We all have different needs, desires, and ways of feeling loved. Maybe hugs don’t mean much to you, but encouragement means the world. Maybe a gift feels meaningless compared to your spouse taking sexual interest in you. Typically, when we express love to one another, we do so in a way we, ourselves, understand it—not the way someone else understands it. In trying to make our spouse feel loved, we sometimes “miss the mark.” Since marriage challenges touch on every avenue of showing love, if you follow our suggestions, you’re sure to express love in a way your spouse understands. You may even discover a new way he or she feels love that neither of you knew before!
In addition to the weekly challenges, which are fun ways to show affection, there are once-a-month challenges for transforming your approach to conflict resolution. If you only add fun to the marriage, but don’t eliminate the unhealthy habits—such as yelling, interrupting, manipulating, and name-calling—you won’t experience as much growth in the marriage. As old habits die hard, you will have one month to focus on each area of better conflict resolution before moving on to the next challenge.
If following all parts of Marriage In Abundance’s approach to a better marriage, each part is to be completed once a week—the date, the devotion, and the marriage challenge. The marriage challenges are to be completed separate from the dates and devotions as they are meant to slip romance into our busy, everyday routines. However, there is more flexibility with the dates and devotions. Some people choose to do the couple’s devotions while on their date together—connecting once during the week. Others like to break it up and do their devotions one night of the week and go on their date another night of the week—connecting twice during the week. Choose what works best for you.
Regular connection with each other requires determination and intentionality. For the best outcome, it is recommended you, as a couple, decide on a specific day and time each week for your date, put it in your calendars, and stick to it. Consistency keeps you on track. Although sticking to the same day each week is the best way to stay consistent, we know sometimes a consistent time is not possible when you have inconsistent schedules. We—Joel and Mandy—work most weekdays, some evenings, weekends, and even some holidays. So, we look ahead at our calendars and choose a day and time that will work for each week. Then we stick the date in our calendars and make it a priority.
Spending time with your spouse, without the interruption of business, kids, and electronics, is vital to a healthy marriage. You will see a difference in your marriage when you put outside demands on hold and create space for uninterrupted connection. So, hiring a babysitter and setting phones aside during this time is highly recommended.
If hiring a babysitter is not in your budget, here are a few suggestions:
If you don’t invest in your marriage while the kids are young, when your nest is empty, your marriage will be, also.
The dates in this book are designed “budget sensitive,” so 3 out of 4 of the monthly dates can be done for free, or under ten dollars. One date each month will cost about fifty dollars. We know money can be tight and finances are the number one cause for arguments within a marriage. So, if you’re at a stage in life where you’re really penny-pinching, modify the once-a-month date that costs money.
If it is a sexual date or challenge you don’t want to do because it triggers you or makes you feel uncomfortable, modify it to your comfort level. If you cannot sexually enjoy one another due to past trauma, please seek professional help. Sex within a marriage is that important.
However, some challenges you may not feel like doing—not because it triggers a negative emotion, but because it’s just not “your thing.” For example, maybe you’re not into dancing but your challenge is to squeeze in a slow dance after dinner on your living room floor. If you don’t do your challenge simply because that’s not “your thing,” you are limiting growth and you are denying your spouse full enjoyment of you. Comfort zones are confining. You won’t grow if you’re not willing to stretch. Studies show people who are open to new experiences have greater passion in life. Bring that to your marriage!
If you're using the books, we suggest setting a couple alarms on your phone—one alarm to remind yourself to pick up your book and look at your challenge for the week, and a second alarm for a time you can complete your challenge that week. Another option is to have the marriage challenges texted right to your phone. You would receive the challenge every Sunday afternoon and a reminder every Friday afternoon.Learn about how to sign up for marriage challenges through texts
Look at it like this, I’m so glad my spouse wants to show me love and is giving this a try! It is common for couples to start off completing one challenge per week, but later, realize these expressions of love are becoming a part of their marriage lifestyle.
Since good sex is one of the key components of a better marriage, many of our suggested dates and marriage challenges are sexual in nature. For that reason, it is not recommended to keep your materials in a place easily accessed by your children or to hand this book to your teenager who is looking for a creative date idea.