Peter and Heather Larson
Peter and Heather Larson

Back in June of 2013, this column was guest written by Dave and Claudia Arp, authors of "10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage." They have also written "10 Great Dates Before You Say I Do" and "10 Great Dates for Empty Nesters." All are books I highly recommend for whatever stage of life you are in.

The Arps have since paired up with Heather and Peter Larson to co-author "10 Great Dates: Connecting Faith, Love and Marriage" and "$10 Great Dates: Connecting Love, Marriage and Fun on a Budget." What follows is an excerpt from this latter book. I know that many are struggling financially these days. I also know that financial strain can have a negative impact on marriage. I'll come back at the end of the column to give you some great ideas on how dating can be a regular and integral part of your marriage even though your last name isn't Rockefeller, Buffett or Gates.

David and Claudia Arp
David and Claudia Arp
$10 Great Dates: Connecting Love, Marriage and Fun on a Budget

By Peter and Heather Larson and David and Claudia Arp

A recent conversation:

Question: "What's your favorite date?"

Answer: "You mean before we were married?"

Question: "No, what's your favorite date from the past couple of months?"

Answer: Silence, then: "We don't actually date. It's too much of a hassle to pull off a date and far too expensive! And after all, we're already married."

If you can identify with the conversation above or if you're simply looking for ways to energize your relationship, we've got you covered.

Think back to your initial dating days and why you dated each other in the first place. When we ask dating couples (the unmarried type) why they date, we hear comments like: "Because I'm crazy about her; he makes me happy; I want our relationship to grow; I want to know her on a deeper level; and we're really attracted to each other."

Wouldn't it be great if married couples could tap into this same positive energy in an ongoing way? Dating on a regular basis is a fun way for couples to rejuvenate their love for one another.

We (the Arps) often say, "Fun is in marriage is serious business!" Think about it, have you ever met a couple on the way to the divorce court who were having fun together? Don't think so! And how do you put more fun in your relationship? One way is by having regular date nights. Dates with a purpose — not just dinner and a movie dates.

Research reveals that dating can make a positive difference in relationships. But here's the catch. Predictable dinner and a movie dates have less impact than dates that stretch you and take you out of your norm. Dates that include new experiences help you bond together and often result in a big pay-off for your marriage. But one of you needs to take the time to initiate!

Taking time and making an effort to initiate a date sends several powerful messages to your spouse. It communicates that you want to be together, and they are worth the time, money and effort involved in going out. Most couples complain about busy overscheduled lives, so taking time for a date is a powerful indication that you want to give your significant other your attention. With so many things competing for our time, dates rarely just happen naturally. A date communicates, "I choose you as a priority, and I want to be intentional about nurturing our relationship."

We (the Larsons) can tell when it has been too long since we've been on a date. We begin to feel disconnected and function more like roommates than spouses. We become short with one another in the midst of our schedules, kids and responsibilities. This general sense of distance and tension is a signal that we need time alone as a couple; time to reconnect. Maybe you identify with us.

What makes a date great? No rules exist for what constitutes a successful date, but some common elements are: quality time together giving you a break from your normal routine; a shared activity; and conversation.

Men tend to relax through doing an activity while women relax through talking. So if your date includes both an activity and opportunity to talk, you're on your way to a great date.

If you're afraid that a great date will have to break the bank, don't worry. Check out "$10 Great Dates: Connecting Love, Marriage and Fun on a Budget." This book offers you 52 great dates that are easy to pull off, easy to do (lots of tips and helps), and best of all, dates that are doable on a budget of $10 or less!

Hear more from the Larsons

OK, I'm back, and as promised, I have some ideas to share with you about dating without breaking the bank. Many have discovered disc golf, but my hunch is that many of you are not aware that we have a wonderful disc golf course — actually three courses — in the Lion's Wilderness area of Farmington. After a small initial investment in equipment there is no charge to enjoy this recreational and challenging game/sport.

The same can be said for geocaching, which requires only the purchase of a handheld GPS unit (a borrowed one works just as well). You log on to the website www.geocaching.com, register, type in your zip code and then decide which of some hundreds of treasure hunts you want to take on. This works in just about every community and location you might choose and is a wonderful way to get out together and see sights you may have missed.

I'm pleased to tell you that Peter and Heather will be my guests on TWOgether as ONE tomorrow evening at 6 on KLJH 107.1FM. They will be sharing more helpful tips on low cost dates. The program has already been recorded, and I can promise you it is worth hearing. Here's just one teaser for you. They suggest "just dessert" dates. The idea here is that you have dinner at home, but then go someplace nice to share a desert.

I think that is a sweet idea — if you'll forgive my pun. There's plenty more where that came from so please tune in tomorrow night and consider getting your own copy of the book "$10 Great Dates: Connecting Love, Marriage and Fun on a Budget." More information is available at www.10greatdates.org.

Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at 505-327-7870.