Are you having any fun loving your spouse lately? What about your spouse? Do you think he or she is enjoying being married to you? Or are you experiencing a “vacuum of laughter” in your marital relationship lately? If you are, you’re actually more “normal” than you realize. As we said in last week’s Marriage Insight, marriage can be taxing (to say the least) at times. But it’s important to work to NOT get stuck there.
Pastor Ted Cunningham gives great insights on how you can do this. He’s the author of one of our favorite books—it’s a real keeper. It’s titled, Fun Loving You: Enjoying Your Marriage in the Midst of the Grind. That’s what we want to pose to you. Find ways to have fun loving your spouse, even in the midst of the grind.
The Fun Loving Marriage Relationship
We know this can be difficult at times. Life can throw some real tough stuff at us. Sometimes our smiles, joy, and our laughter drains right out of us because of the seriousness of the situations we face. But it’s important, even so, to look for ways to fight against the seriousness, and infuse laughter into our life together. That’s one of the missions in our marriage that Steve and I take “seriously” in an intentional, proactive way!
We love something (and a whole lot more) that Ted wrote in that book. We think he gave a great goal that more of us should adopt in our married lives. He wrote:
“Amy and I have been married for 17 years, and we have a marriage mission statement that reads, ‘We choose to honor, enjoy, and prioritize our marriage until either one of us lays the other in the arms of Jesus or the Lord returns.’ We live each day with this mission in mind. We choose every morning to esteem each other as highly valuable, to eradicate the kid-centered home, and to make each other laugh. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been deeply fulfilling.”
What a great mission statement! That doesn’t mean that they ignore the hard stuff of life. But they work through it together and CHOOSE to show respect to each other as they do. Plus they choose to find enjoyment, even in the midst of tough times and the “grinding” times of life. And that’s not easy to do at times.
Taking a Fun Loving Break
This brings to mind something that happened to us a number of years ago. We were going through a really tough season in our married life. There were all kinds of serious difficulties being slammed at us. One of them—the hardest of all at that time, was that Steve’s mom died of cancer. We were so heartbroken. We loved her so much. And what made it worse is that she wasn’t very old, so it hit us especially hard.
We remember one night crying with our best friends (Alan and Grace) over this and everything else that seemed to be swallowing us alive in grief. After letting us talk, praying and crying with us, Alan said something we didn’t expect. He said, “What you need right now is a night dedicated to laughing.” What? Did we actually hear him right? Yes! He said, “All of this is has dragged on and on in your life together. It’s too hard to handle without taking at least a short break away from it all. You can cry more at a later time. (And we did.) But lets push all of that out, and get together tonight for food, fellowship, and laughter.”
It seemed strange, and certainly unnatural advice to follow. But we thought and prayed about it, and agreed to do it. In reality, it was the best advice/medicine we could have taken. We went to their house and ate, played games together, and laughed and laughed. We purposefully pushed the sadness away and made laughter our priority for the moment. Yes, the tears pushed forth sometimes. But we pushed them back, and focused on having fun together. And it was such a healing time, so and needed!
The next day we found that we had renewed energy, and felt closer to each other and stronger as a couple. Plus, we also faced everything from that point on in a healthier way. We weren’t as overwhelmed.
We don’t know what you’re going through right now in your married life. But unless you’re dealing with abuse issues (that you need to approach in a different way), we encourage you to follow this advice from Pastor Ted Cunningham:
“The almighty Creator of heaven and earth gave us laughter as a season. In extreme climates, there are only two seasons, a rainy season and a dry season. What season is your marriage in right now? Is it in one of those dry seasons where everything is a fight? If I can be blunt, some of you are currently in a ‘too serious’ season. Laughing to you seems childish and immature. Lighten up. Your spouse will thank you, and you will live longer.”
Marriage/parenting expert Dr Kevin Leman is one of our friends. Something he told us a long time ago is to “lighten up sometimes.” He told us that too often married couples get way too serious. They take offense at everything. Instead, there are times when we need to look at the humorous side of the situation and find a way to insert humor. It’s good to even poke fun at ourselves and take ourselves less seriously in certain situations. And he’s right. We’ve found that since he gave us that advice we “lighten things up” a whole lot more than we ever did before.
Fun Loving Advice Taken
And it has been good for our marriage. We laugh more readily at stupid situations. At the time they don’t seem stupid. They seem serious. But as we joke around a bit, we start to see how ridiculous the situation is that we’re allowing ourselves to fight about.
“Not taking yourself so seriously is the first step toward bringing laughter into your marriage. Being a responsible adult does not mean that you must remain serious at all times. Self-deprecating humor goes a long way in building intimacy in your marriage. God wants you to laugh.
“We need to laugh in the midst of the grind. The grind may be one reason why the average child laughs some 400 times per day compared to the average adult laughing only 15 times a day. If we let it, the grind can rob us of our sense of humor.” (More advice from Ted Cunningham, in his book, Fun Loving You)
But how do we/you do that? How do we “lighten up” and laugh together more? Well, this is something else that Pastor Ted Cunningham wrote about (and we agree):
Make the Decision
“Having a fun loving marriage may not be as hard as you think. I believe the decision to enjoy life together flows from the same place where you made the decision to get married and stay together. It comes from the same place where you decide that your children are valuable [even when they test you in every direction]. Your character makes the decision to enjoy life together.
“If you are a conservative Christian who has strong doctrine and a divorce-proof marriage, my prayer for you is that you move beyond just enough to stay together. Make the time and do the hard work to enjoy life together. If your marriage is in crisis, my prayer for you is that you will find hope again. Jesus breathes life into dead people, and I believe He breathes life into dead marriages.”
And that’s our prayer for you too. We pray that somehow God gives you hope in your married life right now… hope that you never thought was possible. Look around the Marriage Missions web site and prayerfully look for articles to read that can help you to work through some of the problems you and your spouse are encountering. As you work through the hard stuff in ways you never before approached them, we believe you will find little glimmers of hope peeking through. And those glimmers will lead to more and more. You have to work through the hard stuff to get to the more enjoyable stuff.
Here’s some more great advice from Ted Cunningham. (See… we told you he had a lot of good stuff written in his book.) He wrote:
“Let me give you a word picture I learned from Dr. Scott Stanley that I hope you never forget. Everybody falls in love with the front end of the puppy. You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? We fall in love with the front end of the puppy, but every puppy has a back end. Every marriage has a back-end story. Every marriage has a story of struggle, pain, frustration, trials, and disagreements.”
And they do; we do; and you do. But the messy back end comes with the good end. Pastor, speaker, author Mark Gungor (in his book, Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage) puts it this way… which we think is funny, but wise:
“One of my favorite verses in the Bible [in Proverbs 14:4] reads, ‘Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.’ The meaning is clear: If you have an ox, you’re going to have ox poo. If you don’t want any ox poo, then you have to get rid of the ox. But an ox is a good thing—we get ‘much revenue’ from having an ox. So here’s the quandary: If you want the benefit of having an ox, you’re going to have to endure the poo that comes with it.
“Marriage is a good thing. We get ‘much revenue’ from being joined to another person. However, there are problems. There is no such thing as a poo-free marriage. That’s why the apostle Paul gave us this advice [in 1 Corinthians 7:1]: ‘It is good for a man not to marry.’ Why does he say that? Because, he continues, ‘those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.’
“You don’t hear these verses read at many weddings. You don’t see very many greeting cards that reference this. Why not? Because we don’t like to admit that when you get a marriage ox, you will also be getting a pile of marital ox poo. But that is precisely what happens. Nevertheless, marriage is wonderful. I love being married! And what’s the alternative? Being alone for the rest of your life? That’s no picnic, either. The point is, challenges come with every choice we make.”
There is a serious side to “love.” There is a serious side to marriage. It’s more difficult to grow a healthy, good marriage than you could ever imagine before you marry. And it’s more difficult to deal with all the “poo” and the back end of the marriage “puppy” than you ever could have imagined. But now that you’re in the middle of it we’re telling you to be careful approach so you build your marriage relationship in a strong way.
The Importance of Growing Your Friendship
It’s important to build into your married life something that marriage expert, John Gottman calls, “positive sentiment over-ride.” John Gottman and his staff have done extensive research on what makes a marriage survive and then grow into a happy one. He says:
“The issue isn’t whether you fight. It’s how you fight and how rich your stockpile of good feelings is about each other to weather difficulties and keep your basic attitude toward your partner positive.”
We want to pause right here to say that we have a lot of Communication Tools and articles on the subject of Communication and Conflict posted on this web site that can help you learn how to fight in healthier ways. But you have to apply yourselves to learning how to do this. It isn’t rocket science. But does take intentionality in learning and then applying the skills you need to learn. Now, for the rest of Dr Gottman’s quote:
“At the heart of my research is the simple truth that happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. This includes a mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company. A couple that keeps their friendship strong despite the inevitable disagreements of married life, experiences what I call ‘positive sentiment over-ride.’ Their positive thoughts about each other and their marriage are so pervasive that they tend to supersede their negative feelings. It takes a much more significant conflict for them to lose their equilibrium as a couple.”
More Laughter Tips
And then we’ll give you a few practical tips on ways to bring enjoyment back into your marriage.
• “Today, as a gift to yourself and to your beloved, approach life with a smile on your lips and hope in your heart. And laugh every chance you get. After all, God created laughter for a reason…and Father indeed knows best. So laugh often and, more importantly, laugh together!” (From the book, “Love Is Forever”)
• “Preacher Henry Ward Beecher is attributed with saying, ‘A [marriage] without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs—jolted by every pebble in the road. Humor makes all things tolerable.’ ‘Laugh out loud,’ says Chuck Swindoll. ‘It helps flush out the nervous system.’ On another occasion Chuck said, ‘Laughter is the most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity.’ Laugh with your spouse.” (Jim Daly, The Best Advice I Ever Got on Marriage)
• “May it never be that our kids or our spouses think they have to leave the family to laugh—that family is only about work, commitment, and routine! That’s a prescription for disaster!” (Gary Thomas)
Fun Loving Marital Tips
And then here are a few marital tips to help you to have fun loving your spouse:
• “Take time to have some fun together every day! With today’s hectic schedules, it’s easy to find your marriage at the bottom of the priority list. Take a walk and hold hands (nature calms). Couple-cook (food fight!), exercise together (tennis or dancing maybe?) or just collect a ‘Daily Joke’ to share. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but if you make the commitment and effort to laugh together as often as possible, it can sweeten your connection and cement your relationship for life.” (Melodie Tucker)
On the other hand, we want to caution you on this one. Sheri Stritof gave a really good warning that we all should heed. We want you to have fun loving your spouse, but be careful, as Sheri said (and we agree with):
• “Don’t overdo the humor bit. Yes, every relationship needs some fun and laughter. However, you can give too many gag gifts, make too many so-called witty remarks, tell a few too many funny stories, and engage in too much horseplay. Keep it balanced with some down to earth, real, serious conversations with your spouse. Plus, make sure that your teasing isn’t a sly or manipulative way to throw insults and put-downs at your spouse.” (Sheri Stritof, from the verywellmind.com article, “Do You Wish Your Spouse Would Stop Teasing You?)
That’s called hurtful humor and that isn’t what we’re referring to here AT ALL! There’s a difference between being fun loving, and making fun of the other your spouse’s expense! Disguised humor is not funny or fun loving!
Another Fun Loving Tip?
• “Cook and eat together. Food can be fun. One of the most common ways I observed married couples having fun together in Italy was simply enjoying meals together. Rather than eating quickly and without much thought, they made the time to savor their food and talk together about what they enjoyed about it. If you and your spouse see food as a good gift from God, the daily process of preparing and eating it can be fun instead of a chore. Plan meals and snacks that feature foods you both like, and cook together whenever possible.
“It took just a few minutes for my husband and I to make simple pizzas for dinner, but the process was so fun that it enriched our relationship long beyond that time. When you eat together, don’t rush through the meal, but notice how the food can delight your senses, from aromatic scents to delicious tastes.” (Whitney Hopler, from the Crosswalk.com article, How to Keep Having Fun Together in Marriage)
That’s what Steve and I have been finding to be true. Earlier in our marriage we didn’t do much cooking together. But in recent years, we’ve been doing this more and more. And we’re having fun doing it! Who would have thought? We sure didn’t! Steve jokes about being the Sous Chef. He doesn’t feel real comfortable taking over the main responsibility for the meal. But little by little he’s venturing out. He makes a great pizza!
And the other day he made some homemade ranch dressing for our meal that was also great! We kibitz in the kitchen, joke around, flirt, and yes, we cook. And then afterward, we both feel like we have accomplished much, and enjoyed our time together.
Make Your Own Kind of Fun As a Married Couple
This may or may not work for you in your marriage, and that’s okay. But do something together to help you to grow your friendship. Whitney makes several other suggestions in her article that we suggest you read. Pray, read, glean and see what you can use or alter in some way, so you can use it. And if you need more ideas, go into our Romantic Ideas topic for other friendship growing ideas. The important point is that your love for each other grows deeper every year.
Additionally, here’s a fun loving tip from the Marriagecapsule.com article, “Christian Marriages are Fun Marriages”:
• “Celebrate everything under the sun! Make a big fuss over every little thing. The first summer greens, the last day of school, the first swim of the year, the last day of winter. Celebrate the fact that you have survived another year with your son’s strict kindergarten principal. Buy cupcakes for everyone if little sis gives up her pacifier. Create your own events and celebrate!”
Yes, celebrate with the family, but make sure you find other funny things to celebrate together as a married couple, apart from children. They need to see that mom and dad enjoy their life as a married couple. “Displayed love” is a great example of marital love in action. As Tricia Goyer says:
“Displayed love gives children a pattern to follow. Kids live what they see. They will approach relationships the way they see us approaching them. What does a healthy relationship look like? They will understand this by seeing it in us. Love—they will discover by watching—is more than just hugs and kisses, but also kind words, helpful gestures, and tender care in other numerous ways.” (From the Happywivesclub.com article, “4 Ways Loving Your Spouse Benefits Your Kids”)
On this idea of celebrating everything, here’s something Pastor Ron Edmonson writes:
• “Celebrate along the way. I have been told it takes three or four positive life occurrences to offset every negative. If this is true then we need to look for opportunities to celebrate the good things of life—as much as possible. When times are especially stressful, Cheryl and I try to make sure we are remembering the positives in life. We count our blessings—even name them one by one. The blessings are always there, but sometimes we have to look harder for them than other times.
“Have you ever just taken time to reflect together how many things you have for which you are thankful? At times we have a better life than we think we do—once we take time to celebrate.” (From the Ronedmonsons.com article, “12 Ways to Make Marriage Fun (Again)”)
Here is some great advice from Ogden Nash:
“To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the loving cup, whenever you’re wrong, admit it; whenever you’re right, shut up.”
Simplistic, But Not Simple!
We realize that this is pretty simplistic advice but it is oh, so true! And it certainly isn’t simple! But as we’ve heard it said, “Don’t say everything that comes into your mind. More marriages would survive if more things went unsaid.” Now we know that some of you don’t talk together enough, but we’re talking here about mean-spirited, jabbing things being said.
And then lastly, we will close with something else that Ted Cunningham wrote:
“Laugh in the midst of the grind, and remember not to take yourself too seriously. Proverbs 17:22 says, ‘A cheerful heart is good medicine.‘ Your marriage needs several good doses of this medicine. Don’t keep it hidden away and stored in the medicine cabinet.” (Ted Cunningham)
To that, we say, Amen! Have fun loving each other!
Cindy and Steve Wright — Your Marriage Missionaries
— ADDITIONALLY —
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