The Love Dare: Does it Work? What does the Research Say?

March 29, 2009 · Print This Article

Recently, there has been a firestorm of excitement among the Christian community. “Fireproof” has been endorsed by many Christian ministries. For a review, visit ChristianityToday.com.  The movie focuses around a firefighter and his spouse whom are on the brink of divorce. The husband commits himself to taking “The Love Dare” for 40 days with the idea his marriage will improve after 40 days.  Not withstanding, it is difficult concept to appreciate for a marriage on the brink of divorce. The movie portrays well the negativity that has settled in to the marriage, even when one partner is committed to inject love and hope back into the marriage.  The book love dare follows Biblical scripture and provides day to day practical activities to heal an ailing marriage.  For Christians, it is clear how it works and it’s power.  Non-Christians may dismiss it due to the spiritual content and as one more attempt to “push religion.”  The question that they may be wondering about is, “How does the book “Love Dare” with is practical, day to day advice, measure up against the marriage research on injecting love and passion back into a lifeless marriage? And, why should I take it?”

Research:

First, know that Christian’s divorce at the same rate as Non-Christians. Divorce is non-denominational. Research shows that all marriages have an “emotional bank account.” Imagine that each person can make deposits into and withdrawals from the account based on each and every interaction they have with each other. The marriage itself keeps track of the day to day deposits and withdrawals, much like a checkbook register. Each person may have their perspective on whether or not the interaction was positive or negative. I propose that if it is viewed by one person as negative and a withdrawal, it counts as a withdrawal regardless if the other counts it is a deposit. Why? The marriage keep track of the withdrawal in the register vs the deposit.

Couples who eventually divorce have a ratio of deposits/withdrawls as do couples who remain happily married. For the former, for every $125.00 in withdrawls made, only $100.00 is deposited into the account. Mathematically speaking, it is easy to see how a couple who is married for only a short time can quickly be headed for divorce. They are overspent and in deep indebtedness. The marriage will foreclose rather quickly.

For the later, for every $100.00 in withdrawls made, $500.00 is deposited into the account. Small, day to day, positive interactions during non-conflictual times serves as a huge reserve against times of crisis and serious repair. These marriages  can and do weather the storms.

Example 1: Happy Couple

9AM: Husband smiles at wife and gently rubs her back. Wife smiles at him and tells him she loves him. Deposit: $100.00

9:30 AM: Wife makes coffee and brings husband a cup in the bathroom. Both smile at each other and make eye contact. Deposit: $100.00

9:45 AM: Wife makes a comment about the news she is watching; husband responds with an interesting comment back. Deposit: $25.00

10:00 AM: Wife complains because spouse forgot to take out steak from the freezer the night before like she asks. Husband responds defensively and goes and gets it. Wife is upset because this has happened many times before. Withdrawal: $75.00

and so on.

Example 2: Indebt Couple

9 AM: Both roll out of bed, don’t say anything to each other: Both want attention but neither gives. Withdrawl: $100.00

9:30 AM: Husband makes coffee and has breakfast by himself. Wife comes out and gets her own coffee.  Wife longs for him to bring her coffee while getting ready. Withdrawl: $50.00

9:45 AM: Wife comments on something she sees on TV: Husband stonewalls (does not say anything). Withdrawl: $75.00

10:00 AM: Husband has gotten the steak out the night before and has left a love note and small gift on the table for his wife. Wife appreciates his remembering and the gift. Deposit: $100.00

Still in debt…

Frequency, not intensity, and duration

While grand gestures may have a large qualitative value attached to it as a deposit (as in the end of the movie ‘Fireproof’), when withdrawals have occurred numerous times daily and over the course of time, large value deposits are effectively worthless against the debt that is owed. This is the reason why a spouses attempt to do something grand and/or expensive to help an ailing marriage (like a vacation, jewelry, chainsaw) often has very short term value without changing the day to day deposit/withdrawal ratio.

Take the Dare

This is where the value of the “Love Dare” lies for non-Christians and Christians based upon marriage research. Remember, Christians divorce as the same rate as Non-Christians. Divorce is politically, gender, socio-economic, and religiously neutral. The “Love Dare” with it’s slow and steady approach can begin to investing in the marriage on a daily basis. The dare-taker can have their negative perspective of his partner reset (more later on negative perspective), thus giving the marriage more time to heal. The more indebted the marriage, the more time it will take to get out of debt and obtain a positive balance – just like finances.  40 days may not be enough, and yet, God-willing, 40 days may be more than enough. It will take time, patience, and faith. It will then take a daily renewal of your marriage for the rest of your life.

1 Corinthians 13:13

“Now these three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

God Bless.

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Comments

116 Responses to “The Love Dare: Does it Work? What does the Research Say?”

  1. tstein on September 16th, 2014 3:44 pm

    You are a rock! Hebrews 10:35-36 says “So do not lose the courage you had in the past, which has a great reward. You must hold on, so you can do what God wants and receive what he has promised.” Jude 24 – 25 says, “God is strong and can help you not to fall. He can bring you before his glory without any wrong in you and can give you great job. He is the only God, the One who saves us. To him be the glory, greatness, power, and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord for all time past, now, and forever. Amen.” Keep praying for you husband much as Christ intercedes on his behalf. Sin pushes away all that is good, all that is right, and all that is from Him. In prayers, T.

  2. Anna on November 9th, 2014 1:26 pm

    HEARTBREAKING – CRAZY-MAKING – PREDATORY.

    My husband of 18 years, a man I loved and who I believed loved me, although I knew he was not any ideal man and our marriage was not ideal. BUT, I accepted him, and I accepted our marriage, ALWAYS striving to support more, connect more, appreciate more….
    He was my husband, my man, my lover, my buddy…
    Until he told me that he was a sex addict and had betrayed me from the beginning of our marriage, sexual affairs with hundreds of women, every known sex act, no protection, no regard for my life….
    I went into profound shock for months, and he raged at me. My husband was gone and a creepy, violent, terrifying man took his place….
    He started therapy and he blamed me….
    I was told to be more loving, supportive, sexual, compassionate,,.
    He raged about sex, he sexually assaulted me, he became violent, and I completely crashed, devastated, shattered.
    After one terrifying and degrading sexual assault on me while I was sleeping, I finally asked him to leave our home.
    He told 12 Step groups, therapists, and colleagues that I “kicked him to the curb,” and he still claims this view….
    THEN, he started this “love dare” practice, and he completely creeped me out. He put cards in my mailbox, gifts at my door, and I was terrified and felt stalked and intimidated….
    No amends, no support, traumatic random disclosures of heartbreaking acts of sexual infidelity and then rage when I cried by mire and more betrayal….

    Then, the worst…. He sent an email “love dare” telling me to meet him at a hotel with ties and sex toys so he could bind me and make me his sex slave. With no therapeutic disclosure of betrayal, no support, no assurance fir my future financial security now that I am 62 and left in poverty, his email was threatening and extremely traumatic for me.

    He went to two treatment centers, but he never showed up to provide any support for me. This past week, our marriage failed and in divorce court, his attorney submitted that email telling me he owned me and I wanted his training…I wanted to be his sex slave….
    I am so traumatized that I am dropping every request I stated in divorce….
    PLEASE – keep “love dare” far, far away from sex offenders, wife batterers….
    He tells his 12 Step men and therapist…. “My last desperate attempt to save marriage – a love dare that she did not even appreciate.”

    Not only is the bank account sometimes far too overdrawn, but the investor is using these tools to terrorize, and degrade….

  3. niki on November 30th, 2014 7:29 pm

    Hi!
    I am doing the love dare by myself… my husband and i were married for two months before we separated. its been 4 months since weve had any contact at all. There was an emotional affair on his end and i got mad and left…i was sick of fighting, we could never see eye-to-eye about this affair…he thought nothing was wrong because “they werent sleeping together” …,i totally disagree because he spent more time with this woman than me, texting, calling. any chance he got he was with her, granted she is a lot older but she once told me before my husband and i even started dating that she had a crush on him and i cant trust her… honestly this is the only thing we ever fought about and its what it destroying us. i am on day 13 and am starting to really struggle since so much of the next couple days dares need communication! I have reached out every possible way i can, ive written notes, made him cookies, called, texted, emailed, stopped by his house (someone told me he hid in the bedroom until i was gone so he wouldnt answer the door)! is there any hope for a relationship like mine, have you ever seen a spouse with such a hard heart soften up and give things another chance? i really will do anything it takes to save my marriage! i love him so much and miss having my best friend around…

  4. tstein on December 1st, 2014 1:03 am

    Hi Niki
    I am sorry to hear about your situation. Clearly you love him very much and miss him! You have spent countless hours trying to convince him to understand how his actions are hurting you and your marriage only to be met with rejection and defensiveness every step of the way. Trust is at the core of this difficulty. Boundaries are very important in a marriage particularly friendships with the opposite gender. Not withstanding, so is trust. Insecurity and questionable boundaries in a marriage are an explosive mix as you have experienced. He tells you to trust him but you don’t. Deep down, the first step for you is to accept this – that you don’t trust him. A justification of “That is not true, I don’t trust her” would not result in your continued pursuit of trying to convince him of the “affair.” Can you really, really trust him? Are you willing to trust him? Are you willing to learn to manage the insecurities that plague you? Are you willing to give up pursuit of convincing him of the “affair?” Are you willing to forgive him for his flirtatious shortcomings? These are all big questions that only you can answer!!! Are you also willing to continue to stand firm in “I don’t like the relationship that you have with this woman and I want you to know that, but I can’t control you and I won’t. I trust you but I will always tell you how I feel about this relationship. I also want you to know that I want to also experience being your number 1 in your life and when I see you spending time with her, etc. I don’t feel like number 1. I forgive you for not understanding this and as long as you continue to choose this, I will have to continue to forgive you because I love you and want to make our marriage work. I hope someday you can understand this from my point of view.” Think about what I am about to say very carefully. While I do understand your fear and insecurity, how do you think your approach has been/is coming across to your spouse? Do you think he sees your actions as pain, suffering, and fear? I suspect not. If a friend were dong what you have been, what advice would you give to her/him? The other thing is to really reflect on how you may be coming across to him and then really think about what you really, really want to communicate and how you want to come across to him. Do you want to come across as confident, secure, loving, kind or something else? The Dare can work! There is always hope! God is Great!! Keep us posted!
    In Prayers,
    T

  5. Mal on January 8th, 2015 6:53 pm

    This is my husband and second marriage and he wants out. He tells he know I’m not happy because the thing I say to him which he calls complaining and all I do is try to tell him how I feel about things and what I deserve not to get on his nerves but to make things better. He always ask me to marry him and everything is good for the first few months but when a problem occur he wants out instead of trying to talk about it or do marriage councilling or anything to fix it. He always run out. He mind seems to be totally fix and nothing could change it. Will the love dare works even while he is away for a few weeks working. Today is my first day.

  6. Mal on January 8th, 2015 7:06 pm

    Even if one don’t want it but the other does can Prayer change this or that spouse that don’t want it especially with his mind made up about filing for a divorce? I may be thinking ahead too much about this but his exact word was “he don’t want the marriage” but I know what comes after that.

  7. Mal on January 8th, 2015 7:06 pm

    Even if one don’t want it but the other does can Prayer change this or that spouse that don’t want it especially with his mind made up about filing for a divorce? I may be thinking ahead too much about this but his exact word was “he don’t want the marriage” but I know what comes after that.

  8. Malarie on January 9th, 2015 2:28 am

    This is my husband and I second marriage together and he asked me both times to marry him. Everything is good for the first few months but soon as we have an argument or things start to go bad he always bail out. Now he just told me yesterday over the phone that he doesn’t want the marriage and he sound pretty sure of this and nothing could change his mind. He say he can tell I’m not happy because if the things I say. He feels that way because I come to Hume quit often and tell him want I need and want from him besides providing financially. He said that mean I’m not happy. I am happy married to him and thankful for him, but I wasn’t happy with what was going on and how things would get handled. To me those are two different things. Can this love dare help my marriage?

  9. Heather on September 20th, 2015 12:54 am

    I am not married. Just engaged. We have a 2 year old daughter together. We had a beautiful wedding planned, until I made a HUGE MISTAKE by having an online affair. He canceled our wedding. I begged for another chance. We’re still together but he has tried to break us up many times. Finally today, he asked to finally end it again. I asked him to give me time to do the love dare, because I tried it before but gave up because I grew tired and complacent. Today he said that he was done and that I should plan to move on. But after crying and begging he (I think) is going to let me stay and try to be a better person. I know that he is so drained and so tired. But I would like to be able to complete the challenge this time. He said that my efforts would be futile and that I have to know that he will never marry me. But he’s the only family I’ve got and I don’t want to lose him on account of me being mean and lazy. His heart has completely hardened. And his friends I think encourage him to leave me. So a lot of things are working against me. Can the live dare save my family and make him want to keep me? Can it work for us now, even though we are not married? I am desperately in pain at the thought of losing my family and home.

  10. JP on October 10th, 2015 6:46 am

    Hello,

    i am 30 and my wife is 24 now and we have been married for 2 years and we have a 9 months old son. We live in a country where sex before marriage is totally not accepted.

    we met 4.5 years ago and started dating. Like any other couples we flirted, we kissed and even some physical action. Three months later while hiking in the woods we got physical and i accidentally made her lose her virginity with my finger. We never planned this to happen. I was totally scared and didn’t know what to do. She was like “it’s OK don’t worry don’t let this affect our relation even if things don’t work out don’t let it affect your decision if you are not happy with me” she said this every time i tried to talk to her about what happened and what she wants me to do.

    after that everything was great and we got engaged for a year before marriage. Since we got married we had ups and downs like any other married couple and she always says that i don’t talk much when i come home from work and don’t take care of her so much. And yes i am not a talkative person and over simplify things and maybe take her for granted.

    two weeks ago she came to me crying and told me that she was not happy anymore and she doesn’t love me because she tried to fix things so many times and every time she talks to me i get better and things get great for 2 months and then i get back to the way i was before.

    she said she pretended to be so strong all the time even when she lost her virginity and she said she only married me for that reason and not out of love because she was young and afraid if her parents found out and didn’t know what else to do. And she never told me that before because she didn’t want to hurt me but she couldn’t anymore.

    since we met she always told me that she doesn’t believe in love and she believes in actions and happiness. Things were great and she was so happy to be with me and i treated her right and she even said that in a certain period i made her love me because of the way i treated her and now she doesn’t want to give affection and doesn’t want affection in return anymore. She will not leave and she will keep taking care of the house and me and cook for me and take care of our son and everything else just like before but of course no sexual or emotional life and our son will be her only interest and she wants me not to ask for anything more than that. And she is still my wife only because it was a decision she took.

    i am so deeply in love with her and would do anything to fix our marriage but she said that i can’t fix anything anymore. And she doesn’t want me to fix anything and she will not love me again whatever I would do or change because i will get back to the same way we are now and she will get hurt again. Now she stopped talking to me the way we did before unless it was something about our son and she says that she doesn’t want me to get her involved in anything concerning my own life and not to interfere in her life as well.

    please help me with some advice what should i do?

  11. Deon Erasmus on June 8th, 2016 10:51 am

    I have been divorced for close to a year and separated for 18 months. I am currently doing the love dare and I am at day 21. My ex wife still doesn’t want to speak with me. I am so confused and I am so scared that I might lose her completely. This is after a marge of 21 years. I was a knucklehead for the most part of the time. What can I do to change the situation I am so desperate.

  12. Mark on November 24th, 2016 3:55 am

    My fiancee and I were together for 5 years now. 2 years into the relationship we had a son who is now 3 years old. More than a month ago she grew cold on me. During those time she seems distant and goes home late saying that she was “hanging out with her friends”. I noticed in her text message that the romance is gone because everytime we text each other there is always this “i love you” at the end. It disappeared from her texts and her replies were more on “yes” or “no” without any explanation. Then she dropped the bomb on me saying that she wants out and that she is taking our son with her to her parent’s place. She said that she doesn’t love me anymore and had fallen out of love with me, She told me that she doesn’t feel appreciated in our relationship anymore. I admit I had neglected her several times during the five years. I focused more on my hobbies than spending time with her. Then I later learned that she was dating someone from her work 2 weeks before she dropped the bomb. She told me that I can still see our son and take him with me for some time with each other. I caught her and her boyfriend one night when she met up with him and I swear to God it took all my manliness not to punch the guy in front of her. Today they still continue on with their dates and she has been keeping it a secret from me. She said that she stopped talking to him from the time I caught them. I asked her if she would like to reconcile and rebuild our relationship but she still refuses. Today I discovered that their connection is not broken since then. She kept it a secret. I visit her and my son in her parent’s place everyday and spend the night there then work in the morning, go home to have dinner then go back to sleep there with her and my son. Her family is on my side and wants us to reconcile but she is the one who is refusing. Her family still doesn’t know about the other guy. They had an idea but doesn’t know the whole picture. I know everything and told her that I will not tell her family about it. I let her be even though it hurts me everyday. I care about our son but also I want her back. What bothers me is that she doesn’t talk to me when we’re at their house but she still let me kiss her without any objections (even if she doesn’t reciprocate back my actions). She still let me hold her hands when we’re walking when I am taking her to her workplace. I don’t know what she thinks and I don’t know why she is doing this. I want her back for the sake of our family. We had plans to marry but they were just it… plans… This time I want to make it real but she won’t cooperate. She said that I am just wasting my time with her and that I should move on and focus on our son. I’m planning to take the 40-day challenge but I don’t know if I can make it even to day 15. What should I do? I am really desperate

  13. tstein on December 7th, 2016 2:26 am

    Hi Mark
    Your suffering is heavy. I know this is very, very difficult. Watching ones dreams fall apart right in front of one and feeling powerless to change it is the worst feeling. Often, a person’s immediate reaction is to try to hold on tighter which comes from fear, a normal stress response to a threat to relationship security and stability. While every fiber in your being wants to do whatever you can for her to get her back, that is the wrong approach. There is truth in the idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Should you pursue her hard, she is only going to view you as needy and not respecting her autonomy/choices. Believe it or not, the best thing you can do is 1) co parent well with her 2) be friendly and 3) make yourself less available and find things to make you happy and reduce your distress. Start working out, go for massage, take a class, learn something new, learn meditation, go to therapy, spend time with your friends – anything that makes you appear less available and, frankly, be less available. There is a dance therapists have observed for years called pursuer-distancer. It is how a couple works to maintain the level of intimacy between them that is comfortable. The more one pursues, the more the other distances and vise versa. While painful, this is her now distancing, much like you did as you focused on your hobbies early on. Most likely, she was trying to get your attention and connection during that time and then, time after time of being rejected, gave up. Now, you have picked up the baton and are pursuing her. Another thing is change your mindset about she is keeping this relationship a “secret” from you. It is no secret. It is out there. She is under no obligation to tell you at this point because it is “over” in her mind. Also, if she cares even a little bit, she still does not want to hurt you and by not telling you, is working to protect you from further emotional harm – in her mind. Also, did you ever stop to ask yourself, “why do I want to know this? Why would I want to know if she was on a date with someone else?” It is good you showed restraint and did not assault the other guy because you would have gone to jail! It also shows you have want it takes to do this, that you can talk yourself into doing the right thing for yourself right now and your child. Stop kissing her! Stop taking marriage to her! Stop relationship talk with her!! Change and become the guy you want to be for your sake and for whomever ends up being your partner. Make a list of what will make you happy excluding this relationship. Take one day, one hour, one minute, and one second at a time. Just breathe and focus all your attention on your breathing when you are having a moment. Remember, you are alive, you will survive, you will smile again, laugh again, and love again. Someone will also love you back for who you are….I pray for peace for your suffering heart. T

  14. tstein on December 7th, 2016 2:30 am

    Deon
    You have started to do what you need to do. Change you. You can’t change the situation. Become the best version of you possible. Don’t tell her about it. Don’t expect her to admire you for it. Don’t pull for her to delight in you for it. Just do it and do it quietly. Genuine humility is a great trait. Remember, Christ died on the cross for our sins and all our failures. Once we understand the depths of that love, love Him first, come to understand Him and His Will for your life, submit to Him, and love Him higher than no other. Then, He will work out the rest. Praying for you my friend. T

  15. tstein on December 7th, 2016 2:42 am

    Hi JP
    Thank you for sharing your story. The one part that jumped out at me was the following, “he tried to fix things so many times and every time she talks to me i get better and things get great for 2 months and then i get back to the way i was before.” That is great news!! Here is why. She has eyes, ears and a heart. She notices your efforts. At this point, she is simply telling you, “I am hurt and suffering and in need of comfort but I am going to act like I need distance in order to heal my wounds.” Here is the deal. Get better and get things great for more than two months REGARDLESS of her behavior towards you. She will notice. Remember, she believes in action and happiness. ACT and keep ACTING. Loving behavior can melt even the coldest of hearts. Don’t talk about fixing it, FIX IT. Remember though, the template in her mind is that you change for two months and then go back. This makes your behavior appear predictably unreliable and undependable. This has been the pattern for 4.5 years. ACT reliably and dependably for the next 4.5 years how you have in the past for two months. I can imagine a whole different marriage for you and for her!!!! Also above all, ACT quietly. Don’t point out all that you are doing or expect her to praise you for it. This is the hardest part to not get the positive feedback. Get a friend (not female) or a therapist to be your cheerleader so you can get your kudos elsewhere. You can do it my friend. I am proud of you for keeping your commitment. Divorce happens when people choose to give up their commitment. Intimacy and passion can be rediscovered over time. There is hope for you and your marriage. In prayers. T

  16. tstein on February 28th, 2017 3:42 am

    Hi Deon
    I know it has been quite some time since you posted. I wish I had more hours in the day to help those in suffering. Remember, change takes time as does rebuilding trust. Much like 9/11 – it takes a long time to rebuild. Patience and time are your friends. Be her friend through this and stop being a knucklehead. Fear will only lead you down a path of desperation, which will lead to knucklehead behaviors – regardless of intention. Hope things have improved for you! Become the man you were meant to be through this and if she decides to choose you – it will all be worth it in the end.
    In Prayer
    T

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