7 Low Effort Ways to Start a Marriage Community

Marriages thrive best in a community where couples affirm and strengthen each other.

Group

As a champion for strong marriages, it saddens me to see how little many churches seem to be doing for the marriages in their midst. Most churches will have some form of premarital counseling, and some have divorce recovery support groups, but what about all those marriages in between infancy and death, the two ends of the marriage spectrum? What is being done for the vast majority of “average” couples? The answer is usually not much.

In the typical church you will always find a children’s ministry and usually a women’s and singles’ ministry, with men’s ministries growing in popularity. I have nothing against any of these. But where are the ministries specifically for married couples. I’ve seen a few shining examples, but the truth is there is a big lack in this critically important area.

Support Makes a Difference

According to a 2011 study by the National Marriage Project, husbands and wives with high levels of support from family and friends are almost 50% more likely to be very happy in their marriages. Such support is one of the top five predictors of marital quality and stability. Here is a chart from that study.

suppor-happiness chart

Bottom line: a supportive community matters for marriages.

What Can You Do?

Maybe you can’t solve all the marriage problems in your community, but you can make a difference in the lives of a few couples around you. Here are a few ideas for low-effort ways to start building a marriage-positive culture.

  1. Get together informally with some couples whose marriages you admire. Ask other couples to join in. Let it grow organically.
  2. Set up a date-night babysitting exchange for couples with young kids so you can take turns watching each others’ kids and give couples much-needed alone time.
  3. Ask your church to plan a marriage-building retreat into next year’s calendar and budget. (Not so low effort: offer to coordinate or assist with the event.)
  4. Set up a marriage-related Facebook page where you can post helpful blog posts and other resources on marriage. Invite all your married friends to join the group.
  5. Create a couples’ prayer partner network among friends so you can exchange prayer requests and check in on each other regularly.
  6. Start a marriage book-club group. Get together with a few other couples to discuss a marriage-related book. See the suggested materials list below.
  7. Talk to your pastor about starting a church sponsored marriage small group in your church. (Not so low effort: offer to facilitate the group. To lessen the stress, ask two or three other couples to co-lead with you.) We just launched a monthly group at our church and are loving it! The materials list below can help with this one as well.

Pray about what God might call you to do to help build a community of strong marriages. Don’t be afraid to start small and just see where it leads. Anything you do to encourage other couples is going to be a tremendous blessing to them.

I’d love to hear what is your church doing for marriages these days. I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Leave a comment and let me know.


Marriage Group Resource List

For five years, Jenni and I have led a 13-week marriage small group based on a curriculum we wrote. I’m working on getting that ready to publish, so look for that announcement sometime this year. Meanwhile, I asked some of my CMBA (Christian Marriage Bloggers’ Association) friends to share with me the marriage resources they have used for small group discussion. Here they are, in no particular order (links are Amazon Affiliate links, and if you choose to purchase through these links, you’ll be supporting this ministry).

  1. His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley, Jr. (Participants Guide, DVD,  paperback book, Hardcover, Kindle book)
  2. What Did You Expect by Paul Tripp (DVD, Paperback, Kindle)
  3. Love and Respect by Emmerson Eggerichs (Book + WorkbookWorkbook only, Hardcover book, Paperback, Kindle)
  4. Cherish by Gary Thomas (DVD, Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle)
  5. Grace Filled Marriage by Tim Kimmel (Kindle, Paperback)
  6. The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott (Paperback, Study Guide) and The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace (Paperback, Study Guide)

Note: I have read and can personally endorse 1, 3, and 5. The others have the endorsement of people I trust.

15 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Add Fun to Your Marriage

When was the last time you and your spouse had fun together? Plan in some fun today!Fun!

Has your marriage ever hit the doldrums? It happens to almost every marriage at some point. You fall into comfortable routines. You get distracted with the busyness of life. Stress steals your energy and focus. But hey, you figure you can work on your marriage later, when things aren’t so crazy or difficult.

Let me encourage you not to buy the lie of “later.” Because when later never comes along, you can wake up one day and find that you and your spouse are little more than excellent roommates.

Choose Your Path Daily

The truth is that your marriage is on one of two paths: the Path of Intimacy or the Path of Separation. You and your spouse are either growing together or growing apart. There is no middle ground.

What does it take to keep on the Path of Intimacy? Well, it actually takes less than you might think. Mostly, it just requires paying attention and staying off of auto-pilot. You can keep growing closer with the smallest of intentional actions, done on a daily basis.

One of those intentional actions is to add a regular dose of fun to your marriage.

Finding Fun

Adding fun to your marriage doesn’t have to be a huge burden. Fun does not need to be expensive or time-consuming. Below is a list of easy ways to interject additional fun into your everyday routine:

Laugh Together – rent a funny movie, listen to some (clean) comedy, or search YouTube for funny clips together. We like the YouTube comedy channel called “Kid Snippets” from the folks at Bored Shorts. A few fun marriage-related skits are Marriage Counseling , Marriage Problems, and Wedding Jitters.

Food Fun – Try out some new or exotic foods, cook a special meal together, or have a bed picnic. If you are both foodies, watch a show on the Food Network.

Fun & Games – Jenni and I really enjoy playing games together. Try out different games until you find a few that you both consider fun. Two of our favorites are Carcassonne  and Can’t Stop , because they both work great with two players and we are empty-nesters.

Fun Tunes – Buy a few songs or an entire CD of an artist you both really like. Queue the tunes up on a decent sound system, grab glass of wine (or other favorite beverage) and sit together to listen through the songs. Talk about which tracks you like best and why.

Bedroom Fun – There are dozens of ways to add fun into your sex life. For example, try out a new position, a new location or something else you’ve never done before. If something doesn’t work out quite as you planned, laugh it off and scratch it off the list. If you both enjoy it, add it to your sexual menu. Need some new ideas? Try “101 Nights of Great Sex“, full of sealed secret seduction scenarios, 50 for him to do for her and 50 for her to do for him.

Spiritual Fun – Yes, there is such a thing a spiritual fun! We love going to worship concerts. Sign up for the mailing list of your favorite worship groups to find out when they are coming to town. While many of the Christian movie productions are too poorly produced or too trite and cheesy for my taste, there are a few that are very worthwhile. (Sorry, I don’t make movie recommendations, because tastes vary too greatly!). Talk about the movie afterward.

Date Night Fun – Take turns planning date night surprises for each other. Or plan something together using this list or pick something from your “fun box” (see below).

Sleeping Fun – Try sleeping in a different room of the house. Switch sides (or ends) of the bed for a night. Have a backyard camp out.

Kissing Fun – See my last post  for a dozen great kissing ideas. Take the 10 minute make-out session challenge in that post. I dare you!

Gaze at Beauty – Beauty feeds the soul. We love the mountains, though we don’t get there often enough. Maybe you have a local park or botanical garden that will do the trick. Go for a hike if you have a nice place to trek close by. If you find city-scapes beautiful, seek out special locations from which to view your city.

Surprises – Surprises are great fun for most people. Bring home a favorite dessert for you to share. Buy your spouse a new scent. Write a love note and stash it where your partner will find it later. It takes more planning, but kidnapping your spouse for an overnight getaway creates a lasting fun memory.

Get Physical – Have a pillow fight or wrestle together on the bed. Go for a long walk. Rent a tandem bike or kayak. Doing something that requires physical exertion has double benefit of being good for your body as well as good for your relationship.

Family Fun – If you have kids, let them in on the fun too, though it is good for the two of you to have fun alone together as well.

Fun Friends – Are there another couples that you always laugh with when you get together? Plan a double date with them or invite them to dinner.

Be Sporty – If there is a sports team that you both follow, watch a game together, or even better, if time and money allow, go to a game together. Even better than watching a sport is to do one together. Golf, tennis and biking are great couple sports.

Making it Happen

So there you have a bunch of fun ideas – no more excuses! The possibilities are endless! But how do you make it actually happen?

First of all you have to agree together to make fun a priority. Next, you need to get specific about it. Put a plan in place. Maybe you can have a designated night of the week that is “fun night.” You could take turns planning fun activities or plan them together. If weekly is too much, put a few days a month on the calendar, and decide what you are going to do.

Another idea is to create a giant fun list then put each fun activity on a separate slip of paper and put them all in a jar or box – a fun box, if you will. When fun night comes around, pick one of the slips at random and do what it says.

However you decide to do it, do it! Be intentional about adding fun to your marriage.

Add your own fun ideas to my list. Leave a comment.

Note: this post contains some affiliate links that support this ministry.

12 Fun Kisses to Try This Week (Plus A Challenge)

 

It’s time to take your kissing game to the next level!

Kissing Song 1:2

I believe God is a big fan of kissing, and I have scripture to back me up! If you are in doubt, just read Song of Solomon.

I actually think he designed us to really enjoy this wonderful form of intimacy between a man and a woman. It’s just like Him to do that sort of thing for us.

A Kiss in NOT Just A Kiss

Despite the famous line from the song “As Time Goes By” in the 1942 classic movie Casablanca, a kiss should never be just a kiss.

I’ve heard it said that if a kiss is just a kiss, then you are doing it wrong. I agree, because to me a kiss is:

  • An intimate physical expression of the oneness you share
  • A publicly acceptable way of showing affection for your spouse
  • An act that eliminates emotional space between you by eliminating physical space
  • As close as you can get to each other without actually having sex
  • A great way to keep your physical relationship on simmer
  • A cheap, fat-free, sugar-free, guilt-free treat (It can, however, be habit forming.)

Sometimes kisses can speak louder than words. What message are you sending your spouse with your kisses these days? 

Change It Up!

Try out a few of these kisses with your spouse this week:

10 Second Kiss – Next time you kiss your husband or wife goodbye or hello, see if you can hold the kiss for at least ten seconds. If he or she backs off after the usual few seconds, pull them in and say “I’m not finished with you yet,” and go for the full ten seconds.

Nibble Kiss – Add a little variety by nibbling or gently biting your spouse’s lower lip after a more tender kiss.

French Kiss – A famously promoted but seldom mastered kiss where your tongues dance together. The trick here is to go slowly and not simply thrust your tongue wildly (that’s fine for later, after things heat up). Tease his or her lips with the tip of your tongue. Probe gently and wait for a response before taking things up a notch.

Surprise Kiss – Catch your lover off guard when a kiss is least expected. Transform the moment with a hot, deeply sensual kiss. Wrap your arms around him or her, hold them tightly and kiss like you mean it!

Earlobe Kiss – Not everyone likes their ears messed with, but those who do would love to have their earlobes nibbled gently. Whisper a sweet nothing while you are there. Careful though, loud smacking kisses near the ear can really hurt!

Cold Kiss – Use and ice cube or mint to cool your mouth before you kiss. It provides an interesting sensation. If your partner is game it can be very sensual to pass it between you with your tongue while you kiss.

Nuzzling Kiss – When things are heating up, leave a trail of gentle kisses down one side of your partner’s neck and back up the other side. You’ll be sure to send tingles through his or her body.

Leave Your Mark – The wife freshens her lipstick and plants a kiss on the husband’s cheek. See how long he can go before wiping it off!

Show and Tell Kiss – Ask your partner to describe his or her favorite kiss, and then try to deliver it.

Upside-Down Kiss – Catch your partner laying down and approach him or her with your head opposite theirs for an interesting kissing sensation.

Almost Kiss – Bring your lips close together and see how long you can go without actually touching.

Possessive Kiss – Frame your partner’s face with your hands, stare into his or her eyes, and draw them slowly toward you until your lips meet. At the end of the kiss, say, “You’re mine!”

Take the Make-out Challenge

If your spouse is agreeable, spend ten minutes in a good old fashioned make-out session. Can you make it the full ten minutes with only kissing, nothing more? What you do after the ten minutes is up is totally up to you!

If kissing your spouse has become routine, or even a bit boring, this week make an effort to change things up a little! Here is some inspiration from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. Can you land a kiss in the top five kisses of all time?

Watch it on YouTube

My list of ideas is only the tip of the iceberg. What fresh kissing ideas do you have to offer? Leave a comment.

What Does Love Look Like?

 

Discover the love found within the Bridal Paradigm

 

Love Like ThatThe Bridal Paradigm, where Jesus and the church are our model for marriage, offers us a beautiful picture of God’s heart for marriage, and it holds the promise of power to transform your relationship with your spouse.

That’s a pretty big promise. But it’s a promise I believe God is eager to deliver on, if we will endeavor to take hold of it.

Love Lives In You

Paul begins his instructions on marriage in Ephesians 5 with this preface.

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)

The amazing truth is, as I said in my recent post, Unstoppable Love , love “like that” is not some ideal – out there and yet to be attained. It’s a living love that actually indwells you, because Jesus indwells you.You just need to discover it for yourself and then let it out on your spouse.

A lot of people get all knotted up over what the Bible says about roles of husbands and wives in marriage. I believe that most of it would dissolve away if we would simply focus on the love that is the foundation of the Bridal Paradigm

His Role Looks Like Christ

What wife would not want to be loved by her husband like this?

  • He loves his wife unselfishly, not using his position to control her or to push her into conformance, but to bless her.
  • He may never be required to literally lay down my life for her, but he must be willing to sacrifice himself (physically, emotionally, financially, etc) for what is in her best.
  • He will pursue her relentlessly and fiercely with his love, understanding what pursuit means to her.
  • He cherishes her by surrounding her with care and concern for her well-being – clearly demonstrating that he is for her.
  • He is consistent in speaking the truth of the Word over her in a way that encourages and edifies her and reminds her who God says she is.
  • He provides for her faithfully – which means applying himself diligently, but not to the extent that he neglects her need for time and attention.
  • He will do all in his power to establish and maintain a deep connection with her and protect the intimacy of the relationship. Staying connected is more important than being right or asserting his rights.
  • He beautifies his bride, as Jesus does, seeing her the way God sees her, perfect and beautiful, through the eyes of grace.
  • Above all, he partners with Christ, encouraging her to walk in the fullness of her true identity, toward the goal of fulfilling the destiny God has for her life.

Her Role Looks Like the Church

Before giving you some practical implications for a wife looking like the church, let me preface it by saying that we are all being transformed into the image of Jesus. So in a very real sense, wives are to also emulate Christ.

In light of the Christ-like love bestowed upon her, a wife returns his love in this way:

  • She believes in and trusts him.
  • She offers her full surrender, to hold nothing back from him, bringing the fullness of her genuine self to the marriage.
  • She best honors and enables his leadership by willingly remaining under his covering and protection.
  • She honors and respects him by listening to him and knowing his heart, giving importance to things that are important to him.
  • She knows that his desire is for her and believes that his intentions toward her are always be good.
  • She can come to him with anything and trusts that he will respond with love and grace.
  • She puts him first, above all other relationships.
  • She comes to him, fully unashamed, taking him as her only intimate lover.

Clarifications and Limitations

Of course, in comparing Christ and the church to the marriage relationship, Paul was not implying that husbands are in any way superior nor wives in any way inferior. Husbands are certainly not diety and have imperfections we will never find in Christ.

However, the truth is that the closer a husband comes to emulating Christ, the easier it will be for his wife to emulate the church.