Is the fun gone? A long-lost memory? And have you stopped trying to get it back? Then it is seriously time to make a plan.
When you listen to your sister talk, you turn green with envy. She and her husband are the type of couple that every other couple wants to be. You catch them every now and then around the house, stealing a kiss – just because. He writes her songs that drive everyone to tears. She bakes heart-shaped cakes that comes out all skew and bumpy, but he tells her that it is the most beautiful cakes he has ever seen! He spoils her with spontaneous weekends away to go and watch the gorillas and she tattooed his name on her hip last week … they are super romantic and their marriage is super exciting.
But when you look at dear old Ben at your side, you can’t remember the last time he gave you flowers. You don’t bake – you buy. All you write is your kids’ speeches and the most he has spoiled you was two years ago, when he dryly said: “Book us a room at that bush-veld lodge an hour’s drive from here. I hear there is a big screen for the rugby.” Where did the excitement go? Where is the fun? Is this it? For the rest of your life?
On his blog, Kevin Thompson writes: “Marriage is supposed to be fun. Not every day. Not in every season. But across the broad spectrum of living life together, marriage should be defined by joy and happiness – more often than being dictated by struggle, frustration and discontent. All of these are elements of healthy marriages, but the positive characteristics should far more define the relationship than the negative ones.”
Ecclesiastes 9:9 says: “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun – all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labour under the sun.”
Yes, it is easy to have fun in your marriage when you are newlyweds and you don’t have to worry about croup, work performance appraisals, house prices and cholesterol. Moreover, young millennials find it easy to have fun, because they don’t value earthly possessions as much as life experiences. However, you are wrong if you assume that fun doesn’t matter. Or that it is not for you. Because that is when a couple forgets to make fun a priority. And fun must be a priority in every marriage.
Why is fun essential?
Because it is enjoyable! Of course! But fun also helps us to endure hardships. It carries us through tough times, times when it feels impossible to laugh. Ultimately, laughing is the best medicine to ease pain or relieve stress. Couples who have struggled through difficult times have gained the ability to recognise and appreciate the good in life. It is in the toughest times of your life when you need laughter the most. It reminds us that we are not alone, it is a way of connecting with your partner and it shows your children that you and your partner enjoy each other’s company! Unfortunately, many couples have a lot of fun in the first months or years of marriage and then the fun fades away.
So, why do we lose the fun in our marriages?
- Because somewhere, trust was violated. One can only have fun with your partner if you feel safe with him/her. Kevin compares it to soldiers in a war. No soldier in combat can have fun at that moment, because he/she is focused on the gravity of the situation and the protection that is required from him. He is wary an on his guard. If that is where you are currently in your marriage, you are likely experiencing similar emotions and having a hard time focusing on having fun. The trust must first be restored so that your shield can be lowered and you can have fun once again.
- Because, over time, you get used to each other. This one is inevitable. After being married for a while, you start to get used to each other’s faces, bodies, habits and sayings. Unfamiliarity is usually exciting and familiarity can be boring, although it doesn’t have to be. In a marriage, familiarity can bring a different kind of dynamic. It brings intimacy and security that allows you and your partner to lower your guard. But when the familiarity starts to get boring, it may be time to surprise your partner with something out of the ordinary.
- Mutual respect is lacking. Respect is another essential ingredient for a fun marriage, because it enables you to connect with your partner. Playfulness thrives when there is equality. Think about this: When you don’t feel respected by your partner, you cannot feel like his/her equal. And if you don’t feel like your partner’s equal, you cannot freely enjoy time with him or her. A lack of mutual respect therefore prevents a couple from having fun.
- You are under pressure and stressed. When you are stressed or under pressure, your vision narrows and all you can focus on is the source of the stress. Of course there will be seasons and no couple can constantly go through life without any stress, but it is important to actively avoid unnecessary stressors. Things that you can’t control shouldn’t steal your fun. Debt is one of those unnecessary pressure points that you should avoid at all cost to ensure that stress does not take over you life and kick out the fun.
- There is not enough time … Time is one of the biggest fun thieves that exist. Carefully think about the time that you and your partner spend together and about the quality of that time. Is it just your leftover scrap-time? Is your time together precious, or do you just happen to spend time together while raising the kids, earning money and making arrangements? Many couples don’t even have enough time to interact and often fun only happens during the December holiday when there is enough time to enjoy each other.
- You have fallen into a bad habit. Think about the meaning of “routine”. Routine can be good or bad for you and if you have fallen into the habit of not having fun anymore, you will continue with this habit until you make some changes. Healthy couples make fun a habit. They develop skills to find ways to incorporate fun into their lives. So if you really make it a priority to interact with your partner, that focus will radically transform your relationship.
How do you get the fun back?
- Decide to have fun. Without intent, time will rob you of your joy. Without intent, bad habits will always be present in our lives. Recognise that fun is an intentional quality of a healthy relationship and then choose activities that will increase the chances of having fun. Fun is a choice. As a couple, it is your choice whether an activity would be pure fun or pure frustration. It depends on your attitude and what you make of your circumstances. On the Focusonthefamily.com website, Ted Cunningham writes: “When fun is an outcome and not a choice, the quality of your marriage is determined by the words and actions of others. But when fun is a choice and not an outcome, the quality of your marriage is determined solely by your attitude.” Fun doesn’t have to be candyfloss and theme parks. It can also happen while you are stuck on the N1, when you are lying on the beach or eating KFC on your front porch. The choice is yours.
- Be adventurous. People have different personalities. Some are more adventurous than others. In order to maximise the joy in your marriage may require you to sometimes step out of your comfort zone and take some risks. Also look out for opportunities to have fun! Would you have more fun at a luxury resort, or on a white water rafting expedition? There isn’t a correct answer, because it depends on your personalities! But think about activities that can create the most unexpected scenarios – those usually generate the most fun!
- Keep the playfulness alive. Playfulness requires a mind shift, an attempt to lighten your mood – also during difficult times. It can help you lighten the load! Carry games with you wherever you go – literally! You can have lots of fun with a dice, a deck of cards and a notebook with two pens. And it doesn’t take up too much space in your handbag! Play “Would you rather…” with your partner – any time, anywhere. That involves asking your questions like: “Would you rather live on a lake or the ocean?” or “Would you rather eat a grasshopper or a silkworm?” You can also play games like noughts and crosses, or Rummy.
- Show mercy towards one another. Kevin believes that while gratitude and fun are not synonymous, they do relate to each other. So much so that when we feel undeserving of the good that we receive, we extend grace towards each other. “Entitlement kills enjoyment, but grace makes it thrive. As we attempt to add fun to our relationships, we will succeed and fail. We must give grace to each other when things don’t go as expected.” Therefore, live with gratitude and chances are that fun will flow from this.
- Plan and budget for fun in your marriage. Plan fun as you would holidays, festivities and shopping trips. Yes, you can have fun in everyday moments, but the more fun you have, the more you will crave it in larger doses. Schedule one fun evening per month where you go and do something silly, like going ice skating or visiting a trampoline park. If you just wait for fun to happen, and you don’t plan for it, there might never be money to do the fun things you want to do. Therefore, formally incorporate fun into your budget. When people ask Ted when he will trade in his minivan (with almost 300 000km on the clock) for a new car, he responds: “I’m driving this one until the wheels fall off because I love dating my wife!” He explains: “Our van might be falling apart, but our marriage is stronger than ever.”
Every happy couple experiences some degree of fun, joyfulness and enjoyment. Ted believes that while a marriage is hard work, it doesn’t feel so much like work when you have enough fun. Fun is a natural byproduct of a couple who loves each other. Of course certain seasons of the relationship will be characterised by struggles, but in the end, you have to be able to look back on your relationship and for the most part, smile about the memories.
Article written by Annelize Steyn