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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Having Fun in Your Marriage

Having Fun in Your Marriage

Pastor Ted Cunningham describes the symptoms of a "stuck marriage," and what couples can do to inject fun, happiness, and enjoyment back into their relationship.

Original Air Date: February 14, 2014



Woman #1: As a couple we really enjoy camping and hiking and doing all of those outdoor activities.

Man #1: My wife and I love to walk around IKEA and just dream.

Woman #2:My husband and I met on a basketball court and so, 15 years later, we still enjoy doin’ a quick pick-up game. I don’t win very many, but I sure do enjoy playing with him.

Man #2: My wife and I really enjoy taking walks on the beach, especially around sunset.

Man #3: Yeah, my wife and I will sometimes go to these discount stores and have like a $2 or $3 limit and that’s always kind of fun to come back and see, wow, you got me that? Or wow, you got methat!

End of Excerpt

Jim Daly: (Laughter)Hey, those are some great ideas for having fun in a marriage, John. I don’t know about the $2, $3 store.

John Fuller: Oh.

Jim: I don’t know what I would buy Jean in that situation.

John: I … you can’t go wrong with flowers–

Jim: (Laughing)

John:–the dollar–

Jim: Plastic flowers?

John: –plastic flowers for a buck.

Jim: Actually you could go wrong with that (Laughter), John. I’m just tellin’ ya. And today on Focus on the Family, we want to talk about how to get that fun back in your relationship. I’m Jim Daly and here in the studio with me is John Fuller. We’re gonna help husbands–now get this– we’re gonna help husbands and wives find the fun in their relationship, because that’s how it all started, isn’t it? Somethin’ attracted you to each other and I’m sure fun was a part of that in some way.

John: Mm-hm.

Jim: Somewhere along the way though, life got a little complicated. The kids came along, the bills had to be paid and Monday Night Football’s always there. It just gets to become a routine and you stop having fun and then you’re in some difficulty. So, we want to talk about that today.

John: Yeah and this is a … I think a very common problem in a lot of marriages, so we want to come alongside you and help you get through some really routine things. Now Jim, we’re not talking about couples who are really, really struggling. We’re talking about pretty healthy marriages that are just … they’ve just been crowded out by–

Jim: Well, they’re stuck.

John: –so much of life.

Jim: Yeah, they’re just stuck in that rut.

John: Yeah.

Jim: And you know who you are. Uh … you love each other and you’re willing, but you know what? You’re just distracted. There’s other things tuggin’ at your time.


Jim: Today we’re gonna talk to that average couple, who’s gettin’ by and we’ve invited a very special guest to join us. His name is Ted Cunningham. He’s an author, a speaker, a pastor. Ted, welcome back to Focus on the Family.

Ted Cunningham: I love bein’ here. Thanks for havin’ me again.

Jim: Well, you … let me ask you from the get-go. You are a fun guy by nature, so for you this is, I think, pretty natural. Uh … how do us guys that maybe aren’t naturally fun, uh … how do we find a “fun bone” in our body?

Ted: Yeah, I … (Laughing) I … I … I related with the average part. I am (Laughing) pretty average.

Jim: I don’t think so.

Ted: And … and I think … I think we always think about fun as, we gotta schedule the date night, which we can talk about. We have to get an annual abandon. We have to do all of that. But I just try to find simple ways every day to make Amy Cunningham laugh. And the first thing I do almost every morning, maybe not every morning, but several times a week, I model whatever I’ve chosen to wear that day for her. (Laughter) And I try to pick new poses (Laughter). And it only takes 10, 15 seconds. (Laughter) So, for the average guy–

Jim: Okay.

Ted: –who says, I don’t write jokes. I don’t write, you know, humorous stories. I can’t … I can’t deliver one-liners, you know, that work, you know. You …there’s plenty you can do to bring that humor, that laughter, that fun, that play into your marriage in very simple, practical and, dare I say, quick ways.

Jim: Let me ask you this though, that idea of laughter is so linked to intimacy, but we don’t I think, realize it the way we should. A couple that’s been married five, seven, 10, 20 years, if you’re losing that ability to laugh together, you’re really missing something, aren’t you?

Ted: You areand I was inspired the most by this idea from Dr. Swindoll when I was at Dallas. (Laughter) Yeah, because I never would’ve thought … people actually have taken the time to write him letters saying, “You need to use less humor in your sermons.”

John: Oh.

Jim: Yeah.

Ted: Until he said “You know, but once I received a letter from a lady that said, “Please keep the humor coming on your broadcast because it’s the only laughter that finds its way into our home.”

Jim: Wow.

Ted: There’s a vacuum of laughter in our homes today that we don’t take the time. And I’m not sayin’ watch a two-hour comedy movie. I’m ju … the ability to pause, not take yourself so seriously, be able to laugh at yourself a little bit, be able to cut loose. And this can takeminutesa day. I’m not talking about investing the whole day in it. But to be intentional with it. It’s actually part of our family constitution in the Cunningham home. Wemustlaugh together every single day. Jim: Let me ask you that question, because those two letters could come from the same household. The husband that’s saying, “Dr. Swindoll, don’t use humor in your sermon.” And the wife’s saying, “Please, please, ‘cause it’s the only laughter we ever get.”

Ted: Hm.

Jim: I think it’s a problem within the broader Christian community, that somehow piousness is uh … seen as not laughing, not enjoying ourselves. That’s not the picture I have of the Lord. I mean, when … when He was with us and walked with us, those bits of Scripture that we have that that the Pharisees and the Sadducees were criticizing Him because He seemed to be having a good time. He was laughing with people. And they didn’t like it either. But the Lord and being made in His image, I think humor is His image. I think the Lord has a good sense of humor. I want to hear His belly laugh.

Ted: Yeah (Laughing) yeah and … and think about this. Almost every marriage ministry sermon that I’ve heard through the years has some sort of take on this message: “God gave you your spouse to beat you down and todrain the lifeoutta you, so you can be more like Jesus.”

John: Hm.

Ted: We’ve actually taken that … and I … I’m good friends with Gary Thomas and we’ve had great conversations about this lately, because you know, the whole holiness versus happiness conversation and we’re on the same page with this, because we believe and know that the Lord has given us a spouse to have companionship with. But we’ve turned the primary purpose of marriage into sanctification. So long as we’re growing more like Jesus, that’s the direction we need to go, but to have fun, to cut loose, to just enjoy one another and that be the sole purpose? There’s a lot of followers of Christ that have a very difficult time grasping that.

Jim: Well, and I’ll confess it. I’ve used that line often about, you know, one of the issues in marriage is it rubs off your selfish edges. Idothink marriage does that, but you don’t have to not have humor in that process (Chuckling). I mean, you can do both, right?

Ted: Yeah and this is the key. This is what I challenge pastors with.Let’s not lead out with the message, “Marriage is hard.” (Laughter) I did an ordination for a couple of young guys, good friends of mine, a couple of uh … months back. And … and when we got done … you know, we were goin’ through each of the lines of doctrine and what do you believe about God? What do you believe about the Trinity? What do you believe about man? And I knew when we got to man, I knew what their answer was gonna be, passionate about Reformed Theology. I said … I go, guys, tell me what do you believe about man? And I mean, as quickly as they could say it, “Man is evil.” And I said … this is what I said to them. I go, listen, I appreciate your passion for depravity. (Laughter) But I want to ask you the question, isthatwhat you want to lead out with? John: Hm.

Ted: And they said,”Wh … what should I lead out with?” I go, “What if we led out just doing good Bible study method, going with Rule of First here. What if we lead out with “created in the image of God?”

Jim: Hm.

Ted: And then we’ll get to depravity, ‘cause I believe the same thing you do, but what happens if we would just pause long enough to not lead out? And I think that’s …one of the issues in the home today and in the church today, we’re … the main marriage message I hear is, marriage ishard. No wonder 20-somethings are sayin’, “I know my mom and dad are committed to one another. I don’t even know if they enjoy each other. But I don’t know if theylikeeach other. I don’t ever see ‘em laughing together.”

So, I just … to me, part of painting a beautiful picture of marriage for the young people in our church and for the, dare we say it again,averagecouple in our church, is to not lead out with this, “It’s grueling; it’s painful. It’stoilsome.” Okay, we’ll get to that, right. We’ll all process that at some point in our marriage, but to continue to paint this beautiful picture of companionship in marriage.

Jim: Why are we projecting that it’s so hard? Is it because in the end, we’re too selfish?

Ted: Well, that and I think combined with the brokenness. There’s so much brokenness that we see around us. We … we’ve fallen for this confirmation bias to believe that,thatis the way of every marriage. And to be honest with you, as a pastor, I don’t have couples that come into my office saying, “We’re doin’ okay. We just would like you to help us get more creative on date night.” I don’t have those counseling appointments. I have the, “We’re done. We’re done. We’re walking out. This is it and we told our family we were comin’ to meet with you.” And one of the main reasons people want to meet with a pastor is so they can go tell their family, we tried everything…

John: Hm.

Ted: Okay. And–

Jim: So they’re going in with the attitude, let’s check this off the list.

Ted: Let’s just check this off the list. And I think what happens, especially when you hear sermon after sermon on marriage today and it leads out with, “The marriage is hard,” first bullet point, it’s because that’s just what pastors are responding to. They’re responding to the brokenness that they’re dealing with all day long, all week long. And they’re like, okay, every marriage is like this and so, now most of our marriage ministries today are focused on that crisis and recovery aspect, which isveryimportant to have in your church.

But we’re talkin’ today, kind of, you have the premarital side and then at the other end, you have crisis and recovery. We’re kinda talking about that middle group of followers of Christ who say, you know what? We’re married. We’re committed. We’re gonna be together until either one of us lays the other in the arms of Jesus or the Lord returns. But we know, we’re maybe at a 5, 6 or 7, we … we could go up, you know, a few rungs.

Jim: Let me ask you this, Ted, because uh … you know, livin’ at a 9 is hard — it takes a lot of energy and it … and many people would say, it’s impossible. I mean, 6 or 7 is pretty good, if on average, that’s where you’re at and … and you love each other. Um … is it possible to live at a 9?

Ted: I think it’s possible for that to be your goal and for you to strive for it every day. And I think … this is what I love about Ecclesiastes. It’s what I love about chapter 9, verses 7 to 9, but verse 9 especially. It says, “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love all your meaningless days.” This is your life and you’re toilsome and the word “toilsome” there is speaking of the grind of life. It’s the “gruelsome” labor that we all go through. But what I love about Ecclesiastes, it also talks about seasons. Every marriage has seasons. And so, there’s a time to laugh; there’s a time to mourn. There’s a time to dance.

I think we getstuckin these dry seasons and we spend too much time there. And one of the things I love doin’ as a pastor, ‘cause we take the second Sunday of every month at our church and we talk about marriage. So, we just did a 13-part series, verse by verse through Galatians, through the fall. But still,everysecond Sunday of the month, we stopped and we preached on marriage. And we’re really going after the average couple. We’re going after the one that’s at a 5 or a 6 and just trying everything we can do as a church to give them tools, to give them helps, conversation starters, fill in the blanks, whatever we can do to help them break out of those dry stuck seasons. Again, they’re not moving towards crisis. They wouldn’t consider themselves crisis, but they’re bored. And I think a lot of our sermons need to be targeted, not just to helping couples come out of crisis, but we need to start helping couples and give ‘em ajoltout of boredom. Jim: Does it ha … are you really trying to shift the paradigm? I mean, that we go in thinkinggrind, grind,oh, it’s tough; it’s tough. Get us to use different words. I mean, it … one of the things that is frustrating as I watch it– we’re Christians. We believe the Book. We believe the end, that we’re gonna be with Jesus in heaven foreternity! Yet, we live sometimes like we don’t understand that revelation at all. There is no joy in our lives.

It … it’s a paradigm shift, for us to wake up with a smile on our face every day as believers in Christ. We should be there, because we have been given thisincredibleinsight and this gift of eternal life. It should revolutionize the way we live, yet we live in many ways like the world lives. Why?

Ted: Yeah, and here’s what we did inFun Loving You.If our primary message is and what we’ve heard our life in church growing up is, marriage is hard, we now process every part of our marriage through that “marriage is hard” paradigm.

So, I’ll give you a great example, ‘cause every, you know, marriage speaker, preacher, author talks about the differences of men and women. And we try to bring that, but that “differences” gets caught up in the “marriage is hard” message. And what Amy and I have done is, we’ve taken the … the list of all of our differences and the things that just frustrate the daylights out of each other, uh … that we can frustrate one another. We wrote all those down (Laughter) and … and then we made–

John: That’s kinda scary

Ted: –we made the decision, okay, we’re gonna find the fun on each one of these bulleted items. We’re gonna find fun. ‘Cause when … when a couple comes into my office, I love handing them a yellow pad and saying, I want you to write down just five reasons why your spouse is valuable. This goes to Gary Smalley’s honor list idea. Write down five reasons. And I just love sitting there watching them, ‘cause they … they can’t write down one thing. Jim: Oh, my goodness.

Ted: Like this … a … a stuck couple, they can’t think of a reason why their spouse is valuable, because right now they’re so frustrated with ‘em. But if you were to ask ‘em, write down five reasons why your kids are valuable, oh, well, then-

Jim: Bum, bum, bum.

Ted: –bum, bum, bum, bum, bum. bum, bum. So, then I say, okay, well, we won’t write down five reasons why your spouse is valuable. Why don’t we write down five things that really frustrate you–

Jim: Bu, bu, bu, bu, bum!

Ted: –about your spouse. And it’s bum, bum, bum, bum, bum. And then we spend the rest of the time, we can really get somewhere, too on this. Then we look for ways to have fun with those frustrations and so, yeah, that was a tough one and that’s when we really started to do thisFun Loving Youlist idea. It’s when we started to write down, ‘causethenthat just gives us all freedom. Boy and … and we came up with roughly 20, 25–

Jim: Things that irritate each other.

Ted: –things that irritate each other (Laughter).

Jim: I’m gonna do that. (Laughter) It’s a fun thing to do.

Ted: It … it really is and there’s that moment of pain, where you have to kind of work through it. But we put ourFun Loving Youlist in the book and if you read ‘em right, you’ll see where the frustrationwas. And we just have a ball with this. And again, because of the mentoring that I’ve received from Gary Smalley, I keep that list close, because the goal is, when you begin to experience the frustration again, you pull that list out and you remind yourself, nope (Sound of knock on table), I’ve made the decision that this is valuable. I’ve made the decision we’re gonna have fun with this and this is one way we have fun with it.

John: I’m so appreciating this conversation we’re having today on Focus on the Family with Ted Cunningham and the book that he just referred to isFun Loving You: Enjoying Your Marriage in the Midst of the Grind. We’ve got details about that and some other helps, a CD or … or download of this conversation, at focusonthefamily.com/radio.

And … and Ted, I’m thinking, it’s probably not a good idea for me to go home and give Dena a list of things (Laughter) that she does …

Jim: No, go ahead; do that. (Laughter) I want … I want to see what you do tomorrow.

John: But how do you practically … I mean, give us an example of how you take what frustrates you in the relationship and turn it into something fun? Because it could become, I would think easy to makefunof that person for it–

Ted: Yeah, oh and it … oh, no, no, no.

John: –instead of being productive.

Ted: Yeah and that is not the goal of this at all. What I do, like for example, my wife, she’s the most passionate woman I know. She’s got more passion in her little pinky than I have in my whole body, our whole family combined. Whether it’s exercise, vacation planning, everything isintense, right, veryintense.

And so, we’ll … she … you know, I’ll come home from a bad day at work and go, “You know, it’s kind of a rough day,” and she’ll go, “Well, fine. Let’s quit and move to Africa and be full-time missionaries.” (Laughter) I’ll be like, “Hey, let’s back it down a notch. “ (Laughter) It was really like a bad two hours at the end. And we have fun with that, because she knows I’m appreciating that about her now. I’m not frustrated. I … I love this passion. When we go on walks as a family, I look at ‘em more like nature walks. If we see a turtle, we’re gonna stop and

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Fun Loving You

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