- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2009

Want an awesome, amazing, mind-blowing marriage?

Based on my conversations with couples, the answer to this question is usually a resounding “Yes!” It is quickly followed with something like, “I could only hope for that,” or “Only in my dreams.”

When I recently spoke with my friend Darlene Karst, who is also a counselor, marriage educator and wife, she explained many couples think they are sentenced to a life of boredom when they marry. One of her goals is to help them see how that isn’t further from the truth - if they are willing to put effort into making their marriage fun, romantic, passionate and intimate.

Most people probably would agree it is unusual for someone to be an exceptional mechanic, golfer, artist or chef without some training and a lot of practice. Yet people often expect to be great at marriage — and excellent lovers — overnight.

“If you want to have an awesome, amazing, mind-blowing marriage, you have to set your mind to it and work to make it happen,” Mrs. Karst said. “We might be in the middle of hard economic times, but that doesn’t mean it has to be tough on your marriage. You don’t need a lot of money to make your relationship more romantic and intimate.”

Mrs. Karst suggests that in the quest for an amazing marriage, couples must guard against passion-killers.

When people think about passion and romance, they often don’t consider how certain things can rob you of those feelings, instead of setting the tone. Take the color and textures you have in your bedroom — do they inspire romance or not? Is there a television in your bedroom? If so, Mrs. Karst encourages you to get rid of it.

“The bedroom should be a sanctuary where you can be together without distractions,” she said. “Other things that can rob you of romantic moments include old, worn-out nightgowns and underclothing, sports memorabilia and other things that clutter up the bedroom — as well as fighting in your bedroom.”

With busy careers, children and outside commitments, there is no question life is hectic. The best-laid plans can get thrown out the window when a child gets sick, the boss hands out an urgent deadline or a disagreement comes along.

But more often than not, these things are exceptions and not the rule. Instead of heading haphazardly into the week, make a plan. Set up a specific time during the week to talk about children, bills, meetings, etc., and then schedule time just to be together. If you are lacking in the creativity department, never fear. Mrs. Karst gives these suggestions:

• Take turns planning a special evening of pampering for your spouse. Think about what is important to your partner and plan an evening to indulge him or her. Be intentional about being with your partner physically and emotionally. Because men are so visual, one wife wore one of her husband’s favorite outfits and did things he really liked. On another night, he drew a bath for her and gave her a massage.

• Don’t always do things the same way. If you always make love the same way, change something so it doesn’t become routine. Consider these questions to help spice up your love life: What brings you the most sexual fulfillment? How often would you like to make love? What changes do you need to make to keep sex fresh and growing?

• Teach the kids that your bedroom is your private space.When the door is closed, that means mom and dad want a timeout. While this may sound totally unrealistic, you might be surprised at how well it works once they get used to the idea.

Finally, if you want an awesome, amazing, mind-blowing marriage, why put all your efforts into one day in February?

Perhaps now is a great time to kick off an ongoing celebration of your marriage. Take the challenge to make every day of your marriage Valentine’s Day.

Julie Baumgardner is the executive director of First Things First, an organization dedicated to strengthening marriages and families through education, collaboration and mobilization. She can be reached at [email protected]

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