Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

55 Christian conversation starters for couples

Reignite romance and foster deeper connections

Talking with your husband is important for a good Christian marriage, but the busyness of everyday life can make meaningful conversations fall by the wayside. We get caught up in talking about household duties, children activities, work struggles and schedules. Conversation starters for couples can make it easier.

No matter how long you’ve been married, there are always ways to improve communication in your marriage. This list of Christian conversation topics for couples comes in handy for date night, marriage check-ins or even just regular weeknights. Because figuring out ways to connect with your spouse while raising children is a challenge!

Looking for conversation starters for your entire family? Check out this list of 50 conversation starters for your family!

30 General conversation starters for couples

While you and your spouse know each other well, you can still learn more about one another. These questions will deepen your bond and grow your relationship.

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Spiritual connection

  1. How has your faith grown or changed since we got married?
  2. What spiritual practices or disciplines have most impacted your life?
  3. What Bible verse or story has been meaningful to you recently? Why?
  4. How can we better support each other’s spiritual growth?
  5. Have you had any experiences where you felt God’s presence or guidance in our marriage?
  6. Are there any areas in our marriage where we could invite God’s wisdom and guidance more intentionally?

Personal growth

  1. What are some goals or dreams you have for yourself that you haven’t shared with me, yet?
  2. Is there a new skill or hobby you’ve been interested in pursuing?
  3. How have your priorities or values evolved over the years?
  4. Are there any books, podcasts or resources that have inspired you recently?
  5. Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn or experience but haven’t had the chance to yet?
  6. How can we support each other’s personal growth and self-care?

Memories and reflections

  1. What are some of your favorite memories from our early years of marriage?
  2. What milestone or accomplishment that from our marriage make you most proud?
  3. Which challenges or struggles are you proud we’ve overcome? Why?
  4. How do you think we’ve grown as a couple since we first got married?
  5. Is there a specific moment or event in our marriage that you think changed us for the better?
  6. What lessons from our past experiences can help shape our future?

Family and relationships

  1. How do you think our marriage has impacted our relationship with our extended families?
  2. Are there any new traditions or rituals we could establish to strengthen our bond as a family?
  3. How do you envision our relationship evolving as our children grow older?
  4. Is there something you’d like to do together as a couple that we haven’t done before?
  5. How can we be more intentional about spending quality time together, just the two of us?
  6. Are there any unresolved issues or challenges within our family or relationships that we need to address?

Dreams and goals

  1. Where do you see us in the next five years? What goals or dreams do you have for our future?
  2. Are there any adventures or trips you’ve always wanted to take together?
  3. In what ways can I help you achieve the dreams and goals you have for yourself?
  4. How can we align our individual goals and dreams to create a shared vision for our future?
  5. Is there a particular cause or social issue you’re passionate about and would like us to get involved in?
  6. How can we support each other in pursuing our dreams and goals while maintaining a strong marriage?

25 Deep conversation starters for couples

Getting into even deeper conversations can be hard in the midst of everyday life. These questions will help you delve deeper and connect with one another even more. And whether you’ve been married 25 years or 25 months, you’ll learn more about your spouse!

Identity and purpose

  1. How would you describe your truest self, beyond the roles and labels society assigns to you?
  2. What do you believe is your purpose in life, and how does it align with our marriage?
  3. Are there any fears or insecurities you would like to overcome?
  4. How can we support each other in living out our passions and pursuing meaningful work?
  5. Have you ever experienced a moment of profound clarity or revelation about your purpose?

Vulnerability and emotional intimacy

  1. Is there a specific area of our marriage where you would like to deepen our emotional connection?
  2. What are some of your deepest fears or worries, and how can I best support you in facing them?
  3. Are there any unresolved hurts or wounds from the past that still affect you today?
  4. How can we create a safe space for each other to express our true feelings without judgment?
  5. What is one thing you wish I understood better about your emotional needs?

Faith and doubt

  1. Are there any aspects of your faith or religious beliefs that you’ve been questioning or struggling with lately?
  2. How do you find solace or maintain hope in times of doubt or uncertainty?
  3. What is one of your defining moments in your faith walk?
  4. What is something you need prayer for right now? (Take time to pray together!)
  5. In what ways you are struggling to connect with God right now? How can I help you with that?

Legacy and impact

  1. What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind for our children future generations?
  2. How do you envision our marriage making a positive impact on the world around us?
  3. Are there any specific values or principles you want to instill in our children or future generations?
  4. How can we use our resources, time and talents to serve others and make a difference?
  5. Is there a particular cause or social issue that you feel called to address as a couple?

Intimacy and connection

  1. In what ways can we deepen our physical and emotional intimacy in our marriage?
  2. Are there any unspoken desires or fantasies that you’d like to share with me?
  3. How can we make our time together more meaningful and intentional?
  4. What are some ways we can create a stronger sense of unity and teamwork in our relationship?
  5. How can we continue to grow and evolve as a couple while maintaining our individuality?

Connecting as a couple

Using conversation starters for couples doesn’t mean you and your spouse are in trouble or have nothing to talk about. Instead, they deepen your connection and teach you more about one another even in the busyness of daily life.

After all, truly talking and listening to one another makes a good marriage great! And we all want that!

Download all 55 Christian conversation starters for couples!

Head over to the Families with Grace Etsy store to find these conversation starters on adorable cards you can print and use on date night, your anniversary or any time!

An image showing Christian conversation starter cards for married couples that are for sale on Etsy.

Check out these other related articles as well!

50 conversation starters for families

Free summer date ideas for parents

Couple goals every Christian marriage needs

What a grace-filled marriage looks like

How to have a happy married life in the midst of hard times

Real marriage advice: Stop casting blame

8 Prayers for your husband

Powerful prayers for your husband and marriage

Of all the things we can do as Christian wives, praying for our husbands is one of the most important. I see my husband’s challenges and struggles more than anyone else in the world — as it should be. Because of that, I can pray specific prayers for my husband and perhaps even prayers he doesn’t think to pray for himself.

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Turning to Scripture can help us know what to pray for our husbands. The Bible reassures us that we can know God hears what we ask of Him (1 John 5:15). And that makes it all the more important to make sure you pray for your husband.

You can pray Scripture prayers for husband to meet his needs at work and in your marriage while also asking for protection and blessings for him.

What the Bible says about prayer

Even before we get into the prayers for your husband, I would be remiss if I didn’t start with the Bible. In the verses about prayer I looked up before writing this post, some verses in Jeremiah stuck out to me. Many Christians are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, which says in the NIV, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

I love God’s promise to secure our futures as His children. I love it even more to know He’ll secure the future of my own children. But, the two verses that follow this one really jumped out to me.

 “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:12-13 (NIV)

God doesn’t just have a plan for your husband’s future, and He also listens to us and makes Himself available to us when we seek Him. It’s with that in mind that I want to enter into this period of prayers for our husband.

Prayers for your husband at work

No matter what kind of work your husband does, he needs prayer for it. Chances are good he spends more awake time at work than anywhere else. And work is probably a stressor of some sort to him as well. Praying for your husband at work is important.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” – Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

Father, I ask that you be with my husband as he is working. Help him to have a good attitude like he is working for you and not for his boss. Look out for him at work. Give his wisdom and discernment in his work. Protect him from those who don’t intend good for him at work and are looking to block his path. Remind my husband of your faithfulness and presence at his work and everywhere. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” – Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)

Lord, I commit my husband’s work and plans to you. Establish his plans. Guide and direct him in the decisions he makes about work. Bless the work of his hands, Lord, to provide for our family and to glorify you. Give him strength to maintain his integrity in all that he does. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayers for your husband’s protection

Of all the things I pray for my husband about, his protection is probably what I pray for the most. In my struggles with anxiety, I can imagine all sorts of harmful things befalling him. A few years ago, I went through a very hard time where I assumed every time my husband left the house, that would be the last time I’d see him.

Praying for your husband’s protection not only protects him but also gives you peace of mind. It helps you remember that you can let go and trust that God is always with your husband.

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV)

Father, I ask that you remain faithful in watching over my husband. Strengthen and protect him from the evil one. Give him the ability to resist temptation that he faces. Keep him safe from the roadblocks Satan puts in his way. Put a hedge of protection around him to keep him safe in every way. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

Lord, give my husband strength and courage. Remind him always of your presence and that you won’t leave him. Protect him from struggles both in the world and in his own mind. Surround him with your peace, love and protection. Father just continue to watch over and direct him, guide and protect him. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayers for your husband and marriage

Whether you’ve been married 20 years or 20 days, praying for your marriage is important. Having a married relationship is challenging because we have to learn to think of the other person’s needs and wants. And, quite frankly, our own needs and wants can often seem more important!

Bringing your husband and marriage to God in prayer can help you stay focused on the blessing of your relationship and grow stronger in your marriage.

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” – Romans 12:10 (NIV)

Father, thank you for the blessing of my husband. Help us to stay devoted to one another every day. Give us the strength to put each other before ourselves. Continue to ignite and grow in us the love we have for one another. Strengthen our bond and relationship so that it remains strong. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV)

Lord, thank you for putting my husband and me together. Help us to not be overpowered and be able to stand in defense together against the challenges that come our way. Remind us that you are with us in our marriage keeping our bond strong. Fortify us against attacks on our relationship and happiness. Sustain us as we go through challenges and help us to always remain on each other’s side through everything. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Blessing prayer for your husband

We might thank God for His blessings, but we might also be less inclined to ask for His blessings. Asking God to bless your husband is not only fine, but it’s Biblically sound.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Matthew 7:7 (NIV)

This doesn’t mean that everything we ask for will be given to us. But what we ask for in accordance with the will of God will be given to us. Many Bible verses encourage us to seek God and ask of Him.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Luke 6:38 (NIV)

Father, I ask that you bless my husband. Help him to have a giving heart and spirit so that you will give to him abundantly in return. Please give him more blessings than he even expects or think to ask for. Keep him motivated to give to you and those in need around us. Return his blessings to him in full and then some. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” – Number 6:24-26 (NIV)

Lord, bless my husband. Keep him in every way. Father, shine your face on my husband and be gracious to him. Turn your face toward him and give him peace. Hold him close and bless him physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. May his love and joy overflow and may he be filled with the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Scripture prayers for your husband

These eight prayers are a great way to get started and spark ideas about prayers for your husbands. You can make declarations over your husband and pray any Scripture that speaks to you for him. Ask God to guide you to the right verses to pray for your husband, and follow His guidance.

While you don’t have to always pray Scripture prayers, there is power in them. These prayers also get us into God’s Word more and help us to focus our prayers and requests for Him.

Embrace the power of prayer in your marriage journey. Remember, you have a direct line to the One who created your husband, and He longs to hear your heart’s desires for him. So, whether you’re praying for his work, protection, blessings or your marriage, don’t hesitate to bring it all before the Lord.

These eight Scripture prayers are just a starting point, so feel free to personalize them and make them your own. Trust in God’s faithfulness and watch as He works wonders in your husband’s life and in your marriage. Keep praying, keep believing and keep loving fiercely.

Find more prayers:

Prayers for your children, part 1

Prayers for your children, part 2

Prayers for moms

Prayers for graduates

How to have a happy married life in the midst of hard times

10 ways to keep your marriage strong when life gets hard

When my husband and I got married back in 1999, we were young at 20 and 22 and excited for the life ahead of us. We looked forward to years of having a happy married life. We didn’t, however, think about the challenges of life.

You never know the hard times that are coming. Hard times usually arrive without much warning and — bam! — your life changes. In the more than two decades we’ve been married, we’ve been through a lot of challenges in life from chronic health issues to death to job loss and more.

Through all of our struggles, we’ve learned how to continue having a happy married life in spite of the problems we face. Life certainly isn’t always easy, but my husband and I have found our way through so many challenges.

Maintain a team mentality.

We weren’t far into our marriage when we learned that maintaining a teamwork mentality is important for having a happy married life. (In fact, we’ve continued the teamwork mentality in family life with our kiddos now.) When hard times come, we need to be more united than ever.

Life stressors can either drive a wedge in your relationship or draw you closer to each other. Having a team mentality leads to a closer relationship. It becomes you and your spouse against the world, so to speak. And it also helps you avoid casting blame. Whether the difficult situation is the result of something one of you did, the reality is, you still have to navigate through the situation together. Approaching that as a team is vital. Our motto is: “I’d rather go through hard times with you than good times without you.”

Find ways to laugh together.

While it’s always important to keep a sense of humor in marriage, you need to even when life is difficult. My husband can make me laugh more than anyone else in the world. There are definitely times laughter isn’t appropriate, but when you get a chance to laugh together take it. You can even utilize gallows humor.

My husband and I have shared chuckles in hospital rooms. We’ve joked as one of us is recovery from an injury or surgery. Sometimes just a bit of humor can help you bond together even as you face challenges.

Show grace to each other.

You know I’ve got to include grace. Part of a happy married life means having a grace-filled marriage. When you’re going through something difficult, you need even more grace than usual. Some situations have impacted my husband and me equally. But many situations impact one of us more. When that happens, then the person most impacted needs the most grace.

In our humanness, we have moments of being jerks. We don’t always use the right words or have the patience we need when we are stressed. While that’s definitely something to continue working on (and we have both gotten much better at), it’s also something that deserves grace sometimes. I know when my husband is struggling that he may get shorter with me than usual. And vice versa. Instead of lashing back at each other, we give grace.

Use compassion just like when your spouse is ill.

When my husband is ill, I have extra compassion for him. He does the same for me. So, if one of you is going through a difficult time, then the other can treat them in much the same way as if they are physically ill. Give them a pass or way out on family activities if needed. Do some of their chores for them. Make their favorite food.

We most need to be cared for when our hearts our broken. Feeling love and care through small acts of service make a hard time just a bit easier for our spouse.

Pray together and/or separately.

During challenging times, you probably are already praying about the situation itself. But be sure to also pray for your spouse and yourself. Ask God to give you both strength, wisdom, peace, compassion, patience and grace as you navigate the situation. Many times I have prayed and asked God to help me be the wife my husband needs in the midst of a difficult moment. You can try a prayer like this:

Heavenly Father, I ask that You continue to be with us as we deal with this challenge. Lord, draw us closer to one another. Give us grace and compassion for each other. Show us what Your will is for us as we go through this. Open and close the right doors, according to Your will. Father, wrap us in Your arms to give us peace and comfort as we deal with this. Thank You that we are able to face this together. Thank You for never leaving us and always remaining faithful. Continue to cover us with your protection, love and grace. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Know when to just listen.

Sometimes we just need to vent or talk through something without getting advice. Usually you can tell when your spouse is feeling this way, but it’s also OK to communicate that. I have started conversations with my husband like this: “I don’t want advice. I just need to talk about this.”

Of course, sometimes there aren’t solutions to give. Sometimes there’s just broken hearts that need to be heard. Just listening can be the greatest gift we can give our spouse when they’re going through a difficult time.

Distract yourselves.

We need breaks from hard times. Unfortunately we can’t wave a magic wand and make everything disappear for a few hours or days. But, we can find ways to distract ourselves. One of the things my husband and I do together is watch a movie. For a couple of hours, we are immersed in another world.

In fact, a few years ago on the day he got down-sized from his job, we went to a movie. We still had problems waiting for us after the movie, but for two hours we were able to forget about what was happening. Our brains and hearts need that!

We also enjoy playing games together. When we’re gaming, we’re focusing on the game nothing else, which is refreshing.

Communicate with each other.

Communication is certainly the key to a happy married life, and this is even more true when you’re going through a hard time together. My husband is an awesome guy who can do many things, but one thing he can’t do is read my mind. So, unless I share what I’m thinking, needing or struggling with, he’s not going to really know.

A few years ago, for instance, we had to put our beloved dog, Buckles, to sleep quite suddenly thanks to aggressive cancer. I remember a couple of nights later that my husband asked what I most needed that evening. Was it OK for him to play a video game or did I need him to just sit with me? He was sincere in asking, and I was sincere in answering. We had to work together to move on, and communicating made that much easier.

Go to church together.

Keeping God in the midst of your hard time is important. Going to church together is a great way to do that. Not only do you get spiritually fed, but you get to do so together. In fact, it can even serve as a distraction from reality for a little bit. Don’t stop attending church when life gets hard. That’s when you need to be there most.

So many times I’ve gone when I didn’t feel like it and then felt the sermon was just for me. My husband and I have talked after church and shared how we were impacted, which can be in different ways. God has used church to encourage and strengthen us when we are going through a struggle.

Show kindness in small ways.

Small acts of kindness are some of my favorites. They can be the most impactful. Buy your spouse their favorite candy bar. Fill up their car with gas so they won’t have to deal with it in the morning. Take their dishes to the sink. Give them a hug at a random time. Send a text in the middle of a workday just to say “I love you and am praying for you.”

One of the most memorable small act of kindness my husband has done for me is leaving a note on our son’s changing table when our son was a newborn. I was having a really hard time, because our baby boy didn’t sleep at night. Our daughter was 3 and needed me during the day. I told my husband about a particularly rough night and how I had a breakdown while he was asleep. That night, I found a note he left for me telling me to wake him up, and he would help any time. (He had a 60-mile commute at the time, so I tried to avoid waking him unless necessary.) He reminded me that I wasn’t in this alone. I felt seen, heard, understood and supported with just the one simple note.

Hard times are going to come regardless. We can choose to go through them together and grow stronger in our relationship as we come out on the other side. Because even in the midst of strife and challenges, we can still have a happy married life. And then will be the difficult times just a bit more bearable.

Couple goals every Christian marriage needs

12 relationship goals to set with your spouse

For a while, I often saw #CoupleGoals on various photos of couples on social media. Usually these were couples being lovey-dovey and usually I was doubtful how authentic they were. But these aren’t the kind of couple goals that we need in Christian marriages. We need to focus on our own relationship and not worry about anyone else’s.

My husband and I started off our marriage on a different path from many other couples from the very beginning. We got married in between my sophomore and junior years of college. Many people were naysayers about us getting married so young. And I understand that. It’s not the right choice for most, but it was the right choice for us. I’ve never regretted becoming a missus at age 20.

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So early on, my husband and I learned to pave our own path with our marriage and relationship. In the 23 years since then, we’ve made our path work, and I love it. We didn’t sit down on our wedding day and come up with set goals. But, before we got married and in all the years since, we have talked about our relationship and our plans. We’ve worked together to envision what the future looks like for us as a couple. That’s what I think truly encompasses couple goals.

Whether you’re about to get married, one year into marriage, 10 years in or 25 years in, it’s never too late to talk about your marriage and what you need. This is the perfect time to set couple goals, starting with some of these ideas.

1. Go on regular date nights.

In the first decade of our marriage, going on regular date nights wasn’t much of a challenge. We didn’t have kids! But, especially since having our oldest 13 years ago, we learned we need to make spending time alone together a couples goal.

I remember when our oldest was a toddler and my husband and I had an evening to ourselves. In our conversation that evening, my husband told me he thought we’d have some work to do to reconnect with each other once the kids were grown and moved out. We decided we needed to be proactive to keep from growing apart during the hectic years of having small children.

We have found it easier to not have a set date night we adhere to, because life is unpredictable at best. Instead, we make use of the time we do have. And we get creative. For example, earlier this week we took our dog to be groomed after dropping the kids off at school and then had a quick breakfast out together alone.

2. Find new ways to connect.

In making dates a priority, we also work to find new ways to connect with one another. We do enjoy date nights of going out to eat and/or to a movie. But, we also want to find new ways to connect with one another. We have gone to paint pottery together in the past. We’ve walked through home stores and dreamed together.

Most recently, we’ve tried out date night boxes. For Christmas 2022, my husband gave me a subscription to a date night box from Crated with Joy. Each box is themed and comes with suggestions for movies, food, games and activities. Our first box, for example, included a gratitude journal for us to each fill out for 14 days about our partner. The boxes have been a great way for us to reconnect and have fun in new ways.

3. Enjoy hobbies together.

If you’d have asked me when we were first married whether my husband and I would find hobbies we’d do together, I probably would have been confused. My biggest hobbies are solo ventures. But, within the first few years of our marriage, I started taking an interest in his hobbies. I love him, and so I wanted to know more about the things he loves.

And that’s how I became a gamer. My husband has enjoyed role-playing games since long before I met him. (Since we met when I was 14 and he was 16, that’s pretty significant!) I never quite understood the draw to them. I decided to combine my hobby of reading with his hobby of role playing by reading a fictional book series based in the Dungeons and Dragons setting. Before I knew it, “The Legend of Drizzt” series became my all-time favorite, and I eased my way into gaming.

Having shared hobbies is an important couple goal because it lets you connect in different ways than usual.

4. Worship together regularly.

As a Christian couple, my husband and I have always felt like God is the third person in our marriage. And so one of our couple goals is to connect with God together. A great way to do that is through worship. A few months after we got married, my husband started a class that took place all day on Sundays. For a year, I went to church alone as a married woman.

When his class ended and we were able to go to church together once again, I appreciated it all the more. I love sitting beside him in church and joining together to worship and grow spiritually. Just this past Sunday, I closed my eyes during our praise songs and was blessed to hear my husband singing on the left of me and my kids singing on the right. My heart was full and I reminded that no matter what is going on, I am so very blessed!

5. Find ways to discuss big topics peacefully.

Communication has to be on any list of couple goals. No matter how well you and your spouse get along, there are hot-button topics that need to be discussed and resolved. I’m talking about the big stuff like finances and parenting.

When we were figuring out finances as a couple, we decided to work on them together, but I’d be the primary person dealing with bill paying. Mostly that’s because I stress a lot less when I know what’s going on! However, that also meant whenever we had a discussion about our finances, especially if money was tight, I’d take it personally. I would feel attacked and assume I was messing up.

We had to work through that. Now, I still can have moments when I start to take it personally, and my husband will pause to remind me (nicely) that I don’t need to. We’re just having a conversation.

Figure out each other’s hot button topics and then learn how to communicate in spite of them. You don’t want to use those against each other, but rather to help each other.

Couple Goal: Figure out each other's hot button topics and then learn how to communicate in spite of them. You don't want to use those against each other, but rather to help each other.

6. Laugh together regularly.

As a married couple, you want to have fun together. Nothing is more indicative of fun than laughter. Make laughter a priority. Set it as a goal. Find ways you can laugh together. My husband gets my sense of humor and makes me laugh more than anyone else in the world. He always has.

Life is hard. Keeping a sense of humor is important. Once you’re in the habit of laughing together regularly, you can even indulge in gallows humor to get your through the hard times. For example, a few years ago, as I was recovery from one of my pelvic surgeries, I was slowly walking laps around our living room to try and get some movement in. It was a struggle. My second time around, my husband started playing the “William Tell Overture.” I was off to the races! He gave me a much needed laugh.

7. Study the Bible together.

Another great couples goal for Christian marriages is to study the Bible together. This has had a few iterations in our decades of marriage. We have done specific couples Bible studies just the two of us. We have family devotion time with our children. And, more recently, we’ve found a small group study through our church we can attend as a couple.

One of the things I love most about studying the Bible with my husband is hearing his insight. He is such a smart man. I’m thankful to hear his perspective on spiritual topics, which is sometimes different from my own. He makes me think, and I’m glad for that. I hope I do the same for him.

8. Parent together.

We approach life as a team. That teamwork mentality has continued into parenting. Before we even had children, we talked about how we wanted to raise them. And since having children, we’ve continued having those discussions. We talk about how we want to discipline, the lessons we want to teach them and how we can parent them better.

We have agreed on many things, while on others we haven’t and have had to work through them to come to a solution. Our goal is to present a united front to our children. We want to be on the same page so they don’t get confused or anxious as a result.

9. Don’t make threats you don’t mean.

When we got married, my husband and I made it a goal to not threaten each other with things we didn’t mean. Sometimes when people are upset, they say things to be mean or hurtful in order to lash out. For example, we decided early on that if either of us talked about divorce, we’d better mean it. Divorce wasn’t a threat to throw around lightly.

Threats are just hurtful to a relationship and have no place in good communication. Make it a goal to not use threats with your spouse.

10. Pray together and for each other.

Prayer is an important part of Christian marriage. My husband and I pray for each other more than we pray together, because that’s what works for us. But both are important. Coming before God jointly is powerful in your relationship with each other and with God.

Praying on your own for each other is powerful as well. I pray daily for my husband as he is dealing with life, work and family. When he is having a difficult time with something, I remind him I’m praying for him and do so. There’s something comforting about knowing someone loves us enough to bring us before God.

11. Speak kindly to and about each other.

Another great couple goal is to strive to use kind words to each other. This goes as far as asking nicely for the other to do a chore that needs doing. If I can speak kindly to strangers I encounter at the grocery store, surely I can speak kindly to the man I’m sharing my life with. Yet, sometimes it can be difficult. So, sometimes I just keep my mouth shut!

We also work to speak positively about each other outside of our relationship. Neither of us are perfect. I know my husband has things he could grouse about when it comes to me. And I have the same about him. But, we don’t focus on those things, and we don’t talk about them with other people. Instead our goal is to speak positively about each other to our children and everyone else.

12. Give each other grace.

You know I have to include this one! I think giving grace to each other should be a couple goal for every marriage. I want so much to have a grace-filled marriage. I want my husband to give me grace when I fall short because I’m not perfect. In return, I need to also give him grace when he falls short. We all have bad days and bad moments. Oftentimes, a little grace can go a long way to avoid arguments and hurt feelings. And it makes us feel more loved and understood in the end.

Free summer date ideas for parents

10 summer date ideas that are free or nearly free

Whenever I hear the word “summertime,” I immediately hear the George Gershwin song in my head: “Summertime and the livin’ is easy.” But I’m guessing Gershwin didn’t have kids. Or he at least wasn’t in charge of them. Summertime is busy and hectic with kids at home. Figuring out summer date ideas in the midst of later bedtimes, activities, making memories and keeping up with everything is difficult.

My husband and I have learned we have to be intentional about ways to connect, especially during summer months. And this summer, with the cost of everything on the rise, coming up with some free summer date ideas is a great plan. You can connect, even without a babysitter or spending money.

Summer date idea #1: Sit outside.

Whether it’s your front porch or back patio, sitting outside together on nice summer evenings after the kids are in bed can be a great summer date. When our children were babies and toddlers, we’d take the baby monitor outside with us. Once they were older, we knew they could come and find us, but made sure to mention that if they don’t see us, then to look on the porch or patio. (It was the back patio at our old house and front porch at our new house.)

Having time to sit together and just reconnect after a busy day of life is nice. Pick a night and plan 30 minutes to an hour of just sitting together and talking.

Summer date idea #2: Find a series to watch together.

While many shows go to repeats during the summer, it’s a great time to binge a series together after the kiddos are in bed or whenever you have time together. You can find all sorts of ideas online or your favorite streaming service. If all else fails, re-watch a series together. Either way, focus on finding something you both like, put down your phones, snuggle up and watch together.

Summer date idea #3: Eat a cold treat together.

If you can find a babysitter or if your kids are old enough to be home alone for an hour, go out for ice cream together. Going out for ice cream is the perfect summer date idea, because ice cream goes great with hot weather. Plus sitting and chatting while eating a sweet, cold treat is a fun way to spend time together. Ice cream (or fro yo) doesn’t cost as much as going out to dinner. For $10 or less, you can eat get a cold treat.

And if you just can’t find a sitter, then plan an ice cream date at home — without your kids. During naptime or after bedtime, sit at your table with homemade ice cream sundaes or other frozen treat.

Summer date idea #4: Go for a walk together, and hold hands.

My husband and I are very much fair weather folks. He doesn’t handle heat well and my skin doesn’t get along well with the sun. But, find one of the nice summer days and go for a walk together. Walk around your neighborhood during your kids’ naptime. Take a stroll along a nature path nearby and let your kids explore (if they are old enough and it’s safe to do so) while you and your husband meander slowly behind them. Even better, hold hands to connect physically and emotionally!

Summer date idea #5: Color together.

If you have kids, chances are really good that you have some art supplies around. Hang out together and color one evening after the kids are in bed. My husband does some really great coloring with markers and shading. I, on the other hand, am much more basic. I use crayons and just color princesses. It doesn’t matter what you’re coloring, though. What matters is that you’re spending time together. Sometimes it can even be easier to talk if you’re both focusing on something else that’s kind of mindless as well.

Summer date idea #6: Tackle a project together.

This sound suspiciously like work, but my husband and I enjoy having time to be productive together and do tasks that have been hanging over our heads. Last weekend, for example, we spent a couple of hours working together on hanging wall decor in our home that we’ve needed to do for three years. Our kids were too worried about getting roped in to work that they both disappeared to their rooms and occupied themselves. My husband and I had a great time working and laughing together.

Just be sure to keep a good attitude about it and be willing to accept some unsolicited advice that could come your way. (I’m not saying that happened to me over the weekend, but I’m also not saying it didn’t!)

Summer date idea #7: Go geocaching together.

Geocaching was super popular a few years ago, but it still around now. If you can get some kid-free time, download a geocache map and head out together to find some geocaches. Take your vehicle or, to make it a completely free date, ride your bikes and get to it.

Summer date idea #8: Play a game together.

My husband and I love to play games together. Plan a game night date night for after the kids go to bed. I’m not at all a night owl and am definitely more of an early bird. So for post-bedtime game nights, I tend to like short and easy games rather than longer ones. Whether it’s a video, board or card game, playing games together can be a great way to spend time together.

Summer date idea #9: Go for a drive together.

This one isn’t completely free because you’d have to spend money on gas, but sometimes a drive on country roads near your house can be a great summer date idea. Roll down the windows if you want and let the wind blow through your hair, listen to music together or just chat and catch up. If your kids are small and will sleep in the car, make naptime mobile one afternoon and hit the road. Otherwise, you would need a babysitter or have kids old enough to be home alone for an hour.

Summer date idea #10: Read a book together.

I’m a huge fan of books. Read a fiction book together or listen to the audio version together. (Don’t overlook your local library as a great and free resource for these!) You can even read on your own and then talk about it like your own book club. Nonfiction books on relationships or any other topic you’re interested in are also great for date nights. Or look for an activity book for couples that the two of you can do together.

What a grace-filled marriage looks like

10 Tips for having a grace-filled marriage

I’m not a graceful person. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I watched in awe as middle schoolers jumped hurdles during a track meet. I trip over my own two feet and can’t imagine I’d fare well trying to run and jump over a hurdle. I have given up hope on being graceful. But I continue to strive to be a grace-filled person. That affects my relationship with myself, my children and my husband. I want to have a grace-filled family life and a grace-filled marriage. I want my husband and me to be an example to our children as we live out God’s grace to each other daily.

After just over 22 years of marriage, my husband and I have learned a lot about what a grace-filled marriage looks like. We are not at all perfect. We’ve had our fair share of mess-ups, and we still do. But, we have grown and changed together through the years. God has worked in our lives and in our relationship to bring us closer together. He has given us grace so freely that we work to give it to each other as well. I’ve found that often the smallest things can make the biggest difference.

1. Ban negative talk.

This doesn’t mean you pretend everything is great when it isn’t. Instead this means, banning any talk that is harmful to your spouse. Name-calling, belittling or angry outbursts aren’t conducive to building a grace-filled marriage. In fact, a grace-filled marriage includes letting go of some of our own selfish desires like revenge and hurt!

Neither my husband nor I are yellers. We haven’t struggled with calling each other names either. But we have struggled with negative talk in other ways. Early on in our marriage, we realized that even if we were with friends or family who were joking about shortcomings of our spouse, it hurt the other for us to join in. In fact, we learned to shut it down nicely and change the subject.

We have also dealt with passive-aggressiveness. We make it a point to say what we mean. For example, if I’m irritated with my husband for not helping with something, instead of making snide comments or slamming kitchen cabinets as I work, I am direct with him.

Negative talk hurts your relationship and each other. It can make you feel bad about yourself or your spouse (or both!). None of that is good for your relationship.

2. Look at each other’s point-of-view.

Sometimes we think about looking at our spouse’s point-of-view when we’re having a disagreement and trying to compromise. But the more we often we look at his or her point-of-view, the more likely we are to have a grace-filled marriage. I’ve learned through the years that the more I can see my husband’s side of things, the fewer hard feelings I have and the less angry I feel. I understand him more than am irritated by him.

For example, my husband and I are very different when our vehicle is low on gas. He doesn’t mind driving until there is only a few miles’ worth left in the tank. I start getting antsy around 1/4 tank of gas. Once the light comes on, I MUST fill up right away! A couple of years ago, this was an issue when I had to borrow my husband’s car. I stopped myself from getting irritated with him as I realized he hadn’t expected me to drive it and the gas light being on wasn’t worrisome to him. He wasn’t intentionally making my life difficult. In other words, I gave him grace for being who he is.

Stopping ourselves and thinking about where our spouses are coming from allows us to have more grace for them.

3. Find ways to connect with each other.

In the busyness of life, it’s easy to miss connecting with our spouses. My husband and I share a home office, and we still don’t get to connect without being intentional. We do different work and are often in our own worlds as we go through the day. Being intentional about connecting with your spouse is important. Find time to talk after the kids go to bed. Schedule a lunch out once a month. Figure out a hobby you can do together. (My husband and I enjoy gaming together!)

Feeling connected to our spouse helps remind us why we love them so much. We end up naturally giving them more grace as a result.

4. Laugh with each other.

Laughing together is a great way to help make sure you have a grace-filled marriage. We bond with other people through laughter. Just having fun together is good for any relationship and makes it easier to feel more like giving grace to each other.

Find ways and reasons to laugh together. We watch funny shows or movies. Sometimes we even laugh ironically together at the craziness of life going on around us. We definitely laugh with our children as well. And, of course, laugh together not at each other in a harmful way.

5. Listen to each other.

In order to understand someone else, we have to listen to them. As the old saying goes, God gave you two ears and only one mouth for a reason. This is true in marriage as well. Listening is a big part of communication, and we all want to have good communication in our marriages.

We can’t possible understand where our spouse is coming from or how they’re feeling without listening to what they are saying. Listening to your husband makes it easier to give him grace when he is cranky after a really bad day at work. Or listening to your wife can help you give her grace when she snaps at you after being up half the night with the kids.

Of course we should always treat our spouses well, but we are also all human and sometimes we need grace. In order to give that grace to our spouses, we must listen to what they tell us.

6. Give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Another key to having a grace-filled marriage is to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. For example, when they do something that causes extra work on you, don’t assume they’ve done it on purpose. Making that attitude shift really is helpful. It can move you from thinking your spouse left the glob of toothpaste in the sink because he doesn’t care how hard you have to work to clean it to realizing he was in a hurry and just didn’t see it himself.

In a healthy marriage, you do well to give each other the benefit of the doubt and give grace for shortcomings. Chances are super high your spouse isn’t really trying to irk you or make your life more difficult!

7. Connect with God together and individually.

From the beginning of our relationship, back when my husband and I were very young high school sweethearts, we have been honest about our faith and relationship with God. In fact, it’s something that drew the two of us together even then.

Now, so many years later, our faith is still something that draws us together. Having time with God together is important. That can look different for different couples, but find a way to connect with God together. Maybe you pray together at bedtime or maybe you read a devotion book together. Perhaps you simply go to church together or participate in a small group together.

You also need your own time with God to connect with Him. I get strength outside of myself to give my husband grace from God. Each morning I pray to be the wife my husband needs that day. I want to see my husband like God sees him as much as possible. Because God made this really awesome guy whose insights on faith and God often blow me away. When I see him in that light, it makes giving him grace all that much easier and leads to a more grace-filled marriage.

8. Talk about problems instead of ignoring them.

Confronting someone goes against my nature. If you go by Myers-Briggs personality types, I’m an INFJ, and none of us like confrontation. I don’t like conflict and am inclined to just ignore it. But I’ve learned when I try ignoring a problem, it not only doesn’t go away but usually gets bigger and bigger. This is true in my marriage as well.

While we don’t want or need to nitpick our spouses’ every behavior, we do need to talk with them when there’s an issue to resolve. When problems are ignored and “shoved under the rug,” then they grow and fester. We end up taking those feelings out on our spouses in other ways like getting short with them and ending up with quite the opposite of a grace-filled marriage.

9. Ask your spouse for help.

I’m a happier person and wife who is more inclined to give grace to her family when she’s not overworked and exhausted. My husband is the same way. So sometimes that means we ask each other for help. It really is OK to let go and ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t mean you are somehow failing. It just means you’re human!

If you need another reason to ask for help, then ask for help because it will help you have a more grace-filled marriage! And don’t be afraid to kindly ask for help with things you think your spouse ought to know need done anyway. Go back to tip number 6 and recognize that maybe your spouse truly didn’t notice the sink full of dishes, the dryer of clothes to be folded or the bathroom trashcan overflowing. Instead of doing all the tasks in a huff, ask for help.

10. Be each other’s biggest support.

One of the most harmful things in a marriage is dwelling on the negative attributes of your spouse. Once you start doing that and grousing in your head and/or to others about them constantly, then you start seeing only the negative in your spouse. It can be hard to act gracefully toward them.

Instead, focus on their positive attributes and be their biggest cheerleader. I don’t think there’s anything with technology my husband can’t do or figure out. He’s so incredibly great at it. He doesn’t think there are any words I don’t know how to spell. When I’m having a moment of being hard on myself — something I excel at — he cheers me on and reminds me of the things I’m good at and doing right.

Being focused on the positive attributes of your spouse allows a lot more room for you to give them grace. You won’t be thinking about all the ways they come up short, but instead you’ll be thinking about all the things they’re awesome at. In turn, that will make it even easier to give them grace during a difficult moment.

Real marriage advice: Stop casting blame

How casting blame damages your relationship and you may not even realize you’re doing it!

I wrote these words about casting blame about a decade ago. While I’m not dealing with babies any more, I most definitely needed this reminder for myself. I’ve gotten better about it, but lately I’ve been struggling a bit again with feeling like I work harder than everyone else in my family. I start having a pity party, casting blame and being miserable.

But, I have it worse than you. No, I have it worse than you. Seriously, though, I have it worse than you. We all know people who are experts at casting blame. No matter what you say, they always have it worse. It’s a comparison game.  It can drive you batty. 

I have a person in my life who is an overachiever at this game. The problem is what she is comparing to whatever I’m saying isn’t even remotely close to being the same thing. It gets very frustrating to say the least. Most times I just laugh it off knowing that’s just her. Other times I want to pull my hair out.

I’m not sure why there is a competition over who’s life is the worst some times, but I’ve seen it so many times and it so many ways. Of course, I’m perfect and have never engaged in such a competition. Yeah, right. I’d love for that to be true. I’ve most definitely had my moments. It’s super easy when things get hard to look around and moan and groan about how easy everyone else has it. And if they only knew how hard things are for me. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I’ve so been there done that.

The blame game as a new parent

As a new parent, I really struggled with that. The only problem was that I was competing with my husband more than anyone else. I was frustrated that he didn’t know how hard I had it. I had a newborn. I was up with her throughout the night. I had mastitis. I had to stay up past her and pump. I had another bladder infection. I had to get up before her and pump. I had to try to squeeze in work at some point. I had to change diapers. I had to wash pump parts. I had to wash bottles. I had so much to do. It was so hard on me. Me, me, me! (I’m sure hormones were in this mix somewhere, too.)

What I eventually realized is — even though I wanted to smack him upside the head when I’d fall back into bed in the middle of the night because he was sleeping — he had it hard, too. He was waking up throughout the night, driving three hours to work and back each day, figuring out how to be productive while there and then coming home and taking over baby duty for a few hours so I could snooze. And I never even thought to offer the poor man dinner. He had his own struggles and challenges.

How to stop casting blame

I still have issues with this from time to time. But, I’m learning to remind myself when I do to think of things I appreciate about my husband and what he’s dealing with. Instead of being jealous of the guaranteed three hours of alone, quiet time he gets during his daily commute, I think about the crazy traffic he has to deal with. And how tired I know he is after long days. It seems so less glorious then.

At the same time, he’s got to appreciate me and help me for me to be OK doing that. It’s a give-and-take. While I thought after five years of dating and 12-1/2 years of marriage that we have all the kinks worked out, I’m learning that we don’t. There are always new kinks. They especially spring up with parenthood. We are learning some new ways to communicate. 

While before we had leisure time to talk without interruption, we now have limited time to talk without interruption and added stress of taking care of a little person on top of that. Our communication has sped up and gotten clearer. I’ve never been a person to play games or beat around the bush, but I do have times where I tend to lean to passive aggressiveness. And nothing pushes my husband’s buttons more than passive aggressiveness.

Don’t be a martyr

I’m remembering that I don’t have to be a martyr. (Poor Stacey. Look at how hard she has it.) When he’s taking the kiddo’s weekend nap time to play a video game and I’m taking the same time to fold laundry, straighten up the dining room and start on dinner, I have a couple of options. I can ask him to help. Or I can do it on my own and be thankful he’s getting a chance to relax after a hard week, especially when I might remember how he snuggled and played with the kiddo just a couple of hours earlier so I could take a long shower or read a magazine. It’s much better than shooting him glares he’ll never notice while folding laundry or slamming kitchen cabinets to make a point he won’t notice while making dinner. 

The problem is if I’m feeling like I need help and not asking for it (and to my husband’s major credit, when I ask, he almost always complies without a fuss) then later in that day, I usually get incredibly angry at him. And it blows into this whole big thing and I get wrapped up in how much I have to do and how hard I have it that it becomes so much a bigger issue than it should have been. 

It goes back to communication. Heck, I have two degrees in communication (journalism), so you’d think I would never struggle with it. And it also goes back to being so focused on myself and how hard I have in in comparison that I don’t even see his side of things. Of course he can’t read my mind.

Casting blame keeps our focus inward

In the end, many problems in life and many disagreements really come down to who has it worse. In our human nature we get into that comparison game. I think I have it worse than my husband when I’m doing household chores and he’s playing a video game. One mom thinks she has it worse than another because her kids are younger. Or whatever. The thing is somebody does always have it worse than somebody else. Life works that way. 

We aren’t all dealt the same hand at the same time. But, we are all dealt struggles. Unless you know someone’s story — and really KNOW their story — you don’t know how hard their life is. You think they have it easy. You think they are better off than you. But, they’re dealing with their own worries, doubts and fears. They’ve got their own stuff going on.

The best thing we can all do is get outside of ourselves and listen — really listen — to what those around us are saying. What are our spouses dealing with right now that is weighing on them more than we had thought? What are our friends going through that is breaking their heart when they are home alone? It’s not a comparison game. It’s a fight and struggle to get through this life. And we’re not the only ones in the fray. Everybody is backed into a corner in some way throughout their week.

My challenge to myself and to you is to stop our comparisons when they creep in and start looking around us. Start looking outside of our own struggles and realizing the people we’re dealing with (who may be driving us insane) are struggling, too. Maybe they deserve to be cut some slack. Maybe they don’t. Or maybe they really just need someone to listen and validate what they’re dealing with. And maybe that can be us.

It’s not about who has the most battle scars. It’s about who helped the most soldiers survive the battle.

Marriage advice: keep a sense of a humor

Laughter is important for a happy marriage

For 22 years now, I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart. We are together more than we are apart, especially since we both work from home and share a home office. In fact, I’m typing this blog post at my desk while he’s at his desk a few feet away working on his computer. (Don’t ask me to explain what he’s doing, because I don’t understand most of his work as an IT security consultant!) We’ve learned lots of things through our couple of decades being hitched and we’ve got all sorts of marriage advice to dole out.

In fact, for this post, I asked my husband for some of his marriage advice or what we do well in our relationship. He gave me a few ideas like communicating well or working from home together, which I’ve written about. And then he mentioned a sense of humor. I’ve not talked about that so much, and I think I’ve been failing you guys in that regard. A sense of humor is a big part of a happy marriage.

You don’t take yourselves too seriously.

I’m human. My husband’s human. Neither of us are perfect. We mess up and make mistakes. Laughing about some of these mistakes keeps us from taking the mess ups too seriously. Obviously, some things aren’t funny no matter what. But other things really are.

Probably one of the things we laugh about most is miscommunication. When it comes to marriage advice, you must address miscommunication, because it happens!

For example, a couple of weeks ago, my husband was telling me about an article he read. Some homeowners put a rude note on their door about Halloween. My husband commented that people replied saying the homeowners might as well hang their own TP.

Now, typed out, you know that “TP” stands for “toilet paper.” Spoken aloud, however, as we were in the midst of folding towels and telling the kids to get ready for bed, my mind went to “teepee.” I didn’t get the joke. I thought maybe if those people were skipping Halloween, they were going straight to Thanksgiving and putting up a teepee to honor the Native Americans. But that didn’t really make sense. And who hangs a teepee anyway?

My husband noted my confusion. In just a few words, we cleared up my mistake and then laughed so hard I had tears rolling down my cheeks about my error.

While this was a small miscommunication of basically no consequence on our marriage, it is just one example of times we learn to laugh together at ourselves. Had my husband rudely laughed at me and declared I was stupid, then I wouldn’t have found it funny at all. But we’ve both learned to laugh at ourselves over small mistakes like this one. And even better, we can laugh at them together. You know the saying, “I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you.” That applies tenfold in a marriage. It ought to be found in marriage advice books.

There have also been times that I haven’t found humor in my mistakes, and my husband has helped me see that humor – in a kind and gentle way. It helps me not take myself too seriously. Life is too short for that!

A sense of humor gives you perspective.

Sometimes little stuff can seem like big stuff, but keeping a sense of humor about it keeps things in perspective. To keep your marriage happy, you’ve got to have that perspective when things go sideways.

My husband and I started our marriage learning the importance of a sense of humor. We were so excited to be married and going on a honeymoon together that we drove to our destination without thinking that cars need gas. Our car had a full tank when we left, and neither of us paid any mind to the gas gauge as we went.

We puttered into the visitor’s center just before our destination on gas fumes. It was a moment that could have been rife with tension. Instead, we figured out how to get to a gas station, fill up the car and keep going. Pretty quickly, we laughed at ourselves for not having thought to get gas. In the grand scheme of life, that extra half hour we spent dealing with a car with no gas was a teeny, tiny blip. It wasn’t worth being mad at each other about. And it certainly gave us a memorable moment!

Sometimes in the small moments that can seem irritating, we need to take a minute to regroup and even laugh. If nothing earth-shattering is going on, is it really worth arguing about? Why not laugh instead of snap?

Laughter is good for the soul.

Research shows laughter is good for your health. I know from experience that laughter is good for the soul, and that goes for the soul of your marriage as well. Sometimes you need that laughter more than others. During those times, the best marriage advice is to find ways to laugh together.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, my husband was fresh out of surgery for a rotator cuff repair. In fact, the day after my husband’s surgery, my children’s school announced the switch to virtual learning. I was overwhelmed to think of managing his care and their school. It was stressful.

While it got a bit easier as time went by and he was able to do more for himself, it was still a lot to deal with – especially considering we were also dealing with the stress and anxiety of a global pandemic. Though we couldn’t change the circumstances, we could take time to laugh together. So, we watched stand-up comedy together many evenings before bed and laughed.

We found “Dry Bar Comedy,” which is stand-up comedy with clean humor, and we’d laugh together before going to bed. It was a stress reliever we needed individually, but also as a couple. Health issues alone are a challenge to a marriage. Any time one of you has to be the caretaker, it’s a different dynamic. Laughing together helped us feel normal and relieved stress. It was a win all around.

Laughing together brings you closer.

You might have heard the person you look at first when you’re laughing is who you like the most. The could be true, but research has shown for sure that laughing together with someone else makes you feel closer to that person. Seriously. Truthfully, for this marriage advice, I didn’t know there was scientific evidence to back it up until I was researching for this blog post after I wrote this subheading. But I knew it to be true from my relationship with my husband.

We do a variety of things that make me feel closer to him and laughing together is one of them. At any given time, we are juggling various responsibilities and stressors. Life can bog us down, but when we laugh together even in the midst of challenging times, I feel closer to him. It doesn’t even have to be humor related to what we’re dealing with (though we’ve done that, too). It just is spending time together and realizing that life can get hard and crazy but together we can still have fun.

And nobody makes me laugh or truly understands my humor like my husband does. The man knows good puns and dad jokes crack me up. He knows that I laugh way too much at talking animal videos. Sometimes we need laughter to break tension, relieve stress and remind us that we are connected.

You create inside jokes.

Nothing feels worse than being left out of an inside joke with other people. But nothing feels better than being part of an inside joke with someone else. While it’s fun to smile or laugh together at an inside joke, it works well for your marriage because it makes you feel connected. It reminds you that you have a whole history with this person — in a good way.

My husband and I have a few inside jokes that have happened through the years. They evolve naturally. One of perhaps the oddest ones happened years ago before we even had children (and our oldest is 12!). We were walking into Target behind a couple of high schoolers. We overheard part of their conversation that went like this:

Teen 1: I wish I was like Nellie.

Teen 2: I wish I was Nellie.

(And then here comes the kicker.)

Teen 1: I wish my name was Nellie.

I’d guess you aren’t riotously laughing at that exchange right now, but the seriousness of their discussion and that the ultimate wish was to just have a different name made us laugh. We have brought that up at random times. That’s how the best inside jokes are. They aren’t so funny to someone who wasn’t there at the time, but they are to you.

In your marriage, it’s the small stuff like this that brings you closer together, makes you feel good and helps you remember why you love this person.

Our family tent camping fails

Camping and life lessons learned from tent camping failures

I’m a relatively simple person. I enjoy the small things in life and quiet moments. I love nature and feel at peace in the solitude of being in the mountains or on a lake. And so I feel like tent camping should be a great activity for me. I mean, of course, I’m not all that outdoorsy and am kind of allergic to the sun (I get hives). I also can’t sleep on the actual ground because my fibromyalgia-ridden body would complete revolt. But otherwise, this camping thing should be perfect for me, right?!

In theory, tent camping is completely up my alley. It’s something I’d enjoy and be happy with. I don’t even mind too much getting dirty. I’m the kind of girl who baits her own hook when fishing with worms. (I’m also the kind of girl who goes on said fishing trip with a full face of makeup!)

But, alas. Tent camping seems to be something I just don’t have a knack for. Or maybe it’s just something that I have bad luck with. Each time we go tent camping, I go with a positive attitude that this time will be different. And, other than two overnights in a tent at a theme park (which doesn’t completely qualify as camping), I have been wrong.

Tent camping fail number one

My husband and I took our first camping trip just the two of us a few years before we had kids. We headed about three hours away. We left most of our belongings in the hatchback of our vehicle because the tent wasn’t huge. It worked just fine.

We camped in an area surrounded by sand dunes and lakes. We rented a dune buggy and had fun. Then we decided to rent a jet ski. While I grew up nearly constantly being in the water, my husband didn’t. Without thinking, he put the car keys in the pocket of his athletic shorts. He wasn’t planning to do much swimming.

But the jet ski tipped over on a wave in the huge lake and into the water we went. Back on shore after our rental ended, we realized my husband didn’t have the keys. Yep. They floated out of his pocket and were somewhere in the lake. We couldn’t get into our car, back to our campground or to any of our dry clothes. We were stuck. Doh!

My parents came to our rescue and headed to us with the spare set of keys from our house. They got an unexpected trip and rescued us. I’m not sure this fail was from tent camping or just our crummy luck, but it was my first experience as an adult with camping. It is certainly an unforgettable one!

Tent camping fail number two

Fast forward about eight years and our family had grown. We bought a larger tent on sale a couple of years previously and decided our kids were old enough to try some tent camping for a night. They were 3 and 6. We loaded up the car. Our first stop was to see Thomas the Train and then camp. But, the town where we planned to camp was inundated with rain with more forecasted. My husband suggested we look somewhere without rain and change our plans. So, we did so. We drove in the opposite direction and found a campground.

The campground was a bit soggy, but no rain was predicted for a couple of days. We didn’t get to roast marshmallows or anything by the time we got there, but we did get settled in for the night. I woke up in the middle of the night to hear the pitter-patter of raindrops on the tent roof. I thought it was relaxing. When I woke up cold soon thereafter cold, I even felt wet. As I woke up even more I realized it wasn’t a brain trick; I was wet. It was the middle of the night and the roof of our tent was leaking horribly.

We all woke up, cold and wet. I settled the kids in the car then helped my my husband tear down our tent in the rain and mud. We were soaked through and covered in mud. In our frustration, we threw the tent in the dumpster, assuming the rain protection was faulty.

Because all the nearby hotels were inexplicably booked, my husband drove us three hours home. I tried to keep the kids happy since they were tired.

When we got home and reasonably clean, we fell asleep — after remembering that we had packed ponchos in case we needed them. Doh!

Successful camping

Our next camping experiences were about two years after the rain leak fail. The kids wanted to go to a theme park nearby to ride roller coasters. I discovered the theme park offered an in-park camp night once a summer. It was a great deal, and we decided to go for it. We did that camping trip two years in a row.

I’m not so sure it was actually so much camping as it was sleeping in our (now new, bigger and easier to assemble) tent on a manicured law. But we liked it and made good memories. So, I’m calling it successful camping!

Tent camping fail number three

And that brings us to the most recent tent camping failure that happened just a few weeks ago. My kids keep wanting to go camping. As summer break wound down, we had a lapse in the heat and headed to a state park for two nights of tent camping. Our kids are now older (8 and 11). We were now wiser. This would be the camping trip of our dreams. Plus, the state park offered horseback riding — something both kids love right now!

The first night went swimmingly. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. We played some games and had a good time. It rained overnight, and we didn’t get wet at all. The next morning we were raring to go and hit up the horseback riding. After lunch and a couple of excursions, we headed to our camp site to rest. Backing into our parking spot, we hit a tree stump that pulled about 1/3 of the front bumper loose.

It wasn’t a great way to start our downtime that afternoon. With some ingenuity and a carabiner clip, my husband got the bumper to stay in place until we got home the following day and he could repair it.

We all had a rest after that and then decided we’d go out for dinner. The sky was a beautiful blue. The weather forecast said 0% chance for rain. We talked about it and decided leaving our tent windows open was a good plan to keep the tent cool while we ate our pizza in town.

As we sat down for dinner, the wind dramatically kicked up. The sky grew dark. The rain poured down for about 10 minutes. We hoped the trees shielded our tent. We speculated that maybe it didn’t even rain at the campground, which was about five miles away from town.

But, we were wrong. We arrived back to camp to find our tent wasn’t in standing water, but it was wet. Our bedding, chairs and clean clothes were all wet. We discussed options and decided heading home a night early was the best choice. We tracked mud through the tent as we packed up to leave. In the end, we tied the wet, muddy tent on the roof of our vehicle. On the way home we frequently checked to make sure the bumper and tent were still attached.

The next day, we spent a few hours (quite literally) cleaning mud off of things. We hosed down the tent a couple of times and used the wet vac. My husband repaired the bumper. The kiddos sprayed down the chairs. We took a brush and hose to our shoes. Exhausted, we got everything put away and ended our camping adventure.

What we taught our children

While our oldest daughter remembers the second tent camping fail, our son doesn’t remember it quite as well. But now at 11 and 8, they certainly remember the most recent fail. We had discussions while we were unexpectedly packing up our campsite and the following day as we cleaned.

We told our children feeling disappointed by cutting our trip short was normal. In fact, we were disappointed, too. I mentioned that having had very minimal positive tent camping experiences, I felt all the more determined to go tent camping again and not let it defeat me. (Though I had a moment the day of scrubbing mud from the tent where I was fine to let camping be the victor!)

We also talked about working together. I was incredibly impressed with my children. They helped us pack everything up at the campsite and also clean everything up when we were home the following day. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but we determined this crummy thing happened and we got to choose how we reacted to it. Both packing up and dealing with the disappointment were much easier working together.

My husband and I each felt some responsibility for the soggy tent. We decided to take the risk and leave the windows open. But we didn’t blame each other. We explained to the kids that we had certainly learned a lesson. (Never again will we leave tent windows open while we’re away from the campsite!) And that’s what failure is about. We learn lessons, take them with us for the next time and move on. I pointed out to them that everyone messes up, and we don’t have to get really angry at ourselves when it happens. It’s an important lesson to learn.

In the end, our tent camping fails have given us memories at the least. And they’ve allowed us to teach our children how to react when life goes sideways. These weren’t the first time we’ve taught them that lesson, and they won’t be the last. I want my kids to be prepared for times life goes unexpectedly, because it surely will.

Now we just have to gather the courage to take on tent camping again with our lessons learned. One of these days, we will prevail in tent camping. At least I’m pretty sure we will!

5 Ideas for a great Father’s Day celebration

How to give him a meaningful Father’s Day celebration

Coming up with ideas for a Father’s Day celebration can be tricky, to say the least. If the men in your life are similar to the ones in mine, they are low-maintenance guys who will tell you they don’t care what they do for Father’s Day. They aren’t rolling in suggestions of what a perfect and meaningful Father’s Day celebration would be.

So, I’ve been doing some thinking and a bit of chatting with my own husband to come up with ideas I think most dads would really love for celebrating Father’s Day. I looked at ideas across the internet and found most of them weren’t actually created with dads in mind. Maybe some dads would love to do a family workout, scavenger hunt or puzzle to celebrate Father’s Day, but I don’t think the guys in my life would.

Instead, I’ve got some low-key and meaningful ideas for a Father’s Day celebration, because more than anything we want the dads in our lives to know how much we appreciate them and love them.

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1. Let him rest.

Last Mother’s Day, I shared some no and low-cost gift ideas for moms. At the very top of the list was giving her the gift of a nap. I have to start in the same place with dads. Parenting (and adulthood in general) is exhausting. Especially dads who are living with young kiddos at home could use some rest. While I love a good nap, my husband loves sleeping in.

Whatever rest looks like for your guy, let him enjoy some rest and downtime on Father’s Day. Maybe it doesn’t mean sleeping in or napping. Maybe he wants to watch a show in peace or read a book. Let him have some downtime.

2. Keep it low-key.

So, I will say that maybe not all guys would love low-key Father’s Day celebrations, but the ones I know really would. In the past, I’ve tried asking my husband for ideas of what he wants to do. Honestly, I think it just adds more pressure to him. Of course he wants to be recognized and appreciated for all he does, but he also doesn’t want a big to-do that means he has to act really excited about something he really doesn’t care so much about.

You can ask him if he has anything he wants to do, but keep it low pressure. If he says he doesn’t have anything he wants to do, then let him be. Use some of the ideas on this list. Dads are under so much pressure in taking care of their families and managing work and everything else that the last thing we want to do on a day that’s all about them is add more pressure!

3. Do his favorite activity.

Think about things your husband likes to do and figure out a way to make that happen as a family. For example, if he loves golf, plan a trip to play mini golf or at a driving range. If he loves watching movies, plan an afternoon movie you can all watch together with his favorite snacks. Maybe your guy likes playing games. Pick a game your whole family can play and make memories.

The other thing I know about dads is that it’s often hard for them to find time for their hobbies or things they enjoy in the midst of all they have going on. Taking the time to plan something you know he’ll enjoy will make his Father’s Day celebration all that much better. Getting to do that activity with his family is great, because dads like making good memories and having fun with their kiddos. Father’s Day is a great time to be intentional about making that happen in a way your guy will love.

The bonus we’ve found is that anything my husband or I are into or excited about, our kids are also at least interested in it as well. They want to be involved in things we’re interested in or excited about.

4. Eat his favorite food.

Whether it’s from a restaurant or from your kitchen, your guy’s favorite food should be on the menu for his Father’s Day celebration. My husband loves the bacon ranch cheese bread I make. I don’t make it all that often, so it’s definitely a treat for him. Even if it’s a dish you make all the time, if he loves it then Father’s Day is a great time to make it. Or take him out to eat at a restaurant he loves or a restaurant he chooses.

While my love language is food, my husband’s isn’t so much. But still knowing you’ve made the effort to have food he enjoys will make him happy.

5. Give thoughtful gifts.

You can find all sorts of gift ideas for Father’s Day, but the gifts that mean the most are the ones with the most thought behind them. Just like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is one of those holidays where it really is the thought that counts. Dads want to know they’re appreciated. They want some acknowledgement that their family sees and appreciates their hard work.

When I stop to truly think about what all our husband does for our family, I am overwhelmed and humbled. He makes sacrifices the kids aren’t even aware of. He is a steady, calm presence that makes us all feel secure. My husband can make the kids and me laugh like nobody else. The list goes on and on. Father’s Day is the perfect time to let him know you see what he’s doing and you appreciate it.

Go for a card (homemade or store bought) that you write in. Have the kiddos draw pictures or write what they love about dad. Buy him a gift you know he wouldn’t get for himself. Give him a photo of the kids (or him with the kids!) that he can put on his desk. Heck, you can even give him a cheesy mug or t-shirt proclaiming how great he is along with a nice card. He’ll enjoy being appreciated. We all need that acknowledgement and dads are certainly no different!