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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.

3 Powerful Marriage Exercises You Can Do in 15 Minutes or Less

By Dustin | Communication

3 Powerful Marriage Exercises You Can Do in 15 Minutes or LessI’m sure you know how it goes.

You feel like you just don’t have the time or energy to work on your marriage, let alone do some kind of marriage exercises.

Maybe you’re just so preoccupied with taking care of the kids, your job, and getting everything else done that you feel that kind of time is a luxury you simply don’t have.

I’m going to prove to you that you can do it more easily (and fun) than you think, by sharing a few marriage exercises from our book, 15-Minute Marriage Makeover, which is full of activities that can transform your relationship.

Did you know that if you do anything consistently for just 15 minutes per day, you’ll become a master of it?

That’s really just 1% of your time!

Imagine if you carved out one tiny percent of your time to take care of your relationship.

Here are some quick marriage exercises you can start doing in just a couple minutes while you spend time with your spouse.

Marriage Exercise #1: Reflective Listening (2 minutes)

Picture this…you’re a husband and you hear your wife come home at the end of the day. The garage door comes down, you hear her slam the door behind her as she comes inside.

Then she sighs as the air leaves the room. You’re probably thinking, “Oh boy, this is  going to be a fun night!”

Now, let’s say you ask her, “Honey what’s wrong?”

So she tells you. “My boss is being a jerk, I had a super-stressful day, and every time I try to…”

As she goes on with the story, what’s your first instinct? Is it to start offering advice to make it better and fix things?

If you’re like many people (especially most men) you want to start prescribing advice, like “Well, you should do this, tell your boss that,” and so on.

You have the best of intentions but also you’re also not allowing her to get it all out.

Take a Deep Breath…and Try This

Here’s something to try instead. The first of our simple marriage exercises is called Reflective Listening.

Instead of rushing in to give advice, let her talk.

Take a deep breath. Don’t respond right away. Let her speak about what happened and how she’s feeling. And when she stops, wait a second!

Make sure wasn’t just taking a breath before you respond.

Eventually, she’ll have let it all out. That’s when you say, “Here is what I heard you say,” and repeat back to her (succinctly) what you heard, what happened, and how she felt.

Finally, confirm it. “Do I have that right?”

If you do this, she is going to feel heard. She’ll feel listened to and understood, and that is such a powerful thing.

It will work wonders.

And it’s so simple! Just a tiny little break in the pattern I’m sure you’ve seen over and over in your relationship…talking over each other, trying to be helpful, trying to give advice.

You didn’t intend to be negative all those times, but what happens is your spouse doesn’t feel heard or appreciated.

Wait…What About Solving the Problem?

After reading all this, are you still wondering how the actual problem she’s describing is going to get solved? That’s fine. We’ll get to that.

Just make sure you practice Reflective Listening first, if nothing else. Notice that she’s talking, take a breath, truly listen, and reflect what you think you heard back to her.

If you do this first, then one of two things will happen:

1) She never really needed your input and will solve the problem on her own. The odds are she won’t ask, and that’s fine. You don’t HAVE to give advice. But you do have to be there for her.

2) At some point, she will pause and ask you, “What do you think?” or “What would you do?” That’s your opportunity to try and fix the problem.

Over the years when we’ve suggested people do this, they have told us later, “We tried this and had the best date night, the best sex, and we don’t even know why! I wasn’t even being romantic – all I did was not cut her off when she spoke.”

It’s a very simple thing, but it’s not so obvious for many of us!

It’s just one of a few short marriage exercises that takes very little time to do (seriously, like two minutes!) and can make such a big difference in your marriage.

Marriage Exercise #2: Take the Lead (5 minutes)

The second of the marriage exercises we want to0 share can apply to many things like intimacy and money, but let’s apply it right now to your date night.

Say you’re the woman in the relationship. Text your husband and tell him, “I’m really looking forward to tonight. I’ve got a little something special for you.”

Trust me, it’s going to pique his interest! He’s going to feel excited and appreciated.

Now this “something special” doesn’t need to mean anything fancy. It doesn’t require money, or a babysitter, or a lot of planning.

All you have to do is this…When the kids go to bed, simply say:

“Look, I don’t have anything big planned, but this is really important to me. We have such a blessed life, and often we don’t take the time to celebrate that.”

“We don’t take time just for each other and celebrate the little things. So tonight I just wanted to spend an evening together when our kids are in bed.”

“I’ve got a bottle of wine, I’ve got our wedding album, and I want to spend some time with you just hanging out and being a couple.”

I guarantee that will leave an impact. It will take you 30 seconds to send that text and a few minutes to prepare once the kids are in bed. And of course this works both ways. Either spouse can do it.

Doing this takes the lead. It shows that you care enough to show some initiative.

Just the small act of taking the lead is going to re-spark your romance. And they’ll reciprocate!

Then you will, and so on. Over time, you’ll develop this healthy pattern and enjoy more date nights and quality time together.

Marriage Exercise #3: Three Little Things Today (10 minutes)

The last of the three marriage exercises is called Three Little Things Today. Bethany and I started doing this years ago.

It will take 5-10 minutes, tops.

What we do is this…at the end of the day when we’re laying in bed, I tell her two small things she did that made my day better.

The First Two Little Things

What kinds of things are these? One example is when she made some coffee for me this morning while I was running out the door.

Or, tell her “Thank you so much for volunteering to pick up the kids from school so I didn’t have to rush after my doctor’s appointment.”

It might be some small thing like putting the toothpaste on the toothbrush for you, or giving you a kiss on the cheek at an unexpected time. The littler the better.

Doing this has two benefits. It makes you more aware of the good things that your spouse is doing for you, which will have a positive effect on your life.

And, when you verbalize what you noticed, it makes them feel good!

Everyone loves knowing that they’re valued and cherished. It’s an awesome feeling, but we rarely take the time to do it.

The Third Little Thing

So those were two little things from today. The third can either be A) something larger or B) something from the past.

You could say, “Hey, when you wore that blue dress today, it got me thinking about that time we had dinner in Cancun and man, what a night that was. Do you remember that?”

Or maybe it was some family event you had with your kids. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Just bring it up!

What matters is that you’re regularly pulling back some great memories from the past, the same way Facebook does when it shows you memories from several years ago.

Doing this helps you to focus on the positive. It will warm your heart and theirs, too. Your husband or wife is going to love reliving those best memories with you.

You could do all three of these marriage exercises in just 15 minutes each day. Maybe while lying in bed, maybe while cleaning the kitchen, maybe during a drive.

You don’t have to do them every day, but imagine what a difference it would make if you did it consistently!

How to Set a Vision for Your Dream Marriage

By Dustin | Communication

How to Set a Vision for Your Dream MarriageIf you haven’t set a vision for your dream marriage (or haven’t for a long time), you’re in for a real treat.

Humor me for a minute.

Close your eyes and pretend you’re back in those early years of your relationship. Try to picture what a “dream marriage” looks like to your former self.

Paint a picture of what it was like when you were the most happy and enthusiastic about the future.

Maybe it was when you were still dating, or during the first few years of your marriage.

Forget all about the current work or problems you’re dealing with and go back to that time.

Tap into that memory so you can imagine some of those feelings and the outcomes that you wanted so much before life got in the way (or maybe before you became a little jaded).

If you had asked your former selves during that time to set a vision for your dream marriage, what would you have said? What did it mean to you?

What would be ideal – your own personal dream marriage? Why did you choose to get married, and with the person you did?

Whatever you want to call it – your ideal marriage, your dream marriage – what it would look like at the very end of a scale going from 1 to 10.

Although this vision may change over time, it’s something worth getting clear on at every stage of your relationship.

How to Begin to Set a Vision for Your Dream Marriage

There’s a really simple exercise that will bring some clarity to you on what your ideal marriage looks like that will also unlock some really productive conversations with your spouse.

I call it “Your Dream Marriage What-If.”

Here’s how to do it…

Each of you write out and describe an ideal day in your marriage. Do this separately at first, and then both spouses should come together to compare notes.

Imagine and visualize it as you answer these questions:

  • Where would you live, and how would you interact?
  • What would your day together look like?
  • When would you see each other throughout the day?
  • How much sex would you have?
  • How much money would you have?
  • What kinds of activities would you share together?
  • Where are the kids in this picture?

Each of you think about what an ideal day would look like if you could live it, and then compare what you wrote with the other.

Discover What You Really Want

This is something that Bethany and I did once at a retreat, at a point in time when we weren’t that great at communicating. We really weren’t that open with each other.

When we did it, we didn’t know we had to share notes, so we wrote them out separately. Then, we had to sit down knee-to-knee while I read my ideal day to her, and she read hers to me.

It ended up being a life-changing experience.

At the time of this retreat, I was working from home already on my business. She had become a Special Ed teacher and was fantastic at it, and was still paying off her student loans.

Years ago, we had both thought it would be great if she could be a stay-at-home mom. It’s something we had talked about even during our dating years.

It was part of our vision then, but life got busy and we forgot about it. Maybe you know the feeling.

So as I read my notes to her, I said, “It would be so great if you could be home, too. But I know you love your job.”

“You love what you do, you’re excellent at it, and you’ve got great friends at school. So I would never expect you to give that up.”

She was crying.

I thought “Uh-oh…what did I do wrong?”

Then she started to read what she had written. Among a lot of other things, she said, “In an ideal day, I’d be a stay-at-home mom for our kids.”

“But,” she continued, “I know it’s not a financially smart move. We’re trying to get out of debt. And I do love working. I want to be a hard worker, and I want to be a contributor to the finances in our home.”

Wow. I had said it would be ideal, but qualified it in a way. And she had done the same.

Get it All Out in the Open

We had both realized in that moment this was something we wanted very much, but we hadn’t talked about it over the years.

The idea that we should discuss our ideal marriage had quietly fallen back into the shadows, and we had both assumed that the other wanted something different.

This may be the same reason you have not set a vision for your dream marriage.

This was something we wouldn’t have talked about if we hadn’t taken a little time to go through this exercise. It would have stayed as a forgotten dream that we never brought up again.

So, long story short…it took us three and a half years to pay off all of our debts.

When we were pregnant with our third child, we decided that it was time to start. She began to stay at home and raise our children during the day.

This simple exercise quite literally changed the course of our lives!

And, it’s absolutely something you can do to set a vision for your marriage, which will supercharge your communication and fuel your motivation to achieve big goals together.

You’ll find that you both agree on some things that you expected to agree on, and you may disagree on a few things that you didn’t expect.

And that’s healthy, too, because it’s not good to keep it all inside.

Doing this truly helps to discover different aspects of what your ideal marriage looks like, to get these things out, and start talking about them.

Then, you’ll have a shared understanding. And with that, you can begin to set some goals and make progress together from where you are now to where you truly want to be.

So give it a try. Set a time, do it together, and let me know how it goes!

So, What’s Next After You Set the Vision?

Setting a shared vision is a critical first step, and we guide you to exactly how to do it with our Dream Marriage Planner inside of our flagship program Total Marriage Makeover.

If you are looking for a proven way to reconnect, deepen your intimacy and start living YOUR dream marriage, you should definitely check it out. You’ll be amazed at the transformation you can enjoy in just 28 days.

Kids Need to See a Positive Example of Marriage Through You

By Dustin | Communication

Kids Need to See a Positive Example of Marriage Through YouIf you need one more reason to make your marriage a priority now and stop waiting for some distant, perfect time, be an example of marriage for your kids.

We hear so often from parents, usually the mom, saying, “My kids are everything. My kids are my life.”

But in order of priority for us, we put faith first. We put God as #1, then it’s our marriage, then it’s our kids, then it’s our family and friends, and then it’s everything else.

It’s a clear distinction.

Our marriage has to come first, because it’s only by having a wonderful marriage and a loving relationship that we can best raise our kids and be examples for them.

Setting a Positive Example of Marriage

If you think about it, where are your kids going to get a healthy example of marriage and what a happy, functional relationship looks like?

Where is your daughter going to get an example of what it looks like to be respected by a man? Where is your son going to get an example of what it’s like to be loved and respected by a woman?

Is the culture we live in going to give them a positive example of marriage? Are they going to get it from movies, or TV shows?

No way. Even their friends at school or in the neighborhood are probably experiencing a lot of brokenness at home. There’s just not a lot of good examples for them to see of what a relationship is supposed to be.

It’s going to have to be yours. Your relationship – the one they see every day in your household – is always going to be their first and foremost example of marriage.

In my family growing up, we had some bad examples (like really bad), and later in life I was blessed to have some good ones. Even when you know the difference, it’s still very hard not to subconsciously follow the one you saw first.

Do it For You, Your Spouse, and Your Faith

Also, if you’re a Christian, part of our call is to love each other as Christ loved the church. Our love is supposed to be agape love – sacrificial and completely giving.

It’s hard to do that on a day-to-day basis, of course. But when you focus on it, you’re going to do a lot better over time.

That love that you share for each other will definitely transform not only your relationship but your kids, your community, and extends further out from there.

So do it for yourself. Do it for your spouse. Do it for your kids. And, if you’re a person of faith, do it because our faith calls us to.

The Kids are Watching!

Bethany and I had something happen pretty recently with our daughter, Kendall.

She’s the middle child and the shy one of the bunch. Sometimes my wife and I will kiss over the kitchen table in the morning, and she’s the first to say “Eww gross!”

She’ll close her eyes and make a big deal of it.

But then one night after she said her prayers, when it was just Kendall and I in her room, we were doing a gratitude review that we call “What are you thankful for?”

At first, Kendall said she was grateful for ice cream, for having a great day at school…the usual kid stuff. But then she looked at me and said, “I’m thankful because you love Mommy.”

I thought, “Wow.” That meant a lot. I didn’t want to pry, so I left afterwards and got to thinking.

On one hand, I was really happy to hear that we’d set some kind of positive example of marriage for her.

She knows that I love her mom because we’ve made a point to express it without hiding it. We’re not shy about holding hands or kissing in front of the kids and saying “I love you” to the other.

And this is all very positive because it means she feels very secure.

It means we’re demonstrating a model of how she should be treated by her own future partner and what what their interactions should look like that she can reference later on.

But it also made me think, “What has she experienced that’s making her realize this is special?”

Was it maybe a friend of hers at school whose parents aren’t having a great time right now in their relationship? Maybe it’s something she saw in a TV show?

Be the Positive Example of Marriage Your Family Needs

I don’t know the answer.

But I know that finding out she had been noticing our mutual love as husband and wife was something that made it very concrete for Bethany and me. It showed me how important it is that our children always see that love firsthand.

So it pays to always remember…your kids really are paying attention!

It pays in many ways to work on your relationship, not only because of how it will increase you and your spouse’s happiness, but because it’s our first and foremost duty as parents to have a good marriage and show them the way to do the same.

Be the positive example of marriage that your children or other family members need in their life.  In our next post in this series, we’re going to show you how to do just that…stay posted for it.

45 Unique Love Language Ideas for Your Spouse, Your Kids…and Yourself

By Dustin | Romance

Learning your partner’s love language is a great way to foster a healthy, long relationship.

It can be frustrating when your love language and your partner’s don’t naturally align, but knowing them allows you to express your love in a way your partner will understand.

Not familiar with love languages?

They are theories developed by Dr. Gary Chapman that categorize ways a person prefers to receive love and affection. Most people naturally show love the way they wish to receive it, which can lead to problems if partners don’t share the same love language.

Being cognizant of your spouse’s love language can lead to better communication and deeper intimacy because you are now showing it in a way that “speaks your partner’s language”.

The theory extends beyond your relationship with your partner and expands to your relationship with your children, your extended family, your co-workers, and even yourself!

While most people have a strong primary love language, they can also prefer a mix of several, depending on the occasion. The five love language categories most people fall into are:

  • Acts of Service
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Physical Touch
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Quality Time

Use the below love language ideas from FTD to express your love for your partner, your kids, and yourself, and watch your relationships flourish!

Acts of Service

People whose love language is “Acts of Service” feel loved when their loved ones show their appreciation by doing chores or other odd jobs.

Things like making breakfast in bed for your significant other, helping your child do a chore they’ve been dreading, or treating yourself to a cleaning service are great ways to show “Acts of Service”.

Words of Affirmation

If their love language is “Words of Affirmation” they want to hear that they are appreciated and loved often.

It can be as simple as telling them you love them, or you can go above and beyond. For your significant other, sharing something nice they did on Facebook will make their heart sing. For your kids, you can write them a note and put it in their lunchbox. For yourself, you can repeat self love affirmations to yourself in the mirror.

Physical Touch

The physical touch love language isn’t necessarily about sex, and is not reserved for couples. People who prefer this love language just enjoy human contact, like a hug or a back rub.

Things like holding your partner’s hand while you’re in public, cuddling your child to fall asleep, or sleeping with a weighted blanket are all ways of giving physical touch.

Receiving Gifts

When showing your love through gifts, it doesn’t necessarily have to be grandiose or expensive. Small, thoughtful gifts mean the most to these people.

For your significant other, you can make them a mix CD crafted specifically for them. For your kids you can surprise them with a small present on an obscure holiday. For yourself, you can have an extra glass of wine or buy yourself your favorite dessert!

Quality Time

People whose love language is quality time usually want undivided attention from their loved ones. Time with no cell phones, computers or interruptions where they feel heard and loved. Things like going on a walk with your significant other after dinner, baking cookies with your kiddos, or taking a bubble bath by yourself are great ways of giving quality time.

It’s always a great time to show your significant other you love them in their language. And don’t forget to show your kids and yourself some love too, though, and feel the love in your home blossom!

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4 Marriage Money Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Money problems are one of the top reasons that marriages end in divorce, yet unfortunately, most engaged and newly married couples fail to prepare themselves.

Although you’ve likely had a lot of serious talks about life including if you want to have children, where you want to live, what kind of career you want to have, chances are you skimmed through the money talk.

Though you both may be juggling your finances separately, now that you’re joining together as one, being on the same page is critical.

Below, are some of the common mistakes newlyweds make that end up costing them big later.

1. Not Sharing Financial Habits and Debts

Once you’re married, your money and finances are a joint effort.

As such, you must know how your partner deals with their finances, and more importantly, how much financial baggage they’re carrying with them. Waiting to disclose this information can lead to serious arguments about money in the future.

Knowing if your partner is a saver or a spender, whether they pay bills timely or whether they procrastinate, and having a general idea of how much debt they’re carrying around can help you both to make a plan that will secure your financial future.

2. Spending Too Much on Housing

The prospect of buying a new house can be exciting.

You’re ready to start your new lives together and want the perfect place to build from. Be that as it may, it is imperative to consider all expenses before purchasing a house.

Newlyweds fail to analyze the true cost of homeownership and essentially buy more of a home than they can afford. However, buying more home than you can afford is a surefire way to end up in debt or having your home foreclosed on.

Though getting a home is ideal for a married couple, it should be done with careful consideration. Review your options with a mortgage company to find the best loan rates and mortgage programs for first time home buyers. Then analyze your finances to ensure that you can afford the cost of owning a home.

If you’re unable to afford the big family home you’ve been eyeing, consider a condo or starter home and then relocate once you have the money to do so.

3. Not Having a Rainy-Day Fund

You never know what could come up that requires a large amount of cash to fix.

Newlyweds make the mistake of forgetting the plan for a rainy day. An issue with the house, the loss of a job, a need to pay for something for the kids, anything could occur, and unfortunately, they aren’t prepared.

This forces them to have to go deeper into debt by taking out a loan.

While you appreciate the sunshine, there will be rainy days that you need to prepare for. You never know when you’re going to need to repair or buy a new car, get the furnace replaced, or even worse, you may have to deal with you or your spouse losing a job.

Savings should be a staple in your financial plan. Putting aside at least 3-6 months’ worth of income can help to cover the costs of unexpected expenses.

4. Not Having a Budget

When you’re single, living on a budget may be less of a priority. You don’t have any other responsibilities outside of yourself and your own bills.

Many couples keep the same mentality that they’ll handle their own finances and make the mistake of not creating a budget. However, managing money separately can lead to miscommunication and misuse of household funds.

Creating a budget and sticking to it is not as hard as you think. You must be open and honest with one another about your debts, monthly bills, and your income. Then execute a financial plan that will cover all household bills.

Budgeting can help you to make informed decisions for the household and it most certainly keeps you out of debt.

Part of getting married is all about trial and error. It’s about finding your own way to make your union work. Be that as it may, when it comes to money matters, trial and error could be the very thing to tear your marriage apart.

Avoid these mistakes at all costs by openly talking to your spouse and creating a budget that will allow you to live out the life you’ve always dreamed of.

 

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