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Friday, February 5, 2016

Today I'm starting a new feature called Friday Favorites. On most Fridays I'll be going back in time and revisiting some of my most-viewed older posts. If you are new around here, you'll definitely want to check them out.

Today's Friday Favorite post is an all time top 25 post about kissing, 10 Ways to Change Up Your Kissing Routine. I've also mashed it together with parts of this post: Why a Kiss is Not Just A Kiss.

If "a kiss is just a kiss" then you are doing it wrong.

To me, a kiss is:
  • An intimate physical expression of the oneness you share
  • A publicly acceptable way of showing affection for your spouse
  • Eliminates emotional space between your by eliminating physical space
  • As close as you can get to each other without actually having sex
  • A great way to keep your physical relationship on simmer
  • A cheap, fat-free, sugar-free, guilt-free treat. It can, however, be habit forming
Science Daily claims that a University of Albany study "found sex differences in the importance and type of kissing. Males tended to kiss as a means to an end -- to gain sexual favors or to reconcile. In contrast, females kiss to establish and monitor the status of their relationship, and to assess and periodically update the level of commitment on the part of a partner."

Ten ways to change up your kissing routine

1) Kiss across a crowded room - Some enchanted evening, catch your spouse's eye across a room full of people. Smile, pucker your lips make a kissing gesture toward him or her.  It tells your partner that you are thinking of them and loving them despite the crush of humanity between you.

2) Nibble Kiss - Add a little variety by nibbling or gently biting your spouse's lower lip after a more tender kiss.

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

4) Possessive Kiss - Catch your lover off guard by transforming a simple short kiss into a hot, deeply sensual kiss. Wrap your arms around him or her, hold them tightly and kiss like you mean it! This sends the message "you are mine!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a Kissing Challenge

Kissing Challenge #1 - Makeout Session

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

Kissing Challenge #2 - A Kiss to Remember All Day

When your husband/wife leaves for work today (or some other opportune time) give him/her a kiss he’ll/she'll remember all day. Make it at least 10 or 15 seconds. Wrap your arms tightly around him/her and press your bodies together. Your goal should be to see if you can make your spouse dizzy. Later in the day, call, text or email them to say that you have another kiss like that waiting for when they arrive home. Make sure you follow up and give that second kiss.

Are you a kissing couple? Do you need to improve your kissing game? Do you have a favorite kiss? Kiss and tell, it's okay! Leave a comment.

In case you missed it from my last post, I've got a special 25% off introductory sale going on for my fun, new workbook, "Intimate Connections for Couples." Special ends on Valentines Day, so hurry!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

There is no better way to experience date night oneness than through sexual intimacy.

I'm wrapping up my Date Night series today with a post about the ultimate expression of marital intimacy. That's right, we're talking about date night sex.

The whole reason I've taken a month to encourage you to improve your date night habits this year is so that your marriage will experience deeper intimacy. Regular, dedicated and focused one-on-one time is essential if you are going to grow closer together as a couple.

Since closeness is what we are after, there is no better way to experience it than through sexual intimacy. It's the ultimate expression of marital oneness.

Who Has Date Night Nooky?

Surprisingly, couples who took my Date Night Survey reported that sex was part of date night less than half the time. More surprisingly, men and women reported the same overall percentage of sexual activity (the Grand Total in the chart below). This stands in stark contrast the results of my Sexual Satisfaction Survey, in which the men generally reported having a lot less sex than the women.
But here is one area where husbands and wives did differ significantly. For men, the less frequently the couple had dates, the lower percentage of those dates included sexual activity. For wives who went on dates once a month or more, the opposite was true. For example, for couples who had weekly dates, men reported that 60% of their dates included sex, whereas for wives sex happened only 43% of the time. Those who dated once per month, wives reported that 63% of their dates included sex, but for husbands it was only 45%.

Perhaps its just a statistical anomaly, But if you can explain that disconnect I'd love to hear your theory!

Learn to Be More Intentional

I don't think that every date needs to include sexual activity. However, I would suggest that you and your spouse be intentional about including physical intimacy much of the time.


Well, I would ask, why not? Seriously. Unless there is a reason not to, try to make a sexual connection part of most date nights (or date mornings).

How can you make a sexual connection more likely?

For the low-drive spouse (typically but not always the wife), date-night nooky starts in your mind. Instead of dreading the possibility, embrace the idea of an unmatched intimate connection with your spouse. Think of it as a way to bless your spouse with the gift of your body. No one wants begrudging charity sex - your spouse will certainly know. Spend some time in advance of date night thinking positive sexual thoughts and preparing yourself mentally for a wonderful encounter. You might even want to mention to your spouse how you are looking forward to making love in a text, note, or phone call.

For the high-drive spouse (typically but not always the husband), focus your thoughts on the non-sexual connection you'll be making with your spouse during the date. Don't make the mistake of thinking date night is simply a way to get sex! Your spouse will know and likely be offended. For improving your connection during the date, consider getting a copy of my brand new Intimate Connections workbook and using one or more of the pages to spark some intimacy-building conversations.

I hope you've found the date night series helpful and an encouragement for you to make 2016 a year where you do a better job of dating each other more consistently and creatively. I plan to revisit this topic from time to time with date-night ideas and maybe a few reports on some of our own date nights. We might even have a date night contest at some point.

If you've found the series helpful in some way or if it has spurred you to be more proactive in dating your spouse, please let me know with a comment.

Check out the earlier posts in the Date Night Series:
  1. Read why date night is so important go read my first post in this series. Why You Need to Keep (or Start) Dating in 2016
  2. For some ideas on how to plan date nights and what most couples do (and want to do more), check out my second post. Making the Most of Date Night
  3. My third post explains how home dates can be a great way to overcome common date night obstacles: Overcoming Date Night Obstacles with Home Dates

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Home date nights are the perfect remedy when time, money and energy are scarce and the kids are small. 

As we saw in my first Date Night post, 44% of couples said that busyness was a major obstacle to having more frequent dates. It was the number one obstacle. Money, at 34%, was the second biggest impediment. Being too tired was third at 31%, and 29% said it was too hard with kids.

I've got a great remedy for these three problems: date night at home!

As you can see from the chart below 70% of couples taking my survey rarely or never do dates at home. I wish I had asked why not?!

As I mentioned last time, Jenni and I do plenty of home dates for various reasons. I'll admit, though, that we haven't been as creative or invested as much effort as we could (or as we will in the year ahead!). Our typical home-dates usually consist of dinner together (we are empty nesters) and a movie or maybe a game. Occasionally, if we are going the extra mile, we add an appetizer and glass of wine before dinner, make a fire, or light some candles.

Our typical home-date isn't very different from the folks in my survey. Here's what they do on their home date nights, and what they said they would like to do more of.

Why Home Dates Makes Sense

Busyness is a relationship killer! I don't know why we fill our schedules with so many less important appointments and tasks and allow our marriage to suffer as a consequence, but we do. Maybe it has to do with taking each other and our marriages for granted.

Leaving space in your life for your marriage is another post for another time, but even if you are super-busy, you can make room in your week for a 1-2 hour date at home. The challenge is to be deliberate about setting aside time for it. Designate an evening to go for a walk, to sit together and have glass of wine and just talk, to play a game you both enjoy, or even schedule a leisurely evening of physical intimacy (more on that in an upcoming post!).

If money is your issue, date nights at home can be very inexpensive! All of the examples i just gave don't really cost anything but your time. Cook dinner together, maybe experimenting with new cuisine. If you don't feel like cooking, get take-out and save on the tip and drinks.

If you have young children, date nights at home make even more sense, because you don't need to worry with finding a babysitter. Plus, when you put kids and busyness together, you end up with the another big date-night obstacle: being too tired . Get the kids in bed, early if necessary, and spend the remainder of the evening relaxing together. Take a bath together, snuggle in front of a warm fire or go straight to bed and enjoy making a physical connection.

And let's not forget mornings. If your kids are old enough to get up without you, have coffee, tea or breakfast in bed together, have your quiet times together or make love before you start your other responsibilities and normal daily routine.

Inject a Little Creativity

The one risk of home date nights is that it's easy to get lazy. Truthfully, if your only time together during the week is spent sitting facing the television, you aren't engaging much with each other. Sure, flipping on the TV is easy and it's an escape, but it probably isn't the best way to spend your date night, if that's all you do. So try to do something that allows you to also communicate and connect with each other. As a minimum, spend the commercials kissing!

Sure, getting creative with your home dates will probably take a little extra effort, or at minimum a little extra thought, but it is well worth it to keep your time together fresh and interesting. Relationships need new experiences every once in a while to stay out of the comfortable ruts we quite naturally tend to fall into.

What's your favorite way to spend time together on a home date? Leave a comment.

Monday, January 11, 2016

"I don't know, what do you want to do?" If your date night planning includes this sentence, you might need to up your game.

We're talking about date night this month, and I'm encouraging every couple to take a fresh look in 2016 at their date night habits. Regardless of how you did last year, I'm asking you to up your dating game and take it to the next level in the new year.

So far, in my current poll, What Do You Want More of In Your Marriage?, I'm finding lots of couples looking for more emotional connection (34%), fun and adventure (30%), romance (19%), and more time together (18%). The good news is that all of these can and should be fueled by having more regular dates.

Often, the first question that comes up after you've gotten past the obstacles to date night is the question of what to do. (See my last post for more on obstacles.)

Does this conversation sound familiar?

Wife:  "What should we do for date night this week?"

Husband:  "I don't know, what do you want to do?"

Wife:  "Whatever you want to do."

Husband.  "No, whatever you want to do."

Both shrug. And round it goes, with no one wanting to make the decision.

Who Plans?

In my survey, I asked about who did the planning for date night.  Here's what I found:

  • I do most or all of the planning - This was the most common answer. 54% of husbands and 41% of wives said this was the case.
  • My spouse does most or all of the planning - 15% of husbands and 15 % of wives said their spouse did the bulk of the planning, 
  • We plan dates together - About one in five couples plan their dates together.
  • We take turns planning - one in four wives and one in ten husbands said they usually took turns planning their dates.

Who is Happiest?

Regardless of who planned them, people were not all that happy with their date night activities. The average "content happiness score" was only 2.2, and basically the same for men and women (scale was 1 to 5, with 5 being most happy).

You would expect that the one planning dates would be the happiest with the content, but that wasn't the case. In fact, happiness with the content of date night was about the same for all but one kind of planning: taking turns. Taking turns planning date resulted in a higher reported degree of happiness, especially for wives, but to some extent also for husbands.

Takeaway: take turns planning what you will do on your next few dates.

There are several reasons I like this approach. First, it allows each to take the initiative in turn, which is an act of pursuit. Second, there tends to be fewer "default dates," where you decide to just do the same old thing because it's easier, or because no one wants to decide.  Third, taking turns creates an opportunity to surprise your spouse with something special, interesting or even adventurous once in a while. Fourth, it's an opportunity to bless your spouse with something that you know would interest him or her, even if it isn't your cup of tea.

Finally, taking turns works - and I have the data to prove it.

What Couples Do

Here's what the folks who took my date night survey said their date nights consisted of:
Among the "other" answers were: shopping (more men than women mentioned this!), camping, church activities and various at-home activities (See next week's post for more on date-night-at-home options)

Dinner out seems to be the go-to date night option for most, with 94% dining out often or sometimes. About half took to outdoor activities (49%), with coffee/desert coming in third at 42%. Movies (42%), shows & concerts (31%) and sporting activities (28%) were next, with drinks/cocktails coming in last at 19%.

What Couples Want to Do More

I asked couples what kind of dates they wish they had more of. Here is what they said.

To my surprise, the top two were the same between what people did and what they wanted to do more: outdoor activities (54%) and dinner (51%). In fact the only significant difference between the two charts above was that my survey takers wanted to to more cultural events like shows, concerts or other performing arts than what they were currently doing.

Despite not being all that happy with their current date night activities, I got the impression that people were just asking for more of the same.

Takeaway: splurge once in a while on tickets to a special event. It takes more planning a little more money, but it might be just what you need to give your date night routine a shot in the arm.

Second Takeaway: If you aren't that happy with your date nights, change them!

Our Date Night Life

My wife and I are fairly protective of our date nights, and I would say most weeks we manage to have a date of some kind. It's easier for us to be consistent now that we are empty-nesters and have more control over our time. But I've been convicted by writing this series that I need to take my own challenge and step up our date nights as well. For her part, Jenni can't remember the last time she planned an outing for us.

We haven't been particularly innovative or done much planning ahead, so we have tended to default to many of the same activities, which often  means dinner out and the occasional movie. We love spending time together no matter what we do, and neither of us puts pressure on the other to create a "wow" experience every week, but we can definitely do better at making our dates more special. We've decided to  take a crack at taking turns planning our next few dates.

We also do a lot of date nights in. Sometimes we are just too tired and harried to go out, and a quiet night at home sounds like just the ticket. My survey also covered date nights at home, and around 30% said half or more of their date nights were spent at home. We'll dig into date nights at home in my next post. Be sure to stick around - sign up for posts by email if you want to get the rest of this series delivered right to your inbox!

So what does your date night look like? What do you wish you could do more? Who plans your date nights? How's it all working. Tell us your story. Leave a comment.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A warm welcome to all the new subscribers who signed up through my "Warm Winter Date Night" giveaway. Congratulations to Krista on winning the contest - I'll be contacting you shortly.

To the rest of you, I hope you'll stick around. I hope you'll be a regular reader (and commenter) here on Journey to Surrender. Most of all, I hope your marriage will be blessed and strengthened by what I share.

As I mentioned in my last post about the giveaway, I'm launching into a new series this month: Date Night.

I'm sure you've seen lists like this before.
You've read them, and thought "yeah, we really need to do that." Then you went on with your Iife and forgot all about it.

I get it. Life crashes in, and thoughts of date night fade into the distance. It's too hard to do it with any consistency, and there are too many reasons it just doesn't seem possible right now. Maybe someday. Maybe someday when the kids are older. Maybe someday when work isn't so demanding. Maybe someday when I'm not so tired. Maybe someday when we have more money.

The problem with waiting for "someday" is that someday never comes. There will always be reasons that continuing to date each other is difficult, no matter the season of life you find yourself in.

Whether you've been married 4 months or 40 years, you need to keep dating for all the reasons listed in the infographic above and more.

You probably already know that. The question is what are you going to do about it? Now?

Make a Plan for 2016

I'm not a big believer in New Years resolutions. I am, however, a big believer in making a plan to accomplish a goal, especially when that goal has to do with your marriage.

I'm going to be sharing some results from my recent Date Night poll in the coming posts, along with Date Night ideas, and additional encouragement as to why this is so important.

I'll share here the first few Date Night poll results (more to come in future posts). In my survey, 47% of respondents were either somewhat or very unhappy about the frequency of their dates. Only 10% were very happy. Clearly there is a lot of room for improvement in most marriages - probably in yours too. You are not alone!

Here's what people said were the biggest impediments to having more regular date nights.
Busyness was clearly the number one enemy of date nights, followed closely by having not enough money or enough energy to make it happen. A significant majority reported one of these as among their top obstacles.

It's easy to say, and less easy to do, but these really come down to managing your priorities. Bottom line: these marriages are getting leftovers, and most of the time there aren't any.

So as you set plans and goals in place for 2016, sit down with your spouse and talk about what is keeping you from more frequent and regular date nights. Identify your top few obstacles, and then brainstorm options for overcoming them. What are you willing to say "no" to, in order that you can say "yes" to a better, more intimate, more passionate marriage?

Make specific plans for who is going to do what differently in order to make a way for dates to happen more consistently.

Make a Plan for January

Let's start with baby steps, and just look at what's left of this month.

Get out your January calendars, and set aside at least 2 or 3 dates in the coming weeks for dates. You don't have decide right now what you are going to do (that's for my next post), but decide who will be in charge of making the plans, whether you take turns, plan together, or one person does it all.

Whoever it is that is designated as the date planner, hold each other accountable. It's okay to ask, a week or so out, whether the plans are all set. Don't be tempted to say, "Well, if he/she really cared, I wouldn't have to remind him/her." Give each other the benefit of the doubt. Better to say, "I'm really looking forward to our date on Friday. Can you clue me in on your plans? Or is it going to be a surprise?"

What is the biggest obstacle for you and your spouse when it comes to having more dates? What do you think can be done to overcome it? Leave a comment.

Next Time:  "I Don't Know, What Do You Want to Do?"

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