Category Archives: dating

How Do You Keep Marriage Fun Around the Home–Part One

This question was posed on our Growinlove Facebook page at the beginning of February and the best idea was to receive $100.  As you will see, from the following entries which are only three of the best submitted ideas, there is a great deal of wisdom and a great deal of variety.

Jodi Hann- Ring

Fun as part of our home life… Well it only took the first half of our marriage for me to figure out, “don’t sweat the small stuff!”, which is hard when you’re newly married and then add children. You want things “perfect”, uhh…  not gonna happen!

I found and Von found, laughter is the best medicine. Things are gonna happen, you’re going to argue, but what’s more important?…  getting the dishes and laundry done or snuggling up together watching a movie, remembering funny stories and just enjoying each other?

There are always going to be dirty dishes and dirty laundry, there won’t always be the two of you laughing and enjoying each other so take the time to love each other. That’s what we try to do on a daily basis. A quick kiss, a hug, a compliment. When you feel the love you don’t sweat the small stuff because you have so much bigger and better things to enjoy and look forward to.

Jodi’s observations are packed with the wisdom that she and her husband, Von, have accumulated over years of experience. It’s the kind of wisdom we wish had had from the beginning.  It’s the kind of wisdom that other people might have tried to convey to us in words but that we could only gain through experience. From Jodi’s entry I get the following (and maybe you’ll get more):

  • When she says, “it only took the first half of our marriage for me to figure out…”, she’s acknowledging that when we get married, we might have fallen in love, but we didn’t really know how to love.
  • When she says, “for me to figure out”, it’s obvious that Jodi takes a lot of personal responsibility for the quality of the relationship, as opposed to blaming Von, her spouse, for the quality, or lack of quality, of the relationship.  Real positive change in a relationship happens only when the partners take personal responsibility for growing in love and becoming the most loving people they can be.
  • What Jodi figured out was, “don’t sweat the small stuff”, and don’t expect things to be perfect. “Small stuff” is inevitable and it conflicts with our wish that things could be perfect.  That’s really frustrating and disappointing for us as we learn that, as much as we want our marriage and family life to be perfect, small stuff is going to get in the way.  And add to that harsh reality the fact that our idea of perfect usually conflicts with our partner’s idea of perfect.
  • Jodi and Von discovered that “laughter is the best medicine”.  If you read Jodi’s  and Von’s “Bingo Night” date idea, you might have gotten the impression that I got.  Jodi and Von are fun people.  They are naturals at having a good time, being playful, laughing and kidding around.  Playful, light interaction and activity while tolerating disagreement or disagreeable circumstances, helps to affirm the fact that, as tough as things might get our marriages are still more important than whether or not the house is as clean as we want, or whether or not all the bills get paid on time.
  • Jodi makes it clear that there is always going to be more work that needs to be done than can be done in a day and that there are always going to be disagreements.  She also makes it clear that none of those things are as important as taking the time for a quick kiss (I actually recommend long kisses), a hug, and a compliment.
  • Jodi also lays it out there.  We won’t always have the opportunities to snuggle, to play, to show love and affection.  Now is the time to do what is most important, to prioritize love over our fantasy of perfections, to accept personal responsibility for becoming more loving as individuals and for making our marriages the best that they can be by choosing to initiate and create loving situations.

“Small stuff” and disagreements are inevitable. They don’t preclude love and affection. By tolerating the small stuff and disagreements AND proactively initiating affectionate words and behaviors, we affirm the relationship, we affirm the importance of our partners, and we nurture and even create the feelings of love.  Keeping the feelings of love alive and well, actually choosing to nurture feelings of love by initiating loving actions, makes life more enjoyable and helps us not to “sweat the small stuff”.

Gabriel Angelino

Occasionally, my wife flashes me.  (What she flashes me is between her and me.) Sometimes it’s during one of those rare moments when we are the only ones in the room, occasionally it’s during an argument, and sometimes it’s after we’ve said our good-byes and I’m on the way out the door.   I really love it. It reminds me of our sexual connection.  It also gives me a nice visual to remember throughout the day.

Thank you, Gabriel for sharing that idea.  You address such an important subject that so few people are willing to talk about.  It’s hard enough for people to share ideas about their own experience with love and relationships, but to bring up something to do with sexual intimacy is even more difficult.  You make some very important points in your observation.

  • Sexual intimacy between a committed couple needs to remain alive and rich in order for their relationship to continue to grow.  It certainly changes over time but that doesn’t mean it fades.  It’s a myth, or perhaps a self-fulfilling prophesy, that sexual intimacy fades with aging.
  • You appreciate that your wife enjoys being a sexual person.  Unfortunately, too few women enjoy being sexual beings but only view sexual behavior as a duty, an obligation and one that they would actually prefer not to do.
  • If she flashes you during an argument she’s saying something very profound.  She’s saying ,”even though we disagree and I might not even like you right now, you are my lover, we will get past this disagreement by agreeing or agreeing to disagree, and you and I are more important as lovers than this disagreement is.” Actively disagreeing and simultaneously choosing to be loving is a great ability that few people develop without years of experience.
  • You like that she is playful and spontaneous in her sexuality with you and that she initiates sexual behavior. When she initiates she shows that she appreciates you as “her man” and that she’s sexually attracted to you.
  • It’s clear from your description that you enjoy sexual interplay between you and your wife and that you don’t require that every physically intimate affection lead to “going all the way”.  Many more women would be more spontaneous and playful if they didn’t fear that they were obligating themselves to more than a momentary enjoyment of sexual chemistry.

Apparently your sex life is not something that is confined to an occasional ten-minute ritual that only occurs under limited circumstances, e.g., between the sheets, in the dark, man on top, etc. Instead, you and your wife enjoy your sexual connection in playful, spontaneous, unpredictable ways that don’t necessarily involve someone having an orgasm.  An ongoing sense of sexual chemistry helps set our marriages apart from all other relationships (assuming we are sexually monogamous).  We have other close friendships and family relationships that can be intensely close.  But when sexual chemistry with our spouses is kept alive it keeps us connected and connecting in ways that are unique to our marriage.


Elizabeth-Justin Balinski

For the marriage– Every day write one note, from “I love you”, “you have sexy eyes”, “our honeymoon”, “how you bite your lip to concentrate” etc. It can be written on a post it or sticky note or even just a small clean piece of scrap paper. Then the fun… Put each one in a pocket or somewhere in their clean clothing. When they wear that pair of pants, or shirt, or coat they will at some point in their day find it. What a nice surprise?! And its takes a second to do, PLUS if you do it every day you get in on the suspense as you wonder which outfit they will wear that day, which note will they find, when might they find it? It is fantastic!

Elizabeth obviously has fun being a loving partner.

  • It’s clear that Elizabeth chooses to focus her attention on what she enjoys about her husband and their relationship.  Love sometimes requires focus and attention to what we like and enjoy.  Obviously, this implies that there are things that are better ignored.  Several things are clear from Elizabeth’s suggestion.
  • Elizabeth views love as something we do, and, something we do daily.  Love is not simply a state of being we fell into and will remain in “happily ever after”.
  • Elizabeth adores her husband and lets him know in tangible ways–even if the tangible ways are simply words on pieces of paper.  She doesn’t just assume that he knows she loves him.  She literally spells it out.
  • She mentions specific things about him that show that she pays attention to him and what some of the things are that she specifically enjoys about him.
  • She chooses to remember happy times between them.  All couples have good and bad times that they can remember.  Couples who choose to remember the good times and express pleasure about the good times tend to create more good times and good feelings.
  • Elizabeth gets pleasure and has fun wondering what loving message her husband will discover.

Whether she meant to or not, Elizabeth said that love is a choice.  It is a choice to focus attention on the positive about our spouses and our relationships, on what we adore and appreciate, and it is a choice to show that love and appreciation in ways that effectively convey it to our spouses.

Three more ideas will be described in the next blog post (hopefully by 2/27).


Top Four Contenders for “Best Date” Idea

Top Four Contenders for “Best Date” Idea.

Top Four Contenders for “Best Date” Idea

This month, since it’s the month of Valentines Day, romance, etc., we at the Growinlove Facebook Page decided to offer $100 for the best date idea and $100 for the best idea for keeping marriage fun around the home.  Falling in love is easy, it’s almost automatic.  Growing in love requires conscious intention and, at times, creative effort. People who are obviously skilled at keeping their love growing have submitted some excellent ideas about how to date and enrich your your marriage.  Here are the top contenders.

Jodi Haan-Ring

“For a fun and inexpensive date we have taken up playing Bingo! It costs $8.00 for a chance to win $1500, we get to spend three hours sitting side by side, laughing and chatting with each other. Our kids think it’s hilarious we play Bingo, which makes it that much more entertaining for us!”

Jodi’s description of her Bingo dates with her husband suggests that their Bingo Nights include several important elements of good dates and help keep their marriage fun and lively.

  • Their Bingo Nights are planned in advance and are something Jodi and her husband enjoy looking forward to.  Anticipation increases the duration of the enjoyment and the overall benefit.
  • Jodi and her husband go out as a couple, just the two of them, not as a group, they sit together, and it is probably obvious to the people around them that they “go together”.
  • Bingo Night is away from the house, away from being Mom and Dad, cook, financial manager, and any other roles that are inherent in running a household. Bingo Night allows Jodi and her husband to simply enjoy being be a woman and a man who love each other.
  • This is a fun activity that they both enjoy. The energy of the event is positive and the atmosphere is lively.
  • Bingo Night is not expensive.  Neither one of them is distracted by concern about how this is going to be paid for later.
  • Bingo Night lasts three hours, more than the two-hour minimum for an activity to really amount to a date.
  • Jodi and her husband are sitting by each other, laughing, chatting, etc., and probably enjoying spontaneous physical affection.
  • They’re probably focused on the game and not distracting themselves with emails, calls, texts, etc.

Thank you, Jodi.  You and your husband seem like real naturals when it comes to setting aside day-to-day concerns and going our for a good time.  You’re good examples of a quality most all of us need in greater abundance, especially in our marriages.


Jessica Martin

“I wanted to make sure that Dan knew how much I appreciate him and value how hard he works for our family. While he was at work one day, I made a simple invitation asking him to dinner with me that night. I sent it to his work email and asked him to print the invite and check the box for either 1. A quiet dinner at home or 2. Dinner at a restaurant of his choice. I told him I would pick up his response before he got off and bring him formal attire to change into (even if we ended up eating at home.) I wanted him to feel that this dinner was special. We ended up just going to Macaroni Grill and spending the time together talking. It made him feel special and that made me happy. It wasn’t super expensive or time consuming, but it made a difference for us. It was a simple dinner date, but the way we viewed it was what made it fun!”

Jessica’s description of her dinner date with her husband suggests some important elements of a good date.

  • Jessica’s intention was to show her husband that she loves and appreciates him.
  • How she set up the date was creative and unique.  It was a new experience for them.
  • She made an event of it.  She could have sent him a text message that said, “I love and appreciate you and how hard you work” (which she probably also does occasionally) but creating an event such as this adds emphasis to the message.
  • Their date was memorable and will be a positive memory for a long time.
  • Her invitation came to her husband as a surprise.  The element of surprise apparently added to the fun of their evening.
  • Jessica gave him the option of choosing any type of dinner experience he preferred from a simple dinner at home to a formal dinner on the town.
  • It was away from the home allowing them both to be a man and woman in love and not the cook, bill payer, maid, etc.  Such roles are important at times but too often we get stuck in them and consequently we limit our ability to see and enjoy each other.
  • It gave them time to relax, to talk, to maintain eye contact, and to be affectionate.

Thank you, Jessica.  Your date idea reminds us that being loving is at least as gratifying as being loved.  From reading your description, we get the distinct impression that you had at least as much fun being the giver of love as your husband did being the recipient.


Shirley Cox Schroeder

“Since moving to very rural KS from Richmond, VA my husband and I have very special moments without distractions. We would go horseback riding in the pastures, crossing a river, etc., just the two of us exploring. We go for rides in the country looking for deer, jackrabbits, etc. We will sit on a bench out by the shed at night and listen to the coyotes and stare at the incredibly bright stars (where we live there isn’t city light). We take long walks in the woods and are always looking for what is over the next hill. We might sound like “country folk”; but being 45 miles from civilization as we know it; this is how we strengthen each day of our marriage.”

The first observation I’ll make about this date idea is that Shirley describes these events as “very special moments without distractions”.  YES! These are so crucial to have in a marriage where two people are growing in love.

  • From her description, I don’t picture either of them having to wait while the other finishes a cell phone call, reads an email, or responds to a text message.
  • They’re riding together as a couple, being partners, friends, companions.  They’re not simply members of a group or family gathering.
  • The scenery and the action they are in are scenery and action most of us could only see if we went to a movie or watched it on television.  Shirley and her husband aren’t watching it.  They’re in it.
  • They are exploring the beauty of their surroundings.  In the country or in the city, too many of us remain oblivious to the intriguing elements all around us.  Shirley’s date keeps them exploring and increasing the enjoyment of the world around them.
  • Their date involves physical activity which also improves their health (an element that we appreciate increasingly over time).

My last observation about the importance of Shirley’s date idea is simply to quote her last words, “this is how we strengthen each day of our marriage.” Well put, Shirley.  Thank you for words that are as succinct as they are wise.


Lisa J Campbell

“Cross-country skiing (or snowshoeing) by the light of a full moon. Yes, it is weather dependent and takes some planning (not all full moons occur when it is convenient), but, it makes a great memory and a reason to share a cup of something warm together later.”

Yes, this date definitely requires advance planning (anticipation adds to the enjoyment) as well as the participation of Mother Nature.  (Ironically, as I write this, there is new snow and a full-moon.  Mother Nature does provide.)

  • Whether Lisa and her husband chose cross-country skiing or snowshoeing they both enjoyed the benefits of improved skill and cardiovascular health.
  • “By the light of the full moon”!  Is there better lighting for a romantic evening together?
  • This date is not going to strain anyone’s budget, as long as you have the equipment and easy access to open space.
  • Both Lisa and her husband are together, enjoying the intense beauty that surrounds them.
  • Imagining Lisa’s and her husband’s stroll through the moonlit snow, I don’t picture a cell-phone call, an email being read or a text being sent.  This is a time for just the two of them.

Thank you, Lisa.  An experience together in such intense, natural beauty helps us put day-to-day concerns back in perspective and helps us remember that our lives are much more rich than we tend to remember.

So, thanks again to everyone for your submissions.  We’ll be choosing one of the top four by Friday (2/18) evening to receive one of the checks for $100.  We welcome your feedback and will consider it in our deciding.

Paul and Brentz Brandt

Bonnie’s Romantic Getaway

Bonnie posted the following comment to my last blog post.  It’s well worth reading so I made it a post.

I think a romantic getaway is so necessary for a marriage. My husband and I went to an Inn in Lexington, VA three days after Christmas. I booked the honeymoon suite and David bawked about going but we went. We had such a good time eating out, shopping, having wine and cheese with the innkeepers and other guests. We also had chocolate covered stawberries and champagne that night. I put the three Yorkies in the kennel and we went on and it was great. We ended up going to VMI where my youngest son graduated from the next day. I took lots of pictures and it brought back so many good memories when he was a cadet there.
It brought me to tears. As we get older our lives change so much, the children leave home and life goes on. It puts things back into perspective when it’s just the two of you alone. Who doesn’t want to be loved? It’s the greatest time to rediscover each other after providing for your family for so many years. I think everyone needs a romantic getaway just to get away from phones, texting, computers, dogs and spend the night in luxury with your significant other away from home. Pamper yourselves!!!

Twenty-five Elements of a Good Date!

Most couples need at a least a weekly date to help them keep the romance alive in their marriages.  This fact is illustrated repeatedly by the many couples who come to me for marriage counseling who rarely, if ever, go out together on a date.  They’re too busy, child care is too hard to arrange, they can’t think of anything they would both enjoy…  If it were too inconvenient to put gasoline in your car, how long would you expect it to run?

Or sometimes a couple will say, “Our weekly date is an evening of watching TV,” or, “We usually do something as a family every week,”  or, “yeah, we get together with our in-laws (or a group of friends) a couple times a month”.

Those might be enjoyable and even important experiences, but they are not dates!  When you were first in-love or, at least, anxious to get to know each other, your dates were probably not spent in front of the TV, with in-laws or friends. Dating and courtship, which help enrich a relationship and keep the love growing have important elements or guidelines that need to be spelled out but that too often get ignored.  In my opinion, here they are:

  1. Plan the date at least several hours, preferably days, in advance.(Anticipation is an important part of the fun).
  2. Make it a weekly occurrence, preferably on the same night most weeks. (This means saying “No” to other important, but less important things than your marriage.)
  3. At least three times per month, your date is with just the two of you. (You two are each other’s most important people. Nobody else! Right?)
  4. With rare exception, your best chance for a good date is away from the house. (You regularly need to shift out of the roles of Mom and Dad, maid and cook, landscaper, bill payer, etc. and back into the mode of LOVERS! At home, it’s too easy to get distracted by some little urgency that sucks you back into some role other than your spouse’s lover.)
  5. There is no conversation about problems–kids, money, in-laws, etc. (This is a time for fun.  There’s plenty of time to argue later.)
  6. No awkward silences.  (You might need to think ahead and have some new things to talk about. Or turn silence into number 7.)
  7. Enjoy a moment of silent consistent eye contact. (Silence can be intensely romantic, even exquisitely intimate.)
  8. Make your date last at least two hours. (Feeding your romance doesn’t happen at the drive-through at McDonalds)
  9. Do something fun. (Going to the grocery store together, working in the yard, or on home improvement are important parts of being a team and will help you feel closer, but they are not dates.)
  10. Do something new occasionally. (Finding things to do that you both enjoy is a challenge for most couples so be up for trying new things. If it’s a total bomb, it will at least it will be good for a laugh.)
  11. Plan reliable childcare well in advance.  (The most frequent obstacle to actually making a date happen is the failure to find available childcare.)
  12. Take turns planning the date.  (It’s nice for both of you to know that the other person enjoys and desires an evening with you.)
  13. Follow through with your date plans unless there is a genuine emergency.  (When in doubt, GO OUT! Your date is a priority, isn’t it!)
  14. Prepare yourselves as if it’s a special event because it is! (This is no time for bad breath, bad hair, or body odor.)
  15. Drive together.  (Meeting at the theater or restaurant on your way home from work might be more convenient or cost-effective but those are not the goals of a date.)
  16. Be affectionate.  Maintain frequent physical contact with each other. Let it be obvious that you two are a couple and that you are in love (or at least working on growing in love).  (This world, and your kids especially, need more good examples of loving husbands and wives being loving husbands and wives.
  17. Purchase or keep a souvenir (napkin, book of matches, ticket stubs, etc.) of the date. (A date remembered is a date enjoyed for many years. Collect these souvenirs in a special place or treasure box.)
  18. Get a photo of yourselves on your date.  (Great for your scrapbook or journal.)
  19. No phoning, emailing, or texting unless it’s a life threatening emergency.  (Nothing says, “you’re not important to me” like shifting your attention away from your lover to anything else.)
  20. Do something new that increases your engagement with each other and with your city.  Take a dance class, attend an adult education class, learn new skills, try new music and art venues. New experiences together are an adventure and reinforce your sense of being a team and enjoying your city.
  21. Be on time. (If I need to explain this one to you, you’re hopeless.)
  22. Don’t be tired. (Nothing in your week is more important than your weekly date. Plan accordingly. If all else fails, resort to Red Bull.)
  23. If you go out to dinner and the service is adequate, leave a generous tip (more than 15%).  It helps increase the festive, generous, loving mood of your date together.  If you argue about this  your ignorance, unfriendliness, stinginess, and lack of gratitude are hanging out.)
  24. At least once a month, do something in an unfamiliar part of your city or state. (We live in an amazing world. Discovering it together will add to richness of your marriage.)
  25. Pace yourselves, leave enough time, energy and sobriety for snuggling in bed together and  connecting sexually.  (Sex shouldn’t be expected, but it needs to be initiated as a gift of love and affection–intimate, pleasurable caressing and tender words. Maybe it will be like the Fourth of July or maybe it will simply be like enjoying the warm glow of a fire in the fireplace.  Little else connects a couple like enjoying the intimate, tender pleasures of a sexual, mild or wild, encounter.)

Obviously, not all of these elements can be included in any one date, but as you plan ahead and consider your month of date nights try to include all of these elements and see what happens.  I’m anxious to read about your ideas and your experience.

Grow in love!!