Wives to Watch in Every Stage of Life - Elyse from Just Murrayed

Each stage of life looks different and brings unique challenges to every couple. My hope is that you will be inspired by the stories of the women in this series. I hope that their experiences will help you find more ways to make your marriage relationship a priority throughout every stage of your own life.

I'm excited to be continuing this series this year. I've loved reading everyone's stories and have been so inspired by each of the wives that I've had here so far. Today's interview is with my friend Elyse. We met through blogging and I've loved getting to know her! She and her husband are high school sweethearts, turned long distance relationship, turned marriage. I loved everything that she shared and know you will too!

What does it mean to you to prioritize your marriage?

For me, it means doing things everyday that help us have a more successful relationship than the day before. For me, to prioritize my marriage, it's figuring out what's going to work best for us at that particular time in our life. Sometimes that means we can only carve out 10 minutes of cuddling on the couch when a deadline looms and sometimes that means date nights 3 times a week.

How have the different stages you've experienced in life affected how you prioritize your marriage?

After 15 years, we’ve experienced SO many different stages, from spending every waking moment together to only seeing each other every few months our senior years of high school, it has shaped how we spend our time now living together as a married couple.

When we first started dating in Grade 10 we saw each other in school and had weekly dates, but that all changed in Grade 11 when Andrew moved 4 hours away with his parents. For the next 3 years we only had our daily phone conversations and the occasional face-to-face time. At the time it felt like it was the most difficult thing in the world but as an adult I see only the benefits to this awful time. It taught us good communication, the importance of date nights and if you love someone you make time for them.

When we went to college, we chose different colleges which meant MORE time long distance, but it was relatively easy because we had access to more money and were able to take the trains to see each other frequently. During this time we continued to learn how to make our unique relationship work. We spent entire weekends together, having fun and dreaming together.

Our last year of college I transferred to his college so that we could be done with the long distance thing. This year was an amazing time for our relationship. We spent every moment that we weren’t in class, together. Date nights happened at least 3 times a week.

Finally, after college was over we moved in together. This was a HUGE learning experience for both of us because we’d never lived together before, we both had our first real jobs and it was probably the hardest time of our relationship. We had to learn to bring in all the things we’d learned from our previous experiences such as communication, continuing to learn about each other and date nights and make it work in real life.

When we got married, for some reason even though we’d lived together for years it felt more ‘real’ and we’ve stepped up our game even more to make our relationship work. Date nights, continuing to learn about each other. We don’t let a day go by without thinking about ways to improve our relationship; to serve each other better.

What are some rituals/traditions (big or small) that you have with your spouse?

I never understood how important rituals or traditions are important in marriage until we actually started being more intentional in creating some.

The only tradition we’ve had since the beginning of our relationship is what we call ‘Grinch and Grilled Cheese’. When the first snowfall hits whether that’s in October or December, we make grilled cheese, pull out the animated version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and cuddle up on the couch.

Since moving to Vancouver six months ago, we’ve created another ritual that I’m really excited about. After dinner, after everything is cleaned up, we sit on the couch and drink tea together. It started as a fun ritual to relax after a long day but we’re also having some great conversations that I am not sure we would’ve had without this ritual.

How have the obstacles and challenges that you’ve faced as a couple made you a stronger team?

I love this question. After 15 years, I feel like there isn’t anything we haven’t experienced together. Job loss, long distance relationship, surgeries, family deaths, cross-country moving, and miscarriages, those are just a few off the top of my head that we’ve experienced. Something that I think separates the good marriages from the bad is how they react to obstacles and challenges. For us, we become closer, we lean on each other to get us through whatever hardship we have.

Even before we moved across the country, just the planning of it would make me burst into tears. Andrew took care of everything because even though I wanted to move, I had a lot of inner turmoil about moving because I’ve always lived SO close to my family. We moved away from family and we had to rely on each other. This past Christmas was our first Christmas we haven’t had to rush out the door at lunchtime to be at someone else’s house. We got to spend the morning in bed and then we enjoyed opening up our presents from our families with our family watching through Facetime and Skype. We made a huge breakfast for two and enjoyed the entire day together.

Our life is hardly perfect, the area that we most struggle with is our expectations. Our expectations for each other are always changing, and sometimes it easy to forget to tell each other or sometimes you think that your expectation for them might make them angry so you don’t say anything and then arguments happen because they aren’t doing something you expected them to do, even though you might not have actually vocalized your expectation. It’s something we’re constantly working on.

Tell me about something that you hope to be able to do together in the future?

We would like to take a trip. We never went on a honeymoon because of the nature of Andrew’s job, it just wasn’t feasible so we would like to at least go somewhere fun for a week. We don’t have any specific plans of where though. Probably somewhere warm but we’ve also talked about an Alaskan cruise.

Now that we’re in our 30s, I am hoping that our next adventure is parenthood. I’ve always known I’d be a mother and my husband would make the greatest dad, it’s just a matter of time.

Click here to read more interviews in the Wives to Watch in Every Stage of Life Series

Just Murrayed

How Baby #2 Has Changed the Way We Do Date Night

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #WonderfulYourWay #CollectiveBias

After we had Bensen, our date nights changed a little bit, but really didn't take a lot of extra effort to make happen. He was a really good baby and made the perfect third wheel. We'd take him to dinner with us and he'd entertain us while we waited for our food then take his regular dinner time nap while we ate and enjoyed each other's company. He was also a great sleeper so we could always count on him to fall asleep early enough in the evening that we had time to continue our date night at home. Date nights in the four and a half months since Emmy joined our family have not been quite as easy.

I would say that finding a way to have regular, quality date nights was easier to do while Emmy was in the hospital, even though our time together was limited. Having a premature baby right before winter means that we stay home more often than we go out because we don't want to take her to public places where she might catch something. Our energetic, adventurous toddler isn't quite as easy to take out anymore as well. We've often taken advantage of family living close and being willing to come over and spend a couple of hours with the kids so that we can get out. However, sick kids, weather and other things always seem to come up, and we can't expect our families to watch our kids every week, so more often than not, our date nights happen at home.

Parmesan Chicken meal for two

This stage of life won't last forever, I know. In a few years, we'll be leaving our kids home with a sitter often and a few more (ish) years after that, they'll be old enough to take care of themselves for a couple of hours. Even further down the road, the entire family may be off doing a variety of different things every weekend, and before we know it, we'll be empty nesters with the time, resources and freedom to do whatever we please. But rather than rushing my little ones to grow up, we will enjoy the current stage of our lives and make date night wonderful, no matter where it takes place or what we are doing.

One of my favorite things about date night at home is that it's relaxed and we have the potential to really connect and have fun together. So often we resort to ordering takeout and getting a movie from Redbox, but the more that we spend date night at home, the more I've tried to think outside the box and find something new to do together. Rather than just sitting down to eat, I thought it might be fun to prepare a meal together. We'd get to work together as a team and enjoy the results of our hard work. This meal was simple but felt fancier than our every day dinner. And Joe said that it tasted "excellent".

I wanted to find a meal that we could cook together, where each of us would have our own thing to do but we'd still be working side by side in the kitchen. This Chicken Parmesan with Vegetable Chips and pasta is perfect for that! I'll take you step by step through this date and how you can enjoy time together in the kitchen, no matter what stage in life you are currently enjoying. Full recipes can be found at the end of this post.

Date night at home can be just as romantic as an evening out. Make this delicious Parmesan Chicken for two and enjoy a evening of quality time together.

1. While the oven is preheating, one of you will prepare the chicken while the other prepares the vegetable chips. They can be put in the oven together so that they're done cooking at the same time.

This is probably the more time consuming portion of the date, but if you work on opposite sides of the counter from each other, you can talk while you work. When we're on a date, we try not to talk about our parenting responsibilities, work, bills or other adulting topics. We dream about the future, get to know each other better, and try not to take life too seriously. Date night should be stress free and bring you together rather than having the potential to end in an disagreement. If I'm being honest, even after the kiddos are in bed, we're often interrupted by one or the other of them, so our parenting responsibilities tend to cut in, but we try our hardest to keep the evening wonderful and carefree. 

2. After the chicken and veggies are in the oven, one person will get the sauce and pasta cooked while the other prepares the chocolate mousse for dessert.

We sauteed mushrooms in olive oil before adding the sauce to the pan to heat up. For our pasta, I picked Barilla ProteinPLUS® when I was grabbing the rest of the ingredients that we would need from our local Smith's Food & Drug (Kroger banner store). As a new mom, I add protein to my meals wherever possible. It's important for me to be able to continue to feed my baby and helps to keep my energy up. Any parent knows that when you have little ones running around, you need all of the energy you can get to keep up with them, run your household throughout the day and still have some left to spend quality time with your spouse at the end of the day. I love that Barilla ProteinPLUS contains 17g of protein per serving and pairs perfectly with their sauces to bring authentic Italian flavor, well being and quality taste to our dinner table.

Barilla ProteinPLUS

3. When everything is done cooking, dish up your plates and sit down to enjoy a leisurely meal together. 

Any time we want our meal to feel like more of a special occasion, we pull out our fancy glasses and a bottle of sparkling cider. If you take care in "plating" your food, you might forget for just a minute, that you are in your own kitchen with sleeping babies upstairs and instead, feel like you're out for a romantic dinner at your favorite restaurant. This meal was so delicious, it sure felt that way to me, but instead of being somewhere crowded and noisy, we were able to enjoy each other's company in the intimate setting of our home.

4. After dinner, enjoy dessert while you play games together.

Too often, we're quick to turn on a movie after dinner. There's nothing wrong with a cuddling up together on the couch and watching your favorite show, but some of my favorite memories are when we've played a game together instead. I asked some other married couples what their favorite two player games were and got a lot of great suggestions! It's easy to come up with ideas for a group date night, but I can usually only think of a few that we can have fun playing as a couple. A few that we love are; Battleship, Uno and Life. Some that were suggested to us and that I plan to try in the future are; Clue, Yahtzee, Pie Face Showdown, Mancala, Five Crowns and Sequence.

The babysitter cancelling, sick kids or just the desire to stay home doesn't have to mean that date night is a bust. Get creative and find ways to make date night "wonderful your way" at home. We still enjoy going out together once or twice a month, but I've really started to love a stress free night together at home more and more the past few months.

Bonus: Bensen and I went on our own little mini date to Smith's to get everything we needed for this meal while daddy stayed home and snuggled with Emmy. He enjoyed the time with me and it was in the pasta aisle, while I was choosing my Barilla ProteinPLUS and sauce that I found out that he knows how to say "mayonnaise". It's funny how the littlest things are so exciting as a parent!

How do you make date night in more special than your every day night at home? Click here for more Barilla "Wonderful Your Way" recipe inspiration to enjoy on your next romantic evening in.

Chicken Parmesan for Two
Parmesan Vegetable Chips
Easy Chocolate Mousse

Family Date Night is Important Too - Ideas for Family Fun

Just as date night is important for your marriage and one on one time with your children is important for your parenting relationship, regular family time is important too! Spending time together as a family builds memories and strengthens relationships. In addition to making date night a priority, I try to make family time a priority as well.

Read: 5 Family Rituals to Adopt After Baby Arrives

Family date night is just as important as date night is for your marriage. Have fun as a family this week with these fun ideas!

The weekends are easiest for us to set aside a substantial amount of time to spend together. Joe only has to work every few Saturdays and when he does work, he's home early enough that we can do something before dinner and bedtime. These are a few of the fun things that I have planned for our family so far this year. I guess you could consider it our family date night bucket list.

Go to the park A LOT - Bensen is at a fun age, where he loves to run around and play outside. I'm a kid at heart and love playgrounds. I have a list of playgrounds in our area that I think look like fun and I'm hoping to make playing at the park followed by a picnic before we come home for naps on Saturdays a regular activity this spring and fall.

Float boats in the creek - There's a creek that runs through the park near mine and Joe's parent's house. One area of the creek is easy to walk along and I would love to spend a day creating boats out of milk jugs and floating them down the creek as a family.

Movies in the park - I love movies in the park because they're free, a great family activity and you get to enjoy the perfect summer nights. There's a park near us that shows movies one night a month in the summer and I'm really hoping to go this year. Bensen is a creature of habit with a very early bedtime, so we'll see how this goes. If all else fails, it's a free activity and we're close to home so we can leave at any point.

Get family pictures taken - Our family pictures are anything but posed lately, and if they are a captured posed, we were in that pose for about two seconds. The candid ones are usually my favorite though. Our kids grow and change so quickly that I'd love to get pictures taken at least twice this year.

Jump in leaf piles - Bensen thinks that anything on the grass that is not grass is a "mess". Snow and leaves particularly. He loves to help clean them up and I'm really hoping that he'll love to build a big pile and jump in it too.

Watch airplanes take off  - I'm not sure if this is really something that you're allowed to do anymore. When I was a kid though, we'd drive out near the airport and spend an hour watching airplanes land and take off. We loved it and I'm pretty sure Bensen would love it too.

Go sledding - Next winter, when Emmy is big enough to enjoy it, I want to find a good but small sledding hill and spend an hour or so riding down the hill and climbing our way back up again. Then we can come home and enjoy some hot chocolate afterward.

Build a snowman - It's been hard to get out and do a lot in the snow this winter because of Emmy. When we have gone out, Bensen hasn't quite known what to do with the snow. I'm hoping that next winter, he'll want to have fun and we can teach him how to build a snowman.

Make snow ice cream - I've seen people do this, adding a few ingredients to fresh snow and eating it for a treat. I think it seems like something fun and unique to do.

Decorate sugar cookies - It's something that I've been wanting to do for a long time, and it hasn't happened yet. My family always did this around Christmas time, but I think I'll pick a random time of year and decorate sugar cookies just because. 

Pajamas, pizza and popcorn - This is a tradition that I want to start, but Bensen hasn't gotten to a stage where he wants to watch more than five minutes of a show. I would love to have this be a once a month thing. On a Friday night, we'd all put on our pajamas, and watch a movie while we eat pizza and popcorn together.

Whatever your stage in life, find a way to spend time together as a family regularly. I know that I never appreciated that time growing up, but now I look forward to Sunday nights when we get together with both of our families, especially the weekends when all of my siblings are home for dinner. If you have younger kids who don't have many extracurricular commitments, you may be able to do something together every single night after dinner. If your kids are older, it may only be once a week that you're all able to be home together, and that day of the week may shift depending on what is going on. After your kids are moved out and have families of their own, make it a habit to get everyone together at least once a month, if not more often. You will never regret the time that you spend together.

What are some of the fun activities that you do together as a family?

How to Decide What Date Ideas to Include on Your Bucket List

For the last few years, we've put together a bucket list at the beginning of every year. This bucket list is different than what you'd normally picture when you think of a bucket list. Our bucket list is filled with things that we want to do for date night in the coming year. Obviously, there are a lot of things that a couple can do together on date night, so how do you determine which activities to include on your bucket list?

Read: How to Create Your Own Date Night Bucket List

It's your list, so you are ultimately the ones who get to determine what to include on it. But if you're wondering where to start, I've got a few ideas to get you started. These are the things that we think about when putting together our bucket list each year.

Create a date night bucket list each year to encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to your date night activities.

Activities you've always talked about doing together

When Joe and I were dating, he'd watch TV while I sat next to him finishing up my homework. Every night we'd see a commercial for Olive Garden and every time the commercial would come on, I'd tell Joe, "We haven't been there together yet, we need to go there." One night he surprised me with a date night to Olive Garden and I was so excited because it was something that we'd been talking about for a couple of months.

The activities that you talk about doing together may be as simple as a restaurant that you've been wanting to try, but they might also be bigger, like going to a big event or on a once in a lifetime adventure, something that costs more than you would normally spend on a date.

Dates that you both will love

When I put together our bucket list of dates for the year, I make sure that I include Joe in the planning. I ask him what sort of things he thinks would be fun and make a note of them. Our list includes date nights that we're both going to enjoy, but a few of the things are more for me or more for him. 

Nights that are kid free

I know that getting out without the kids can seem impossible sometimes. The last two or three kid free dates that we have planned have been thwarted by weather, Joe getting the flu and then Bensen wasn't feeling well. Family date night is great, and time without the kids after they've gone to bed is great as well. But every once in a while, get dressed up, leave the kids home and spend time together away from your role as partners in parenting.

Not your ordinary date night

We all have our regular date nights, our go to activities when we spend time together. Put a few things on your bucket list that you wouldn't normally do together or that you only do every once in a while. Maybe it's a once in a lifetime date or maybe it's just something that you really enjoy doing together, but never have the time to do. Make your bucket list something that is fun and exciting to accomplish.

One extravagant or splurge date 

This last year, we put an expensive restaurant on our bucket list. It was a place that we'd never been before and one that we'd heard was a fun experience and perfect for date night. We waited until we had something to celebrate so we had an extra excuse to spend more money and we enjoyed every minute of it. One day we'll go back, but probably not for the full multiple course meal that we had that night. It's fun to be able to say that we've been there and we highly recommend it to anyone who asks.

One thing that scares you

I did this for our bucket list this year (see below) and while I'm still not 100% sure that it's a date that will happen, I'm hoping to push myself to go for it. It's a little cheesy, but this suggestion made me think of The Bachelor and all of the bridge jumping, building rappelling and other adrenaline rush dates that they send them on. After the date is over, the couple always gushes about how vulnerable they felt and how strengthening it was for their relationship to go through that together. It's cheesy but getting out of your comfort zone and doing something that scares you can really be a great opportunity for your marriage.

Something romantic

When was the last time you went on a romantic date together? Relive one of your first dates, go dancing, eat dinner at a fancier restaurant, anything that the two of you think is a romantic.

A foodie date

If you're like us, you have your favorite restaurants and the ones that you frequent a lot. Most of ours are based on convenience and location and maybe what we're craving. They're all places that we are familiar with and we don't try something new often enough. Add a couple of new restaurants to your list. Local eateries, food trucks, and other places that have been suggested to you. 

Read: The Benefit of Planning Date Night in Advance

I've been putting our 2017 date night bucket list together over the last year. Every time we talk about some place we need to go or something that we need to do, I write it in the back of my planner. If we don't get to it during the year, I add it to our bucket list for the next year. Each one of these dates is planned for a month on my calendar. I use the word "planned" loosely because everything that I plan lately just goes right out the window. I'm really excited to go on some fun, kid free date nights this year! I'll be sure to share them here on the blog and on Instagram when we do.

Indoor Skydiving - This is the one date night that sort of scares me. I'm not a big fan of the falling feeling, but I'm hoping that the indoor skydiving experience is not like that. Has anyone ever been?

Tandem Bike Ride - I don't know why, but this sounds really fun to me! We'll have to work together as a team and it's something that we'd probably never do but it's not a big, extravagant, out there sort of date.

Moonlit Scenic Lift Ride - This one was on our list the last two years and we still have never gotten to do it. I'm really hoping to incorporate this into a night or two a way for our anniversary.

Ferris Wheel/Paddle Boats - We went paddle boating last year for our anniversary date and it was fun, but hot and a little uncomfortable while I was pregnant. I'm really hoping to do this again this year, just earlier or later in the year, and while I don't have a large belly in my way.

Cherry Blossoms @ Capitol - At the beginning of April, the cherry blossoms are gorgeous and line the path around our state capitol building. I drove past that building every day on my way too and from the hospital after Emmy was born and kept thinking that we needed to go there more. So my plan is possibly a family picnic date and a walk around the capitol this spring.

SLC Temple & Dinner at The Roof - Joe and I made a goal to visit every LDS Temple in our state before our 10th anniversary. I've been to weddings at this temple, but never done an endowment session. I really want to do that this year and then walk around temple square and eat dinner at a great restaurant down there.

Top Golf - I've heard great things about this fun driving range. They keep score for you and you can order food while you play. Joe's been for a company event and said it was really fun and I can't wait to go with him later this year.

Fast Kart Speedway - This date is more for Joe than for me, although I think it will be fun too! I'm thinking this would be a fun activity for his birthday date, and I'm really hoping that I can make it happen.

Tip: Sign up for our newsletter to download the Seasonal Date Night Bucket Lists mini ebook. Then Check out these fun printables from The Dating Divas to help you get started with your lists.

What date night activities will be on your bucket list this year?

Five Secrets of The 5 Love Languages

I'm a big fan of the Love Languages, and I talk about them here quite often. Taking the time to learn what makes your spouse feel loved and then intentionally loving them in a way that they understand, but also in the way that comes naturally to you is great! However, there are a few things that I've heard from people who feel that knowing their love languages isn't doing anything for them. If you're one of those people who doesn't feel like they make much of a difference in your marriage, these five tips are for you!

The 5 Love Languages will be most effective if you remember these five things.

Recognize when your love languages shift

Before Joe and I got married, and even right afterward, my top love language was Quality time with Physical Touch following closely behind. A few years later, when I was waist deep in homework and full time work, I retook the quiz and discovered that Acts of Service came in first with Quality Time and Physical Touch still right up there as well. Now that we have kids, Acts of Service is an even bigger deal to me. I'd recommend taking the quiz again every so often to see how your love languages are currently ranking.

Read: Your Love Languages Can Shift

Verbalize what you need to feel love

Just because your spouse knows what your love language is doesn't mean that they will automatically know what you personally need in order to feel loved. If your love language is Words of Affirmation, your spouse may start leaving love notes around the house for you when what you'd really appreciate is for them to thank you for the things that you are doing in your home and for your marriage on a regular basis. If there is something that you really need from your spouse in order to feel loved, like 10 minutes of quality, no technology allowed time a day or a 30 second hug when you walk in the door from work, don't be afraid to let them know.

Read: Love Language Dialects

Recognize when your spouse is speaking their love language

Although your spouse may be aware of your love language, you can't expect them to do the things that make you feel loved 100% of the time. What comes naturally to them is what their love language is. It's important to be aware of those times when, although they may not be doing something that you easily recognize and appreciate, your spouse may be showing you love in their own way.

An example; Physical Touch is Joe's top love language and Acts of Service is my top love language. Some nights when he gets home from work, the kids are both going crazy and I'm working hard to get dinner on the table. Joe will often come up behind me to give me a hug while I'm cooking or cleaning up the dinner mess. It used to irritate me because rather than harassing me, I wished he was playing with the kids or helping with clean up. One day I realized that I was being silly. Joe wasn't harassing me, he was showing me love and I needed to accept and appreciate that rather than being annoyed and rejecting his efforts.

Read: The Secret to Success with The 5 Love Languages

Focus on the other love languages too

I have my one main love language, the one that I appreciate the most, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't appreciate the others. Acts of Service and Quality Time are the things that make my heart sing the most, but I find myself appreciating and even longing for Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation and Gifts every now and then. The thing that I love the most about the love languages is that they focus on being intentional and making a conscious effort. So even though your spouse's top love language might be Physical Touch and the love language that they scored the lowest on was Words of Affirmation. Don't completely neglect praising and complimenting your spouse or verbally letting them know that you love them. 

Use the love languages to pick out the perfect gift

My favorite thing about the love languages is that, even if your spouse doesn't speak the language of Gifts, you can use their love language to pick out the perfect present. Sometimes I give Joe a gift that is really just a gift, but I also like to incorporate Physical Touch and Quality Time into his presents in a way that I know he'll appreciate. One of the things that Joe and I do, because both of us appreciate Quality Time, is spend a night or two away together to celebrate our birthdays every October. We'd rather spend money on that time and experience than an object that we think the other person would like.

Read: Use the Love Languages to Give the Perfect Gift

I also always suggest that people read the book (affiliate link). I read it once a year and my copy is well loved with sections underlined and lots of notes in the margins. It's a quick read, but really inspiring and I learn something new every time I read it. I'm always surprised when I meet someone who's never heard of The 5 Love Languages or who has heard of them but never bothered to learn more about them or discover what theirs is. I was that person once though, and someone convinced me to take the test and I've been hooked ever since. I even got Joe to take the quiz on the night we met. I'm not sure how it came up in our conversation, or what I said to convince him to take it, but I'm kind of glad that I've known his love languages from the very beginning.

What are your love languages? How do you use your love language and your spouse's love language to strengthen your marriage?