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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.

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.

3 Keys to Rebuilding Trust in Your Marriage

By Dustin | Communication

It doesn’t matter if it’s your spouse, your kid, your co-worker or God – TRUST is just so important to any quality relationship.

Trust is a funny thing. We tend to assume the best for ourselves since we know our intent and the worst in others because we judge based only on the outcomes of their actions.

We can be especially distrusting if we’ve been hurt in the past…and we’ve all been hurt!

Trust Is Dynamic

If I asked you whether you trust your spouse, you could answer as “yes” or “no” (hopefully it’s yes).

But if I asked whether you trust him or her MORE or LESS than you did yesterday…or last year…or on your wedding day…the answer gets a lot more interesting.

That’s because the level of trust in our marriage is always changing.

You are either building up trust and intimacy or you’re letting it erode by your actions (or inaction).

On a day-to-day basis, you can strengthen the trust between you by spending quality time together, talking, having sex, making decisions together and doing all those little things we do together as a couple.

And of course you can slowly lose that trust when you act selfishly, don’t follow through on your promises, withhold sex or miss a date night.

Trust is a fickle beast, but it’s SO important to continue building up.

But It Can Be Broken VERY Quickly

We spend most of our married time making those gradual changes and enriching our trust over time.

But as we know all too well, there are those Trust Bombs that can destroy trust in an instant:

  • Having an affair
  • Lying about money
  • Keeping secrets and getting exposed
  • Talking about your spouse behind their back

In the blink of an eye, years of built-up trust can be destroyed. And it’s difficult to learn to forgive and start back down the road of building up trust and intimacy.

Take Action to Build Up the Trust

Whether you’re simply looking to grow in intimacy and learn how to deepen the trust in your marriage on a day-to-day basis or you’ve been scarred by a major breach of trust, the key is to take action.

Here are three strategies you can use to build or rebuild the trust in your relationship:

1. Bring in Back-Up Help

It’s easy to lose perspective on your own situation when you’re living in it.

Reach out and seek guidance and support from a coach, support group, counselor or trusted friend.  Be sure that any resource you seek out is Pro-Marriage and will work in the best interest of your marriage.

Caution: Do NOT seek out help from those that may make the situation worse.  This would include recently divorced friends, never-married friends or co-workers…

2. Commit to Finding the Good

When you’re feeling pain, it’s difficult to see the good in those that we love – but it’s essential to the reconciliation process.

Commit to giving your spouse at least one encouragement/compliment every day for the next week.  This will help turn the energy in your relationship from negative to positive, plus you’ll be reminded of the positive characteristics of your spouse.

You’ll find it super helpful to keep a journal during this time and track how your actions change the way you see, respect and start to rebuild trust in your husband or wife.

3. Declare that YOU Are Taking Action

In every relationship, there must be a leader when change is required.  Whether your trust was broken or you broke the trust of your spouse in some way, you have the opportunity to repair/forgive the broken trust and move forward.

But it requires commitment and real action.  In time, your spouse will come around but getting started on this path requires you to step up and be a leader in your marriage.

Trust is an essential and sometimes elusive element in every relationship.  

Put these strategies in place to deepen the trust in your marriage and reap the rewards of the contentment and happiness that lie on the other side of the rebuilding process.

The Art of Right Timing in Communication

By Dustin | Communication

You’re in penguin adorned pajamas headed to bed, then your partner starts to talk about their day.

Gritty stuff, but you are already half asleep, thinking of the two paragraphs you will read before being out like a light.

Out of caring, you valiantly try to keep track of the conversation, but you are already 30 minutes past your melatonin spike and starting to drift.

Ideal time for a conversation? Not so much.

Picking the right time, and sometimes place, can be the difference between being heard and your words missing their mark.

Thinking we have communicated but did not, creates resentment and frustration.

This applies to, “Hey, do you mind grabbing some milk on the way home?” as well as to, “I could use some thoughts about how to care for my mom after her surgery.”

Many times a day we speak and believe that our message was delivered. It is unfair to assume that just because you said it, it was heard and integrated. This is especially true if you are trying to communicate during periods of chaos or activity.

We also listen and believe we will process and remember what was said to us, even as we attempt to answer a text and feed the dog at the same time.

If your attention is not there, be honest and ask if you can discuss that at another time, with a specific time determined e.g., “Please give me five minutes, and I can come back with my full attention.”

People are forgetful and deluged with information every day.

Based on how they interact with it, determines how much they remember.

Find the best method for remembering something. If you want me to drop your clothes at the cleaners, leave them by the front door as well as talk to me about it and double check to ensure I heard you.

George Bernard Shaw, recipient of the 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Optimizing for right timing considers some basic factors:

  • What kind of conversation is it?
  • What do you need from it?
  • How much time do you need?
  • When is the best time for both of you for it to take place?

Do you need your partner to deeply remember what you said, including any actions that result, or do you just want to talk and need active listening, empathy and kindness?

Considering mood, even if you have your partner’s full attention, is crucial. Starting a conversation about buying a new car, while you partner just found a banking error will likely not lead to a new car out of the family budget. Give it a few days and then revisit.

When you do find the right time, here are some tips for optimizing the moment.

It may feel silly at first so go ahead and laugh, that makes a connection too:

  • Make eye contact and hold it for at least 10 seconds.
  • Reaching out and touching your partner, even just a brush on the sleeve or your hand on their heart, creates a connection.
  • Engage with words. A simple “hi” works and “I’m glad we have a few minutes to talk,” works too.

Create routine and structure around making time to talk.

Perhaps you take 15 minutes every evening to go over the day and talk about the next one. Deeper issues can be tackled as well as determining who is picking up the kids from school. Identify how you will work to create the routine together and find ways to keep each other accountable. If you have conflicts, reschedule the time, but avoid skipping it. That too becomes a habit.

Some ideas:

  • Give the time a visual cue. Put a note on the fridge, a cheesy decal that makes you smile on the bathroom mirror or if tech is your thing, make it an event in your calendar so it shows up on your phone or computer.
  • Tell your children and other family members that the time is set aside for you and unless there is something critical, it will remain sacred.
  • Find a place in your home that is comfortable to sit and see each other undisturbed, even if you ban the other household members from the kitchen and you set up two camp chairs.
  • Bring a beverage or dessert to the conversation and make that part of your ritual.
  • Take an evening walk together.

Right timing at its heart is an exercise in empathy and understanding.

What do I need and what does my partner need?

Do they look tired?

Am I just piling on what is already a full pile?

How can we make room for us in the pile?

Creating a safe space build on trust is important and allows each of you to say not now when needed or I need more without threatening the confidence in the partnership.

Asking to have your big and small needs met is a great first step, but setting each other up for success in meeting those needs is the second.

SANDRA FISCHER is the creator of Relationship Reveal: 64 Cards for Discovery, Skill-Building, and Growth, a new card game that gets to the heart of what matters in happy, healthy relationships.

Sandra writes for businesses, creates fiction and consults in communications, people development and optimizing organizational effectiveness. With 25 years of experience working for companies including Microsoft, Amazon and AT&T, her experiences have been as unique and broad as managing the homepage for Amazon.com to developing an online marketing campaign for a literary novel launch.

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