed in my heart than I could have ever thought possible. God really does work in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?

The art of gardening has taught me:

  • Steps to take to nourish my marriage (and any relationship, for that matter)
  • How to creatively spend time and communicate with my husband
  • When I need to “prune” toxicities out of my life
  • How to be a healthier individual (emotionally and physically) for my husband and my family

I’m sure you’re thinking…”Seriously? How in the world can you learn that just from planting a few tomatoes?” Believe me, if you had asked me that a few years ago, I would have wondered the exact same thing. It’s taken a lot of soul-searching and contemplating, but I honestly can’t imagine my marriage without the concepts of gardening in it anymore.

Beginning in just a few short weeks, I’ll begin sharing stories here from other couples who have used the concepts of gardening in their marriage and they didn’t even know it! You might already be doing some of these concepts in your own relationship! I’ll also be sending out weekly activities and discussion questions to email subscribers throughout the month of August to show you exactly how you can use the concepts of gardening to strengthen and nourish your own marriage, and I hope you’ll join me! Happy and fulfilled marriages aren’t always easy (hello, overtime hours, kids activities, and endless loads of laundry!), but they are so worth it and you and your spouse are so deserving of a fulfilling marriage.

Let Love Grow: Gardening & Marriage

 

Marriage

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100 Days of Happy Marriage

May 5, 2015

 

100 Days of Happy Marriage

So, I feel like I need to give you a little backstory on how this idea came to fruition. I was chatting with a sweet client of mine, Sarah…(Actually, I think we were probably drinking a glass of wine and talking about food, but…details). We were joking about how all it would take to have a happy marriage is a cookie from Sweet Bella Bakery every day. (It’s true. Her cookies not only look amazing, but taste amazing, too!). Of course we thought it was hilarious and only partially true.

But then it made me start thinking. If all it takes is a cookie to make me (and sweet Ms. Sarah) happy, than happy marriages really are sometimes just comprised of the small gestures we often overlook, right?

For example, nothing makes me happier than when my husband makes the bed, or surprises me with a nice bottle of wine, or folds the laundry, or tells me he thinks I look beautiful. Those are such simple gestures that really go a long way. They are also gestures I (and probably you) sometimes take for granted.

Whether your in a committed relationship, engaged, or have been married for 50 years, let’s start the movement of #100daysofhappymarriage. Each day, for 100 days (or as often as you can!), on social media (you can find mine on Instagram and Facebook) post a photo or write a sweet, simple moment or gesture your spouse did for you that day and watch those tiny gestures build up in big ways. And once the first 100 days are over, do it again and again! The second-best part (the first being having a happy marriage and recognizing all those tiny gestures, obviously) is that you can get ideas for small, simple gestures your spouse or significant other will appreciate, just by searching the tag #100daysofhappymarriage on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

Need more ideas for ways to love on your spouse? This should get your creative lovey dovey juices flowing!

Marriage

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4 Ways My Marriage Has Changed in 4 Years

April 30, 2015

4 Ways My Marriage Has Changed in 4 Years

Today my husband and I celebrate our 4 year anniversary. It’s crazy how it seems like the time flies by in just a blink of an eye. I still remember our wedding day like it was yesterday! I thought and thought about how I wanted to honor or wedding and, even more, our marriage. I debated posting about the lessons I’ve learned in our marriage. But in 4 years, we’re still learning new things about one another and our marriage every single day. I don’t think that will ever end – I hope we’re always growing and learning together.

Then I thought about how much our marriage has changed over the years. When I was planning our wedding and how we would celebrate our love together, I was so focused on planning that one special day. But that was just the beginning of our life together. It was just the beginning of many special days together. Now that I realize that, I clearly see all the ways our marriage has changed in the past 4 years.

  1. We respect ourselves more. Before marriage, it was easy for me to get caught up in going out with friends – dinner, drinks, the works. It was also easy for me to get home late, sleep for maybe 5 hours, and then get up and head to a full day of work. I didn’t think about the food I put in my body and was not nearly as active as I should have been. Similarly, my husband didn’t do much cooking for himself, either. Since tying the knot, my husband and I are both much more health-conscious. We cook regularly (with plenty of whole, fresh foods) and stay active. A lot of times we do both of these things together. We really want to be healthier – not just for ourselves, but for each other, too. It’s also fun to share those moments when we’re cooking or hiking together. I have no doubt that I’m a much healthier person than I was before marriage.
  2. We are more well-rounded. I admit, during the dating period, I probably neglected some of my favorite hobbies, just so my husband and I could spend more time together. Since marrying my soulmate, I’ve not only picked up my old hobbies, but I’ve also found new hobbies to dabble in. Some of them we enjoy doing together – like antique shopping, gardening, and traveling or exploring – others I have gotten interested in solo (like floral arranging). We are also both thirsty to learn…and to learn together! We occasionally have our own little private book club. We choose and read a book, just like any other larger book club, and schedule a date night to discuss the book and our thoughts on it. It’s a fun twist on date night, while still allowing us the opportunity to learn and grow together.
  3. We share more of our hidden thoughts. Of course we shared our thoughts before we got married, but since marriage, we share those deep thoughts you sometimes don’t want to tell a single soul. My husband is my best friend, so I know if I tell him something completely random, he won’t judge me. It took a while for me to learn that, but it’s such a freeing feeling to know I can tell him absolutely anything and he’ll empathize with me, laugh with me, or console me. But he’ll never judge me. And I’ll never judge him in return.
  4. We understand how we each share and handle emotions. I think this is something we knew all along, but after 4 years of marriage, we’re much more aware of how to handle the moods and emotions of one another. When I’m upset or under a lot of stress, I bottle it up and try to internalize it until it goes away (haha that’s funny because that never happens, right?). My husband knows this about me, and is now able to pick up on other clues that show I’m under stress. He doesn’t force me to talk about it, but shows me he cares through his actions and verbalizes that he’s ready to listen when I’m ready to let it out. On the other hand, my husband is much more verbose when he is under pressure or has something going on. When he begins letting it all out, I know to make time for him, and just listen, because that’s what he needs. We also know how we like to celebrate when we get good news, how to console when dealing with a tragedy, and how to communicate when we’re upset. Responding to these emotions, whether verbally or through actions, is something that becomes more and more magnified as the days, weeks, and years pass and we learn more about one another.

I couldn’t imagine going on this journey through life with anyone else, and I’m so grateful for the changes in our marriage. The day we got married, I never imagined I could learn more, love more, or be more – but I’m learning every single day that those things will never stop progressing.

Happy 4-year anniversary, babe!

Marriage

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Love After 42 Years: His Point of View

April 29, 2015

Love After 42 Years: His Point of View

Last week, I shared with you my mom’s wisdom and advice on marriage and love after 42 years together. Today I’m excited to share with you my dad’s story, and take a trip down memory lane through their marriage! I’m so lucky to have parents who are amazing role models for my own marriage, and hope these insights resonate with you as you begin to plan your happily-ever-after together!

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I met my wife, Rhonda, in elementary school at the sweet age of 6, but she first caught my eye in 1966 when we were in 6th grade. At the time, I lived only 3 miles from her, and I thought of her often. She had a very well-known family, so I was too shy to approach her. I never got up the courage to say “hi” at all throughout middle school.

In high school, I joined the football team, where I met and became good friends with Rhonda’s brother. Her brother and I began hanging out almost every day after school, and eventually Rhonda began joining us. Before you know it, I was asking her out…without her brother. By the end of our senior year in 1973, Rhonda and I were seeing each other every night. That June, we were engaged and we married on December 29, 1973 at the age of 18. We were young, and it wasn’t a long engagement, but at the time I felt like I had known her and loved her my whole life.

She is not just my wife, she’s my best friend and my partner in life.

In 1976, while both working full-time, Rhonda and I built our first home together and had our first beautiful daughter. Once our house was completed, we decided to both go back to college at night as we both continued to work full-time during the day. Life was busy for us, and the years began to fly by in the blink of an eye.

In 1982, we both decided I would quit work so I could finish school and get my degree as soon as possible. Later that year — the very last day of 1982 — we had our second beautiful daughter. For the next 2 years, my sweet wife had a full time job and took care of both of our little ones so I could concentrate on my studies and get my degree. Hard work but she never complained – that’s real love!

1984 was a big change for us. I graduated from college and was immediately offered a position in Richmond, Virginia. How in the world was a young couple – who both grew up in a tiny rural Southern town – supposed to relocate to a “big city” like Richmond? With a toddler and a 6-year old in tow! I thought I had really accomplished something by finishing college and getting a great job in a “big city” but I knew leaving our families would be hard for Rhonda. My sweet wife amazed me by saying ‘yes I’ll go’, and she continued to amaze me throughout the relocation process, too – making me love her more. She got a great job right away, and began moving up the corporate ladder quickly. All while finishing college at night and making time for all the activities little girls get involved in. I don’t know where she got all that energy!

Fast forward to today. This December we will celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary. The girls are both married and have families of their own now. We have both worked since we were 16 and are now retired from the corporate world. We still stay busy with the hobbies and tasks that inspire us. My wife has found her passion for helping others since retiring. She’s always been interested in helping those in need, but her passion has really flourished since retirement. Rhonda has been there for others in their last moments of life and continuously helps raise funds for those in need. She is also always there when needed for our grandchildren. I don’t even try to keep up with her on most days! These things make me love her more every day.

Even after all these years, I can’t imagine spending my time with anyone else. We simply enjoy being together and never get tired of spending time together. She will always be my sweetheart, my best friend, and my “business partner.” I love her as much now – and more – than I did the first time I kissed her.

Marriage

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Love After 42 Years

April 22, 2015

Love After 42 Years

I’m so excited to share today’s post with y’all! Today’s post comes from my wonderful mom, sharing wisdom and marriage advice after being married for 42 years. She and my dad married at the young age of 18 (right out of high school!), so she has so many great ideas to share with you! Enjoy! 

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It’s hard to believe that my husband and I will celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary in December. It seems like such a short time ago we were planning our wedding and dreaming of all the things we would do together. Our love has carried through countless situations – some happy, and some sad. But most importantly, we’ve weathered the good times and the bad together.

I look in the mirror and am sometimes surprised at my reflection. Years have passed and I have changed. But in my heart and mind, I am still that crazy-in-love-18-year-old-girl who married the ‘man of my dreams’!

After almost 42 years, I’ve learned a few things about love and relationships. Some of these things are not new for many couples, but they are certainly worth repeating.

Love

Love is so beautiful. The passion and love you feel with a first kiss is indescribable. But intimacy comes in so many unexpected ways as your love grows – the profound love you experience with the brush of your spouse’s hand, a quick kiss on the cheek that causes a tingle, or just a familiar loving glance. Over the years, our love has grown. The roots are deep and solid and we have a comfort in knowing that we love each other unconditionally. But being ‘comfortable’ does not mean we take each other for granted. The love we experience today is so much richer, deeper, and wider than it was years ago. It reaches into the depths of our souls and we are truly ‘one’. Being able to experience love on so many levels is truly a gift that has kept us together and always will. And when you love someone so intensely who loves you back the same way – it’s truly a gift!

Faith

My husband and I were both raised in Christian homes. At the young age of 18, we were totally in love and we didn’t give a lot of thought to our faith, or even talk about how it would impact our future. But over the years, our spiritual growth has led us to unfathomable heights of joy and happiness. Bible study that was once a private time for each of us, has become a time of sharing and discussing our beliefs together. It has strengthened our faith and our marriage. It has allowed us to glimpse inside each others soul in a way that nothing else can do. Sharing our faith and beliefs openly has helped us weather storms in life, and see more joy and happiness than we ever thought possible.

Parenthood

Nothing compares to being parents. Three years after we were married, our first daughter was born and soon we welcomed a second sweet baby girl. Being parents is the most exciting, fulfilling, rewarding experience you can imagine. Oh, sure there are some difficult times. And we were there together to handle those too. We love being parents and now grandparents. We adore our daughters and their children. Raising our children together brought us closer than we ever were before. Seeing my husband as a loving father made me love him even more. And when our nest became empty, we created a new life and kept moving ahead together. If not for our love and the fact that we like being together, it would have been much more difficult to find ourselves empty-nesters. Of course, being BFF’s (‘best friends forever’) is also a bonus.

Laughter

No one makes me laugh like my husband. He knows exactly how to do it. A phrase, a word, a memory, a face, or a funny story has tears streaming down my face. At night when we get in bed, he’ll often come up with the most ridiculously funny story and we laugh for what seems like eternity. We often laugh and others aren’t quite sure why – but it’s those little things you know about each other after 42 years that make the simplest comments become hilarious. And yes, he makes me laugh at the most inopportune times!

Gratitude

My husband and I share feelings of gratitude for so much. We are so grateful for two beautiful daughters who are gifts from heaven. We are grateful for the families they have established, and we are grateful for the career opportunities, personal relationships, and wonderful life we live. We are grateful for the faith we share, the dreams we share, and the happiness we experience daily. We often share our thoughts on gratitude and remind each other how blessed we are. It sounds like a simple thing, but it is so powerful in our lives. Hearing your spouse verbalize all the things he is grateful for is a reminder of how two lives intertwined are such a gift. And expressing gratitude is one more way to express love.

Forgiveness

You can imagine that 42 years have not passed without a single disagreement (or two)! But what’s so special about being married to someone you truly love is that you are able to forgive and even forget. Whether I’m the one asking forgiveness, or the one forgiving him for something he’s done or said, it’s all about being open, honest, and forgiving. Even after 42 years together, it’s still important to say “I’m sorry” when I do something to upset him and he does the same. We take nothing for granted and are always willing to forgive – or ask forgiveness. While most people obsess over things other people do to hurt them in life, it’s different with the person you love the most. Forgiveness is a gift we give each other – AND ourselves.

Kindness

You would think that after 42 years, acts of kindness would be few. But in our lives, it’s quite the opposite. My husband is the kindest person I know. He still opens my car door, carries the grocery bags, or holds my hand to steady me walking in the snow. He awakens me each morning with a cup of coffee by my bedside, helps with all household chores, unexpectedly fills my car with gas, and considers me before making any plans of his own. When he traveled with his job, I wrote notes and tucked them in his suit pockets and briefcase where he would find them. I prefer a heavier blanket on the bed than he does, so I make our bed with a light cover and spread an extra blanket only on my side each night. It’s these little acts of kindness that continuously bind us together and make our love stronger.

Giving

There are no words to describe the depths of my husband’s heart when it comes to giving. He wants to help so many people. His generosity and caring for other people are one of the things that make me love him more every day. As we have gotten older, giving has become a tremendous part of our lives together. Our experience of giving to others has strengthened our marriage and made us happier than we would be otherwise. It’s through giving that we get so much! Giving comes in the form of money, acts of kindness, help with a problem, and even a word of encouragement. It’s a natural extension of who we are as individuals and as a couple.

 

Yes, 42 years sounds like a long time to newlyweds, but it seems like the blink of an eye to us. Every day together still gets better and better. And to all of those who said “it wouldn’t last” when we married at the young age of 18, keep watching! The best is yet to come.

Marriage

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25 Ways to Love Your Spouse

April 14, 2015

25 Ways to Love Your Spouse

Today I’m sharing something with you that may seem so completely obvious, but hear me out, okay? I know there are a billion and one ways to love your spouse – and many of them are only ways that you can love your spouse, in a very specific way. But sometimes life gets busy and complicated and stressful, and we forget to show our spouse just how much we love them with our day-to-day activities.

Here are 25 easy ways to love your spouse. My hope is that some of these will be new to you and you can begin implementing them into your own marriage right away.

  1. Send him a text message just to say hi. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in our day-to-day activities and plan on seeing our spouse at the end of the day, but a sweet, simple text just to say hi in the middle of the day does more than you think. It reminds your spouse you are on their mind, you are thinking of him mid-day, and sparks a moment of happiness in both of you.
  2. Take out the trash. Well, maybe it’s not taking out the trash that does it, but do one of those tasks that is normally “assigned” to your spouse. I don’t know about you, but when my husband does one of those chores I despise (even though it only takes a minute or two out of my day) without my asking him, my heart skips a beat.
  3. Make her coffee just the way she likes it. By now, I’m very familiar with how my husband likes his coffee, and he knows just how I like mine. It’s always a treat when one of us gets up first on a Saturday and makes the other’s coffee just how we like it. This works great for tea, too, if you’re not a coffee drinker.
  4. Plan a surprise date. Plan a date for this weekend without even mentioning it to your spouse. My husband and I have a really hard time keeping secrets from one another, but when we’re able to plan something without spilling the beans, it’s truly a joy for the other partner. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – even planning and preparing a picnic in your backyard would be a happy surprise!
  5. Get his favorite treat at the grocery store. I admit, I’m a little strict when it comes to grocery shopping. I load up on veggies, almond milk, water, and lots of good-for-you foods. But occasionally, I surprise my husband with one of his favorite grocery store treats. It’s such an easy and delightful way to brighten their day!
  6. Make the bed. This one I owe to my husband. He knows how much I enjoy a freshly made bed, so he makes the bed for me every. single. day. I know it’s not fun for him, but he knows how happy it makes me, so he continues to do it each day.
  7. Tell him (specifically) how handsome he is. I don’t mean just telling them they are beautiful/handsome. I mean really look at them and tell them how beautiful they are in your eyes. Is he wearing that baby blue button-up you love so much? Tell him! Did she style her hair just like you like it? Tell her! Sometimes we feel like those things go unnoticed, and a reminder every once in a while that you really take note is important.
  8. Pray for him or her. When my husband is going through something at work or personally that I just feel is out of my control, I say a prayer for him. It’s one of those little gestures that gives us both strength to get through the tough situations.
  9. Put your phone down when they are talking. You know how annoying it is to have a friend or colleague staring at their phone when you are talking, so why is it okay with your spouse? Even if it’s just a casual afternoon or conversation, put your phone down and really focus on them.
  10. Get his oil changed. Another one my husband is good at! I despise, I mean despise getting maintenance work done on my car. There are too many other things I could be doing with my time! It’s truly a joy when my husband mentions to me that he changed my oil (or filled my car with gas or renewed my license plates…). These tasks aren’t fun for anyone, so show your spouse you care by occasionally getting them done for him.
  11. Plan his favorite meal. Weeknights can sometimes be a bit monotonous. Work, come home, eat, sleep, get up and do it all again. Add a little happiness to your mid-week routine by fixing your spouse’s favorite meal – don’t wait until the weekend, do it now! A mid-week treat is a wonderful way to break up the week, and hopefully have an impromptu at-home date night!
  12. Greet your spouse with your undivided attention. If you’re already home when your spouse arrives, greet them with your full attention. You married each other because you enjoy being around one another, so show him that the moment he arrives!
  13. Listen….really listen to her. I mean, turn off your own chattering brain for a few minutes. Really listen to her when she is talking to you.
  14. Let the small things go. You know that thing that annoyed you earlier today and you’re still annoyed about it? Is it really worth arguing over? Probably not. Learn to let the unimportant things go – you’ll be a much more content person in a much happier marriage.
  15. Leave a love note for them to find. A few years ago, my husband was traveling for business for over a week. Before he left, he managed to leave sweet love notes all over the place for me to find – the bathroom mirror, my purse, my bedside table. It was such a joy to find them and showed me he knew how tough it was going to be to have him gone for so long. Even if your spouse isn’t traveling, leave a love note in their briefcase, lunch bag, car – anywhere you can think of that will be a sweet surprise for him!
  16. Stop bringing up that thing that really made you mad a long time ago already. Remember that thing you got angry about several year ago that you never ever ever even remember until you get annoyed again? Stop. Just stop. It’s in the past, it’s likely already been resolved, and it’s definitely not worth bringing up now (or fair game to revisit).
  17. Compromise. Oh mannnnn, compromising can be so incredibly tough sometimes! Unless you really, really, really, really, really feel like you can’t compromise just this once….go for the compromise. I promise you, in about three days you probably won’t even remember what you had to compromise on.
  18. Give him home projects you know he will enjoy. Not projects you think he will enjoy. But literally, projects you know he will enjoy. My husband enjoys tinkering in his garage aka man cave with lots of random tools and weird things I have no idea what to do with. So, when we need something new built – like a shelf or raised bed for our garden – he gets that task. If he needs baked goods made for work, he asks me to help. Neither of us feels bad asking the other to do something we love, and we both benefit from it. Win-win!
  19. Trust him to make sound decisions for your family. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s here just in case. When I travel to wedding events, I can sometimes be gone for up to a week at a time. While I do make sure there’s plenty of healthy food in the house, I also trust that my husband knows what to do when I’m not around – he was a bachelor once, after all. He’s my spouse – my best friend, confidante, better half – not a child. I don’t need to annoy him by reminding him what day trash day is, what day the dogs go to the vet, how to unload the dishwasher, or to brush his teeth before bed.
  20. Run an errand for him. Most errand-type places we need to go to are within a few miles of our home, but it’s still super annoying to run “one quick errand”, know what I mean? It’s never quick, and it’s never just one. Whether you have zero plans to go out one day, or have a full day of errands ahead, take the opportunity every once in a while to knock one of those errands off your spouse’s to-do list. It’s a really easy way to show how much you care.
  21. Ask questions. Sometimes it’s easy to get into a routine of chit-chat. The “How was your day?” and “What do you want for dinner?” oftentimes become a routine we don’t even realize we are asking. Ask your spouse real questions and really listen (see #13 above) to him. Ask the nitty-gritty details about their day. Ask how he is really feeling. Ask her questions that aren’t part of the daily routine – but questions that are a part of your future together. Take her by surprise with your questions.
  22. Plan an errand-free, chore-free, stress-free day. These may turn out to be some of your most fun adventures together! You don’t even have to plan anything in particular – just plan not to do errands, chores, or anything stressful. It can be anything from lounging on the sofa listening to the rain and eating takeout to being tourists in your own city and trying out new restaurants and museums. Whatever it is, just enjoy being together without a single burden of stress on yourselves.
  23. Play into his or her love language. You’ll probably hear me talk a lot around here about the love languages quiz. The love languages quiz really made my husband and I see and understand what the other person needed in our marriage, and both of us immediately started playing into one another’s love language. (Remember #6 above? My love language is “Acts of Service” and my husband started making the bed the day after we took the quiz and he learned that about me. Remember #1 above? My husband’s love language is “Words of Affirmation” and I immediately started sending him surprise texts when I learned that about him.) You may think  you know what your spouse needs – and you may be partly right – but the love languages quiz will help solidify what makes sparks fly for both of you. Bonus: it makes it so much easier for you to know how to specifically love your spouse when you learn what they respond to!
  24. Practice good manners. It’s easy for us to forget our good manners with loved ones we also live with. We don’t always have to clear the dinner table or have to hold the door open or have to say “Please” and “Thank you.” But don’t ever let your good manners escape yourself with your spouse, just because they are constantly there. Good manners show how gracious you are, and you always, always want your spouse to know, without a doubt, how very grateful you are for him and everything he does for you.
  25. Say “I love you” over and over and over again. I saved the most obvious one for last, because it is often the one that’s easily overlooked, too. Remember to tell your spouse how much you love them constantly. Even to the point of being annoying, perhaps (okay, maybe not that much). There should never, ever, ever be a doubt in your spouse’s mind that you love him or her, and it hurts no one for you to remind your spouse several times a day, so make sure you’re doing just that.

What are your favorite ways to love your spouse?

Marriage

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Date Night Idea: The Conversation Game

April 8, 2015

Date Night Idea: The Conversation Game

I love date night, even after 4 years of marriage. I look forward to it every time my husband and I plan one together. My favorite date night idea? The ones where we stay home and I can hang in my yoga pants and messy hair. Sure, I love getting all dolled up occasionally, but there’s really nothing better than spending the evening with my best friend in yoga pants (that may or may not have bleach stains on them…) and hair that may or may not have been brushed that day…and he still loves me and wants to spend the evening with me. If that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.

We don’t even have expectations for a fancy dinner, either, so there’s no stress of cooking. Our favorite date night meal is throwing together a tray of cheeses, veggies (bonus points if they were picked from our garden just hours before), crackers, and fruit. Throw in a bottle of wine, and date night is on!

If you want to plan a similar date night this weekend (yoga pants and all), how about throwing in a fun conversation starter game? Have your significant other write a few questions on a small scrap of paper and fold them up (no peeking!) and you do the same. Throw them all in a cup, jar, bowl – whatever is closest to you that you don’t have to go searching for (this is an effortless date night, remember?) and pour yourself a glass of wine. Spend the evening sharing answers to your questions and seeing where the conversation and the evening go. You may just learn a thing or two you never knew about one another!

And if you’re at a loss for question ideas, here are a few to get your wheels turning:

  • What is your dream for me?
  • Where do you want us to be in 30 years?
  • What is your favorite gift you ever received from me?
  • What is your favorite thing that I do for you?
  • How can I most appeal to your love language? (Bonus points: take the love language quiz together!)

Have fun with this! It’s a fun way to learn more about one another and steer the conversation in a different direction than what you’d typically chat about on date night. Oh, and for real. Take the love languages quiz – my husband and I were surprised at our love languages, and we’ve both made it a point to appeal to the other’s love language ever since we took it! Win-win.

What questions will you include in your date night conversation?

Marriage

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8 Practices for a Healthy Marriage

April 1, 2015

8 Practices for a Healthy Marriage

My husband and I will celebrate four years of marriage at the very end of this month. Four years is nothing at all in the grand scheme of things, but we have learned a few lessons along the way. Navigating your marriage isn’t always an easy task (if you’ve ever tried to blend two different decor styles, you know what I mean!). Over the years, we’ve learned to practice these tasks to keep our marriage strong, fulfilling, and happy.

Practice spirituality

God has always been a part of my and my husband’s relationship. When we first started dating, we would occasionally have conversations about spirituality and God on the surface. You know the conversations I’m talking about – the ones where you talk about the “easy” parts, but you never dig deep enough to really have an intimate conversation. Over the years, we’ve delved more deeply into our spirituality together and have much deeper, meaningful conversations about God. Not only does practicing and discussing spirituality enhance your relationship and your beliefs, but it also brings a more intimate level of meaning to your marriage.

Practice kindness

Believe me. There are going to be days when you are overly stressed, tired, anxious, or just plain irritated. It happens to the best of us. Remember that your spouse is in your corner, so when you’re feeling like taking out your stress and anxiety on him or her, take a deep breath and remember to practice kindness. You’ll probably find that many of your anxieties and stressors vanish when you practice kindness with your spouse. And over time, the thought of even taking out your irritation on them will simply disappear.

Practice adventure

My husband and I love to travel, try new restaurants, and practice new hobbies. We enjoy doing these things together because it’s time well-spent, we continuously learn about one another (who knew both of us enjoyed anchovies so much!?), and trying something new brings us closer together. Whatever your adventure may be, plan it and experience it together.

Practice the art of giving

I’m not talking about buying each other gifts all the time. I’m talking about practicing giving your spouse your time, attention, and gifts already within you. That’s why you fell in love in the first place, right? Continue to give one another these gifts and you may find that the honeymoon phase of your marriage never goes away.

Practice vulnerability

My husband will be the first to tell you that, as an introvert, he sometimes has to pull, yank, and lasso thoughts and information out of me. It’s not that I don’t want to share these thoughts of mine with him, it’s just that, as an introvert, it’s not in my nature to always share them. I’ve learned over the past few years that it’s important for me to let myself be vulnerable and intentionally share my thoughts with him to strengthen our marriage. In turn, he knows that sometimes it just takes me a little longer to share my thoughts, and he is very patient with me. Those things that make you vulnerable? Share them with your spouse. It’s very freeing.

Practice being still

Sometimes you’ll want to practice adventure, as mentioned above, but there are also those times you’ll want to be still. Enjoy a night at home together. Relish in the quiet hums of your surroundings. Just being with your spouse, without even worrying about conversation, is a joy. Don’t feel like you always have to be on the go or talk about what John told Mary at work today.

Practice laughing together

It’s no secret that laughing is an instant mood-lifter. My husband is the best at making me laugh – sometimes at inappropriate times. But he knows exactly how to make me laugh and I try really hard to be just as funny as him. Isn’t it funny (no pun intended) how laughing makes you feel closer to a person? Always keep each other laughing and you’ll never get bored.

Practice prioritizing

My husband and I are both small business owners. That means that, at times, we are both completely wrapped up in our work schedules – and not always at the same time. It’s easy to do. Early in our relationship, we just accepted this as reality and were fine with it. But as time went on, something was tugging at our hearts. Why were we making work one of our top priorities when, really, our marriage and family should be at the top of the list? Over time, we’ve practiced walking away from work at the appropriate time to concentrate on nurturing our marriage. I now have set office hours, where I once worked at any random hour during the day or night. I stopped giving my cell phone number to clients and stopped answering (most) emails on the weekend. I love my clients dearly, but I am a much better, calmer, and happier designer and business owner when I put my marriage first. Only good things can come from making your marriage a top priority.

8 Practices for a Healthy Marriage

Photography: Jason Collins Photography

 

Marriage

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