A Fun Creative Valentine’s Day Idea

Infuse this Valentine’s Day celebration with a bit of creative fun!

Balloon Pop
It’s not too late to plan this super fun way to spend the day focused on building intimacy between you and your wife. (Of course, wives can use this idea too!)

What you’ll need for this romantic idea: a sheet of cardboard or piece of foam core board (part of a cut-open box works fine for this), a dozen balloons (I suggest red, white and pink, in keeping with the colors of the occasion), and a dozen of something that can fit inside a balloon (see below for lots of ideas).

A Dozen Intimate Somethings

What you put into the balloons is totally up to you, but you want them to be things that say “I love you” to your spouse.

It can be a dozen fun/romantic activities written on little notes, a dozen love-coupons, or even a dozen little gifts, or any combination of these. Of course most gifts won’t actually fit inside the balloon, so instead, put something small representing the gift, a clue to where the gift is hidden or even just a piece of paper with a picture of it – use your imagination. Imagination is the key! Another idea is to put “conversation hearts” into the balloon and let each prompt a conversation about why you chose that particular saying.

I found it fun to mix it up and include some fun activities (like going to a romantic movie or a walk), some little gifts (like a box of chocolate covered cherries – her favorite), a poem I wrote, and some romantic activities (like a massage for her).

Make the Balloon Board

Whatever dozen things you decide to use as part of this little game, you’ll need to figure out what can actually go inside the balloons. Stretch the mouth of the balloon open and push the item into the un-inflated balloon, then blow it up and tie off the balloon. Mount the balloons by cutting small x’s in the heart-shaped board around the heart pattern (pictured right) and pushing the stem of the balloon through. You can also use thumbtacks or push pins.

[Note: you don’t have to use a heart-shaped board or pattern, but it’s  a nice touch. If the thought of trying to draw a heart that isn’t lopsided will keep you from doing this, it’s fine to just use a square.]

You can also add your own flair to this by decorating the cardboard in some meaningful way: pictures, sayings, Vday decorations, wrap it in red foil or whatever. Again, use your imagination.

Start Poppin’

Present the board to your love along with a pin or something else sharp enough to pop the balloons. There are several fun ways of playing the game. The great part is that you get to make up the rules!

If you want the balloons to be popped in a certain sequence, number them with a permanent marker. If you want it to be a total surprise have her approach the board blindfolded and see if she can pop one. You can raise the suspense level and say she’s only allowed to pop one balloon per hour, stretching the game out all day long. When I did this for Jenni a few years ago, I let her choose which balloons to pop at random, but we stretched it out through much of the day.

The whole point of this game is to make your wife feel loved, cherish and adored in a way that builds connection and intimacy. Relax and have fun with it, but make sure she knows how much you care for her.

If you end up giving this one a try, I’d love to hear back from you how it goes!

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The Path of Intimacy is on 25% off sale until Valentines Day!

This little Kindle book might just transform your marriage. I can’t think of a better way to say “I love you” to your wife or husband this Valentine’s Day than to put your relationship on The Path of Intimacy. From now until February 14th you can get it for 25% off the regular price! Don’t wait!
POI Sale

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Romance 101

In keeping with the most romantic month of the year, later this month I’ll be starting up my Romance 101 club. It’s going to be a convenient and affordable way to keep romance alive 365 days a year by sending you monthly detailed date night ideas plus weekly romantic encouragement and real-world date night stories and tips from other couples. If you’d like a little more romance in your marriage but struggle to come up with good ideas, this service is for you. You can read more about it here.

 

The origin of this post is one I wrote in January 2012 for my Journey to Surrender blog.

Don’t Be Fooled – It’s All Connected

Lack in any area of intimacy will eventually affect the other areas. But then so does plenty!

It's all Connected

There is a human tendency to compartmentalize our lives. We all do it to more or less of a degree. But is that always the best way to live?

For example, we often divide parts of our lives between the secular and the spiritual. Church=spiritual. Job=secular. Prayer=spiritual. Sports=secular. But it isn’t so. It’s all spiritual. All of it belongs to God, and God can be found in it all.

Intimacy Interconnected

When it comes to your marriage, and especially when it comes to intimacy in marriage, every dimension is connected to every other dimension. The emotional is not separate from sexual or spiritual. Each impacts the other–in a variety of ways. That’s both good and bad, as we’ll see.

Sometimes we tell ourselves we can do without one or more of these areas of intimacy. But it’s not true. Whenever you leave any dimension out of the intimacy equation of your relationship, it will cause a deficit in the other dimensions.

Take the area of sexual intimacy as an example. A sex-starved marriage will often result in a relationship in which a husband and wife also have a limited emotional connection.

For another example, you don’t feel it’s important to have a spiritual connection to each other. This will steal the emotional intimacy that comes from shared spiritual experiences. It will damage financial intimacy in that it removes important spiritual principles from financial decisions and prevents prayerfully consideration of your money. A lack of spiritual connection even reduces sexual intimacy, because sex, at its core, is a deeply spiritual experience–or at least it should be.

It would be possible for me to draw similar examples from any deficient or missing component of the intimacy in your marriage. They are all interconnected.

The Good News

While it is true that a lack of intimacy in any one area will negatively impact other areas, it’s also true that when you improve any one area of intimacy in your marriage, it will spill over positively into other areas.

For example, for most men, it is true that a thriving and fulfilling sexual relationship opens the door to a deeper emotional connection with their wife. In a post on his X-Y Blog, Paul Byerly, aka The Generous Husband, says it this way:

For men sex communicates love and acceptance, while a lack of sex communicates the opposite. I realise this is not usually what women are communicating with sex and saying no, but it is what men feel. Even when you convince a man this is not what she means, he will still feel it. When a man feels a good sexual connection with his wife he starts to want other forms of intimacy. Not tolerate, want. The need was always there, but it is hard to hear over the much louder need for sexual intimacy.

In the same way, a woman who is emotionally satisfied by her husband’s affection and attention will be more open to responding positively to her husband’s sexual advances. Emotional intimacy opens a wide doorway to sexual intimacy.

Get on the Right Path

You may have noticed that I’ve been blogging about intimacy all this month. Partly that’s because I believe intimacy is the most important goal for every marriage. But the major reason is that next week my new Kindle book, The Path of Intimacy, will be released, and I’m super-excited about it!

In the book, I explain how every marriage is on one of two paths: the Path of Intimacy or the Path of Separation. There is no middle ground between the two where you can statically maintain your distance. Intimacy doesn’t work that way. It’s either growing or it’s dying. You get to choose.

Whenever you choose the Path of Intimacy by working on any area of your relationship (physical, emotional, sexual, financial, etc.) you have set your marriage squarely on the Path of Intimacy, and you will begin to see fruit in other areas, even without working specifically on those areas.

Look for my book release announcement next week, but in the meantime, do something this week to intentionally build the intimacy in your marriage.

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The One Thing Your Marriage Needs Most This Year

Here’s to a happy, intimate 2018!

I regularly run surveys among my readers to keep my finger on the collective pulse of the couples who follow my blog. The survey I am currently running  asks the question, “What do you want more of in your marriage right now?” (You can take it now if you’d like to have your answers included in the results.)

I’ve asked a similar question in a number of surveys over the years, and the answer always comes back the same: couples want more intimacy most of all.

What Couples Want

In the latest survey results, when asked to give the top 3 things they want more of in their marriage, 9 out of 10 respondents indicated a desire for more emotional, physical or spiritual intimacy. Over half placed one of these as their number one need, and almost half picked more than one form of intimacy as a top three need. I’m probably safe in guessing that intimacy comes in high on your list of marital desires as well.

A surprising finding from the survey is that men and women don’t differ in their desires as much as you might think. In fact, the top three needs of men and women were exactly the same and in the same order. Men and women both picked sexual intimacy as the number one need in their marriage (though not in the same percentages), and both picked spiritual and emotional intimacy as their number 2 and 3 needs, respectively. Chances are you and your spouse are longing for the same things.

So if seemingly everyone desires more intimacy, why are so many couples struggling to find it?

In Search of True Intimacy

People define intimacy in many different ways. Some say it’s a feeling of closeness and connection. Others say it’s about sex or romance or both. The Bible has a slightly different take on intimacy:

Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:24-25

Here, at the very creation of marriage, God defines what it means to be one flesh. It means living naked and unashamed. That’s what I describe as being fully known and being totally loved. This is intimacy at its core.

In my post, Keeping Your Marriage Strong for the Long Haul, I summarized the quest for intimacy this way:

Intimacy is the antidote for the roommate syndrome that wrecks so many marriages. Intimacy reaches its zenith when we are fully known (weaknesses, warts and all) and completely, unconditionally loved. Intimacy is the main goal of every marriage (in all forms: emotional, spiritual, sexual, financial, etc.), and God built us with an innate desire for intimacy; intimacy with Him and intimacy with our spouse. I also believe God designed us with a huge capacity for intimacy and that we can continue to grow closer together regardless of how long we’ve been married.

Not One Thing But Many Things

Make it a goal to journey more deeply into intimacy with your spouse in the year ahead. As you do, keep in mind that true intimacy involves the entirety of your being. It isn’t just about improving your sex life, or getting more regular about going on dates, or spending more one-on-one time talking and really listening, or learning to pray together.

It’s about all of it. Everything.

Don’t be overwhelmed by that thought. What it really means is that there are lots of ways to build intimacy. Pick an area and start making small changes toward more fully knowing each other by being more transparent and showing your heart to your spouse. As you both open up to each other more, respond with unconditional love and grace.

You are probably thinking, “Easier said than done.” True. But as you start with small steps, you’ll begin to see the fruit of every effort you make in the direction of a deeper, more intimate connection.

Praying that you and your spouse have a happy, intimate 2018!

 

Romantic Christmas Countdown

Here is a fun way to say “I love you” ten times over this Christmas!

Romantic Countdown

Are you still stuck for an idea of what to give your spouse for Christmas? Or maybe you’ve already bought a gift (or gifts) but you are looking for an extra special way to bless him or her this year.

This romantic countdown is a great way to surprise your spouse every day for 10 days leading up to Christmas.

The Christmas Countdown

As with any romantic idea, you need to adapt it to your spouse’s particular favorite things. Times like this are why I say it is important to be a lifelong student of your spouse and what delights him or her most.

The idea of the Christmas countdown is simple. Pick a number of days until Christmas. If you get on the ball in the next day or tow you can do ten days, as in my example below.  Seven would work too. If you are a traditionalist, you might do the twelve days of Christmas, which technically come after Christmas and would be a great way to extend the holiday festivities.

Here is how it works.  For each day, give him or her a gift representing the number of days remaining until (or following after) Christmas. As an example, here’s the list I did for Jenni a few years ago:

    • 10 – ten pretty fingers (gift card for a manicure) or toes (pedicure)
    • 9 – nine tasty treats (Cella chocolate covered cherries-her favorite)
    • 8 – four pairs of Christmas-themed earrings (she loves these things)
    • 7 – Christmas-themed arrangement of seven red roses
    • 6 – Six string serenade (she picked songs I sang for her)
    • 5 – five-minute kiss
    • 4 – four pairs of pretty panties
    • 3 – a set of three Woodwick candles
    • 2 – a side-by-side framed picture (us on one side and our daughters on the other)
    • 1 – Christmas lingerie (OK this gift was more for me)

The gifts don’t have to be large or expensive. It really is the thought that counts in this particular romantic endeavor! Get creative!

A low budget version would be a set of lists of things you love about your spouse.  Day 10: Ten things I love about our marriage.  Day 9: Nine things I love about your body.  Day 8: Eight things I love about how you parent.  Etc. Etc.

An Added Twist

Part of the fun is deciding a fun way to surprise them with the gift each day. I had a small wooden box with a lock on it. Each day the key would appear in an unexpected way. Jenni would unlock the box to find a note that gave a clue as to where to find the day’s present.

I’m no poet, but I wrote a tacky little poem for each day.  It was fun! For example day eight, the four pairs of earrings, which were placed in some teacups she has on display:

Christmas earrings

What numbers eight, yet comes in twos?
Perhaps I’ll give a few more clues

It is something festive for the season
Given for the best of reasons

‘Tis love that causes me to give
Four gifts that hide where teacups live

If you have no gift for rhyme, do something else that works better for you. Send a text message or email with the clue for the day. Maybe get other family members involved. Leave a note taped to their bathroom mirror. Give the gift first thing each morning or last thing each night. Have fun with it!

If you decide to try the Countdown to Christmas, stop back by and let us know how it worked out and to share your ideas!


Heads-up!!

Do you have trouble coming up with romantic and special ways to bless your spouse but wish you could? Be on the lookout for a new subscription service I’ll be offering soon, called Romance 101. It’s a monthly email service with great step-by-step date night ideas and romantic surprises that are sure to bless your wife or husband and your marriage. Click below to get on the list to get the details when this new feature is available, plus receive a special introductory discount.

4 Comfortable Habits That Keep Your Marriage Stuck at Good

Move beyond these familiar habits to shift your marriage from good to great.

Good to Great

Do you sometimes feel like your marriage is stuck in neutral? It can happen to any couple, regardless of how long they’ve been married. We get comfortable in our routines. We slip into familiar patterns that maybe aren’t all the healthy or helpful. We lose sight of our purpose. We become roommates.

Humans are creatures of habit. In fact, our brains are wired to seek ways to go on autopilot in order to reduce our cognitive load. Autopilot is just easier on our brains. The problem is, autopilot mode is also hard on your marriage.

From Good to Great

Maybe you would say you have a pretty good marriage. But you know it could be better. You are stuck at good, but you have a feeling that great is out there somewhere. You just aren’t sure how to get there.

You’ve no doubt heard it said that good is the enemy of great. I might say it a little differently. I would say that the thrill of great gets held captive by the comfort of good.

If you want to have a great marriage, you may have to take a few risks and let go of good. By that I mean you may have to let go of some habits that have become very comfortable and familiar, but that have you trapped at good.

The thing with comfort zones is that they are so darn comfortable. We can even fool ourselves into thinking something is comfortable just because it’s familiar, even though it may even not be all that enjoyable or satisfying.

Here are four typical comfort zones where I challenge you to move beyond good and to go for great.

Good #1: We have date nights

The movie Date Night perfectly portrays what happens when date night becomes a stale habit. The Fosters go to the same restaurant on the same night, eating the same food every week, where they finish each others’ sentences and fall into bed without really even touching each other. All the while they are longing for something more.

Dates nights are important, but if it feels like they have become blah, it’s time to shake things up a bit. Let go of your normal date night routines. Take turns with planning your dates. Try this four-date sequence next month.  Date #1 he plans something “for her,” meaning he tries to consider her desires and interests. Date #2 she plans “for him,” and does likewise. Date #3 he plans according to what he would like. Date #4 she plans something that she likes doing.

Take turns planning surprises. Dress for each other. Include a little date night nookie. Commit to doing something new and untried at least once a month.

Great #1: Make date night an adventure!

 

Good #2: We know each other well

Knowing each other well is a double-edged sword. While it does allow for a certain amount of ease and comfort in daily interactions, it can also cause us to make assumptions and leap to conclusions. It can make us complacent so that we stop pursuing each other. We can miss it when our spouse grows and changes. We can also start to think it terms of “you never…” or “you always…” instead of seeing things for how they really are (which is probably not actually never or always).

The truth is that there is more intimacy available to you than what you are enjoying right now, regardless of where you are on the spectrum. Don’t assume you know all there is to know about your spouse and don’t assume your spouse knows all about you. Practice engaging on a deeper level in every dimension of your marriage: emotional, sexual, spiritual, intellectual, financial, recreational…

My “Intimate Connections for Couples” workbook is a great way to deepen intimacy with fun, easy fill-in-the-blank conversation starters. It’s available right now on Amazon for a 25% discount, so order yours before they are gone!

Great #2: Never stop being a student of your spouse. Never stop seeking deeper intimacy.

 

Good #3: We have sex pretty regularly

Sexual intimacy is a common area where couples get stuck. Because of the intense vulnerability that comes with sex, it’s easy to seek the safety and comfort of the familiar. I mean, even okay sex is pretty darn good, right, so why rock the boat? Why take risks? Why move out of our comfort zone?

Sexual intimacy is the ultimate expression of the oneness of marriage. The vulnerability that accompanies sexual exploration also allows for the deepest possible kind of connection, because genuine intimacy requires vulnerability. Finding new sexual expressions and new ways to enjoy each other physically allows this area of intimacy to continue to grow and strengthen your marriage in a unique and beautiful way. Take delight in generously delighting one another in bed, and often.

Great #3: Make sex a high priority and add something new to the routine once in a while.

 

Good #4: Our marriage is fair. Everything is 50/50

Fairness is the wrong measuring stick for a great marriage. When making everything even becomes the goal, it sets up score-keeping and an atmosphere where we withhold until we get our fair share.

God calls us to more. He calls us to sacrificial, unconditional and extravagant love. It’s how he loves us, and how we are to love one another, especially in marriage. As Jesus, our bridegroom, laid down his life for his bride, so too are husbands called to lovingly lay down their lives and use their authority to lavishly love, protect and beautify their wives. As the church gives her all to Jesus in unconditional and loving surrender, so too are wives to give themselves wholly to their husbands.

There is nothing in the relationship between Christ and the church that is 50/50, and therefore there should be nothing in marriage that is either. Think of areas where you have tended to hold back from your spouse and find ways to overcome your reticence. Think of ways in which you have not loved as fully or generously as you could because of not having your own needs met, and try giving that love anyway.

Great #4: Go for 100/100 in your marriage – go all out at being all in!

 

What other habits can you think of that couples might need to let go of in order find the greatness that lies beyond? Leave your thoughts in a comment.

 

This post originally appeared on my Journey to Surrender blog in February 2016