21 November 2016

5 Reasons To Be Thankful For Marriage

I have a love-hate relationship with fall.

On the one hand, it's nice having the weather cool off slightly after the hot summer months. On the other hand, some days take it a bit too far and I freeze my butt off. I love that autumn means that the leaves become beautiful fiery shades. My favorite is the maple tree that turns bright red. But unfortunately the trees are only one rainy, windy day away from becoming completely bare. I also love fall because it contains my birthday (the best day of the year, of course) and Thanksgiving.

In the middle of trying to plan the perfect Thanksgiving recipes, assembling grocery shopping lists, cleaning the house, and getting swept up in the Christmas chaos that seems to start earlier and earlier each year, I try to bring my focus back to what I am thankful for. My mind drifts to marriage. I will be the first to say that marriage can be hard at times. But despite its challenges, there's still a lot to be thankful for about marriage.  Here's five reasons to get your brain jogging and hopefully you may come up with some more of your own!

1. You have a built-in teammate to help navigate life's many challenges. Life can be crazy at times. Or all of the time. Having a teammate in life allows you to look at your schedule and divide up tasks to lessen each other's load. If you need improvement in this area, you can read five tips on getting your husband to help out around the house (hint: it can also work on your wife!). You have someone to vent to when you need to de-stress and unwind after a long, hard day. He or she can pray for you, build you up, and cheer you on. When you face a tough situation, you know someone has your back. You don't need to face the world alone when you have a spouse by your side.
"Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”(Genesis 2:18)
2. Marriage forces you to grow, mature, and be continually refined, whether you want to or not!
Marriage can be difficult. In fact, marriage is a big, fat, ugly mirror. If you are selfish while single, something has to give once married. If you frivolously spent money before marriage, that now affects your spouse and needs to be addressed. In marriage, you learn how to be selfless, love unconditionally, and forgive daily. Every day is a work in progress, refining us continually, even when it hurts. And oh, how it hurts at times!
“If you want to be free to serve Jesus, there’s no question—stay single. Marriage takes a lot of time. But if you want to become more like Jesus, I can’t imagine any better thing to do than to get married. Being married forces you to face some character issues you’d never have to face otherwise.” - Gary L. ThomasSacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?
3. Marriage allows you to specialize yourself to form a power couple. You then get to benefit from the best traits of each spouse. Part of being a power couple requires focusing on each other's strengths instead of weaknesses. If you had the exact same strengths, one of you would be redundant in the relationship, and thus, unnecessary. So be thankful for the unique strengths of your spouse, as well as your strengths that you can contribute to the relationship. You are stronger together than apart!
"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
4. Sex! I'll just leave this one here since it's pretty self-explanatory. But marriage allows a couple to experience sexual intimacy in a truly God-honoring way without guilt or shame. If you need help discussing with your spouse how to strengthen your sexual intimacy (we all do), you can read more about it here.

5. Marriage lets someone truly know you intimately, inside and out. Part of the way my hubby and I regularly deepen that intimacy is discussing our weekly Marriage Monday questions. As I look back on memories with my hubby, I realize I am so incredibly thankful for him. He knows all of my flaws. Every single one of them. Ones I didn't even know I had until the big, ugly marriage mirror flashed them in my face. And he still chooses to be with me and stand by my side. He loves me when I'm being unlovable (more often than I'd like to admit) and he forgives me daily, just as God does for us. That is something to be thankful for!
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
What are you thankful for about marriage? What qualities of your spouse make you thankful? 

I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones!

24 October 2016

Share Your Real Marriage, Not Just the Highlight Reel

My little family had pictures taken this past weekend with the talented Mallorie Keck. She assured us she captured some amazing photos of us, and from past experience I know it will be great! I can’t wait to see the final product! I’m sure our outfits will look perfectly coordinated, yet not too matchy-matchy, just like we planned, all of us will be smiling like we don’t have a care in the world, and no one will guess that we just had complete chaos getting ready and a tears-filled car ride there. Our house had an explosion of fresh laundry on every surface since I wasn't quite sure which outfits we should wear. My daughter threw a tantrum wanting her pink boots instead of the brown ones I had set out. My hubby asked if he should just put those on her instead. I told him those do not match her outfit and reminded him (not so nicely unfortunately) that WE are the adults, and bigger than her, so we will put whatever shoes on her that we want. Then the baby pooped through her outfit just as we arrived. Of course. Before we knew it, Mallorie was saying “One, two, three, CHEESE!” and we were capturing a smiling picture that was (thankfully) not at all reflective of the before or after of that moment. Beautiful pictures that I’m so excited and thankful to have of our family! 

This is the reason why you need people that you can be real with about your marriage and family struggles. We all see these pretty pictures on social media and we can’t help but compare our real life to a perfectly curated glimpse of their life. And we think we’re lacking. It's because “we’re comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel” as Steven Furtick so eloquently explains. 

We see a friend posting a picture of her and her husband all dressed up for a nice steak dinner celebrating their 10th anniversary. We wish we could have a marriage as great as theirs, but we fail to see that they just had the biggest fight of their life the night before. We see a picture of a beautiful one month old baby with the mom smiling lovingly at her. But we fail to see the deep post-partum depression she is struggling with. We see a guy posting about his new promotion and we wistfully look at pictures of the huge new house they bought, but we don’t see their pain that years of struggling with infertility can bring. Or we see a family at church with tons of kids who all look completely put together and happy, while we are struggling with just two kids, one crying, desperately needing a nap, and the other one throwing both of her shoes off and running the opposite direction  (yep, that last one is completely hypothetical, ha).

I’m not saying it’s bad to post beautiful pictures on Facebook. I love capturing photos of my family so I can cherish those memories of how they looked in that moment of time. I love being able to easily share it with our extended family that live all over the country so they can feel involved in our lives. I love celebrating the wins in our marriage (yay for our 5th anniversary!) and milestones in our children’s lives. And through that all, I do try to post a balance of #reallife pictures, more for my own sake to be able to laugh at the craziness. But we also have people who we are close to that we can share our burdens, our struggles, our pain, and our tears. 

It is extremely important to have people in your life with whom you can be authentic. It’s exhausting if you are constantly trying to act like you have the perfect marriage, obedient kids, and always-clean household. Everyone has fights and struggles with their spouse, kids that don’t always listen and want to grow up too fast, and I haven’t met many people who truly have a spotless house at all times (if this is you - please come help me with my house!). 

It’s also great to have a glimpse into another couple’s reality so you see that they too have messy lives and crazy kiddos. There’s something oddly comforting when I see another mom struggle with her toddler. I know that sounds horrible, and I do feel badly for her, but it makes me feel less alone since I know how much I struggle with my kids. It's the same with marriages. When I get to know couples that have made it to the 30+ year mark, they often reveal some pretty dark times in their marriage. Yet they fought to preserve their marriage and they made it through to the other side, not only surviving but thriving more than before. This is incredibly encouraging to me!

This week for Marriage Monday, take a moment to reflect on this with your spouse. Who, if anyone, in your life do you have this type of authentic relationship? Who knows the real you? Who can you and your spouse call up when you are trying to work through an issue and hit an impasse? Who do you text for prayer when you both are struggling? Do you perhaps have an older couple that has been married longer than you that you can ask for wisdom, direction, and encouragement? If the answer is no one, use this time to talk with your spouse about how you can pursue a more authentic relationship with a specific couple. You never know, they could be desperately hoping for this as well! 

For group discussion, what are your tips for others to begin to pursue this type of authentic relationship with others?

17 October 2016

Listening Skills Required: Venting vs. Troubleshooting

I used to think I would be an amazing therapist. I loved giving advice to friends and reading "Dear Abby" type columns. Turns out counseling is not supposed to be simply handing out advice, especially not your personal opinion, as it does not help instill confidence in their own problem solving abilities. Nor is it always wanted or needed. Instead of giving advice filled with my own biases and values, I need to listen and ask questions to help them explore alternatives and come up with their own solutions. It takes major listening skills to hear and correctly understand exactly what is going on in someone's life. Unfortunately, this is not a natural strength of mine. 

It sounds so easy in theory. How could there possibly be more than one step? 

Step 1: "Listen." 

Maybe a step 2 could be added: "Keep Listening."

But something so seemingly easy can be surprisingly hard and complex. 

In a marriage, lack of listening skills can result in many problems, some of which we will discuss in subsequent posts. 
My personal struggle that I mentioned already is that is that I often find myself getting lost in my own thoughts trying to figure out what advice to give instead of truly listening. I sometimes completely miss what the actual problem is. Or fail to see that advice is not actually wanted.

I've read several books on this topic and have learned some great ways to practice listening skills. The good news is that, although listening may not be something that comes naturally to you, it is a learned skill that can be strengthened over time!

Today we will discuss a listening issue that has a very easy solution. I'm easing us in! This specific problem arises when you give advice or offer solutions when your spouse really only needs a sympathetic ear to safely vent some frustrations. You may think you don't have this problem, but just humor me and ask your spouse anyway. You may be surprised!

This problem is stereotypically where the husband is the primary offender. Men are often valued for fixing things around the house and troubleshooting at the workplace. So it's hard to shift gears and not offer immediate and hard solutions to a wife describing a problem. It's good for the other spouse to understand that it's a valued skill and gift of theirs that just isn't quite appreciated in this instance. Hopefully we can extend some grace in this area while it is being worked on.

The stereotypical mold doesn't always fit, though. I am very solution-oriented, which can often be a great trait to have. But it can wreak havoc in two ways when I try to offer a seemingly quick-fix for my husband:

1) It brushes past his feelings and disregards how the situation is weighing on him. Thus, it implies I don't care. I may not even have the details of the full story yet and somehow think I know what is best. It shows that I want to move on from the conversation quickly by applying a fast band-aid. It can also imply that I think I am smarter, assuming he couldn't brainstorm a solution on his own (totally not true!). I don't want him to think any of this! But I need to be aware of what I am communicating in these instances.

2) I miss out on understanding my husband on a deeper, intimate level. If I simply ask more questions, I can get the opportunity to hear my husband's heart. If it is your wife that is the one opening up, you can use this time to show that you care about her struggles. If you try to squash the conversation with a quick fix, a husband may realize he can't be vulnerable with you anymore and a wife may shut down that line of communication and only talk to her friends about her struggles in the future. Don't let this happen. Embrace the chance for this true intimacy.

On the other side of the equation, since I like solutions, I get annoyed if I bare my soul to my husband about a tough problem and he just nods and listens. For whatever reason, to me that communicates that he doesn't care enough to help me troubleshoot, and it's my burden to bear alone and figure out. A few months into marriage, I finally told him this, and he was shocked. He thought all women want a man that would sit there and listen to them vent. Well, yes, but not for everything!

After discussing it for some time, we came to this solution. You may want a pad of paper and pen to write it down. Tell your spouse upfront when you only want to vent. And if you want solutions, ask for it. I know. It sounds way too simplistic but it needs to happen. And it works. Your spouse cannot read your mind, despite how much you think she or he should be able to have that skill. If you think you might be the offending spouse, ask what is needed at that time. And yes, this needs to happen every time unless you know your spouse only wants one or the other. 

If your spouse says he or she just wants you to listen, do it. Close your mouth. Literally bite your tongue if needed. Embarrassingly enough, I've had to do that on multiple ocassions before. After listening, it's okay to ask clarifying questions. Try to understand the situation from your spouse's perspective and be sympathetic. That is all. 

Sometimes I've had a hard day with the kids and I don't want my husband suggesting I should read more parenting books. That would not go over too well! I really just need him to be sympathetic and say, "You have such a tough job!" or I may even want him to give me the world's biggest bear hug so I can cry without judgment. But more often than not, I'm usually struggling with something specific like trying to figure out a discipline technique that would actually work on our toddler. In those times,  I truly need advice and to troubleshoot with him. I may need him to sit down and pray with me. If I tell him what I need, he is there - ready and willing. Your spouse most likely will be as well as long as you spell it out for him or her! 

Which one do you usually need? A listening ear to vent to or do you want solutions to be suggested as a default? Ask your spouse this week as well and see if you are surprised by their answer!

03 October 2016

Looking Back to Move Your Marriage Forward

My husband and I celebrated our five year anniversary on Saturday.

Either you are thinking "Congrats! Wow, five years!" or you have been married much longer than that and are suddenly freaked out about taking marriage advice from someone that has "only" been married for five years. Just remember, I have nowhere claimed to have this marriage thing all figured out. I'm simply inviting you along on my journey. But if it makes you feel slightly better, I do have an undergrad degree in Psychology and Family Studies, an almost-completed masters in Marriage & Family Therapy counseling, and still love reading and learning about marriage on an almost daily basis. But back to my anniversary...

Although I usually love being the one to plan dates (is that weird?), I gave up the reigns this year and asked my husband to surprise me. He ended up taking me to Old Town Alexandria. For non-DC folks, that's a cute town on the waterfront of the Potomac River on the Virginia side just across from Washington, DC. We got all dolled up and went to a fancy dinner at one restaurant and then off to another fun restaurant for dessert. I loved it!

While at dinner, waiting on our food to arrive, we did something that we always do on our anniversary. We took turns talking about why we love being married to each other. My hubby told me some qualities that he saw in me that brought tears to my eyes. He seemed blown away and genuinely surprised/touched by what I told him as well.

We also reminisced about some amazing moments in our marriage. We didn't shy away from tough times, though.

We've had financial difficulties that seemed impossible to get through. We also worked together through Financial Peace University and made some crazy-sounding sacrifices to successfully get out of debt.

We transitioned from two salaries down to one as I made the switch to become a stay-at-home mom. As any other SAHM knows, this comes with many blessings combined with lots of difficulties trying to navigate finding a balance and a new normal in that complicated role. It's still a work in progress.

We've lived in three different places in five years, including drastically downgrading into one dumpy place (as in, we had cockroaches for roommates) while we saved money to buy a place that we've made into our comfy little nest.

We brought two beautiful girls into this world and will have to wait until heaven to meet two more twin girls that were miscarried.

We made it through Whole30 to change our relationship with food, pushed each other at the gym, and worked on becoming healthier versions of ourselves. We've also both had some pretty difficult health issues that have driven us to our knees in prayer.

We've had some parenting wins and a LOT of parenting fail moments.

The list could go on. The good with the bad. For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. Through sickness and health. We've been through it all, and so have you. Okay, well maybe you are still waiting on the "for richer" part like we are! But taking the time to look back, even at the hard times, shows us we successfully made it through as a team even if we have some war wounds. We can now see how those struggles brought us even closer together and also caused us to cling more tightly to God because that's all we could manage in the moment.

When you have those tough days - when the laundry is piling up, the kids are fussy and clingy all at the same time (how do they know to do that?!), and your spouse has reached "hangry" status because neither of you can figure out how to make the random contents of the fridge magically combine into a dinner, reminisce on the good times.

Remind yourself of how excited you were about your first date or how nervous you were before your first kiss. Talk to your spouse about your memories of the proposal. Discuss how you felt during your first dance as man and wife. Tell your husband your top 1 (or 5!) reasons why you absolutely love being married to him. Tell your wife the top reasons why she makes an amazing wife and mom.

This isn't just to make your spouse feel good, although it certainly does that as well as fosters lovey-dovey feelings. But telling your spouse these things reminds you that the flawed, imperfect person you are standing beside in life has some pretty amazing qualities as well. Enough to make you want to marry him or her in the first place! And there's most likely been some amazing moments in your marriage that can so easily get buried in the craziness of life, but you will instead dig those out and celebrate them.

You don't need to wait until your next anniversary to do this - there's no time like the present! But you can also use it to start a new tradition on that date.

Let those happy feelings of nostalgia bring you back to those good times and carry you forward to create some amazing new memories. Ones that can be brought up and discussed at your next anniversary date over great food, fine wine, delicious desserts, and perhaps some well-earned happy tears.

Feel free to share some of your own memories below in the comments. And don't forget to share with your spouse!

26 September 2016

Marriage Monday: 5 Simple Questions that Will Change Your Marriage - Question 5

This is the final week of the five-part series of Marriage Monday questions. These questions, written by the blogger at Today's Letters, are designed to draw you into a simple, yet bonding conversation with your spouse. It facilitates communication that creates deeper intimacy. If you are just now joining us, you can read the posts in order, starting with the first question.

To recap, here are the five questions:
1) How did you feel loved this past week?
2) What does your schedule look like for this upcoming week?
3) How can I best love or encourage you this upcoming week?
4) How do you feel about our sexual intimacy and how can we work together to strengthen it?
and finally...
5) How can I pray for you?  

You will then pray for each other, out loud, right then and there. This question may seem like the easiest, but it is surprisingly hard for many people. You may pray for your spouse all the time, but praying in front of your spouse, for your spouse, is often awkward. First the sex question, and now praying out loud! When will the awkwardness end?!

The only reason why I'm asking you to push through and try it is because revealing your heart to your spouse will bring about intimacy like you've never experienced before. It builds intimacy when you tell your spouse what is burdening your heart. When your spouse then prays for you right in front of you, it builds even more intimacy. It is incredibly bonding.

If that isn't reason enough, here's another great one. We are called as Christians to share each other's burdens (Galatians 6:2). Especially in a marriage, if your spouse is stressed about work, dealing with a health issue, heartbroken about a rift in a relationship, fearful, overwhelmed, or burdened in any way, you took a vow to walk alongside them in that time of need. You should be the first person to wipe away their tears, listen to them, encourage them, and especially pray for them.

Many people are not used to praying out loud. It is also hard for many men, because they feel pressure to be the spiritual leader, yet so often the wife is the one with more experience praying out loud in groups. Wives - please do not criticize or make fun of your husband's first attempt to pray out loud in front of you. Doing so will guarantee he will never want to do it again.

Praying is simply talking to God, so there's not a right or wrong way to do it. No need to be eloquent. In fact, start out simple. The first week you can each give one request for the other to pray about. Even now, my husband and I usually just give three requests, but feel free to spend as long or as little of time as you want on this one. I'm often surprised at what my husband reveals to me as the top three things that are burdening him. I'm super thankful to have that insight and be brought in to the inner workings of his heart and have the honor of praying over him.

If you need extra motivation to try this, let's think this through. After talking about question #4 you will have sex on the brain. You will then immediately follow that up by praying for one another, so you will feel incredibly emotionally close as well. You will feel super bonded at that point, so you will most likely want to jump into bed together. You're welcome.

Thanks for joining me for the Marriage Monday series! I would love to hear if you've attempted it and especially if you've adopted it as a weekly ritual with your spouse!

19 September 2016

Marriage Monday: 5 Simple Questions that Will Change Your Marriage - Question 4

It's the week we've all been waiting for! Well... except for me. As it turns out, sex is kind of an awkward topic to discuss with lots of people. Some of which could include my parents (hi mom!), fellow church members, and even some people I've never even met (this will be a great ice breaker!). But good thing I don't shy away from awkwardness, so let's dive right in!

If you are just now joining us, we are four weeks into a post series on weekly marriage questions that my hubby and I like to call Marriage Monday (originally from this amazing blog). Make sure to go back to read the questions in order, starting with this post

This week, you will discuss the previous three questions with your spouse and add in this fourth question: "How do you feel about our sexual intimacy and how can we work together to strengthen it?" Just to clarify, if it isn't obvious enough, I am talking about sex. Not just snuggling. Not emotional intimacy, which was covered in prior questions. For question #4 we are talking about sexual intercourse, doing the deed, insert tab "A" into slot "B," nakey time, or whatever you want to call it. Okay, I'm glad we are now all on the same page!

I know this topic is super hard for many people to talk about, especially if you've never discussed it together before. It's interesting to me how spouses will have sex, which is incredibly intimate, but they don't feel comfortable talking about it, because that somehow feels even more intimate and scary to do. For some couples, especially if sex has been taken off the table for awhile by one spouse, this may take a professional counselor to walk through this process. I encourage you to take that step this week to strengthen this vital part of your marriage if you need to.

As Christians, we need to remember that God created sex as a gift for married couples to enjoy! It's meant to be a fun, pleasurable, and extremely bonding experience. My hubby did an amazing job discussing this topic in detail in this video called "Ideal Sex," so I won't take time replicating what he already said, but I encourage you to watch it. If I thought it would be awkward discussing sex on my blog when I can hide behind a screen, I guess my hubby should be given major bravery points for talking about sex in front of an entire church!

One essential aspect to remember about question #4 is that it asks, "How do you feel about our sexual intimacy..." There is a tendency to think how you feel about your sex life is the right way to feel. But your spouse may feel differently and it is important to know this. Your spouse is allowed to feel however he or she feels about it. Feelings are just that - feelings. Not right or wrong. They are subjective. Just remember that the end goal is stronger sexual intimacy, which can in turn strengthen the marriage.

There's lots of things that you could talk about during this question:

- Are you having sex too much? Not enough?
- Do you wish you could try something new or work on a specific technique together?
- Are you worried about a partner's sudden change in libido? (tip: sometimes a doctor's visit or bloodwork could reveal a hormonal shift or other physical ailment that could be fixed to bring the sex drive back to normal).
- Are you experiencing physical pain of any sort during sex? (one couple had a tough conversation but then discovered that lube was their new best friend and the answer to all their problems!)
- Is there past sexual trauma or abuse that is holding you or your spouse back that needs to be discussed with a counselor?
- Is there something your spouse could do more of or less of during sex?
- Could you benefit from spending a lazy Saturday in bed for a couple of hours just exploring each other's bodies?
- Are there any things you are enjoying during sex that you want to become a regular occurrence? It's good to focus on positives as well! What blew your socks off? (suggestion: don't actually wear socks during sex)

Don't be afraid to get very technical with your answer. The more detailed, the better. It may feel extremely awkward and uncomfortable the first time you discuss this question, but it gradually gets easier and less awkward each time. Just hang in there! 

If you are stumped where to even begin, there's lots of great books out there on the topic. My personal favorite that I always recommend to couples is Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by Dr. Kevin Leman. He is a Christian author that gets VERY explicit on details, how-to's, ideas, etc. There's a chapter on sexual positions, another called "Oral Delights," and another called "Thirty-One Flavors - and None of Them Are Ice Cream!" Trust me, you want to read this book. It prompts some great discussions! I have one friend who uses this book as his go-to wedding gift, which is pure genius. This first week doing question #4, you could tell your spouse that reading this book together is what you want to do to start working on and strengthening your sexual intimacy.

As a mom of two littles, as much as I want my husband to always be at the top of my "to-do" list, sometimes my very honest answer to question #4 is that I'm soooooo stinkin tired (which can easily cause a crazy drop in libido). Since I have to come up with a solution, I suggest that if hubby can get me to bed by "x" time - by helping get the kiddos into bed, dividing and conquering the dishes, etc, I'll be much more likely to still have energy left for him. Instead of leaving my sleep deprivation as an obstacle to our sex life, I clue him in on how we can overcome that hindrance. He is more than happy to help out!

Let me know how your Marriage Mondays are going! Next week we will be discussing the fifth and final question to add to your weekly questions. Your training wheels will be officially off!

12 September 2016

Marriage Monday: 5 Simple Questions that Will Change Your Marriage - Question 3

If you're just now joining this conversation, make sure to read back over question #1, and question #2.

How did it go with the first two questions? Did any of your spouse's answers surprise you? Did you have trouble answering a question? This week you will add a third one to the mix. Question #3 is: "How can I best love or encourage you this upcoming week?" 

Whereas question #1 looked back on what you already did to make your spouse feel loved and could have happened by chance, question #3 gives you a foolproof plan of how to best make your spouse feel loved for the upcoming week.

Pay close attention to your spouse's answer, as it may not always be completely in line with their usual love language(s). One of my main love languages is "acts of service." If Hubby takes over cleaning the kitchen after dinner and gets the toddler to bed, I feel VERY loved! But every once in awhile, especially if we've both been busy, I realize I would feel super loved if he planned a fun date night for us. I would even be fine if we set aside a night in to relax together. This means I'm craving the "quality time" love language. Since my main need changed for the week, it's super helpful for me to clue Hubby in so he is able to best love me in the way I need. Hence why this is such an important question!

Despite sounding easy, sometimes this is actually a hard question to think through. Usually Hubby is stumped (maybe because I show love so well already? Ha! J/k). When this happens, you can probe deeper with the following questions:

- What are you feeling discouraged about lately that I can intentionally encourage you about throughout this week?
- What is stressing you out the most that I can possibly help out with?
- Can I verbally affirm or make you feel respected better in a certain area? (words of affirmation)
- Is there anything around the house that I could help you with to make your life easier? (acts of service)
- Would it make you feel loved if I surprise you with a small thoughtful gift this week? (gifts). Note: there's lots of thoughtful gifts that could be free! Comment if you have any ideas to share.
- Do you need us to set aside intentional time for more physical intimacy this week? (physical touch)
- Is there a certain activity, date, or other time together that would make you feel loved? (quality time)

Usually after asking those types of questions it's easy to pick something to feel loved in the upcoming days.

Once you hear your spouse's answer, WRITE IT DOWN! Email it to yourself, add it to your calendar, grab a post-it note, or whatever you need to do. There's nothing more frustrating than spelling out exactly how you want and need to feel loved, only for your spouse to promptly forget or ignore it. If you immediately know it's something that can't happen (like if there's legitimately not a single free night that week to plan a date), discuss right away when you can plan that date in the future and then ask for a tangible way to make your spouse feel loved during the current week.

For this week's Marriage Monday (or whichever night you do your weekly questions), make sure you ask all three questions that we've discussed so far:
1) How did you feel loved this past week? Read more about this question here.
2) What does your upcoming week look like? (calendar syncing). Read more about it here.
3) How can I best love or encourage you in this upcoming week?

Make sure you come back next week, because question 4 has to do with SEX! Everyone's favorite topic.

If you want to learn more about love languages and how to spot them in your spouse, I highly recommend you read The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman.  I talk about it a lot, especially in our premarital counseling because it truly changes how you show love to your spouse in a way that they actually can feel it!

You can also read about the original weekly questions in the Today's Letters blog post.

Let me know how the questions are going in the comments below!

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