Thoughts that tick Arps' Adages
* Kiss for at least 10 seconds -- each day.
* Put a positive spin on hard situations.
* Date weekly.
* Say five positive statements to offset one negative.

Two important ideas David and Claudia incorporate into their seminars come from their attitudes about marriage: dating and appreciating differences.

"We're both adventuresome," David says. "We like trying new things, going new places. We traveled with our family whenever we had the opportunity -- camping, ski weekends and hiking through the Alps. We've always looked at our life as an adventure. Even when bad things happen, we just consider it part of David and Claudia's most excellent adventure."

"We make dating an attitude," Claudia says. "When we're in a situation that's distressing, we'll just put a dating spin on it." "Except while you were in the hospital," David jokes. "I tried to put a positive spin and said, 'Let's have a hospital date. Let's have a surgery date,' and you said, 'That's carrying it a little bit too far, David.' "

The Arps say dates allow couples the time to enjoy each other and affirm what's good about their relationship. Without dates, intimacy and shared time easily disappears in the busyness of life. Dates can be as simple as walking around your neighborhood or sitting in a park for an hour. For example, each fall David and Claudia have a flu-shot date -- a mundane event transformed into valued time together.

"In Vienna we learned to have our date nights," Claudia says. "Our kids were old enough that we could leave them home and walk up the street for a cup of coffee or something. We started taking time for our own relationship, and we realized that if we were going to be in this for the long haul, we had to keep our marriage alive and growing."

And differences? Well, how could they have adventure without differences?

"In our seminars we emphasize finding unity in your diversity," Claudia says. "We help couples look at their combined strengths as the strength of their team. If one is weak in an area and the spouse is strong in the same area, then that's the strength of their team. Even the ways we relax are different. David wants to take naps, and I think that's so boring. If I want to relax, I walk a couple miles."

"That's one of the basic differences in our personalities," David says. "Claudia wants to do something or go somewhere. I'm more laid-back. You're not going to change someone's personality so you accept it. Modify where you can, but accept each other and go forward. If you concentrate on the strengths that you both have, the more likely you're going to be a lighthouse to others."

In 1982 the Arps moved back to the States and began Marriage Alive here. In 1990 they found a new niche with people in the second half of marriage, teaching couples how to reconnect after children have left home. They still hold conferences in Europe, and they are developing marriage curricula in Russian and German.

"We have benefited so much from what God called us to do," Claudia says, "but the day we stop working on our marriage, we are disqualified to do what we're doing."

Visit www.marriagealive.org for information on seminars and resources by David and Claudia Arp.

This article appeared in Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright © 2002 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.