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About the Author

Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

5 Communication Games Guaranteed to Bring You Closer

By Dustin | Communication

Play Your Way To Better Communication…

Communication Games Guaranteed to Bring You Closer“Let’s talk.”

Those words can stop a partner dead in their tracks.

The idea of “working on our communication” is usually met with eye rolls, shrugs or even denials of a problem.

The first reaction is often, “We talk. We talk about the kids. We talk about the house. I asked you about your day.”

You talk. But do you communicate?

If you had to stop and think about that, read on because it may be the most important thing you can do for your relationship.

Communication Is More than Talking

Talking is simply sharing information using words. It is a way to inform another person about a particular thing.

It’s important but it is not a stand-alone relationship builder.

Stick around and we’ll show you 5 simple games you and your partner can play to exercise your communication skills, deepen your romantic connection, and build a stronger life together.

But first, you need to know one key thing: communication between intimate partners is more than words – it involves establishing an emotional connection.

It is this emotional connection that is the foundation of intimacy.

The emotional connection between partners is often cited by both men and women as the most important factor that determines the quality of their relationship. Emotional connection includes:

  •        Being able to talk openly with each other
  •        Being a good listener
  •        Showing appreciation or support
  •        Doing your part to make the relationship work

That may sound really complicated, but the fact is that couples tend to build intimacy through everyday moments. It’s what you choose to do every day that enhances your level of communication and intimacy.

Verbal communication – words – makes up only a small part of how we communicate. It has been estimated that 60-90% of our communication is non-verbal.

And that 60-90% is made up of things like body language, gestures, facial expression and tone of voice. It’s the how of what we say, and it is powerful.

Learn how to master the art of emotional connection and you and your partner will find a level of intimacy that will enhance and nourish your relationship on every level.

We’ve seen hundreds of couples benefit from the techniques using our easy online system, Communicate Your Way To A Better Marriage. Along the way, we’ve learned that building communication doesn’t have to be boring, and these 5 communication games we’re about to share are anything but.

We learn by doing. And the more we do something, the better we become at it.

So grab your partner and get ready to have some fun while you break down those barriers.

#1  Twenty Questions x 2

This is a light and fun bonding game to get you started. Remember the game 20 Questions? This is the grown up version.

We sometimes forget to pay attention to the little things that make us who we are. Paying attention to the little things and remembering them creates a sense of knowing each other. Here’s the game:

Set aside some time for the two of you without distractions.

  • Prior to the sit-down, each of you should make a list of 20 detailed personal questions to ask the other. Be creative with the questions – silly, serious, different areas of life or subjects. You may be surprised what you learn.
  • Take turns asking each other a question.
  • Once you’ve each gone through your list, reverse the questions. Take your same lists and have your partner answer the question for you. For example, if you asked your partner, “What is your favorite color?” ask, “What is my favorite color?”

#2  Do You See What I See?

Here’s a fun way to gain some insight into how your partner receives and uses information. It’s also a great activity for working together.

  • For this game, you’ll need either some building blocks like Lego’s, Play-Doh or drawing paper and crayons. Facing away from each other so that you cannot see what the other is doing.
  • The first person will take a couple of minutes to build or draw something. Don’t give your partner any details or hints.
  • Next, describe what you created to your partner without telling him/her what it is. Their task is to visualize and create the same object as closely as possible using the descriptors you provide.  
  • Turn and discuss the result. How close were the two objects? What information would have been helpful to have?
  • Then switch roles so that each person has the chance to give the descriptions.

Remember, there is no right or wrong. In the beginning, it may be really hard. The more you do this activity, the easier it becomes to understand what your partner is trying to convey.

It also sheds some light on your communication style and what you might be able to express more clearly.

#3  Eye-to-Eye

This game is actually a take-off on staring contests we used to have as kids only with a grown-up flair.

The purpose of this activity is to increase comfort with expressing yourself to your partner. Being in close proximity enhances the feelings of intimacy and connection. Bonus – this game can be kind of sexy.

So here’s the game:

  • Sit facing each other so that you are close enough to hold hands.
  • Look directly into each other’s eyes.
  • Notice the feelings you are experiencing.
  • Now start talking about something. Keep it simple to start. It might be about your day or a funny thing that happened at lunch.
  • When you’re finished, let your spouse share something. Do this a few times back and forth then discuss what the experience was like.

For many couples, this exercise is uncomfortable in the beginning. That’s ok. The more you do it, the more comfortable it becomes and the deeper your discussions will go.

#4  The Top 3

This game is all about recognizing the positive aspects of your relationship and the wonderful everyday things your partner does.

  • At the end of each day, set aside a few minutes to reflect on your day. Think of the three best things your partner did for you that day.
  • Next, take turns sharing those things and why they meant so much to you.
  • And don’t forget to say, “Thank you.”

This game focuses on appreciation and expressing thanks which are two very powerful and often overlooked parts of communication and connection.

You’d be surprised at how much of a difference gratitude can make.

#5  Make a Play Date

Taken from our best-selling book 15-Minute Marriage Makeover, this is not your average date night.

Make a date to do something fun with your partner– something different and maybe even a little spontaneous. The only ground rules are that:

  • It has to be something for just the two of you and you cannot discuss kids, work or home problems like that leaky faucet in the kitchen.
  • Choose something that requires you to be present. Go sailing, go rock climbing, sneak away for a quiet weekend…the possibilities are endless.
  • Take turns picking the activity. Surprise your partner with something new.

The point of this game is to reconnect with each other in an activity that requires you both to be present for each other. You’ll be on neutral ground, away from the pressures of home and work.

This shift allows you to let your guard down and enjoy your partner while building that feeling of closeness and connection.

 

So now you have some fun and easy ways to get the communication ball rolling, and there’s more where that came from…

When you’re ready to truly revamp your relationship and find develop a deeper level of communication, we have a system to help you do just that.

Developed by Dr. Corey Allan to help his patients strengthen their bonds and change their lives, this powerful method is bound to bring you and your partner to a new level of communication, intimacy, and trust.  

Discover how deeply fulfilling your union can be with Communicate Your Way to a Better Marriage.

Relax! How A Few Minutes Of ‘Me Time’ Can Make You A Better Wife

By Dustin | Romance

When you’re stressed and in a constant battle with your to-do list, the last thing on your mind is your relationships.

After all, you have to finish the deadline for work, get the kids homework done, clean up the dog’s war with the pillows, and attempt to make lasagna for dinner tonight from scratch.

However, in the midst of it all and other things that life seems to continually throw at us, is our partner.

Despite the fact that they so obviously want to be with us – after all, they married us, sometimes we can forget the fundamental aspects of being in a relationship.

That is why we should be making time for each other and actively attempting to communicate, connect and have fun with the other person.

This is really hard to achieve if all you can currently think about is the looming bills or the never-ending piles of dishes in the sink.

But if you simply took time to recharge your own batteries, to indulge your own desires and hobbies, you might find that you are more able to sit through a nine-hour Star Wars marathon that your partner has been meaning to get to for the past couple of weeks.

What are the benefits of self-indulgence for you?

One of the main benefits touted is the reduction in overall stress levels through the art of doing whatever it is you want.

Nothing is off limits during this me time extravaganza.

From an episode of Netflix, to getting your nails or hair done, to going for a hike, or even just curling up with a good cup of coffee and a book, the options are endless. And really you are only limited by your imagination.

Since “me time” is traditionally something done all on your own, it has been found to grant some women greater belief in themselves and makes them more self-confident.

After all, how many of us have actually been trained in enjoying activities that are all on our own?

So maybe next time take yourself out for lunch and load up on some extra girl power.

A study out of the University of Michigan has reported that couples who did not regularly engage in their own personal activities had even higher cases of self-reported levels of relationship dissatisfaction than couples who were unhappy with their sex lives.

Hence, doing your own thing is more important than previously thought.

Psychologists have further found that “me time” can aid us in numerous ways from raising our productivity at work and our ability to focus on things to giving us space to allow for better personal growth and self-awareness.

Most importantly for those in relationships, a little time taken to work on ourselves has been shown to drastically improve the quality of our relationships.

Ways to implement “me-time” now.

First off, throw away the guilt.

Yes, at first, there are some who won’t understand your need to spend time by yourself and may even feel hurt by your decision.

However, they will greatly appreciate your renewed sense of vitality, fresh perspective and your willingness to put even more of your renewed energy into your relationships with them.

Now, it has been found that the vast majority of people spend their alone time in one of three ways: they either watch television, engage in social pursuits, or throw on their workout gear and dive into whatever sports or leisure activity they can get their hands on.

If you’re thinking, “But I don’t have hours to go and spend in the yoga studio to freshen my soul,” that is absolutely fine.

A British study recently found that as with most things in life, it is not the quantity but the total level of quality or perceived satisfaction that is gained from the activity that actually matters.

Next, if you’re struggling to see when and how you are ever going to find time to engage in all these activities, it’s high time you establish a routine.

Either wake up or go to sleep at different hours from everyone else in your household, or make scheduled dates in your diary, which are allotted to your “me time” activities.

Just like you would prioritize a dentist appointment, you need to prioritize your appointments with yourself.

Finally, the key to achieving your goal of having an amazing relationship with not just your spouse but yourself is going to take commitment.

You need to work at it every day in order to become the power couple and powerful woman of your dreams.

Therefore, why not go out and book that nail appointment, sign up for the yoga class, or grab a coffee and give yourself the time to become the best version of you your relationship so desperately needs.

 

Sarah is the author of Relax Everyday, where she can teach you a lot more about relaxation and meditation. To achieve healthy relationships, as well as a balanced mind and body, remember to relax. Why not learn how?

How to Pay Off Student Debt as a Couple

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

So, you are married now, congratulations!

You’re about to experience a wonderful ride.

If you are like most people, you probably have some student loan debt that you are holding onto and now that you are married, it may have doubled.

Since you both share debt now, you may want to think about paying it off at the same time together to ensure both you and your partner are working towards a better financial future.

Below, we will explore some ways that you and your partner can team up and work together to pay off student loan debt as a couple.

Let’s take a look.

Consolidate Your Student Loan Debt

When you get married, you may automatically think that yours and your spouse’s debt instantly merge together. They do not.

When we mention that the amount may have doubled, we are saying that if you had $10,000 in debt and your partner had $10,000 in debt, you collectively have $20,000 in debt. If that is the case, you should look into consolidation if you want to put a ring on your debt.

But, there are limitations to this.

If you are your partner have student loans (federal or private), it is important to know that you CANNOT merge your loans together and consolidate them with a federal consolidation loan. Federal consolidation is offered to individuals only, so you cannot lump them together through the government.

Bummer, right?

There is a solution though. You and your spouse can consolidate your loans through a private lender which is more commonly known as student loan refinancing. There are many lenders out there who will consolidate your loans, so you and your partner can work on paying the debt down.

There are some advantages to consolidating yours and your spouse’s loans together. Some of those benefits include:

• Higher credit score is used to determine the loan
• No worry about annual recertification or tax filing statuses
• Lower your interest rate
• Decrease monthly payments and payment amount
• Adjust the length of the loan terms

Consolidating your student loans is a good idea if you have big plans in the future such as buying a home, a car, or even starting a family. Here is more on private student loan refinancing and its differences with federal consolidation.

Since federal consolidation is a bit different than refinancing your student loans through a private lender, so you must explore both options thoroughly to see which one will work for you.

Refinancing your student loans with your spouse may be a good idea and can help save the both of you thousands of dollars.

Refinancing works to reduce the interest rate that you pay on your student loans. When you head to a private lender, they will take all of your student loans and combine them into one loan.

From there, a repayment term, monthly amount, and interest rate will be generated.

Many people choose to refinance their student loans because you can get a rate that is substantially lower than that of which you pay now. For example, many borrowers, who qualify, receive an interest rate somewhere at 3% to 5%.

Things to Think about Before Making the Leap

Before you choose to consolidate or refinance your student loans with your spouse, you want to make sure it is the right idea.

You should think about whether or not you are ready to give up the benefits that come with the Federal Direct Loan program.

When you refinance or consolidate through a private lender, you will no longer have the option for deferment of the loan, forbearance, or convenient payment amounts. This is something that needs to be discussed upfront, so that you can make sure it is within your budget.

In addition, you and your spouse need to be on the same page as to whether or not you both want to combine the loans and make payments together. Some couples determine that this is not the best option for them and it may or may not be the choice for you.

Lastly, take some time to think about how much the payments will be, how they will be made, and what your goals are.

For example, if your total monthly payment combined is $350, who will make the payment? Do you switch month to month, do you split the amount in half every month, or does someone take on the whole amount and the other pick up another bill in a similar amount?

The choice is up to you, but you should have a plan in place to prevent default or late payments.

Final Thoughts about Paying Down Student Loan Debt as a Couple

You may be making a wise choice by paying down your student loan debt as a couple. You can save a lot of money in interest if you choose to consolidate or refinance.

With that said, you do need to make sure it is the right financial move for the BOTH of you before you sign any new paperwork.

4 Gift Ideas Your Sweetheart Will Love

By Dustin | Romance

Having a special person in your life can make you feel happier and more content.

Going through life alone is less than ideal and having another individual to share your hopes and dreams with is fantastic.

Taking the time to do things for one another is sure to help keep the love alive and well.

There are many occasions that may pop up throughout the year that range from Valentine’s Day to a special anniversary.

In fact, studies show that $19.7 billion was spent on Valentine’s Day in 2016.  Being aware of some ideas that may help you show your appreciation for this individual is important for a flourishing romantic union.

Idea #1: Photo blankets

One thing you may want to consider looking into is custom photo blankets. These are not your everyday gift and are sure to be exactly what you need to show your loved one just how much you care.

The good news is this one of a kind gift can be made the exact way you want it and this is what makes it so attractive and fun. Customizing photos and putting these on a usable blanket is sure to be something your partner will love.

Idea #2: Professional photo session

Can you imagine how nice it would be to have pictures of you and your significant other holding hands, giving hugs or kissing each other on the cheek?

This is sure to be one thing you will want to add to your list of things you have as a couple and can be an ideal way to have a lasting memory of your times spent together.

Simply set up an appointment date for both of you to have a photo shoot and this can enable you to make the most of your time together. The good news is this can be a lasting memory that may well stand the test of time and provide you with happy thoughts each time you view the photos.

Idea #3: Mountain retreat

Is there anything more romantic than simply taking the time to get away together? One of the best ways for you to reconnect with the love of your life may rest in taking some time and going on a little vacation.

You don’t have to miss a great deal of work or get too overwhelmed with the packing. Simply plan a weekend getaway and take a few essentials to help make your trip as special as the love you feel for each other.

The chances are high that this little gift idea can render huge dividends for your relationship and may even rekindle the spark that is necessary for a lasting union.

Idea # 4: Specialty gift baskets

One of the most endearing gifts to give is sure to be a custom made one. Taking the time to put together a few things that your partner enjoys is sure to bring a great deal of happiness to this person.

One way to reach this goal is to create a specialty gift basket that shows just how much you care. Add some items that may be representative of a particular hobby and this is sure to be a hit. The more you can customize this gift the better you’re sure to make it for the person in your life.

The key to making love last is sure to rest in the little things you do each day. This can be how to keep your relationship on the upside and prevent it from heading downward at all times.

All you need to do is to pay a little extra attention to the person you love today!

Great Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Her That Last Forever

By Dustin | Romance

Bouquets are gorgeous, but how long do they last?

These great Valentine’s Day gift ideas for her are all about longevity – just like your love. Check them out!

This Valentine’s Day, we recommend you attempt to do something different.

You’ve likely given gifts of flowers before, and maybe candy. But those are soon gone, and it can be a little sad seeing wilted flowers.

Instead, try to give a gift that can go the distance.

Great Valentine’s Day gifts for her can go beyond the classic chocolate and flowers, but where did those even come from?

Where did the tradition of flowers start as a Valentine’s Day gift?

There have been many cultures that have used flowers during mid-winter rites. Specifically, they were often used to symbolize fertility and love.

The origins of Valentine’s Day are a bit murkier.

In one legend, a young Roman priest named Valentine was put to death on February 14. His alleged crime? Secretly marrying couples after the Emperor decreed single men made better soldiers.

While in jail, as the story goes, he fell in the love with his jailor’s daughter. His final letter to her may have been signed “From Your Valentine”.

One confirmed fact is that Valentine was granted sainthood in the 5th century, and he eventually becomes one of Europe’s most popular saints.

(St.) Valentine’s Day is still an incredibly popular, but sometimes stressful, holiday. So if you’re looking for great Valentine’s Day gift ideas for her that will go the distance but aren’t stressful to obtain or make, here’s your list.

Great Valentine’s Day Gifts for Her Can be Special and Easy

No matter what the lady in your life is into, these great Valentine’s Day gifts for her will make this year one to remember.

We definitely like Eternity Roses as a romantic gift that will go the distance….

While a bouquet of roses will fade quickly after Valentine’s Day, you can actually give her one that won’t.

This preserved 24 karat gold-dipped real rose will be beautiful forever, just like she will. They look impressive and are made from a natural single rose. The manufacturer also has glazed red single roses in which look quite stunning in a nice leather presentation box.

Plan it out

A romantic date or trip can be fun, but it takes a little planning, though all the fun goes out the window if you struggle with planning.

Whether it’s a trip around the world, or just across town, it should be enjoyable for both of you.

Here are some tips from The Eternity Rose  that will help you to plan and enjoy Valentine’s Day.

Frame it

Think of all the reasons you love her.

Pick your favorite, and create an 8×10 print. Grab a pretty frame, and you’re almost done. She can hang it on the wall, so she’ll see it every day.

Make it a frame with a stand, so she has the option to put it on her desk at work, too.

Sometimes great Valentine’s Day gift ideas for her are the simplest.

Grab your Scrabble board

If you’re less artistic, but still want a custom message, grab your Scrabble board.

Pick tiles out to arrange your partner’s name, crossed with yours.

A deeper frame will allow room for the tiles and makes a fun 3D and romantic gift.

Light up the night

Candles are pretty, romantic, and come in a range of colors and scents.

Take it to the next level and carve your sweetie’s initials into it.

It’s easier than carving up a tree and better for the environment.

Follow this simple tutorial to make a unique gift for her.

Set it on music

Knowing the things your loved one loves is part of being in a relationship.

What’s the song she sings most often? The one you hear her humming under her breath when she’s happy?

Write down the lyrics of that tune and make her a personalized lyrics plate.

She can enjoy her favorite meal and her favorite song at the same time (it’s even dishwasher safe).

Twelve months, twelve reasons

If your spouse prefers a physical calendar to the one on her phone, make her one she’ll love.

Grab her favorite photos and create a wall calendar.

Match each photo to the month it was taken. Add a caption that shares your favorite thing about the photo or memory.

Now it’s not just a calendar, it’s a romantic gift she’ll see year-round.

Grow your love, and some plants, too

If your partner has a green thumb, why not give her something she’d enjoy all year?

Grab a pretty basket and fill it with packets of her favorite kinds of flower seeds.

If you don’t have a flower bed, throw in a few cute pots she can use.

Every time the flowers bloom she’ll think of your thoughtful gift.

In the garden

If you do have a yard or garden, make a few unique stepping stones to guide her way.

Use items like shells from a trip you took to the beach, or glass stones in her favorite colors.

This will take a little extra prep time to allow them to set, but these instructions make it a snap.

Map your love

Think of three places that you’ve been together that have been romantic and fun.

This is an especially good gift if it happens to be around your first anniversary, too, which is paper.

Grab a map and a red marker. Draw a heart around each place.

Depending on how well-traveled you’ve been, you may have to trim your map down a bit.

Find a frame that fits (your local craft store can help with a custom one, too).

She can look at this unique gift, a map of your love, every day of the year.

For the handyman

If you’re good with tools, consider making the frames for the ideas above instead.

Or, has her book collection overflowed the shelf and onto the floor? Build her a new bookcase.

Does she have kitchen gadgets or spices that don’t have a permanent home? Build a small rack that matches her kitchen.

If you’re good at more intricate design, a jewelry box or necklace tree might be just the perfect romantic gift.

Get your paintbrush out

Is there a room that you know needs a fresh coat of paint? It’s probably the same one she thinks needs it, too.

If you know she’ll be out of town, surprise her by doing the chore you both likely hate.

Or, if a surprise doesn’t work, give her a certificate that says you’ll paint a room of her choice.

For the aspiring writer

If writing is your thing, why not write your love story?

Use some parchment paper, and a calligraphy pen or marker. Describe how you met and how things have grown between you.

Leave a few blank pages at the end and mark the first one, “The future”.

Punch two holes (top corner, bottom corner) and bind it with a pretty ribbon.

Next year, you can go back and fill in another page.

Conclusion

Give her a romantic gift that will be hers all year long, not just for a few days.

Like these great Valentine’s Day ideas for her or have other ideas we should include? Share your thoughts!

Dr. Carissa Coulston is a Clinical Psychologist with over 30 research publications in high standard medical and psychiatric peer-reviewed journals. She has experience in managing a wide range of problems within the Psychology spectrum from common everyday issues such as stress and anxiety, to more chronic and severe mental health conditions.

Carissa writes a regular blog on relationship management and helps people deal with various problems they face in relationships, offering advice on how to resolve difficult situations, strategies to cope with and move past painful and disappointing experiences, and tips on how to improve the overall quality of relationships to achieve happiness and fulfillment.

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