Sex After 50: More Than Ever?

Ninety-three-year-old actress Betty White loves to talk about sex: “I may be a senior, but so what? I’m still hot.”

Most likely she’d applaud the recent research published in The Archives of Sexual Behavior that busts the stereotype of the sexless older adult.

While most of us know that the frequency of sex is greatest during those first throes of passion, and we grudgingly accept the fact that it often wanes as the years of wedded bliss march on, this study into the sexual behavior of long-married couples uncovered something quite unexpected. Couples who were married for longer than 50 years actually reported a slight uptick in their sex lives. In fact, the frequency of their sex lives continued to increase even after the 50-year mark.

Researchers noted, “An individual married for 50 years will have somewhat less sex than an individual married for 65 years.”

That’s right—they said “less.”

The study examined trends in the frequency of sex of older adults.

Researchers analyzed information about aspects of well-being from over 1,600 couples aged 57 to 85 who had been married varying amounts of time, based on data from the 2005-2006 National Social Life, Health and Aging Project.

If you’ve ever wondered (and who hasn’t?) how often other people are “doing it,” here’s how the numbers played out: The average older adult who had been married for a year had a 65 percent chance of having sex two to three times a month (or more); after 25 years of marriage, that frequency was likely to drop to 40 percent. After being married for 50 years, it dropped further to 35 percent.

But—and here’s the real surprise—when couples remained together after 65 years, the chance of having sex with that frequency actually improved, and increased to 42 percent.

Samuel Stroope, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of sociology at Louisiana State University, said that sexual frequency doesn’t return to two to three times a month, but moves in that direction as the years march on.

The abstract from the study, available online, also said that people in first marriages had more frequent sex than those who remarried. The researchers, sociologists at Louisiana State University, Florida State University and Baylor University, speculated that the permanency of relationships were responsible for the increased sexual activity in first marriages.

While this study’s findings are contrary to popular opinion or beliefs, they should not be taken without some caveats. Information published in The New York Times revealed that the study did not include partners who lived together but were not married, nor did it include gay or lesbian couples. And, interviewers told interviewees that the “sex” or “sexual activity” did not necessarily mean intercourse or orgasm but rather “any mutually voluntary activity with another person that involves sexual contact.”

So, does being married cause you to have more sex, or does having more sex cause you to stay married longer?

No one truly knows.

Keep in mind that this study examined trends. Some couples were not having sex at all, and some were even having it daily.

But isn’t it nice to know that some older couples can still look into each other’s eyes, blind to the physical changes that occur over the years, buoyed by the closeness and years of togetherness, and still want to be sexually intimate with one another?


Divorce rate at lowest level in 40 years after cohabitation revolution

Younger couples who marry now more likely to stay together past seven year itch than their parents’ generation suggesting ‘living in sin’ makes marriage stronger

Divorce rates have fallen to their lowest level for 40 years amid signs that the growing acceptance of couples living together before getting married has ultimately strengthened marriage.

The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 130,473 couples divorced across the UK in 2013 – down almost three per cent in a year.

The overall divorce rate fell to 9.8 per 1,000 married men or women, the lowest level since 1975 – the year after a major liberalisation of divorce law in the wake of the sexual revolution came into force.

That has coincided with a recent rise in the number of couples choosing to tie the knot over the last few years – partially reversing the decades long trend of declining marriage and rising divorce.

The gap between the number of people marrying than divorcing is now wider than at any time since 1992.

But it follows a much bigger shift towards couples living together unmarried as a result of a transformation of social attitudes.

Recent figures showed the number of families headed by cohabiting couples up by 30 per cent in a decade and more than doubling since the mid-1990s.

Strikingly, the latest divorce figures also offer further evidence that younger couples who do marry are now less likely to divorce than their parents’ generation

The ONS said that while an estimated 42 per cent of marriages now end in divorce, there is evidence that the proportion is decreasing “for the most recent cohorts” – meaning couples who married since 2000.

The figures show, for example, that couples are increasingly likely to survive the so-called “seven year itch”.

By 2013, 16 per cent of those who married eight years earlier in 2005 were divorced.

The previous year 17 per cent of couples who married in 2004 had got divorced.

Only eight years earlier the proportion of couples who had divorced by their eighth wedding anniversary was 20 per cent.

Harry Benson, Research Director at the Marriage Foundation, said: “Yet another fall in divorce rates is both hugely encouraging and hugely worrying.

“While it is hugely encouraging that couples who marry today can expect to enjoy the kind of stability we haven’t experienced since the early 1970s … it is hugely worrying that family breakdown continues to rise because couples who don’t marry remain so much more at risk of splitting up.

“Government has consistently failed to lead on the importance of marriage for future stability.

“Unless we wish to raise another generation of teenagers of whom half have already experienced family breakdown, the responsibility falls to us as individuals, parents and adults to encourage our young couples to marry.”

James Brown, a family lawyer at JMW Solicitors, said: “We have seen a significant portion of couples who marry doing so after a period of cohabitation.

“They opt to convert those relationships into marriages because of the greater security which it represents in the absence of rights for cohabitees.

“Since 2000, there have also been a series of judgements which have underlined the equality in divorce settlements, meaning their spouses can potentially claim a larger share of their assets.

“Given that prenuptial agreements are certainly more popular but still not regarded as the norm, many businessmen and women are simply choosing not to marry and, therefore, that is affecting the numbers of divorces too.

“If the Government was to introduce legislation providing prenups with the weight of statute as opposed to just case law, I firmly believe that more entrepreneurs would feel comfortable marrying.”

Jo Edwards, chair of the family law organisation Resolution, added: “The rise in cohabiting couples, the fastest growing type of household in Britain, may also play a role [in the changing divorce rates] – cohabitation separation is not included in these statistics.”

“Whatever the reason, there are still many thousands of British families who are experiencing family breakdown every year, whether that’s divorce or separation.”


Why Long-Married Couples Split

By now, it’s an old story: one-half of a high-profile and long-married couple — usually the man, truth be told — admits to having an affair. Sometimes, the couple’s marriage can withstand the infidelity; other times, the breach of trust is too deep, and a split or divorce ensues.

David and Holly Petraeus don’t fit the mold, say, of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, since Holly Petraeus has not been nearly as prominent as her military-hero-turned-CIA-chief husband of 38 years. And we don’t know, yet, whether theirmarriage will survive.

But what we do know is that while questions of infidelity grab the most headlines, having an extramarital affair is not what’s behind the breakup or divorce of most long-term relationships.

The AARP Sex, Romance and Relationships Survey on the sexuality of people 45 and older found that extramarital affairs happen for only a relatively small number of couples. So while infidelity is certainly the precipitating factor in some marriages failing, it’s not the reason in most cases.

Why do so many long-married couples decide to split? How can people be so happy for so long, only to then have the marriage turn sour in what are supposed to be their “golden years” together?

In most cases, the reasons are far less dramatic. Some relationships have been in decline for decades and finally lose all their juice. A marriage doesn’t usually just blow up. It’s more like a balloon that has been seeping air for a long time. After a while, it’s totally deflated.

Another possibility is that a couple’s issues intensify. Most problems are manageable, but then something sends them into hyperdrive. It could be a change in jobs, health, children’s lives, personal ambitions or any number of other triggers. Whatever balance had been achieved is undermined, and with it the ability to handle the issue and still have a decent marriage.

Of course, we’ve all heard the familiar phrase, “We grew apart.” But just because it’s a cliché doesn’t mean it’s not a common cause of divorce or separation among long-time married couples. A typical scenario is where a husband and wife live increasingly different lives: He gets more and more into his work, she gets more and more into her children, her adult children, her grandchildren. Or she gets ambitious and he wants to relax, cut down, travel, and play golf.

Lack of communication and loss of trust are also issues that can seriously push a marriage toward divorce. I suspect that it wasn’t so much an affair that sent Maria Shriver heading for the door, but more the fact that her husband had deceived her for so long. On top of that, she is dealing with public humiliation — as well as the destabilizing presence of a child. It is a rare relationship, of any length, that could face these factors and continue on.

Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of marriages are not presented with such mega challenges. Still, plenty of breakups occur after a relationship of many years. Although some people are able to negotiate the inevitable bumps in the road, for others those bumps turn into a sinkhole — something that they cannot seem to climb out of. Sadly, and often with great affection for each other, the couple say “enough.”

And, yes, couples are saying that more often these days. Why?

The answer is longevity. We live so much longer now. Half a century ago, an unhappy couple in their mid-60s might have stayed together because they thought it wasn’t worth divorcing if they had only a few years left to live. Now, 65-year-olds can easily envision at least 20 more active years — and they don’t want them to be loveless, or full of frustration or disappointment.

And then, of course, we’re now looking at the aging of the boomers. They’re different from the 50-year-olds who lived before them. In previous eras, couples soldiered on even if they were very unhappy. But boomers gave up on the concept of the dutiful-but-unhappy spouse a long time ago. They were the originators of a higher divorce rate, and while that divorce rate has slowed, we may be seeing a spike as people ponder whether or not they will stay with their spouses into extreme old age.

So, yes, there are plenty of reasons why a couple who have been married for 30, 40, even 50 years might break up. And although we don’t celebrate divorce in this country, we are not afraid of it, either. This now extends to our golden years, as well.


Couple with 40-year age gap reveal how it really affects their relationship – and how their marriage almost tore her family apart

Age differences can pose huge obstacles for some couples, but being able to talk about these challenges honestly can sometimes make the relationship even stronger.

A pair with an almost 40-year age gap between them has spoken candidly about their 10-year marriage, how their union has affected their loved ones, and how their age difference has created difficulties within their relationship.

Catherine, who is in her early thirties, and Melvin, who is in his seventies, take turns asking each other thoughtful questions in a heart-warming video for Glamour’s The And project series.

Asked by her husband about her favorite memories of their relationship so far, Catherine replies: ‘All the times we used to stand in the driveway at night, trying to say goodnight to each other and not wanting to.’

She adds that becoming Melvin’s wife was also ‘definitely a favorite memory’, and he agrees, saying: ‘That was a fine day.’

The touching video, which was posted to YouTube on September 26, has already earned nearly 27,000 views.

The couple’s conversation soon becomes emotional for Catherine when her husband, who is wearing a smart shirt and a black flat cap, asks her about the ‘most difficult lesson’ she has learned from being with him.

‘You can think that you can trust people, and you can’t,’ says Catherine, revealing that a number of her family members ‘rejected’ her when she started dating Melvin.

‘Pretty much everybody stopped talking at my house for a long time,’ she shares.

But Catherine says that she held her ground during this trying time, and never wavered in her desire to marry Melvin.

She recalls telling her family and friends: ‘This is what I want. This is who I want to be with. No one else would make me happy.’

Things become much more lighthearted when Catherine, turning slightly red, asks her husband: ‘Am I the best sex you’ve ever had?’

‘Oh, absolutely. Without question,’ Melvin responds immediately, causing his wife to throw her head back with laughter.

The couple goes on to talk about their very real age gap, with Catherine asking her husband how he thinks it affects their relationship.

‘Well, the first thing that comes to mind is having children. I can’t think of another thing,’ he replies.

Melvin goes on to share that he actually gets a ‘kick out of it’ when the couple is out together and people ask whether she’s his granddaughter.

It is then Catherine’s turn to talk about how their dynamic relationship affected her, with Melvin asking her how their age difference scares her.

‘Just the thought of outliving you. That’s really the only thing that terrifies me,’ says an emotional Catherine.

Melvin becomes worried about his wife, questioning her: ‘You don’t think about that a lot, do you?’

Catherine reveals that she thinks about her husband dying before her ‘all the time’, and he insists that they talk about this issue more later.

Asked about the one thing he wants her to take from their marriage, Melvin says he wants Catherine to have the ‘confidence’ to go on living her life after he dies.

The couple then have the opportunity to express their love for each other, with Catherine asking Melvin why he loves her.

‘You are my soul mate, my best friend, and I can depend on you… You tell me you love me every night when we go to bed,’ he shares.

‘Because I still do,’ Catherine adds.

The video has received dozens of comments from YouTube users who were inspired by their unlikely relationship.

‘Wow! You can really tell they love each other a lot. So beautiful,’ wrote on person, while another remarked: ‘This is beautiful. Love is Love.’

40 Tips for Finding Love After 40

“Enjoy yourself—that’s what your 20s are for. Your 30s are for learning the lessons. Your 40s are to pay for the drinks.” —Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City: The Movie

That’s certainly one way to look at it. However, if you’re like the many single 40-somethings out there, you realize that you’re in the prime of your life, and enjoying yourself is the name of the game. In fact, with a myriad of life lessons already under your belt, now is probably the best time to find someone special—someone who is both a loyal companion and a true soul mate.

You may be on the lookout right now, using such successful online dating sites as or eHarmony, through which thousands upon thousands of people have found love. Or, you could be out on the singles scene in Atlanta, making connections as you visit the city’s numerous hot spots. There’s even a possibility that you’ve let yourself be fixed up on a blind date or two. Whatever avenue you prefer for meeting people, it never hurts to have some valuable, realistic advice from the experts as you navigate the sometimes choppy waters of finding real, everlasting love.

We’ve asked a panel of local experts to share their top tips for finding love after the age of 40. Their words of wisdom are designed to help you find the kind of relationship that meets your individual wishes and needs at this exciting point in your life. From professional matchmakers to experienced relationship coaches, we’ve gathered a group of love aficionados who understand what it takes for mature adults to identify what they want and how to achieve it.

40 tips from Atlanta’s Experts

2. Set realistic relationship goals. Define the values and qualities that you need to have in a life partner. Try to narrow it down to the most important ones. Remember, nobody is perfect! Trying to find Mr. or Mrs. Perfect will keep you single forever.1. Get into the gratitude habit. When you are grateful, you feel good about yourself and you are in the right frame of mind to attract love into your life. Acknowledging what you have lays the foundation for bringing great things, events and people into your life.

3. Visualize relationship success. Often, we are our worst enemies when it comes to having a healthy self-image and a positive vision for our life. Don’t let yourself be influenced by negative thoughts about your age. Every day, couples over 40 tie the knot! Love can and will happen at any age, if you are open and receptive.

4. Take good care of yourself. A healthy lifestyle and a positive mindset are a prerequisite for relationship success. How joyful and happy we feel is reflected in our appearance and energy level, and it is directly connected to our personal relationships.

5. Follow your passions. Many singles put their lives on hold until they meet “the one.” Don’t wait to take that special trip or try out a new restaurant. One of the great gifts I gave myself when I was single was a Caribbean Cruise. I had the time of my life and actually met a few eligible gentlemen on board.

6. Get out of your comfort zone. It is time to tackle your “bucket list!” If you always wanted to take that mountain climbing class, do it. Besides pushing your limits and challenging the status quo, trying new things also presents great opportunities to meet people.

7. Keep an open mind. If your ideal man is George Clooney without the commitment issues, it is time to revise your list. Be realistic about the type of partner you see yourself with. If you meet someone who has the core values and character traits that are important to you, but he may be a bit shorter than your ideal, give it a chance.

8. Learn from your past relationships. Being over 40 is the best age to finally know what’s important in life and relationships. We can now learn from past mistakes and get it right. Do you see unhealthy patterns in your past love relationships? Now is the time for change! You may hire a relationship coach to assist you in figuring out how to create that healthy relationship you deserve.

9. Practice flirting. Men love women who are easy-going, fun and flirtatious. Make eye contact and smile for an immediate connection. If your flirting skills could use some brushing up, practice in a non-threatening environment, such as a shopping mall or grocery store. Hold that gaze just a split second too long and you may be surprised by the positive responses you’ll receive.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional assistance. We are open to reaching out for professional assistance in all areas of our lives—we hire tax consultants, investment professionals or personal trainers, yet when it comes to our love lives, we mistakenly believe that we can find our life partner by chance. Hiring a professional matchmaker will greatly enhance your chances of meeting the person who’s right for you. A reputable matchmaking service will only work with qualified individuals and will ensure a comfortable and respectful experience.

12. Resolve relationship issues.
Anyone above 10 years old has encountered disappointments and hurts in the area of relationships. Hence, past experiences and issues may need resolution before love becomes a possibility.11. Love yourself first. Self-appreciation is the first essential step to accepting or giving love. The value you place on yourself is measured and returned by others. If you do not love yourself, how can you expect others to love you?

13. Learn something new. Take golf, tennis or dance lessons. Ladies, men congregate on the course for business and pleasure. Gentlemen, an invitation to dance is usually welcomed and provides just enough time for introductions. In Atlanta, tennis is a popular sport. There is sure to be love with mixed doubles on the courts.

14. Always wear a smile! Smiling makes you approachable, enhances your appearance and attracts others.

15. Join a social group for singles age 40 and better. These types of groups offer diverse activities monthly and provide an instant social network.

16. Volunteer your time and talents to a charitable organization. Helping others feels good and can be an opportunity to meet others with common values. (Visit for volunteer opportunities.)

17. Get out of the house! Leave the office! The FedEX person will not deliver your significant other to your door. Rather than sipping coffee alone, go to the nearest Starbucks or coffee spot. It is a great place to meet other singles.

18. Attend networking events. Check online calendars such as Events in Your Area or Atlanta Buzz for local options. Approach others with a smile and your business card. Ask how you may assist them in their profession. Networking events are great places to make connections. (Visit for networking opportunities.)

19. Check out online dating sites. Many have met as a result of online sites such as Plenty of Fish, eHarmony, and Perfect Match. Submit an interesting profile with a current picture and let the communication begin!

20. Attend your high school reunion. Get reacquainted with old friends. There are plenty of stories about high school sweethearts rekindling the romance.

22. Positivity attracts.
Speaking of baggage … not only should you check negativity at the door, but also focus your attention on what’s fun and interesting about your date, and you will enjoy the date more. Besides, people are drawn to people who are positive!21. Check the baggage. If you’re over 40 and single, you’ve either dated a lot in your life or not very much. (If you were married for years, the idea of dating again may be overwhelming!) It’s normal to have baggage from past relationships or feel drained by the dating process, but remember not to unload heavy emotional issues or hurt feelings about your ex on early dates.

23. Network with people you know. Your friends and your network may be one of the best resources when you are single. Not only will they be there to support you, but they also can help facilitate introductions. Before you consider looking for love far away, consider that people in your community may have connections for you that you haven’t thought about.

24. Pick up new friends. At a certain age, it’s common for singles to feel that they are in a different life stage than their married friends. If most of your Saturday nights are spent hanging out with your friend, his or her spouse and two children, even if you adore them, it may be time to pick up new single women and men for friendship.

25. Know your deal breakers. If you keep dating the same type of person and it’s not working, it may be time to revise your checklist. Ask yourself: what are your top five deal breakers? You may want to base this list on qualities people possessed who were difficult for you to handle in past relationships. (You won’t have different results if you keep dating the same type!)

26. Look in the mirror. You’re fabulous, no doubt, but there are probably things you did—or didn’t do—in your last relationship or on dates that you can learn from. So often we blame others and don’t take time to reflect on how we showed up. Once you look at your self-defeating pattern, you are less likely to repeat it.

27. Play up your passions. What are you passionate about? Passion is one of the sexiest qualities you can possess. If you haven’t done something in a while that brings you pleasure, make a commitment to try it again and you will have a certain je nais se quoi that will make you irresistible in dating.

28. Focus on what makes you a fine catch. So many daters focus on their flaws and why someone they like would never be interested in them. If self-doubt creeps up, replace the negative thought with something you absolutely love about yourself. Write down 10 things that make you a great catch. If you can’t think of anything, enroll good friends to help.

29. Take the pressure off. Early dating shouldn’t be full of pressure. You shouldn’t know if you want to marry someone after the first five minutes (contrary to popular belief and speed networking events!). The only question you need to ask yourself on an early date is if you’re having fun and want to learn more about the other person or not.

30. Take risks. If you’ve been hurt (and let’s face it, at a certain point in life we all have!), you may be anxious about getting back into the dating game. Remember that the act of love requires taking risks and being open—with your mind and in your heart.

31. Look at it as an adventure. Look at this journey to love as an adventure, not a difficult task that may never end. Start getting excited about all the new people you will meet. Get excited about how much you will learn about yourself during this process. Pretend that you are a dating scientist and you are cataloging all of your interesting dating experiences. Do whatever you need to do to keep this experience fun, light and exciting. Fun people are ridiculously attractive.

32. Focus only on what you want. Whatever you focus on will grow. If you focus on fear,  you become more fearful; if you focus on doubt, more doubtful. But if you focus on love and how much you already have in your life, you will find yourself more grateful, more satisfied and more loving. This will also help you to let go of any feelings of lack or neediness. Neediness is NOT sexy.

33. Don’t wait until you are in love to start loving. Now that you are focused on what you want—love—start acting on that emotion. Make a list of all the people you love. Friend love and family love are both very powerful emotions. Start concentrating on the relationships that you already have in your life. Let these people know how much you appreciate them.

34. Forget that you are 40. Instead, remind yourself of your brilliance and beauty. Make a list of all the things that are extraordinary about you. What do YOU bring to the party? Attraction doesn’t have much to do with age or even physical appearance but has everything to do with self-confidence—the way you carry yourself and the belief that you carry about YOU. Own and adore all that you know you are.

35. Don’t engage in negative conversations. Steer clear of any conversations about how terrible it is to be dating at 40, or how there are “no good men or women out there.” Remember to keep your focus on what you want and also remember that you only need one. With billions of people on the planet, I promise you there is at least one good one left.

36. Create a Dream Partner List. Creating a Dream Partner List is possibly the most important thing you can do when you are looking for love. Dedicate one evening to writing your list. Grab your journal and a glass of wine, put on some Barry White or whatever does it for you and then go to work on capturing all of the qualities that you want and desire in your partner. Don’t worry about being too specific. The truth is that your list is just an exercise to help you be clearer about what it is you want to attract and what you will be looking for in a mate.

37. Create a Partner from Hell List. This list is easy to do. We all know what we don’t want and have probably dated him or her several times. Think of all of the relationships that have not worked out in the past and capture—on paper—all of the qualities that you are certain that you don’t want in your Dream Man or Woman.

38. Be patient. Allow yourself to enjoy the process. Don’t become too anxious or fearful that it is not happening fast enough. Finding the right partner could happen overnight or it could take a little time. Just have fun with it. Remember—anxious, needy people are NOT sexy.

39. Make a vision board for your love life. Your brain thinks in pictures. It is easier for your mind to “create pictures” of how you want your love life unfold. Schedule an evening, invite some friends over and go through magazines, finding pictures that represent the life that you want and the partner that you want. Sunset cruises, a couple on a beach, a loving family—whatever it is that you desire. Look at this visual representation every night before bed and each morning as you wake up. Again, this is just another way to have fun with this process.

40. Celebrate bad dates. This one is key. Celebrating dates gone wrong is really important. As you are out in the dating world, experiencing many different people and dating experiences, take the time to open up your journal and capture the things you like and dislike from each person you encounter. Add to that Dream Partner List and the Partner From Hell List. Remember that each bad date is giving you more clarity about what you know you don’t want, which means that you now have an even more solid idea of the partner you want to attract. Saying NO to one thing is actually saying YES to something else.

For more information or tips from the featured love experts and relationship coaches, visit them online:
Uli Eitel, Sterling Introductions:
Arlene Ingram, Atlanta’s Upscale Single:
Irene LaCota, It’s Just Lunch:
Amber Salisbury, Feel the Love International LLC:

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When I decided to try one last time to have a baby, I realized that I needed to be completely prepared for the process of pregnancy over 40.  At the time, I thought that primarily meant being physically prepared.  Two years later and watching my baby daughter sleep, I realize there is so much more than the physical preparation although that is critically important.   Getting pregnant over 40 also requires significant mental and emotional strength.  Let’s take a look at ways that women can effectively prepare themselves for conception physically, mentally and emotionally.

Part One:  It’s Physical, Baby!

To say that women over 40 need to focus on getting super healthy prior to trying to conceive is an understatement.  Your body is the vessel that makes conception possible and you need to give it the best chance for success by being at peak health which includes several key components:

  • physical condition
  • diet
  • flexibility
  • optimal weight
  • illness avoidance
  • disease avoidance

Physical Condition

There is no one size fits all for getting in good physical condition; but it is a critical component in conceiving over age 40.  Not only do our bodies tend to decline as we age, but we also contribute to this natural physiological response by the choices we make.  Your body makes the difference in conceiving and carrying a baby so being in great condition is one of the best investments you can make in your personal fertility.   According to the American College of Sports Medicine, we should be exercising between 3 and 5 times a week for 20-60 minutes each time and using large muscle group activity such as walking/jogging, cycling or swimming.   To determine if you are working out at the right intensity, the ACSM recommends the “talk test”.  If you can carry on a conversation without being out of breath, you are at about the right level of intensity.  In addition to cardiovascular condition, it is also important to build strength through a muscle strengthening component of your conditioning.  This will pay big dividends down the road when you are pregnant and your body must support upwards of 30 additional pounds of weight.  Walk, jog, swim, stroll, dance, skate – whatever you enjoy doing.  Just get out, get moving and do it!  Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.


Mom told you to eat your greens and she was right!  You literally are what you eat so you want to be as healthy and wholesome as possible as you prepare your body for making and growing your baby.   If you follow these basic guidelines, you’ll build a healthy place to make a baby:

  • Take a good prenatal vitamin containing folic acid.  Ask your doctor what vitamin he recommends.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables that are minimally prepared.  They retain more of their nutrients and fiber this way.  Be sure to get plenty of yellow, green, orange and blue fruits and vegetables daily.  Wash them thoroughly
  • Get enough calcium.  Eat/drink low fat yogurt, milk, cheese (even ice cream on occasion) to strengthen bones and facilitate microscopic cell processes in your body.
  • Focus on lean protein.  Just think about everything that has to develop in your body to support conceiving and carrying a healthy child.  Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and they will help form the placenta, umbilical cord, and your baby’s musculature.
  • Look for whole grains.  A slice of white bread isn’t going to kill you, but a slice of whole grain bread will provide more nutrients and fiber to help you build a healthy body for your baby to grow in.
  • Don’t freak out about fat.  Some fats are essential to survival.  I am not an advocate of fat being evil.  Everything in moderation.  Stick to primarily healthy fats like olive, fish and canola oil and don’t beat yourself up if you have butter on your toast.


This is one area that many people tend to ignore in the fitness spectrum.  Women trying to conceive should ignore this at their peril!  Any woman who is 9 months pregnant can tell you that extreme flexibility is required to do many normal daily tasks like putting on shoes or getting into bed.  Activities like yoga are excellent not only to improve flexibility but also encourage relaxation.  Some research suggests that stretching in general may have positive impacts on the lymphatic system.  So, take a few minutes each week and improve your flexibility.

Optimal Weight

I always cringe a bit when I see a particular celebrity who is struggling with her well televised infertility.  In one episode of her show, her doctor tells her that she needs to gain some weight to improve her chances of conception.  I caught a glimpse of her on tv last week and she was even thinner than before.  While many women struggle on the other end of the spectrum with being too heavy, it can be just as impactful to be too thin.   Check with your doctor to see what she thinks you should weigh for optimal conception.

Illness and Disease Avoidance

One of the first things a physician will do when you are getting ready to start trying to conceive is order a battery of tests including tests for measles and chicken pox.  Now is a good time to be sure that you are staying away from kids with chicken pox or measles, anyone with shingles or basically anyone who is sick.  Even if you had chicken pox as a kid, you can still get it again as an adult and it would certainly set you back in your quest for conception.  Even the latest version of the flu will weaken you.  Will it hinder your ability to conceive?  Probably not, but why add a weakening variable?    Wash your hands a lot, avoid people who are sick and stay away from kids who are experiencing childhood illnesses.

Your doctor will likely also test you for sexually transmitted diseases, so be sure that you are practicing safe sex at all times as well.

The Bottom Line

In a world where so much can be out of your fertility control, why not take charge of the things that you can impact like your physical health and well being.  This is something that can give you a leg up in your quest to have a baby.  Now that we have explored physical health, let’s take a look at preparing emotionally for conception.

Part 2:  Getting Your Head in the Game:  Preparing Emotionally for Conception

A second key component to preparing yourself for conception, particularly those of us working to get pregnant over 40, is mental preparation.

Learn as much as you can

Some women don’t need to be reminded to read up on the process of conception.  They already have books and magazines about pregnancy and are fully aware of the process and its ups and downs.  Most women, however, aren’t as prepared as they should be.  For example, women over 40 have a significantly reduced probability of getting pregnant and a significantly increased probability of having a miscarriage.  It is important to understand the statistics and the odds before you see your doctor.  This will help you be prepared for what will sound like grim news.  When I began trying to conceive at age 43, my reproductive endocrinologist wanted to walk me through a series of charts with bad news.  Basically, he told me that I had less than a 3% chance of conceiving.  Fortunately, I had already done my homework and  knew what he was going to say.  It wasn’t a shock to me.  I explained that I understood the odds and wanted to know what the next steps were.   Read up so you don’t get caught off guard.

Learn about testing, fertility and what could happen in the process.

We generally don’t go into situations fully versed in what could go wrong.  In fact, its better in most cases not to go to the worst case scenario.  In conception over 40, I think it is very important to be educated about what could happen and what you can do about it.  Anyone going through infertility treatments will tell you that it can be complicated and grueling.  If you know about this in advance as a possibility, it makes it easier to deal with if it happens.

Establish a system at the beginning.

Getting pregnant over age 40 is often similar to a complex business project.  There is tracking your cycle, medical appointments, blood tests, procedures and medications all of which generally have to happen at precise times in the month.  Do yourself a favor and figure out a tracking system that works for you.  Use a planner, a notebook, your PC, your phone, whatever works best for you.  Establish this system and record everything in it.  You will find it an invaluable resource to help you keep track of test results, your cycle, expenses, appointments, information you learn and contacts that you make.   I found that I kept my planner with me at all times because it gave me all the answers I needed when my doctor’s office called or I learned something new and needed to see my previous test results.  I also pulled it out and took notes on every phone call and doctor’s visit.  It is so easy to forget something and equally easy to write notes in your system so that you can’t forget.

Keeping it All Together.

Use what you learn about the process of getting pregnant as well as the possibilities of what can happen during the process to keep yourself strong mentally.  If you wind up having to go through infertility treatments, it can take a long time and you will need to be physically and mentally strong to go through its ups and downs.

Part 3:  Stabilizing the Roller Coaster of Emotions

This section takes a look at your emotional health during the conception process and what you can do to help keep yourself strong emotionally as you prepare to conceive.

A big part of reproduction is hormones.  Ask any woman how she is impacted by her monthly hormonal fluctuations and multiply that by 10 when you factor in the stress of trying to conceive.   What used to be playful and fun now becomes a task that a couple must complete at just the right time.  Many couples report that sex becomes mechanical and sterile when they have to do it on queue.  For couples battling infertility, the stress is further multiplied when hormone injections and other interventions are involved.  All of these factors add up to emotional STRESS.  It is important to be aware of the potential stress ahead of time and prepare to keep yourself emotionally healthy.

 Establish a close support system

If you are married, this will almost certainly include your husband; but it’s a good idea to go beyond him for support.  In fact, he should establish support apart from you as well.  There will be times when you just feel down and don’t want to bring your spouse down.  You need to have a friend or family member who understands your situation and who you can count on to listen and be supportive.  Many couples (or singles for that matters) don’t want to tell too many people that they are trying to conceive because the constant barrage of  well meaning “are you pregnant yet?” can become exhausting and demoralizing if you’re struggling with infertility.  Keep your support system to a small trusted group.

Think about what you need for support and let your friends/family know

Everyone is different and needs a different type of support.  Some people want friends to check in and ask them how they are doing.  Other people, like me, prefer to be left alone but need someone there when they reach out.  Think about what you need and let your friends/family know specifically how they can best support you.  I recommend having a conversation outlining what they can do to help you.  For me, that meant letting friends know that I would keep them posted on progress but didn’t want them asking me about it.  They love me and were fine with that.  When I needed them, I asked and they were there.  One mistake I made was being in a geographic position where none of my friends or family were local.  I went through some very difficult times without a hug or a hand to hold.  If you can do it, be sure to have people geographically close as you work to conceive your child.

Give yourself a break

Take time for yourself each day to unwind and relax.  Draw a bubble bath, take a walk in the park, meet a friend for coffee, get a facial – whatever helps you de-stress.  Stress has lots of negative effects on our bodies and certainly doesn’t facilitate conception.  I actually walked away from my career because I knew the stress level was too high and I needed every advantage to conceive at age 44.

Check out on-line support

There are many online support communities that provide an excellent forum for connecting with others in your position.  Join a few forums or look on twitter or facebook for groups that might fill a need.

Keep a healthy perspective

It is easy to get so completely engrossed in conception that it almost becomes your identity.  This is not healthy.  In fact, I stopped visiting certain forums where many of the women could see no goodness or happiness in their lives due to infertility.  I understand the heartache of wanting a child and not being able to conceive.  I also understand the devastation of miscarriage.  I have experienced both and know that we need to experience the sadness and emotion that go with those situations.  Then we need to pick ourselves up and move forward.    It is critically important to put time and energy into other areas of your life.  Experience love and joy each day.  Think about and talk about something besides trying to conceive.

Putting it all together

Some women conceive right away with no problems.  For other women like me, it takes years or even decades.  Give yourself every advantage as you start trying to conceive. Get in great physical condition.  Learn all you can about fertility and prepare mentally for the process.  Finally, take care of yourself emotionally.   Remember to live each day to the fullest and experience a rich life that includes joy and happiness outside of trying to get pregnant over 40.

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7 secrets to a long — and happy marriage

Matthew Boggs, whose parents divorced, was jaded about marriage. But he noticed his grandmother and grandfather, who had been married for 63 years, were still madly in love. To find out what was the secret to a long and happy marriage, Boggs and his friend, Jason Miller, traveled 12,000 miles around the U.S. to talk to what they call the “Marriage Masters,” couples who have been married 40 years or more. In their new book, “Project Everlasting,” Boggs and Miller share advice from the happy couples. asked the two bachelors to tell us what are the top seven secrets to a successful marriage. Here they are:

1. “Divorce? Never. Murder? Often!”
Entering matrimony with the mindset that “divorce is not an option” is vital for the long-term success of marriage, say the Marriage Masters (a term we gave couples who have been happily married over 40 years). They went on to explain that this kind of mindset allows a couple to see solutions to marriage’s boiling points — and trust us, not one of our interviewee couples avoided such periods of relational strife — which would have otherwise been overlooked simply because one eye was too busy examining exit strategies.

Marriage Masters simplify this into one word: Commitment. And they’re quick to point out that commitment is the virtue sorely missing from today’s marriages. That said, there are deal breakers that very few of our interviewed couples advocated working through. These are known as the three A’s — addiction, adultery, and abuse. A marriage overwhelmed by any of these three issues is unhealthy, plain and simple, and the Marriage Masters suggest that if you find yourself overwhelmed with any of the three A’s, take care of yourself (and your safety) first, and the marriage second.

In the end, the old saying holds true: where your attention goes, energy flows. So the next time you’re facing a mountain in your marriage, focus on the next foothold and soon enough you’ll find yourself over the top.

2. “There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage, only perfect moments.”
We were shocked to discover how much work went into creating a great marriage. We’d always figured, “Hey, I’ll just find my soul mate and things will naturally fall into place after that … we’ll live happily ever after.” Um, not so fast, one Marriage Master wife said with a certain look that meant business. “Whoever said being soul mates was going to be easy?”  Her husband of 52 years nodded, then added, “Marriage is a bed of roses, thorns and all.”

Any time two individuals live together (especially over 40 years) there are bound to be annoying, irritating, and frustrating experiences. But whether it’s the toothpaste cap, toilet seat, snoring, or the last-minute pull-the-car-over-to-check-the-score-of-the-game-at-the-local-bar move, one thing is for sure: the best marriages are served with an extra helping of acceptance for one another’s peccadilloes. “And that’s the beauty of marriage,” said Maurice, another Marriage Master. “All of our individualities, all of our wonderful differences. You gotta have friction. You can’t get any heat without friction.”

We would do well, they say, to expect non-perfection; practice patience and give the acceptance we want in return. There’s no doubt that this is hard work, but judging by the end result, it’s well worth the effort.

3. Unpack the Gunnysack

“People ask us our secret to marriage,” said John, married 48 years. “I tell them it’s the boxing gloves. We aren’t afraid to say what’s on our minds.”

Unexpressed frustrations in a marriage can pile up and weigh us down like an overloaded gunnysack. These accumulated frustrations can quickly turn into resentments. “Holding resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die,” said Sally, married 50 years. “Resentment will eat away at your marriage.” The Marriage Masters encourage us to unpack the “gunnysacks” by opening the communication lines as frequently as possible.

But guess what? If we haven’t created and nurtured an environment where open, honest communication is welcomed and treated with diligent respect, then we can wave these crucial “clearing the air” moments goodbye. So where did some Marriage Masters go to build that trusting, open environment? Weekend marriage retreats! These powerful getaways stood out in many of our interviewees’ minds as the one experience that turned their faltering marriage into a flourishing one. The trick, of course, is convincing the husband to attend.

4. Never Stop Dating
It has been said that it’s the quality of time, not the quantity of time that matters. But now we know, thanks to the Marriage Masters, that it’s the quantity of quality time spent together that leads to a wonderful marriage. Whether it’s a vacation in the Bahamas, or simply spending a night at a local motel once a week, keeping the romance burning is easy: all you have to do is keep stoking the fire.

One woman, married 47 years before her husband passed away, disclosed her secret to lifelong love. Every night, when her husband came home from work, they went up to their bedroom and hung a sign on the door that read “Do Not Disturb: Marriage In Progress.” For the following fifteen minutes they’d focus all their attention on one another. No phones, no pets, no distractions; even the kids knew that mom and dad were not to be bothered. When asked what they did in their bedroom, she laughed and said she’d leave that to our imaginations.  That was probably best anyway.

5. “Love is a four-letter word spelled G-I-V-E”
Marriage Masters have a high degree of selflessness. “I’ll never forget what my mentor told my wife and me before we got married 42 years ago,” said a Marriage Master named Walter. “He looked at us and said, ‘Most people think marriage is 50/50.  It’s not. It’s 60/40. You give 60.  You take 40. And that goes for both of you.’”

It’s always super-apparent in the best of the best marriages that both spouses have followed this philosophy. Though it’s not a difficult concept to understand — putting one another first —it’s surely a bit more difficult to practice consistently, especially with the prevailing “Me first (and second)” mentality today. “The younger generations seem to have a sort of me-me-me mentality,” says Donna Lee, married 45 years. “The great part is that the me gets everything it needs when it puts the we first.”

6. Join the CMAT Club
Grandma Dorothy Manin, the inspiration for Project Everlasting with her 63 years of beautiful matrimony, formed an informal club when she turned 70 years old. She called it the CMAT club. The CMAT club stands for Can’t Miss A Thing and represents the idea that life is short, so make sure to enjoy as much as you can. The death rate for human beings hovers right around 100 percent, and is expected to remain there for … well, forever. Consider this: if the average life span is 77 years, then that means we only have 77 summers … 77 winters … 77 Christmas mornings … 77 New Years, and that’s it. The Marriage Masters know this all too well. It’s easy to get caught in the day-to-day craziness of life and, in the process, take our spouses for granted. A widow named Betty, married 54 years, says, “Now that he’s gone I wish I hadn’t had so many headaches.”

The Marriage Masters are here to remind us that this adventure we call life goes by in the blink of an eye; relish your sweetheart’s presence while he or she is still here.

7. The Discipline of Respect
“You can have respect without love,” said Tom, married 42 years, “but you can’t have love without respect.” His sentiments were not uncommon in our 250-plus interviews around the nation. By and large, the number one secret to a thriving, everlasting marriage, as declared by the Marriage Masters, is respect. It is the catalyst for all things beautiful in a relationship: trust, connection, authenticity, and love. Unfortunately, respect — in all its seeming simplicity — is too easily overlooked, leading to criticism and all the ugliness that eventually causes both spouses to wonder (and vehemently): How in the heck did I ever fall in love with this person?

“You are the master of your words until they are spoken,” a Marriage Master of 65 years pointed out. “Then they become the master of you … so choose your words carefully.”


Couples married for over 40 years reflect on how they did it

What these elderly couples have to say about love is a breath of fresh air 

We’ve all heard stories about sparks flying on a first date. The trick to a happy love life, though, is in maintaining the spark for a lifetime. These three couples remind us that it’s easier — yet much harder — than you think.When they were dating, Don and Flora Hutchinson were pragmatic about picking a partner with shared interests. “We talked a lot about our feelings, beliefs, goals, our faith and our future children when we were dating,” said Flora. “I wasn’t even sure I loved him at first, but I really liked to be with him, and I liked that we believed the same things.” Their enjoyment of one another built a life of play and togetherness — they spent weekends picnicking, hiking, swimming and fishing with their two children, and ate dinner together every night.

Both Don and Flora added, though, that maintaining their individuality was important for their success. “Flora learned how to fly a plane!” Don said. “I get airsick but I still loved when she would take me flying.” Meanwhile, Don kept his watchmaking skills and enjoyed his own hobbies. The happy couple will soon celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.

Family is hugely important to both Ann and her husband Jim, who will celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary at the end of this month. Ann beamed when she spoke of their four children, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

“You know, Jim and I married when we were just 18 and 19,” said Ann. “I know that marrying young doesn’t work for a lot of couples, but it worked for us, and I think that’s because we approached our marriage with complete commitment even from a young age.” For the Ginnings, divorce was never an option, and the respect for their union helped sustain them through the hard times. “You know what else helped?” Ann asked. “Trust. Respect. And a sense of humor is really important, too.”

When I spoke with Melinda White, who just celebrated her 45th wedding anniversary with her husband Ron, it was clear that the two deeply value their friendship. “One of the things I love most about our marriage is our companionship,” Melinda said. “We do things together. We have shared dreams.”

She explained that couples often stagnate and turn away from each other when reality hits and dreams change. “We all have our goals, but life can often interfere. It’s by working through challenges and finding a way to make each other’s dreams come true — perhaps differently than first imagined — that marriage and a lifetime friendship is possible.”


40 Lessons From 40 Years of Marriage

Four decades ago, I married Barbara Ann Peterson. Looking back now on the first 12 months of our marriage, I’d have to describe myself then as an idiot—repeatedly ignoring the dignity of the woman that God had brought me.

But after six children, 19 grandchildren, and decades of married life, I’ve learned some things. I think of them as 40 lessons from 40 years of marriage … and family … and life.

1. Marriage and family are about the glory of God.

Genesis 1:27 makes it clear, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” From the beginning, marriage has been central to God’s glory on planet Earth. The Bible begins with a marriage and ends with a marriage. What God designed, lifted up, and gave a transcendent purpose, man has dumbed down.

Many today make the purpose of marriage to be one’s personal happiness—of finding another person who meets my needs. God created marriage to reflect His image, to reproduce a godly heritage, and to stand together in spiritual battle. Your marriage, your covenant-keeping love, will be your greatest witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Marriage is about the glory of God—not about the happiness of man.

2. Marriage is taking place on a spiritual battlefield, not on a romantic balcony.

Satan’s first attack on the image of God was to destroy the image-bearers’ relationship with Him. Then Satan went after Adam and Eve and their relationship with one another. If he targeted marriage to begin with, why would we think our marriages would be any different?

I think we often forget that our marriage—our family—can be targeted by the enemy to destroy the image-bearers, to destroy the legacy that is passed on to future generations.

I believe that the very definition of marriage is under attack today because of who created marriage, God.

3. Your spouse is not your enemy.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Have you ever looked at your spouse in the morning as your enemy, asking God, “What did you do in bringing us together?” I have.

But the Scriptures tell us, your mate is not your enemy. Your mate is a gift from God to you. In all his imperfections—in all her imperfections—God has given you a gift. You can either receive it by faith, or you can reject it.

4. The couple that prays together stays together.

In the first months of my marriage, I went to a friend named Carl Wilson and said, “Carl, you’ve been married 25 years. You’ve got five kids. What’s the best single piece of advice you can give me, as a young man who’s just starting out his marriage?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “Pray with your wife every day.”

I said: “That’s it? ‘Pray with your wife’?”

“That’s it.”

So I went home, and Barbara and I started praying together. This worked really well for a couple of months … until the night when we went to bed facing opposite walls. Although it wasn’t the most comfortable position physically, it expressed where we were spiritually and emotionally.

There seemed to be a tap on my shoulder that night, and it wasn’t Barbara. God was speaking to me in my conscience. He said: “Hey, Rainey! Aren’t you going to pray with her tonight?” I said, “I don’t like her tonight!”

He said, “Yes, but you made the commitment to pray every day with your wife.” And I said, “But God, you know that in this situation, she is 90 percent wrong!”

God said, “Yes, but it was your 10 percent that caused her to be 90 percent wrong.”

I wanted to roll over and say, “Sweetheart, will you forgive me for being 10 percent wrong?” But after the words got caught in my throat, I said, “Will you forgive me for … ?”

Barbara and I are both strong-willed, stubborn, rebellious people. But we’ve been transformed by praying together. Now we are two strong-willed people who bow their wills before almighty God, on a daily basis, and invite Him into our presence.

Praying with your spouse will change the course of your marriage and legacy.

5. Isolation is a subtle killer of relationships.

Genesis 2:24 gives us a prescription from Scripture: Leave, cleave, and become one. The enemy of our souls does not want a husband and wife to be one. Instead, he wants to divide us.

In John 17, Jesus prayed for the church to be one. He realized that when we are in isolation, we can be convinced of anything.

Isolation kills relationships.

6. It’s easier for two broken people to build a marriage and family from the same set of biblical blueprints.

What would a physical house look like if you had two different architects, two different builders, and two different sets of blueprints? You’d get some pretty funny-looking houses, wouldn’t you? The same thing will happen in your marriage if you and your spouse are building your relationship and family from different plans.

For the past 37 years, FamilyLife has hosted Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. If you haven’t been to this with your spouse, I encourage you to go. Weekend to Remember speakers explain God’s blueprints for a successful marriage and family, and transparently share from their own lives.

7. It is healthy to confess your sins to your spouse.

James 5:16 reminds us, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

If you want to be healthy, develop a marriage relationship where your spouse has access to the interior of your soul. Are you struggling with bitterness over a betrayal? I’ve been through that. I’ve asked Barbara, “Will you pray for me?”

Maybe you’re struggling with a bad attitude … a sense of rebellion … toying with something you shouldn’t be toying with. Bring your spouse into the interior of your soul so that you may be healed.

8. It is impossible to experience marriage as God designed it without being lavish in your forgiveness of one another.

Ephesians 4:32 says we should forgive each other “just as God in Christ forgave you.”

Failing to forgive or to ask for forgiveness kills oneness, and unity, and life in a marriage.

I love this statement by Ruth Bell Graham: “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Why is this true? Because forgiveness means we give up the right to punish the other person. In a marriage relationship there are plenty of things (either committed or omitted) where you’re going to have to give up the right to punish the other person. Bitterness does not create oneness.

9. One of the greatest threats in any marriage is losing a teachable heart.

Proverbs 4:23 reminds us, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Most of us do all we can to prevent a heart attack. Why? Because there’s a simple equation: If the heart dies, you die.

The Bible is filled with references to the heart. In fact, the Great Commandment is one that calls our heart to love God totally and fully, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Pay attention to your heart. Guard it lest it become hardened or not teachable.

A teachable heart is a spiritually-receptive heart. When was the last time you asked your spouse to forgive you? When did you last listen to a child who had perhaps been hurt by you?

Remember, from the heart flows the springs of life.

10. Every couple needs a mentor couple who is one lap ahead of them in the seasons of life.

Who’s your couple? Who’s your person? If you’re a newlywed, you need someone to coach you on the habits you establish at the beginning of your marriage. If you’re starting out with your kids, you need someone just to say: “You know what? This is normal. This is the way it happens.”

Even if you are moving into the empty nest with adult children, I’ve got news for you: You really need a mentor in that phase! Relating to adult children has been more challenging than the terrible twos—not because our kids are bad kids. It just didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it.

Who’s your mentor? Be careful about who’s speaking into your life.

11.  What you remember is just as important as what you forget. 

We tend to suffer from spiritual amnesia.  Wanting to remember God’s faithfulness, I started a spiritual milestone file in 1998. It now has 920 reminders in it—remembrances of the little things, and the big things, that God has done.

Milestones remind us of three things: what God has done; who God is—His provision, care, and deliverance; and the need to trust God and walk by faith.

When we forget the deeds of God, we will ultimately forget to trust Him.

12. Marriage was designed by God to be missional.

Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …”  And Acts 13:36 says, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep …”

I want to be about the purposes of God, in my generation, with my wife.  She is a partner in ministry.  We are not two individual people who are just successfully going our own way.  We are two people who work at merging our life purpose and mission together so that we increasingly share it as we move toward the finish line.

The other evening, Barbara and I sat in our living room in two chairs that we bought in 1972 for $5 apiece.  They’ve been reupholstered three times.  We sat in those chairs, talking about, “Should we reupholster them, or go buy new ones?”  I turned to her and I said:  “You know what?  We have not given our lives to stuff.”

Now, do we live in a nice home?  Do we live better than we deserve? Absolutely. But as imperfect as we are, as many struggles as we’ve had, we are headed toward the same mission.  We are a part of the Great Commission.  We want to be fulfilling the great commandment, together as a couple.

My challenge to you is this: As a couple, believe God for too much, rather than too little. Remember what A.W. Tozer said, “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible.  What a pity we plan to do the things we can only do by ourselves.”

Life can wear you down.  It can wear you out.  Disappointment chips away at faith.  As a couple, you have to work on this to go to the finish line.

13. It’s okay to have one rookie season, but it’s not okay to repeatedly repeat it.

I was an idiot in our first 12 months of marriage—repeatedly ignoring the dignity of the woman that God had brought me.

The lessons that you learn need to be applied. It’s not good to repeat rookie errors in your 39th season of marriage.

14. Never use the d-word in your marriage.   

Never threaten divorce in your marriage. Never let the d-word cross your lips, ever!  Instead, use the c-word—commitment, covenant, covenant-keeping love that says, “I’d marry you all over again.”

I can still remember an argument my parents had when I was five years old and divorce was not in vogue.  Your kids are highly sensitized to what your relationship is like and how you communicate when you disagree. Let them hear of your commitment to one another.

15. Honor your parents.

Exodus 20:12 is the first commandment with a promise: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

Our marriage was brought to life as we honored our parents.  We are a generation that has bashed and blamed our parents, ignoring this commandment.  It is time for us to return home to our parents with honor.  A practical way you can do that is by writing them a tribute and, then, by reading it to them.

Instead of giving your parents a dust buster for Christmas, or a tie, or a pair of house slippers, give them a tribute, thanking them for what they did right.  Barbara did this with her parents.  I did it with mine.  Honoring your parents is a life-giver.

16. Different isn’t wrong; it’s just different.

We marry one another because we’re different, and we divorce each other because we’re different.  When Barbara and I moved into the empty-nest phase, we discovered that we are much more different than we ever imagined.  Here’s the key—your spouse’s differences are new capacities that God has brought to your life to complete you.

Barbara’s an artist and as we began our empty-nest years I told her, “Wherever you go, you make things beautiful.”  You see, I didn’t appreciate beauty.  I had no idea how beauty reflected the glory of God. Your spouse is God’s added dimension to your life.

17. Marriage and family are redemptive.

Being married to Barbara and having six kids has saved me from toxic self-absorption.  The way to have a godly marriage and family is the same path as coming to faith in Christ.  It is surrender—giving up your rights to Him first, then to your spouse—serving them.

I have a confession to make.  I mistakenly thought that God gave Barbara and me six children so that we could raise them. Now I think that He gave me six children, so He could finish the process of helping me grow up.  Nothing has taught me more about self-sacrifice and following God’s Word than loving and leading my children.

18. A man’s wife is his number one disciple. 

Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru in the United States), said countless times that a man’s wife should be his number one disciple.

Husbands, help your wife grow as a Christian. It’s the smartest thing you could possibly do. When your wife grows in this area, not only does she triumph at life, but you benefit as well.

19. Go near the orphan.

When you go near the orphan, as a couple, you go near the Father’s heart.  Barbara and I went near the orphan, and we adopted one of our six children. I’ve learned more about the Father’s heart through adoption—of choosing a child and unconditional love. This is pure and undefiled religion.

20. Make your home a storm shelter.

I grew up in southwest Missouri and spent many a night in a cellar, down with the potatoes and green beans. It was a musty smelling place. I was down there trying to dodge a tornado that never hit.

In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus compares two builders of two homes—both in storms.  We should get a clue from that: We’re going to build our marriage, our family, our home in the midst of storm warnings, floods, wind, and rain.

Barbara nearly died on four different occasions; she had a heart rate of more than 300 beats a minute. I often imagined life as a single dad, until we got her heart problem fixed. And then there was a 13-year-old son, our athletic son, who was stricken with a rare neurological disorder.  There was a prodigal.  There was the day my dad died.  There were short paychecks in ministry.  There were challenges in my ministry—all kinds of issues with people.

Your marriage covenant is more than just saying, “I do,” for a lifetime.  It is for better and for worse.

Make your home a storm shelter—a safe place to go in a storm.

21. Suffering will either drive you apart, or it will be used by God to merge you together.

Scripture teaches that our response to God and His Word is the difference-maker in how we handle suffering.  You and your spouse have to decide to suffer together rather than falling apart.

22. Men and women process suffering very differently.

It is a wise husband who gives his wife space and grace to process loss and suffering differently from how he processes it. After Barbara recovered from several near-death experiences when her heart raced over 300 beats a minute, I remember wanting her to flip a switch and move on with life.  That was easy for me to say. I hadn’t been the one who they took away in an ambulance with a heart beating so fast that the bed was shaking.

23.  Loss is a part of life and increases as we age.

How you and your spouse process loss, by faith, will determine whether you grow old and bless others, giving them life, or whether you grow old and curse others, becoming a bitter crotchety old person.

Process loss well.

24. Communication is the life-giver of a relationship. 

Simply put, find a way to get five, ten, fifteen minutes together to talk every day.  Turn the TV off, set the computer aside, take a walk, and just talk with each other.

Barbara and I used to do this and walk in our garden.  The kids thought we were just going out there to see the flowers bloom.  We were going out there to get away from them, so we could have a complete sentence between each other.

25. No shepherd can lead any faster than the sheep can follow. 

You are the guardian of your marriage and family’s direction and vision. C. H. Spurgeon said, “It was by perseverance the snail reached the ark.”  Sliming my way to the finish line is the great hope for me as the spiritual leader of my family.  After you fail (and you will), get back up.

When the kids were young, our family devotionals were chaos—flipping peas, spilling milk, crawling under the table.  Who knows what they heard?  No shepherd can lead any faster than the sheep can follow.

26. Maximize your wife’s talents, gifts, experience, and passion as you would an Olympic athlete. 

Ephesians 5 talks to men about loving their wives as they love their own bodies. Help your wife accomplish everything that God has in mind for her.

Do an inventory of her gifts, her talents, her passions.  What motivates her?  What demotivates her?  Pray for her and her vision.  What are her core competencies?  Dream some dreams together, and don’t wait until you’re in the empty nest to dream the dreams.  Start dreaming even when you’re building your family.

27. Wives, your respect will fuel your husband, and your contempt will empty his tank. 

Ephesians 5:33 commands wives to respect their husbands.  Ladies, keep in mind that 93 percent of all communication is non-verbal.  How are you expressing belief in your man non-verbally?

Barbara’s belief in me as a man has helped me excel.  It’s not a blind belief, but it’s a belief that speaks the truth in love.

28: Women spell romance differently than men. 

Women spell romance r-e-l-a-t-i-o-n-s-h-i-p. But men spell it: s-e-x. God, in His cosmic genius, has brought two very different people together in marriage who are to dance together. And what an interesting dance when I think that I understand my wife. For example, I bring her roses, and I write her a note, and I fix dinner, and put the kids to bed, and that equals sex.

So, as a man, I begin to think, “A+B+C=D.  It did last night.”  So, I try it again the next night or perhaps a few nights later.  Roses, a nice meal, put the kids to bed—“Huh?”  Nada.  “Huh?”

So, I went to Barbara: “What’s the deal?  You changed the equation.”

Would you like to know what she said: “As a woman, I don’t want to be reduced to an equation.  I want to be pursued as a person relationally.”

29. Your marriage must be built to outlast the kids. 

Our romance gave us children, and our children tried to steal our romance.

Barbara and I had to make an effort to have special dinners together and go on short getaways two or three times a year. We fought to keep these times on the schedule.  It was a hassle finding a babysitter, but time alone together was worth it.

30. Build too many guardrails around your relationship rather than too few. 

Men, don’t trust yourself alone with the opposite sex.  I have asked people to go out of their way to take me to speaking engagements instead of one woman taking me.  I’ve got a friend who won’t get in an elevator alone with a woman.  You may say that’s a little extreme.  Let me tell you something.  Given the fallout today in ministry, I’m not sure it’s extreme.

31. Wives generously use your sexual power in your husband’s life. 

I think that one of the mistakes we make when we read chapters 5-7 in Proverbs (which is a father’s advice to a son about the harlot) is to believe that sexual power over a man is limited to just a woman in the streets.

I think Proverbs 5-7 gives women an interesting glimpse into how to encourage and bless her husband—by speaking love to him in the language that would encourage him.  Ladies, use your sexual power liberally with your husbands.

32. The first essence of rearing children is “identity.”

This has to do with disciplining your child to know his or her spiritual destiny and spiritual address.  It also has to do with his or her sexual identity as well.  This culture is seeking to distort the image of God imbedded in boys and girls; we have to help our children know how to navigate those waters.

33. The second essence of rearing children is “relationship.” 

Disciple your child to know what real love is, how to love another imperfect person, and how to experience love as a human.  The Great Commandment makes it clear (Matthew 22:34-40). Life is about relationships.  It’s about a relationship with God, loving Him, and it’s also about loving others on the horizontal.

34. The third essence of rearing children is “character.”

The book of Proverbs talks about this, obviously.  It is disciplining your child to be wise and not be a fool.

35. The fourth essence of rearing children is “mission.” 

It is no mistake that the Scriptures compares children to arrows in the hands of a warrior.  Arrows are meant to be pulled back by an archer, aimed at a target, and let go.

What are you aiming them toward?  What are you challenging your children to give their lives to?  The Kingdom’s work is paramount.  We’re going to need another generation to carry on should Christ tarry.

36. Determine your core values as a couple.

In the early years of Barbara’s and my marriage, we went on a little retreat together. She got alone and wrote down the top ten core values that she wanted to produce in our children.  I got alone, separate from her, and wrote out my top ten core values for the kids.

Then we got together and prioritized them, agreeing on our top five.  Those five helped us to not compare our family with other families, but to do just what God had called us to do.  And it helped us be one as a couple

37. Interview your daughter’s date, and train your sons not to be clueless.

May I suggest two books that I wrote: Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date andAggressive Girls, Clueless Boys?

In today’s culture, even our little eight year old/nine year old boys are being preyed upon by older girls. It is bizarre.

I was recently told about a young man who went away for a Passport2Purity®weekend, which is a weekend getaway, with his father.  He was 11 years old.  After learning about the birds and the bees for the first time, he arrived back home. Two days later, two eighth grade girls asked him to have sex with them.  He said, “No”—told them to leave.

38.  Become smaller, not bigger, in the lives of your adult children.

As Barbara and I have watched our grown children manage their own families and extended families, we have learned that we must become small.  By this I mean that we cannot fix their problems. We can give advice when asked, but not unless we are asked.

39.   As I get older, I want to laugh more with my wife, gripe less, and be found guilty of giving her too much love, grace, and mercy rather than too little. 

40. Have a view of God that will guide you all of your days.

What you think about God is important. Your view of God, of who He is and the blueprints of His Word, will guide you all your days through many valleys and mountaintops in ministry.