wedding vows, free wedding vows from The Marriage Vow Workbook
personal samples of wedding vows, blog, relationship tipsevents, wedding vows planning, marriage enrichment Ashevillesecond marriage tips, best engagement gifts, Marriage Vow Workbookresources for engaged couples, civil marriage vow samples, non religious wedding vowswriting my own wedding vows, simple wedding vows, mediahow to write wedding vows, 
Bruce Mulkey, Shonnie Lavendercontact Bruce Mulkey, contact Shonnie Lavender, contact Marriage Vow Workbooktips for a successful wedding and marriage, wedding vows, wedding vows renewals

Managing time in busy marriages — Is there enough of you to go around?

In his “My Computer Time and My Wife” post, Matt posed this question: How do you manage time for yourself and then others? I smiled reading his specific scenario (He’s on the computer longer than he tells his wife he will be and she gets frustrated.) because it happens in our family too (we each alternate roles, by the way). Even if you don’t have this same issue as Matt and Becky or Bruce and me, my guess is that, being human, you sometimes have similar conflicts with your loved ones.

Matt invited folks to share how they handle such situations, so here are some of the things that work for my husband, Bruce, and me.

  1. Identify, to yourself, what it is that you’re wanting. If we don’t really know what we’re craving we can’t clearly communicate it to our partner.
  2. Before making a request, do an “urgency” check to see how important your desire is to YOU. For instance, is it just something that would be nice to have happen, is it my preference, or is it something that I absolutely must have (Remember to watch out for that part of each of us that wants to control the world.)
  3. When requesting something of your partner, be specific, clear and “requesting” in your delivery (i.e., versus being “demanding” or “commanding.”) Example, “Honey, I’m really tired tonight and I want to have some time to snuggle before I go to sleep. Will you give me 5 minutes of your time right now?”
  4. Listen to your partner’s response. When Bruce is absorbed in whatever he’s doing, I can hear it in his voice (and sense it in his energy). Right away I have some data that lets me know if he really heard me. (If you think you could use a listening skills tune up, or installation for that matter, join us in November for Listening for Love, a free teleclass we’re hosting.)
  5. If you’re not getting the response you want, do one of two things. Option 1 — Understand that it’s not my partner’s responsibility to meet all my needs and be “okay” with life as it is. Let your partner know that you no longer need them to fulfill your request. Option 2 — Identify what you’re doing that may be making it easy for your partner to be unresponsive. For me this often will mean that I’m not asking about Bruce’s needs and simply believing that he “should” do as I wish. Once you know how you’re contributing to the situation, change your approach and see what happens. If option 2 is repeatedly unsuccessful, you might opt for #1 and have a discussion about the situation at a later date and time.

Of course, that’s simply what works in our home. :-) I’d love to hear your ideas as well!
FYI, Matt and his wife, Becky, share their lives on their blog and in doing so offer us all the chance to learn about ourselves (Thank you both!).

Award-Winning Columnist Features The Marriage Vow Workbook in Her “How To” Column

Today award-winning, syndicated columnist Susan Reinhardt’s story about us and our book, I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook appeared on the front page of the Asheville Citizen-Times Living section. And we couldn’t be more pleased and grateful for Susan’s column and for this opportunity for folks to learn about our work.

The story, “Feelings of the Heart: You don’t have to be a professional to write your own wedding vows,” tells about our relationship and how we came to write The Marriage Vow Workbook. It also includes quotes from Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., author of the NY Times bestseller Getting the Love You Want who contributed to the book, and from newly-weds Allison Jordan and Gil Holmes, who used the book to write their vows.

In addition, the story offers our how-to tips for writing your own vows as well as Tom and Sharon Parish’s “Tips for Staying Together” that they gave us as a wedding gift in 1999.

Our profound gratitude to each of you who have supported (and are supporting) us in this endeavor, be it in action, word or spirit. Our intention is to make our book available to couples who want to create fulfilling and enduring relationships and, in doing so, help shift the cultural paradigm toward one of greater love, connection and compassion.

You can read the full story online. To learn more about Susan Reinhardt, visit

Of course we welcome you to pass along this article to anyone else who you think would be interested. Thanks!

Ways to Reinvigorate Your Love In A Long-Term Relationship

After the initial lust has subsided and the romantic glow has dimmed, many of us start worrying about the love in our relationships. “Do I still love him?” you might wonder. Or you worry, “She doesn’t love me anymore.” If we experience this lull for too long, we may even consider ending our marriage or commitment thinking that we haven’t yet found “the right one.” Below are five suggestions for rekindling your love for your partner.

  • Appreciate the positive — Once we pass the euphoric “in love” stage, our rose-colored glasses lose their hue, and we sometimes see things in our partner that we don’t like. Additionally many of us are “problem solvers,” so we’re on the alert for anything in our relationships that isn’t working like we want it to. Instead of focusing on the negative, become a seeker of positive treasures. Pay attention to what is working and praise your partner for all that you love about him/her. Be specific with your acknowledgments, such as saying, “Joe, I really appreciate how you keep our bills paid,” “The house feels so homey with the fresh flowers you put in the kitchen each week, Jen,” or, “The way you smile at me each morning makes me feel so special.” What we focus on expands, so when we put our energy into the positive features of our relationship, we’ll create more of those. Certainly be honest about anything that’s not working, yet make sure these are occasional observations instead of continuous commentary. You might be surprised by how quickly the love returns when you open your eyes to the positive attributes that are already there.
  • Ask how you can improve — Our orientation is often to find fault in others and to exert our energy trying to get them to change. Without blaming or berating yourself, focus your attention on being the best partner you can and leave your mate’s personal development to him. Invite your partner to give you feedback (honest and loving, of course) about anything he’d like you to do differently. You can do this in a specific way–”I notice that I’m sometimes bossy with you. Do you have suggestions on how I can more courteously make requests?” You can also ask for general feedback–”I want you to really feel loved by me. What is the best way I can communicate my love to you?” Be open to his input, considering any changes you make to be enjoyable experiments (You might make them permanent, you might not.). Orient yourself toward your own growth as a human being and reap the rewards in all areas of your life. Chances are that you will be a source of inspiration to your partner, and he’ll start looking for his own ways to evolve.
  • Get obsessed — During the “in love” days, we have one-track minds. Forget work, school, friends. Anything that doesn’t include our partner isn’t on our “to do” list. Though it’s not a highly-effective way to live, a dash of that obsessiveness can bring out the love in any relationship. Mark out time on your calendars to be alone. Let the chores go undone for a weekend. Save the errand running for another day. Pour yourself into your relationship as if it were brand new. Invest yourself in learning about your partner or sharing one of her favorite activities. Do something “special” for him even though it’s just a normal day. Become more romantically inclined and you’re likely to see love blossom anew.
  • Forgive — Bottom line, if you’ve been in a relationship for any length of time beyond the early period when you thought your partner could do no wrong, you’re very likely to feel some resentment toward him/her. Whether it’s a minor complaint–leaving the toilet seat up or asking a lot of questions about your workday when you prefer to quietly relax–or a major upset–forgetting your birthday or saying something unkind–we all have reasons for feeling annoyed, irritated, or frustrated with our partner. When we hold onto these grievances, however, they infect us and poison our relationship. This ill will is a love killer. So, take time to forgive your partner on a regular basis. Even if you don’t like what she did, let go of the resentment. One way to do this is to be alone in a distraction-free place, close your eyes, and visualize your partner in your mind. Once you can see him/her, speak aloud, as if you were talking to your partner, “[Your partner's name], you are human, just like me. I let go of any resentment I’ve been holding toward you. I forgive you.” Repeat this phrase, or something similar, until you sense that your feelings of resentment are gone.
  • Renew or make commitments — Sometimes in a relationship we sense that we’ve lost our way on the journey to love. Renewing your commitment to your partner (or clearly making one if you haven’t already done so) is a sure way to help you rekindle your love. Set aside time in your life to consider what promises will help keep you connected and support you in creating a relationship that’s ideal for both of you. How do you want to be with her? What actions will best demonstrate your love? Which choices will dismantle walls between you? Write down your ideas and inspiration. Make them concrete, clear, and concise. Use words like “I will,” “I promise to,” “I pledge,” “I intend,” or “I commit.” Share these vows with your partner whether by candlelight, after lovemaking, handwritten in a greeting card, or while holding hands in one of your favorite romantic settings. You might even have a ceremony–privately or with other loved ones–to formalize your commitment. Getting clear on your intentions is a wonderful way to refresh your feelings of love and connection with your partner.

If you have suggestions about how to keep the love alive in a marriage, post them in the “comments” area. (I wrote this post as well as one titled, “Everyday Gifts — How You Can Show Your Love Without Spending a Dime” as part of Darren Rowse’s “How To” group writing project.)

Gay Rights Organization Director Endorses The Marriage Vow Workbook

We’re delighted to let you know that we’ve received an endorsement from the Human Rights CampaignDirector of the Religion and Faith Program for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). This segment of the HRC is focused on “organizing and harnessing fair-minded communities of faith. The program provides information on affirming faith communities and organizations as well as encourages full participation of all people of faith who support gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) equality.”

Since we wrote The Marriage Vow Workbook with all couples in mind, this is an endorsement we are delighted to receive. As we stated in the book’s Introduction:

“Whether you and your partner are conservative or liberal, whether you’re straight or gay, whether this is your first marriage or you’ve been married previously, whether you’re religious or not, you can use this workbook to create a powerful and enduring relationship.”

Now, here’s what Harry Knox with the Human Rights Campaign has said:

Mindful that we are all children of God, authors Shonnie Lavender and Bruce Mulkey have consciously crafted I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook as a valuable resource for every couple who wishes to enter a committed relationship, regardless of age, ethnic origin, spiritual faith, or sexual orientation. Throughout the book Shonnie and Bruce share the wisdom they’ve gained as they met the challenges of their three-decade age difference and built the framework for their loving, soulful marriage. I highly recommend The Marriage Vow Workbook for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, as well as all others, who want to write their own distinctive wedding vows and abide by these commitments throughout their lives together.

~ Harry Knox, Director of Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program

Rave review for The Marriage Vow Workbook in the Asheville Daily Planet

Asheville Daily PlanetNo matter how much confidence I have in The Marriage Vow Workbook and what we’re offering to couples, it’s still extremely gratifying to have an independent “authority” endorse our book. That’s precisely what I’m celebrating today–a wonderfully affirming recommendation for our book published in the Asheville Daily Planet independent newspaper. Marc Mullinax, M.Div., Ph.D., chairman of the philosophy and religion departments at Mars Hill College, counsels couples and helps them prepare for their weddings. As he writes at the opening of his article titled Work of love? It requires initial attraction, perpetual attention:

“One of my great pleasures is counseling couples for marriage, and assisting in their wedding ceremonies. I insist on the counseling part, for love is easy to fall into, but hard to make stay.

In fact, you cannot make it stay. There’s a mystery to love that defies formulaic principles for making it stay. Each couple has to work that formula out for themselves.”

He continues, his article, making numerous important observations about love and marriage, one of my favorites being, “To fail the tests of love in our lives means that we run the risk of living lovelessly. Such a condition is fatal to our souls, long before our bodies wear out.” Marc supplies many more gems in his piece, and I’m given to trust his advice.

Of course, one piece of advice I hope many will follow is his recommendation for our book. As he writes, “I’m recommending it to all those who are in love, and want to enable love to stay.”

Thank you, Marc!

Read Marc’s full article.

Listening for Love: A free teleclass for couples who want to communicate more effectively

Do you want to communicate better with your partner?
Do you want more intimacy in your relationship?
Do you want to hear what your mate is really saying?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, join us for Listening for Love: Effective Listening for Couples a powerful and practical 55-minute introductory teleclass. During this free program you will learn:

  • Why effective listening is vital to a healthy relationship
  • The crucial differences between “hearing” and “listening”
  • Some of the barriers that prevent you from hearing what’s really being said
Improve your relationship. Register for this class today.

In this introductory teleclass, we focus on effective listening, one of the most important, yet most neglected, of our communication skills. Some of the benefits couples who participate can expect are:

  • Increased intimacy
  • Deeper understanding–of your partner and from your partner
  • Greater awareness about your own strengths and challenges as a listener
  • More openness toward hearing “positive” or “negative” feedback

Listening for Love: Effective Listening for Couples is open to all couples (married or dating, heterosexual or homosexual, older or younger, currently struggling or currently satisfied). You are also welcome to join us if you’re not currently in a relationship.

Improve your relationship. Register for this class today.

Listening for Love is developed and taught by Shonnie Lavender and Bruce Mulkey, the wife and husband authors of I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook. Shonnie is a certified coach, a graduate of Coach U, and an honors graduate in communications at The University of Texas at Austin. Bruce is a writer and former communications and marketing consultant with over 25 years dedicated to producing effective communications for organizations and companies throughout the U.S.

“Getting the Love You Want”: A timeless and extraordinary resource for all couples

I recently renewed my acquaintance with a book that’s had a significant influence on myGetting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix life–Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, the classic relationship handbook by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. This book remains an essential addition to the library of couples who want to create loving, fulfilling, joyful and enduring relationships. The exercises in Part III of the book are themselves invaluable and can empower willing couples to deal with the challenges that arise in every relationship and, perhaps, eliminate repeated visits to the marriage counselor.

First published in 1988, I first came upon this book in the early 1990s. My second marriage had just gone down the tubes, and I was struggling to understand why. How could my former wife have left me when just a few short years ago, she was so totally in love with me?

It was not until I read Getting the Love You Want, that I realized I was relying on her to take care of me, to somehow make me whole, responsibilities she had not signed up for, needs that were impossible for her to satisfy. So I began a process of deep introspection: How did I help create the breakdown of my relationship and, ultimately, how I could go about initiating a more conscious relationship the next time around?

A few years later, a number of Harville’s exercises included in Part III of Getting the Love You Want played a significant role in forming the foundation for my romantic partnership with the woman who I would later marry, including:

  • Creating a joint vision for the relationship–Being clear about what each of us envisioned for our relationship
  • Mirroring–Learning to really hear what my partner is saying and letting her know I have done so
  • Re-romanticizing–Sharing specific information with one another about what pleases me, what pleases her and agreeing to perform those acts of pleasure regularly

Today as I was re-examining Getting the Love You Want to write this review, I came upon the final exercise in the book–Visualization of Love. I instinctively began following the instructions–visualizing Shonnie as a whole spiritual being, who like all of us, has been wounded. And I imagined that the love I was sending her at that moment was healing her wounds. Finally I imagined the love I’d sent her coming back to me and healing my wounds. Afterwards I sat for a few moments in quiet gratitude–for my life, for Shonnie, for Harville and for the wisdom that he so readily shares with us.