Lisa M. Hendey interviews Dana Nygaard, author of 365 Dates to Renew Your Christian Marriage - Catholic Edition.
Today, I continue my ongoing series of conversations with published authors as I’m joined by Dana Nygaard, author of the new book 365 Dates to Renew Your Christian Marriage – Catholic Edition: Increasing Your Emotional Intimacy One Question at a Time. Greg and I have been married since 1986, and yet I still find “dates” with my husband to be one of life’s greatest gifts. I love that Dana has provided such a lovely tool for us to focus on truly cherishing our marriage relationship. It’s never too early or too late to focus on bettering our communication with one another. I hope you enjoy my chat with Dana and that you’ll take time for a date night soon!
A Catholic Psychotherapist grounded in Christ Licensed Professional Counselor, speaker, and mother, Dana Nygaard is a down-to-earth, cradle Catholic with a heart for the New Evangelization. Her unique blend of proven psychotherapy techniques with authentic Catholic spirituality provide her clients and audiences with practical solutions that have life-changing effects. She began her professional work as a teacher after receiving her Bachelor of Secondary Education from the University of North Texas. Later, inspired by the desire to help individuals and married couples seeking emotional, psychological, and spiritual healing from a Catholic psychological perspective, she earned her counseling degree from Dallas Baptist University.
Q: Dana, congratulations on the publication of your new book 365 Dates to Renew Your Christian Marriage – Catholic Edition: Increasing Your Emotional Intimacy One Question at a Time. Please briefly introduce yourself and your family to our readers.
I am blessed to be married to the love of my life, David, mother of a twenty-seven-year-old (Cole) and have a high-maintenance dog named Scrappy. As a 6th generation Texan, I am content and happy residing in Plano, Texas where we have awesome neighbors, amazing friends, and a thriving parish (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton). As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I am busy running my private practice where I work with individuals and couples, speaking nationally, and being an author.
Q: As a licensed psychotherapist, how did you decide to branch your professional work into speaking and writing?
My first career was as a secondary teacher, where I learned to write curriculum and engaging lessons. I taught ESL and U.S. History for a few years, but it was while teaching psychology (Regular, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate) where I found my true passion. I was able to hone my teaching style with storytelling and humor supported with research. This combination proved to be successful in helping my students to retain the necessary information along with ‘life lessons’. So, in my second career as a Catholic Psychotherapist, it was an easy transition to share my counseling knowledge publicly where I could impact more lives.
As my private practice grew, I was asked to speak on topics ranging from marriage, parenting, self-care, suicide prevention, pro-life, and many other topics related to our Catholic faith. In 2017, my husband and I created the marriage apostolate, Cana Marriage Retreats. We offer one-day and two-day Pre-Cana, and marriage enrichment retreats locally and across the nation. I was then led by the Holy Spirit to offer marriage enrichment tools for couples who are trying to strengthen their marriages. This naturally led me to write an inviting book where couples re-engage while setting aside dedicated ‘couple time’.
Q: Please describe the book for our readers and share how you came up with the “Ready, Set, Go” format for the questions.
After praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit, an image of a stoplight and the words, ‘Ready, Set, Go!’ came to me. Every date consists of three non-related questions that form a “Courtship Conversation.” The Ready questions allow couples to reconnect in conversation, often the readers share a laugh easing them into further discussion. The Set questions were formed to deepen the couple’s conversation while they are enjoying their date night. Lastly, the Go questions are meant for couples to enter into a thought-provoking conversation stirring curiosity while gaining new insights into their spouse’s perspectives.
Q: I’d imagine that you probably road-tested this material with your husband. What are some of your favorite questions?
I purposefully did not road-test the questions with my husband. My heart’s desire was to enjoy them first-hand on our frequent road trips. So, I only let him overhear a few of the questions during the writing process, just enough to get him intrigued. We are currently on Date 107 and it’s hard to choose but here are some of our favorites:
Date 1 Set – If you could time travel to meet family members, would you rather go back in history or into the future?
Date 5 Set – If you could have witnessed any biblical event, which one would you choose?
Date 81 Ready – If we had to enter a witness protection program, what would you choose for a name and where would you like to live?
Date 85 Go! – What prayer are you still hoping God will answer?
Date 91 Ready – If this stage of our life was a country song, what would be the title?
Q: Are there any that were particularly challenging for you and your husband?
We found the Go question, “What difficult situations did you overcome as a child?” on Date 99 to be challenging. David and I each overcame some rather painful circumstances as children, so our responses were a mixture of the trials we had endured, and the good that God brought from the suffering.
Q: With so many of us having been cooped up in our homes for the last few years due to the pandemic, why is effective communication and emotional intimacy more important now than ever in our marriages?
External stress from the pandemic can lead couples into critical or combative conversations, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Couples can grow in emotional intimacy when they choose to model the effective communication styles of exceptional marriages. A key ingredient in a well-functioning marriage is to be responsive to each other’s needs. Spouses in such marriages accept their partner, demonstrate understanding, and express support while wanting good for their beloved. Be honest about your feelings in a non-critical way and negotiate any differences. Demonstrate active listening so your partner feels heard. Schedule some daily alone time to give yourself the opportunity to recharge your emotional battery. Take time for physical intimacy, whether it be cuddling or lovemaking. Allow God to bring goodness out of this unprecedented time.
Q: If there is a reader who would like to use this book but senses resistance from his or her spouse, how would you recommend getting started?
My suggestion would be to reminisce with your spouse about your fond memories of getting to know each other during your initial courtship. This will remind you both of why you fell in love and encourage you to deepen your knowledge base about each other. I would follow this up by inviting them on a date that you know they will enjoy, which sets the stage for a good mood and a great result.
Q: How did publishing this book impact your own marriage?
365 Dates has brought us even closer together because we are answering the questions ourselves. As any author knows, there are many moving parts in publishing a book. Some are easier than others, but through it all, we have relied upon each other’s patience, understanding, and sense of humor. It has also deepened our faith as we recognize the hand of God from the inception of the idea to its fruition.
Q: What’s next for you personally and professionally?
My husband and I have some fun trips planned for this fall, amidst remodeling our home. Professionally, I am staying busy with having both editions of 365 Dates translated into Spanish and looking forward to my upcoming speaking engagements. The writing bug bit me hard so I will continue with producing articles for my new blog, publishing the book version of our Cana Commandments retreat manual, and writing my next book in the 365 Dates series.
A Question for You: When was your last “date”? What were the highlights of that experience?
Copyright 2021 Lisa M. Hendey
Images: (top) Canva Pro; all others courtesy of Dana Nygaard, all rights reserved.
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About the Author
Lisa M. Hendey is the founder of CatholicMom.com, a bestselling author and an international speaker. A frequent radio and television guest, Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and communications. Visit Lisa at LisaHendey.com or on social media @LisaHendey for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish, school or organization. Visit Lisa's author page on Amazon.com.