12 Ways to Make Marriage Fun Again

Elderly couple

I previously posted this several years ago, before we were empty-nesters. I believe more in it today than I did then. Sadly, as someone who studies marriages, I see more and more marriages that are just going through the routines of marriage without really enjoying the journey. At the same time, I do know couples who have learned how to make their marriage work for the good of both spouses and are truly enjoying life together. My wife and I want to be included in the latter group.

What does it take to put or keep fun in a marriage?

I first shared these tips at a pastor’s retreat, so that was the original audience, but I believe they work for all of us.

Here are a 12 ways to make marriage fun again:

Prioritize your marriage – If you want to have fun in your marriage, you have to make your marriage a priority in your life; above your hobbies, work and even your children. All of us would say that our marriage is a priority, but do we practice what we say we believe? Our marriage should take precedence over every other human relationship and every other activity. My wife knows when I am putting her first and when something else has my greatest attention.

Schedule time for fun – We should schedule time to simply enjoy life with our spouse. Everyone I know is busy, but we should make sure our schedule never gets so crowded that we cannot enjoy time with the love of our life. As a pastor, I am never really off work, but I try to be home when I am home. Still, I will often hear my wife, and my boys when they were home, ask me something like, “Are you really listening to me or are you thinking about your next appointment?” We must set boundaries between our home and our work or other activities. Add to your calendar opportunities to have fun together. When is the last time you and your wife went on a date? You can be wise with your expenses and still plan for date nights.

Let worry go – Struggles will never completely disappear, so we should learn how to balance the need for control in our lives and the desire to live at peace and trust God through the hard times of life. It is important that we not allow struggles that come into the marriage to tear the marriage apart, but instead we should let our trials draw us closer to each other.

Expect surprises – Stuff happens! We know that; we see bad things happen everyday, but for some reason we are caught off guard when they happen to us. We should not be surprised when our marriage needs a little extra help because of the struggles of life. Cheryl and I have discovered the tough times bring us closer together if we allow them to work for us rather than against us.

Celebrate along the way – I have been told that it takes three or four positive life occurrences to offset every negative. If this is true then each of us need to look for opportunities to celebrate the good things of life. When times are especially stressful, Cheryl and I try to make sure we are remembering the positives in life. They are always there, but we have to sometimes look for them. Have you ever just taken time to reflect together how many things you have for which you are thankful? You may even have a better life than you thought you did; once you take time to celebrate.

Enjoy each others interests – It’s okay to have outside interests, but one of the goals of marriage is to enjoy life together. That usually involves enjoying each others activities together. I don’t like to shop necessarily, and there are certain stores where I refuse to shop, but I go shopping regularly with Cheryl because I love her and she loves shopping. It has always amazed me that when I invest the time to shop with Cheryl she always tries to give back to me by allowing me to enjoy one of my interests — with no guilt.

Get away – We all need time away from all the demands of life. On a pastor’s income, I can’t always take fancy vacations, but I am not afraid to invest in my marriage. My wife and I love to travel. One of our more fun things to do together is to plan inexpensive day trips. There is something about physically leaving the environment in which we are comfortable that pushes us closer to the ones we love. For years, while my boys were younger, I gave Cheryl a trip for Christmas to be used sometime during the year. She looked forward to the gift and the trip every year. On bad days during the year, the thoughts of the gift or trip to come fueled her positive emotions.

Serve Together – We have discovered that the more we serve other people together the more fun we have in our marriage. It gives us more common ground with each other. Taking mission trips have become a fun way to spend time together. Serving our church together brings us closer to each other. Sharing ministry stories and experiences helps us draw from each others strength.

Little things matter – Moments in a marriage that may seem to be minor details have the potential for major impact on the marriage relationship. It is important to handle little issues or conflict before they become big things. If a husband and wife have a minor disagreement it can easily escalate into a major division in the relationship if left unattended. Keep the relationship fresh and free from minor drama.

We should also allow little pleasures to bring happiness to the marriage. One of my favorite times of day is the walk Cheryl and I take at night. That few minutes each day keeps us close relationally, allows us to catch up from our day away from each other, and helps me to enjoy Cheryl in a fun setting.

Laugh at life – I read a statistic once that preschoolers laugh an average of 300 times a laugh an average of 17 times a day. The older we get the less we laugh. Laughter is good for our health and laughing together builds stronger relationships. Couples need to learn to laugh through life together. Cheryl and I laugh much!

Dream together – When couples are dating they seem to have fun discussing their future plans. Once we get married we tend to lose the art of dreaming. Dreaming inspires and encourages the heart. Dreaming together as a couple keeps the relationship fueled with new passions and desires. (I wrote a whole post about that HERE.)

Spread the pain – I am trying to model my pastoral responsibilities like the Acts 6 model in the Bible. I am learning that I cannot do everything. I must be a good at delegation. Don’t be afraid to say “no” in order to protect your marriage. (I wrote about the this in THIS POST recently.) Many couples I know are so busy they never have time just for the two of them.

It is also important, however, to have some close friends with whom we can share life’s burdens. None of us were meant to live on an island to ourselves and the same is true for married couples. Cheryl and I intentionally build relationships with other couples we can trust. (Yes, pastors, you can do this too. I wrote some tips on that HERE.)

Try these steps and see if the fun comes back into your marriage. Marriage is supposed to be fun!

What tips do you have for making marriage fun again?

It’s Never Too Late to Intentionally Date Your Spouse: 15 Questions to Get You Started

Romantic Chinese Couple Enjoying a Coffee together.

I want to encourage you to plan an intentional date night. Make the reservations. Get a babysitter. (Trade with another couple so they can do this another night.) And, date.

Not just a normal date. That’s not what I mean by intentional. Date. Like you did when you were — well — dating!

Get to know each other. Sure, I know, you’re married now. You already “know” each other. But, great couples never stop learning one another. It’s part of becoming one.

And, With two unique people — as unique as you — yes you — it will take a lifetime together to fully accomplish.

Don’t assume you already know. Explore new territory with each other. Ask questions.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • What do you like best about me?
  • When do you feel most loved in our relationship?
  • If there was only one day you could capture, and repeat again in our marriage, which day would you choose?
  • If you had a “do over” of any day in our marriage, which one would you choose?
  • What is the best way your husband/wife encourages you?
  • Tell me (again if you’ve told me before) about your favorite childhood memory.
  • What was the first thing that attracted you to me (tell me again)?
  • What do you think is the hardest part about being a man/woman? (Each answer for their gender and the other)
  • What is the greatest fear you have about growing old together?
  • What did you admire about the way your mother and father treated each other?
  • What would you do differently?
  • What is the best way for me to communicate difficult feelings about you so that you are not offended?
  • Do you remember what we talked about on our first date?
  • When you meet a new friend, and they ask you to describe me to them, what do you say?
  • Who do you think was the most influential person/couple in your life in shaping who you are as a husband/wife? How did they influence you?
  • Who is one couple we both know that you’d like to have a marriage like theirs? Why?
  • If there were no limitations in life, what dream would you pursue?

Make this post better. Add some more questions.

Then comment and tell me how the date goes.

The more intentional we are with our marriage, the greater results we can expect. 

7 of the Greatest Needs of a Husband

asian mature couple

I  previously shared 7 of the greatest needs of a wife, based on personal observation and experience working with married couples.

Today I continue with the man’s side of the needs.

Here are 7 of the greatest needs of a man.

Respect – This is number one! I would even be emphatic and say every time. In my experience, men are using a different word that means this if they say it isn’t! Ephesians 5:33 says, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” God knew what He was talking about. Men want to know that they are respected by their wives above every other person. Every man feels this internal pressure to excel. We need to be successful at least one place in our life. If we can’t feel that respect in our home, we will find that it somewhere else.

Ladies, you want your husband to love you unconditionally. Are you willing to respect him unconditionally? You probably aren’t always extremely “lovable”. (I can say that through my blog where I’d be afraid to say it in person — but you know it’s true.) He’s probably not always respectable. Do you want to be loved any less when you aren’t at your “best”? Neither does he in the are of respect.

Admiration – Men want to be desirable to their wives. That’s physically, but in other ways too. Are we strong enough — masculine enough for you? Do we meet all your expectations in a man? If our wife is always commenting on the sexier man in the movies or the more successful man in the world we certainly will not feel admired. As an example, if a family struggles financially and the wife complains about it all the time the man hears that as “I’m not good enough.” The greatest assurance of the fact that we have “what it takes” comes from our wives. Men who don’t sense this will often quit trying.

Ladies, if your husband’s success was proportional to your admiration of him — and the communication of that admiration — how successful will he be?

Peace and Tranquility — I get in trouble with this one, but men want their home to be a place to prepare for the world — they want to be able to relax. Men, that is never an excuse for laziness! (Laziness is a sin by the way.) I know this can be an ouch statement, but men want their wives to be their wife, and not their mother! Plus, and this is so important to understand, nagging never accomplishes what the wife hopes it will. It may get done what you wanted done, but not with the heart or attitude you hoped to go with the action. (If you are raising boys, remember this!)

Ladies, is your home a place of peace and tranquility? Someone said the wife/mother is the thermostat of the home? If that’s true, how comfortable are we living?

Commitment – Yes, men want this too! They want to know they are number one with you. Men don’t want to see their wife looking at other men or hear them commenting on how wonderful another man may be. They want to know you are faithful only to them. (Can you women tell we have shallow and fragile egos?)

Ladies, does your husband know he’s number one to you — that no man could ever take his place?

Acceptance/Participation – Husbands aren’t really looking for a wife who will try to change them. Granted many men need changing, but the Biblical way to do this is through prayer and modeling change for us.  Men also want our wives to appreciate our hobbies and interests, since it is so much a part of who we are as men.  You don’t have to love golf, but to know that the lower score is the better is a great plus when we come home after a good game. He’ll need to brag to someone. He’s hoping that someone is you.

Ladies, would your husband say you’re his biggest fan?

Be able to lead – Most men want to lead in their home, but don’t really know how. The wife should allow her husband to make some mistakes and not criticize us when we can’t do something as well as you can, (which we know is many things!) If we take the effort to fix the bed, don’t go behind us and straighten the comforter (or at least don’t let us see you doing it.)  If we find we can’t compete in an area, we just quit trying.  Applaud what we do right and we’ll try harder to please. We really do want to succeed!

Ladies, are you allowing your husband to sense your satisfaction in his abilities to lead? If you want him to lead, ask yourself, are you willing to follow if he does?

An emotional release – I saved the hardest for last. Most men do not know how to function in a highly emotional context. So, when our wives are upset, we panic. We move into a “fixing” mode, which is usually counter-productive. When you are emotionally upset, for whatever reason, and you know it isn’t his fault, it’s helpful if you can just let him know the two of you are okay, he didn’t necessarily do anything wrong, it’s not his fault and there is nothing he needs to do to fix it.

Ladies, does your husband ever feel responsible for your emotions that are completely out of his control?

Men, that is my list. What would you add?

7 of the Greatest Needs of a Wife

happy young couple

In my years of counseling and ministering to married couples, mostly in distress, I have learned some principles that run fairly consistent within each marriage. Couples really are not that different from each other.
There are common needs most men and women bring to a marriage in order to make the marriage the best it can be. We may use different terms, but the needs remain relatively similar from marriage to marriage. While this is based on my observations they seem to resonate with many couples.

I’ve also learned that understanding the needs is the first step in addressing them. We only know what we know. Here’s to a better understanding of each other’s needs. Be sure to read the husband’s greatest list HERE.

Here are 7 of the greatest needs of a wife:

Love – Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” How did Christ love the church? 1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”

Men, do you love your wife above everything else in your life (apart from your Christ relationship) including your work, your hobbies, your friends, family, and even the children? And, more importantly, do your actions prove your words?

Attention – Wives want to be listened to (even when the television is on) and know that we believe what they have to say is important. Our wives would prefer to talk with us over other women, even though another woman might better understand.

Men, are you truly listening to what your wife is saying? Again, do your actions prove this?

Protection – Wives want their husbands to be the defender of the family; not just against the strange sounds in the night, but against all the threats in society. They want us to take the ownership in leading our family spiritually and in teaching our kids how to defend themselves and stay strong in an evil world.

Men, are you working to protect your family — from all threats?

Security/Commitment – The wife wants to know you are going to be there forever. Wives often see their visually stimulated husbands looking at other women. Does she know you won’t cheat on her? Are you going to be faithful always?

Men, can she trust you? Do your actions build that confidence?

Appreciation/Value – Wives want to be valued for who they are as much as for what they do. Wives want to know we see them with value beyond just what she does to keep the household running. Is she more important than the stuff she does? Is she still beautiful?

Men, do you regular tell her what you admire about her? Do you genuinely compliment her — not just what she does?

Compassion – The Bible refers to women as the “weaker vessels”. Of course this doesn’t mean they are less than men, but that men and women are different. Women are going to respond differently to situations. They may cry easier, take longer to resolve things emotionally, feel tired quicker. Also, wives want a little romance in the marriage. (For most of us, if we’ve been married over a week they already know that’s not going to happen with you.) We can all, however, be kind, loving, and occasionally romantic. We usually get good credit here just for honestly trying.

Men, do you understand that your wife is not wired like you? Are you patient with her, allowing her to process things differently than you? Are you still attempting to be romantic at times — pursuing your wife — like you did before you were married?

Partnership – Wives don’t want to do life alone. They want their husband’s participation in raising the kids, making decisions around the house and yes, sometimes even picking out paint colors. They want someone to do life with them, not live two separate lives in the same household.

Men, would your wife say you are truly her partner? Are the two of you becoming one more everyday?

Ladies, that’s my list. Again, it’s from personal observation. What would you add to the list?

A Message from an Old Guy to Young Parents

Boredom

I’m an old guy now.

Officially.

Not really — at least I don’t think so — but to some.

My kids are grown. Out of the house.

Recently, we were having a meeting about church activities and a young man said, “We should get some of the older people in the church involved.”

He meant people my age. I guess “older” isn’t old, but it certainly felt that way at the time.

But, us old guys have learned a few things. And, so here is a word from the old guy.

To parents. Parents who are younger. With younger children.

Here goes…

It’s okay for your child to be bored.

There. I said it. See how old I am?

It’s okay for some time to pass where your children has nothing to do. Where they have no toys — or electronics — nothing to entertain them.

It’s okay for your child to be occasionally bored. It won’t hurt them. It might help them.

I’m a people watcher. It doesn’t seem some parents know this. The children are always being entertained. In the restaurant they have your phone — or their own phone. In the car they have a video rolling. In the store they are often being occupied by something electronic.

They never seem to be bored. If they get bored it seems most of you scramble for a way to quickly entertain them.

And what I’m suggesting is that it’s good for your child to be bored.

Really, it is.

There will be days — when they aren’t ‘being entertained all the time — they might play with sticks. Get their hands dirty. Or, they might just create something new. They could invent a new game. Expand their imagination.

And, in high school — college — in their first job — they’ll get bored. It’s okay. They’ll know what to do — and what not to do — when that occurs.

Don’t misunderstand. Exposing your children to exciting things is fun. The Disney experience can be magical. Enjoy it. I encourage you too if you can, but you don’t have to try to maintain that level of excitement when you come home. It makes Disney even less magical.  Occasionally let them be bored. That’s all I’m suggesting.

And, the old guy spoke.

I know — none of my business. And, you can dismiss it as quickly as it took you to read.

But, for some of you — maybe just one — trust me in this.

My Thoughts on Bob Coy’s Resignation — And the Epidemic of Moral Failure in the Church

I was devastated — heart sick — this morning to open my Facebook and the top story shared by a couple ministry friends was the resignation of pastor Bob Coy due to moral failure. Coy founded and led Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the United States, attracting some 20,000 people every week. In addition, Coy shared on a radio teaching program heard worldwide.

I heard of another pastor within the last couple weeks closer to home. I have personally dealt with nearly a dozen churches in the past couple years who lost a pastor due to a moral issue. One of the leaders in our denomination used the word “epidemic” recently to describe the number of pastors who are leaving the ministry because of moral failures.

I debated actually posting anything about this, however, having dealt with this issue so many times, and knowing there would be a flurry of news reports about this resignation, I decided to add a perspective to hopefully help steer some of the thoughts and discussions. Most of my readers are from the church — the body of Christ. This is intended as family talk. I believe there are things we can learn from times like this — as tragic as they appear to us.

My thoughts:

It does not negate Bob Coy’s teaching. No doubt now there was sin in Bob’s life. And, obviously, this sin was occurring while he was teaching. But, that doesn’t mean his teaching wasn’t true. Frankly, I love his teaching. My first church was an hour from where I lived. I was there for a one year commitment and I listened to Bob Coy every Sunday driving to that church. His teaching helped me be a better teacher. I’m certain his influence still impacts me today in a positive way. Many times I hear people wondering what it means from all the things they learned under a pastor who falls. There are thousands who have been positively shaped by the teaching of Bob Coy. If the person was teaching truth, God’s Spirit is the ultimate teacher and that doesn’t change with yesterday’s resignation.

The enemy gets a new “attaboy” for his efforts. Satan loves to attack the good ones. Others will now say, “See, pastors are no different from us.” And, we are not, but the enemy will attempt to use this to draw people away from their faith in Christ.

Bob Coy can be restored. Fully. It will depend on his repentance, humility, willingness to be completely transparent to those who need to know, and his acceptance of the grace of God. But, he can be restored. God used Moses, David, Noah, Jacob and so many others as Biblical examples of how He can use what is sinful for eventual good.

Every pastor is susceptible. Stand guard. If we ever believe we are above temptation we have opened the door for the enemies prowl to be effective. Most of the time it begins subtly. No one wakes up in a single day and thinks about destroying their personal life. It happens gradually over time. The time to build our systems of accountability, support and protection is always now.

Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale is still a great church. From what I read they are handling this as well as could be expected. My prayer is that few would leave and the church would see a renewal during this time. Many times, as in our personal life, with proper leadership, a church can grow stronger during a trial.

We don’t need to know any more. We now know enough. It’s bad. We need to avoid our natural tendencies to want to know more about the situation than what the church and the Coy family chooses to release. And, hopefully that will be minimal. More information only stirs more false information and broadens the damage. People often criticize a church for “not extending grace” to the fallen pastor, but many times the grace is extended — to the person, family, and everyone involved — in not sharing all the details.

Christ and His church will survive. The gates of Hell shall not prevail. Jesus promised this.

I’m so burdened by this news. I have a heart for the hurting pastor. For several years I’ve owned the domain name hurtingpastors.org. I recently acquired ministrytransition.com Right now they point to my blog, but my hope has been to launch a ministry aimed at helping fallen, burdened, or misplaced ministers. We are losing too many men and women who once sensed a call of God on their life, but have, for whatever reason, left their current position. The Kingdom is left void of the ideas, passion and work of someone God intended to use for His glory. As my friend said, it’s epidemic.

This is a good time to pause, pray for Bob Coy and his family, for Calvary Chapel, and for your pastor and church.

7 Suggestions for Talking to Children about Sex

Sex Education

I’ll never forget the first “sex talk” I had with our oldest son. The “talk” occurred at my office at the company we owned at the time. It was after hours when no one was in the office but him and me. It was a very scary moment — for me and him — but I’m glad I did it then.

He had already started to make comments and ask questions that indicated he needed an “education”. He was about 10 years old at the time. (I understand that sounds young to some, but it may be old now for others.) I recognized that helping my children live pure and healthy sexual lives would be a challenge in a culture that is often defined by sex. I wanted to be the primary influencer in their development as adults, because I knew no one had a stronger desire for them to make wise choices than me.

I began with a few principles, which helped me to continue to have open and honest dialogue with my boys, even in their teenage years and adulthood.

Here are 7 suggestions for having the sex talk with your child:

Start Early - The key here is that you want to be the primary and first source of information for your child. The old saying is true, “If you don’t tell them, someone else will.” You want to make sure they are getting the correct information about sex. With the oldest it was about 10 years of age, but with the youngest it was about 8 years. It will depend on their surroundings at school, the dialogues they are having with you and others, and their maturity level at the time.

Share in Stages – A four-year-old needs to know that there are boys and there are girls and they are each different, but that’s about it at that age. Share information based on the child’s interest, maturity and ability to understand. I don’t believe one “talk” will be enough for most children. Make sure children feel freedom to discuss anything with you as they have concerns or questions.

Answer questions – If your child is willing to ask a question it is because they want an answer. Many parents make the mistake of telling children they “don’t need to know yet”. There are no bad questions. Again, they will search for an answer and the wrong ones are the easiest to find.

Teach according to truth, not culture – The fact is that today’s culture is mostly wrong about the issue of sex. Culture has tried to redefine what sex is and the purposes and values of sex. Sex is not to be seen as dirty, cheap, or easy. Don’t be afraid to teach your children to be different from everyone else in culture. Help them understand the healthy role sex can play in building a strong marriage. Help them also understand that in the right context, sex is a wonderful gift from God. (It’s okay for them to look forward to something…even sex!)

Deal with the emotional as well as physical – Our children should understand the emotional aspect of sex and the damage, which can be caused by sexual activity, as much as they should understand the physical aspects. The emotional pain caused by early sexual experiences is usually the most damaging aspect later in life.

Teach grace along with truth – The fact is, teenagers (even children) will make mistakes. They’ll go too far. They’ll wish they hadn’t. They’ll regret. Probably just like you do at times. Make sure they know they can come to you if necessary. To protect my influence and an open dialogue, I tried to be careful not to only share truth. I wanted to keep the door open for future conversations, rather than send my boys underground to avoid my wrath.

Get help – There are plenty of resources on teaching children the Biblical perspective on sex. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is another great reason to have a mentoring couple in your life!

My two boys called it “The Talk”. We even began to label it with parts. I think by high school we were on at least “The Talk, part 31”, because they kept having questions as they matured. I don’t believe my boys would be as open talking about such a difficult subject regularly and honestly if I had not established that freedom and practice at an early age.

Are you delaying the discussion because of fear? They will talk about it somewhere…go first!

What was your experience with this delicate parenting responsibility, either as a child or an adult?  Did your parents give you the “talk”?