Whether you're single, dating, or married, this advice from Al Fox Carraway and her husband, Ben, is something you should know. Check out this excerpt from their book Cheers to Eternity:
Marriage is the best time to date, and it’s important to do it consistently to keep the bond between you and your spouse alive and strong. Always keep the dating life that you had before your marriage going, no matter your age or how long you’ve been together. It’s having those fun times together that made you two fall in love, and it will be those things that help you stay in love. At least once a week, we go out and do something out of the house.
Frequently, we decide to go to the temple and then go out to dinner after (something about the temple makes us really crave pancakes). Aside from our temple dates, we usually have another night every week that we try to go out to eat someplace new. We love tacos! Okay, that’s an understatement. It’s an obsession. So we usually try to find a new Mexican restaurant to eat at. Before it went out of business, and this is going to date us a little, we were avid Blockbuster renters (we don’t want to talk about it; we’re still genuinely sad about them going out of business).
We also like looking for free museums and random hole-in-the-wall restaurants in small cities we’ve never been to; we have found all of our favorite foods that way. Or sometimes we like to go to random hotels to stay for the night and just swim and sightsee. Do things that you enjoyed doing together while you were dating, no matter what they may be—keep doing them! Over time, find new things to add too. Date nights when you’re married are more fun anyway, because no one gets dropped off afterward and you can go home together.
Al: One time, just to go out and be together, we went to a hotel that was two hours away in a really small town that really only had a diner. It wasn’t the cleanest place; it smelled pretty bad; their pool had a nasty black line along the top of the water line; and their “hot breakfast” was small, stale mini muffins stuffed in an even smaller Tupperware. We look back on that time together as one of our favorite memories because it was so random and funny. Although it was probably the grossest place we’d ever stayed in, we’ll never forget it, and it was a time that we laughed the hardest and enjoyed each other the most.
There’s something about going somewhere or trying something new with Ben that really brings us closer together. My favorite memories that we have together are when we are out of the house doing whatever. I’d hate to think that those memories could have been replaced with wasted time spent doing the “same old, same old.”
Quality Time at Home
It is important to have time for yourself and to do those hobbies that you love. Ben likes doing active stuff like hiking or working out, reading self-improvement books, and working on his personal growth, so he’ll make time for that. Al loves to be outside, write, and run on the treadmill. We have our separate time to do those things that we love. But when it’s just the two of you at the house and you have “nothing” to do, take advantage of your time together. It’s times when we find ourselves idling away our time surfing the web, staring at our Instagram feed, or focusing time on other people’s lives through social media that we should be thinking about what else can we be doing. If you play video games, play them with your spouse. Read books together, go hiking, talk to each other. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do it together!
We learned right off the bat that we couldn’t go out all the time now that we’re married because we’d go broke really quickly. So, we adapted to our new circumstances of married life and came up with new things to try and new activities to do; activities that we now love. Though we weren’t necessarily leaving the house to do something, we wanted our time home together to be productive. We developed a passion for and addiction to board games. We, like most, do our share of Netflix and chill, which, for us, is actually just watching The Office every night.
One day, when we didn’t have anything planned, we ended up learning the entire dance routine to Drake’s song, “Hotline Bling.” We’ve gotten more use out of our daughter’s Little Tikes basketball hoop than she does, and we play extreme H-O-R-S-E games against each other.
When we’re home, we want to be home. We want to interact with each other, and give each other the time we need to connect and grow. We try our very best for Al to leave her work at work, and for Ben to try and get all of his homework done before she’s home. There are times when that doesn’t work, obviously, and that’s fine, but it has definitely paid off to have the mindset of getting it all done previously in order to open our time up for family time.
Al’s stake president told us, “I’ve been to a lot of sealings where I have seen these little peck kisses.”
He continues, “Ben, grab your wife and give her a real kiss at the altar. I don’t want to see any of this little ‘peck’ stuff.” And we did just that. Afterward, Ben looked over to see Al’s stake president, with a proud look on his face, give Ben a thumbs-up.
Ben: I never had a problem with kissing. In first grade, I was called to the principal’s office for playing kissing tag. On my first date with Al, I remember thinking 30 minutes into our date, Ben, you’d better kiss this girl tonight. I was lovestruck by her and, naturally, I wanted to kiss her. Even though she told me she never kisses on the first date, I was going to change that. At the end of the night, after a really amazing time together, I leaned in and she leaned in. At the last second, I tricked her and gave her an Eskimo kiss—first, to keep her humble, and second, to play hard to get. I mean, she desperately wanted me to kiss her. She’ll never admit that, but it’s the truth. Physical affection has always played a big role in our relationship. We have never been shy about showing it, and I believe it’s this kind of affection that has helped us have such a good relationship since day one.
“Always greet and depart with a kiss.” More counsel from our marriage temple interview that rang true to us both. Neither of us will ever forget the time when we were dating and we had to take our separate cars back to Ben’s house. We subconsciously left to make the drive without giving each other a kiss. No big deal, right? As soon as we both put our cars in drive, the whole drive there just felt different: a bad different. It felt like something was missing, and it was. We made a habit to always greet and depart with a kiss. But not just when you leave and return, just to show affection in general. That effort of actively thinking about it, then doing it, has always been a good idea. Every day. It may seem like a small detail that can be overlooked, but don’t fall into this trap. Maybe a small departing kiss won’t alter your life, but going a long time without them will.
This totally includes hand-holding too. And don’t tell us your heart doesn’t melt when you see an elderly couple holding hands in public. Their show of affection comes from years of building good relationship habits. However you show affection is fine, just make sure you show it every day. It could be playing with their hair while watching Netflix, giving them back scratches, or spooning. It includes footsie at the dinner table, even when you’re eating at your in-laws’.
And we refuse to leave out the “love life.” No blushing; we’re serious. First, this is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. It is sacred and created by God Himself. There’s a strengthening power that comes from intimacy, and it’s important to have and keep that sacred connection between the two of you. That’s how God wants it to be. Always keep your physical pull toward each other and act on it. Keeping your intimacy alive allows that sacred love and power to enter your relationship and will help bond you both together. Feel comfortable to talk about it, and always be open with each other. is should very much be a together thing and not a selfish or abused thing. It can’t be one-sided or else it won’t work the way it’s meant to.
We’ve learned the importance of knowing and understanding each other’s needs so that we can be sure to cater to them. Before we got married, we took an online test to see what our love languages were. We recommend that everyone who is dating, or even those who are single, take this test. It’s fun. According to a best-selling book, there are five different “languages” that we “speak” to give and receive love. It’s stated that oftentimes you don’t marry someone that speaks the same language as you, so it’s important to see and understand your spouse’s needs. We took the test as a joke initially, but it ended up really helping us understand how to best connect with each other, and how to be there in the ways we need.
Al: My love languages are service and words of affirmation. Which means, in order for me to feel the most loved, I need to be verbally told that I am loved, appreciated, or that I look pretty; I also react well to nice acts of kindness. When Ben does something like wash the dishes, or put away the clothes, that is when I think, Wow, he really must love me because he did that. Ben’s love languages, on the other hand, are quality time and physical touch. The best way for him to feel loved is through one-on-one time with me, and any kind of physical touch (small things like holding hands). There are only five options in the test, and Ben and I didn’t overlap. So, understanding our differences allowed us to better fulfill the other person’s needs in small ways every day so that neither of us is left unsatisfied.
Lead image from Getty Images
At one point, Al Fox was a tattooed Mormon who was sure she would never get married. What changed? Find out in this beautifully open book, written by Al and her now-husband Ben Carraway. Experience their journey from meeting to dating to marriage and read their answers to popular dating questions like, “What qualities should I look for in a future spouse?” and “How do I know if this person is the one?”