Category: Mar/Apr 2012

Making Your Home More Romantic

dining2All homes should have a touch of romance. This doesn’t mean that your home should be full of pink and lace, but that it should have small, personal touches that make a big impact.

Pay Attention to Your Walls
Walls have a lot of options for romantic embellishments. Pick colors for the wall that are soft or passionate, depending on what mood you want the room to reflect. Hang pictures of you and your spouse on old dates, at your wedding, or of places you’ve gone together. You can also decorate the walls with mirrors or candle wall-mounts to set a more romantic mood.

Set the Lights
That one center light in the ceiling isn’t setting the mood in any shape or form. Add extra lighting that does, such as candles and/or 3-way lamps. If you can install dimmers in your house, do so. You can even try using different colored light bulbs, such as red or black. Don’t neglect your outside lighting either. Try string lights or well-placed solar lamps for an intimate glow.

Give Your Windows a Little Treatment
Curtains can really set the mood in the room. Do you have light, silky curtains… or a blanket hanging over a rod? Invest in some more romantic curtains for your windows, like a sheer or satin fabric. If you have little windows with shelves, think about putting romantic trinkets in them such as souvenirs from your dates together.

Take Distracting Electronics Out of the Bedroom
The bedroom is about intimacy and escape from the outside world, but most people let the outside world seep into their bedrooms by putting a computer or television in it. Take them out! These things take away from intimacy much more than they contribute. As relaxing as cuddling and watching a movie together is, you can do that in another room. Computers aren’t helpful at all – they distract you from your spouse. Make sure your bedroom is an oasis, not an office or a living room.

Keep Things Organized and Clean
A dirty room is stressful, not romantic. Arrange your rooms in such a way that they are easy to organize and clean in a matter of minutes. Try cubbyholes, cabinets, or a large junk drawer to hide away all that random junk you can clean out on a later day. Buy decorations and furniture that are low-maintenance and easy to clean and repair.

Put a White Board in the Kitchen
A white board has many practical uses, but it also has some great romantic ones as well. Leave romantic notes on your white board for your spouse to see in the morning, notes of appreciation and romance. You can even create your own code and leave secret messages on the board that no one else can decipher!

Worthless Requirements

bluebookIn my bookshelf, I have a very beautiful edition of a classic book. It is hardback, with a blue and gold mosaic design on the front. The inside looks just as pretty – a clean font, great white space, and little blue designs on each page.

But the stories in them? They’re gross. They’re gruesome. Nothing in me really wants to read this book, but there’s something about its pretty cover and clean pages that keeps me from ridding myself of it completely.

How often do we hold onto things because they meets useless requirements? Think about my book: is it really important to have a pretty cover and a nice font when the core of it is so unappealing?

We do this with relationships too. We hold onto the person who has an awesome job, or who has a great body, or who has a great group of friends, but who doesn’t have the makings of a reliable spouse. We end up building our relationships on incredibly weak foundations, and our lives and marriages fall through the cracks.

I also believe we can be guilty of holding onto past relationships for the same reasons. We can refuse to move on because the person we remember was highly skilled, fun to be around, or overwhelmingly romantic, but the we fail to remember that they were disloyal, disrespectful, or self-serving.

Are you overlooking the core of a past or present relationship due to its fulfillment of worthless requirements?

Take a look at your relationships – past and present. List why you find (or found) yourself attracted to this person, then identify whether or not this is actually important to the foundation of a marital relationship. Here are a few quick examples of what is important and what isn’t:

Important:
A heart for Christ
A loyal personality
Respect for others
A sense of responsibility
Maturity
Emotionally intimate

Not Important:
A great job
An awesome hobby
A great group of friends
A large bank account
Impressive skills

In being honest with myself, I can say that I have no real reason to keep the pretty blue and gold book sitting in my bookshelf. And if some of us were honest with ourselves, we would admit that the romantic relationships we once had or the ones we are pursuing now are simply pretty things that really profit us nothing. They simply meet a bunch of useless requirements that cheats us out of the solid, deep relationship that belongs in a life-long commitment.

Settlers

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“In that day so few men will be left that seven women will fight for each man, saying, “Let us all marry you! We will provide our own food and clothing. Only let us take your name so we won’t be mocked as old maids.” –Isaiah 4:1

…Desperate much?

It’s amazing what we compromise in order to not feel alone. We crave more than anything to feel wanted and love, so when it comes to dating we lower our standards, we negotiate, and we forget the foundational things that are incredibly important to a relationship. Everything becomes negotiable.

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Stages of Heartbreak

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I remember taking a lot of long walks down very quiet streets. I remember my eyes being blurred by so many tears that I couldn’t see where I was going. And it didn’t matter where I was going, because no matter where I was, I couldn’t escape my anguish.

Breakups are kind of like colds: so common an occurrence that rarely does anyone go past a sympathetic “aww, that’s too bad.” when they hear of someone having one. But just like colds, breakups are more miserable than they sound. The pain of heartbreak doesn’t feel common. In fact, I’m convinced that the most horrible feeling in the world is to love someone and not have them love you in return. (And I think God agrees with me.)

I’ve had my heart crushed a few times, and each time I went through the same cycles: grief, depression, and anger, followed by an intense struggle against bitterness and resentment. When I spoke to a pastor of my distress, he assured me that my cycle of emotions was normal. “Normal” was not the word I wanted to hear. I didn’t want to hear that everyone went through my same emotional cycles I was going through, because I thought my pain was so much more unique than anyone else’s.

Looking back, I realize that it wasn’t. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t beyond healing like I had originally thought. And after some observation, I found out that my emotional cycles were, in fact, quite common. Everyone seems to – at one point or another – go through certain waves of emotion that come with heartbreak.

Part 1: Grief and Depression

Anyone suffering from heartbreak understands that grief follows you, regardless of your location. Everything reminds you of that person, even the really obscure things like salads or bicycle tires. It seems that everywhere you turn there’s a memory weighing you down and reminding you of how happy you used to be.

This stage of heartbreak is probably the most paralyzing. It comes with a lot of “if I had” and “only if” statements that can keep a person awake at night. It also comes with a period of over-analysis; analysis of you, them, your relationship, and sometimes even third parties. This period involves a lot of thinking, daydreaming, and crying (or however you find yourself grieving.)

I have found that some people try to skip this step. Some try to distract their grief with activities, projects, or work. I had a friend once tell me the day after he broke up with his girlfriend, “As long as I don’t think about it, I’ll be okay.” But the truth is, people need to grieve. It does no good to reject or suppress pain. It will resurface. Time can only heal wounds if those wounds are treated to heal in time. Otherwise, those wounds only becomes a deeper issue to be resolved later. Wounds that go unhealthy can turn into something incredibly unhealthy such as verbal or physical abuse or maybe even addiction. And with grief comes something that can be equally unhealthy: anger.

Part 2: Anger

I remember during my anger phases that my statements of “if I had” turned into “if he was only.” Suddenly I became the greatest critic to character, thinking myself much less to blame than anyone else. If he had been a decent person, if he was mature and respectful, if he had known what a fantastic person I was, I wouldn’t have gotten my heart broken.

Anger is tricky. When I was faced with this cycle, I wanted to either to slander the guy or punch him in the face. I wanted him to feel as humiliated and rejected as I did. I didn’t want him to be the one to have the power my emotions, and anger gave me a false sense of power.

I remember slipping out a few slandering statements during this time. I never felt the power I thought I would feel. I just felt more empty, and I came to realize that it never made that person look bad, it just made me look bitter.

My habits of taking long walks, screaming into my pillow, and writing horrible letters that I never sent took the edge off. After months of confronting anger on a daily basis, I realized that anger didn’t give me power, it was something that held power over me. If I really wanted control, I’d have to let go of my anger, because the pieces of anger I didn’t deal with would quickly turn into bitterness.

Part 3: Bitterness and Resentment

Bitterness and resentment sometimes camouflages itself within me when I try to find some way to protect myself emotionally. It’s interesting how resentment can take many shapes: it can either be dwelling on a certain event, it can be directed towards a single person, or it can spread into groups of people. My thoughts went from, “That guy had some commitment issues” to “Men have no intentions of commitment.”

My bitterness never truly did what I wanted it to. I wanted to use it as a way to protect my heart from further damage. But bitterness didn’t protect me, it only repelled people. It numbed every pleasurable emotion and enhanced every unpleasant emotion. It didn’t protect my heart – it slowly poisoned it.

The roots of bitterness and resentment can be found with digging. No one likes the digging, but it’s necessary to pull out the root so that the bitterness doesn’t grow back. A lot of bitterness can be the cause of unforgiveness, anger, or grief. It’s best to deal with it quickly. Bitterness and resentment is more like shackles than a cement wall: it confines you more than it protects you.

The Path to Healing

Different days may need different treatments, but a few strategies will help aching hearts caught in these typical cycles.

Journal
Keeping a journal is sometimes pushed aside because it is seen as something love-struck teenagers do, but in reality, it’s a really helpful tool in capturing your thoughts. Thoughts and feelings are easier to deal with once they are tangible. Your journal should involve everything you’re thinking, feeling, and remembering. In following your thoughts on paper, you can find the root issue that needs to be dealt with.

Get a Support Group
Try to insert yourself into a church group or recovery group, or somewhere else where you find yourself in a network of people who have gone through something. Avoid thinking of your buddies as a “support group.” Your peers can feed your anger, resentment, and bitterness instead of encouraging you to forgive and move forward. A counselor or pastor is also a good idea because they’re trained in the area of pain and heartache. In emergency emotional situations, you can talk to online coaches, at sites such as The Hopeline or Air1.

Serve
A lot of the time, people tend to spoil themselves after a breakup. Pedicures and new electronic devices may be fun for a moment, but they don’t cure the emptiness. Serving others is actually a better use of time. Volunteering or helping community organizations will give you a new perspective on your own life. It will also keep you busy enough to avoid those tempting moments of wallowing in self-pity.

Pray
I think God spoke to me the most in those times of grief and anger. My grief kept me quiet enough to sincerely listen. Sometimes my pain was answered in Scripture, in other times it was answered in a soft voice, and a few times it was answered in ironic life events. But the more I prayed, the more I realized God really was paying attention, and that was the hope that kept me going. Spend some time in prayer as often as possible when you are grieving or facing a painful cycle of heartbreak, then write down how God speaks to you in those moments. When you look back on your journal, you will see how God has His hand on each moment.

I dare say that heartbreak is inevitable. We all take precautions, but sooner or later we all fall victim to the cycles of grief, depression, anger, and bitterness. Despite the situation, the cycles are not beyond recovery and healing.

Date Idea: Musical Dates

musical datesAll of us are moved by music. There’s something about expressing yourself in poetry and melody that makes you feel alive. Naturally, we want to share our musical finds with others, and connect on that deep level. But what are some fun ways to explore music on a date?

See a Musical
Whether you go to Broadway or a local theater, a musical can be an exciting way to dig into some original music that is sure to get stuck in your head whether you like it or not. Pick a familiar story you both enjoy that has been turned into a musical extravaganza, or look into going to the latest hit show. Once you decide on what musical to go to, plan extra events around the theme or setting of the show.

If you feel really ambitious after seeing a high quality musical, see if you can write your own. Make it romantic or silly, full-length or incredibly short. You don’t have to write the musical scores if it’s above your talents, but writing the lyrics is a fun challenge. Write a two-person musical you can act out together, or make it a full-cast production and try to sell it to a local theater.

Go Out Dancing
Dancing is wonderfully romantic – the man sweeps a lady off her feet, while the woman gets to rest in his arms! Many local dance studios have dance nights that include a lesson or two and a couple hours of dancing. It’s a great way to dance together without any experience or skill. A lot of other places offer dancing for beginners as well, such as community colleges, lounges, and even some restaurants. Dancing is a social activity; it helps you get to know your date better, and you will meet new people who you may potentially double date with later on!

Karaoke
This will prove how comfortable you are with one another. Go out and sing karaoke together, playing one another’s favorite songs. If you aren’t brave enough to face the public, hook up a karaoke machine at home, or play a karaoke game such as Singstar or Rock Band (yet another way to play instruments together). Make sure to dedicate your songs to your date!

Write Songs Together
If you both like to play an instrument or write lyrics, try writing a song together. It doesn’t have to be the best song written in the history of the universe – it could be one verse if you wanted. If you do write a full song, make it a duet or a love song about your story.

Learn an Instrument Together
trumpet
Does your date know how to play an instrument you’d like to try? Is there an instrument you’d both like to learn? Why not teach each other music or take lessons together? Don’t worry about how much better your date is at playing an instrument, just have fun learning and playing together. Encourage and applaud one another.

Do both of you all ready know how to play an instrument? Have a jam session. Pull out some sheet music you both love and play together. Try to create an instrumental duet, or freestyle if you have the talent.

Go to a Festival
Festivals normally includes cultural or periodical music and dance. Strengthen your cultural knowledge by watching for musical events, usually mentioned at the information booth. Take a look at the foreign instruments, the combination of styles, and the dancing techniques. Try to recreate any of the dances you see on stage. Is the festival historical in nature? Research the dances of the time and try to copy them.

See a Concert
Nothing scores you some mega points like buying tickets to your date’s favorite band. Spoil your sweetheart with some surprise tickets to a concert, and throw in a CD that they can have signed at the function. (For those really special occasions, grab some VIP tickets!) Remember to look for bands your date would like, not just bands or style of music you like!

You can also support smaller, cheaper bands in your local area. Many coffee shops and some restaurants have bands on weekends or evenings. It is more than likely that neither of you will know the bands playing, which will result in some fun conversation afterward. Cities may also have concerts in the park on special days or holidays.

Rules of Date Night

Rules of Date Night

Date night often seems more idealistic than realistic, but it is quite important to all marriages.  With hectic schedules and demanding distractions, date night can very well be the glue that holds together intimacy between a couple.  Here are a few ways to make date night fulfilling and beneficial to your marriage.

Rule #1– Schedule Date Night Once a Week
Date night is essential to your relationship. It gives you a mini-vacation from the hardships of life and it helps you to refocus your attention on your spouse or the person you are courting. For single individuals, it is important to spend a few hours each week getting to know the person they are pursuing a committed relationship to, and for married persons it is important to fall in love with your spouse frequently.

Find a couple of hours in the morning, afternoon, or evening to spend with each other each week. (Married individuals should make this as high a priority as going to work!) Do not be tempted to skip over a romantic interlude due to a busy schedule. Let your partner know how important they are to you by setting time apart especially for them. It will make them feel loved and it will refresh your relationship.

Rule #2– Plan Ahead
Waiting until the last minute to decide what you’re doing on date night will more than likely end with disappointing results. Every date night will end up being dinner and a movie, and sooner or later one of you is going to resent it.

After you’ve both decided when to get together for a date, plan ahead on what you will do. Make a list of activities you’d like to do as a couple, places you’d like to go, or shows you’d like to see. You can either number the list and go in order (his ideas being odd numbers, her ideas being even numbers) or keep a jar that have the date ideas written down on scraps of paper and pull them out at random.

Rule #3 – Do Not Discuss the Negatives
Yes, the faucet is still leaking in the bathroom, the phone bill needs to be paid, and your brother is a jerk, but those things don’t need to be discussed on date night. Date night should be an escape from the problems you face, not a time to discuss what needs to be done as a household or your personal problems with the actions of your family members, friends, or the person you’re spending the evening with.

Avoid talking about the daily grind, including work, finances, kids, housework, or people you’re having a conflict with. These are all important subjects to discuss, but they can be discussed at another time. In the time you spend together, gear your discussions towards mutual hobbies or interests, aspirations and goals, activities and adventures. Encourage and compliment one another. Is she wearing a new dress? Compliment it. Has he been working hard this week? Appreciate him. Don’t end date night without affirming your attraction and admiration for your date.

Rule #4 – Make It About Quality Time
It would be great if every date night could be full of glittery romance, but chances are it won’t. Things will go awry, plans will go south, and romance might be overlooked. Don’t expect to swept off your feet every time you two go out for the evening. Date night isn’t about chick-flick style romance, it’s about quality time together.

When you’re planning a date, make sure quality time together is the focus. Going to his parents’ for dinner or going with her group of friends bowling isn’t quality time together. On the flip side, running errands together or sitting watching television isn’t quality time together either. Your dates should include opportunities for discussion, fun, and relaxation. Make them something out of the ordinary. Make them adventurous. Make them intimate.

Rule #5 – Let Go of the Electronics
How often do those “emergency” phone calls really happen? It’s easy to pay more attention to our cell phones than to our dates. Turn off your cell phone! (Or put it on vibrate if you have kids.) Unless it’s a family member, don’t answer calls or text people back during your time with someone else. It’s a great way of telling your date, “I find this person on my phone more interesting than I find you.” (Check the message when your date leaves for the restroom, if you must.)

Let go of any other shiny devices you’re tempted to play with as well. You have plenty of time to distract yourself with electronics later. Your date should be your sole interest, not gossip among your friends or game scores.

Rule #6 – Put Forth Your Best Foot
Gentlemen, open doors and pull out chairs. Ladies, don’t nag or humiliate him in public. Treat your waitresses well. Bathe before you go out. Apologize if you’ve made a mistake, and accept an apology when one is given to you.

It’s tempting to let go of your manners after you’ve been dating awhile or after you’re married. After all, you don’t have to impress this person anymore, right? You may not have to impress them anymore, but that doesn’t mean you should be inconsiderate to your date or others. When you’re out together, put your best foot forward. Your date may be quite aware of your other foot (the one that isn’t the best)which will make them appreciate your effort even more.