My wife, Amy, is a foodie. I am not. Her favorite restaurants serve small portions and many courses. I prefer large portions served all at once. You would think these differences might drive us crazy, but they don't. We decided a long time ago to find fun in every nook and cranny of our marriage.
Our foodie differences first surfaced at a fancy restaurant in a big city. When we walked in, I knew immediately that I would leave hungry. It was the type of restaurant our friend Dr. Kevin Leman calls a "four forker."
The friendly host seated us at a table near the front window. We had a welcoming view of the garden terrace and plenty of privacy. It was a cute, cozy and romantic environment.
Then the waiter approached our table with a thick wooden plank that presented us with two mint leaves. My immediate question was, "Is that the salad?" He assured me it was not.
He invited us to each take a leaf and rub it over our lips, under our noses and around our chins. Amy was all in, but I hesitated.
"I grew up in Illinois where we grew produce, but we never rubbed it on our faces," I said in jest. Our waiter didn't laugh. Come on, shouldn't rubbing herbs on your face be something a couple does in private? This was certainly one of the most awkward moments I have ever experienced in a restaurant.
The waiter stood waiting, so I gave him a show he would not soon forget. I took a bath with that mint leaf, and then discarded the wilted leaf on the plank. He took our order and left.
Amy giggled with appreciation. She knows how awkward those situations can be for me, but she loves how I push myself and work through the awkwardness. No matter where we are, no matter what we are doing, we try to make it fun.
Marriage should be enjoyed. Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, "Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun." God declares that you can enjoy life with your spouse, even through the pain and challenges that life often brings. God did not give you your spouse to be the grind; He gave you your spouse to be a companion through the grind.
Here are a few ways that you can find fun and marital satisfaction in the random moments of life:
Decide your way into fun
Fun is a choice, not an outcome. You decide your way into fun; you don't just stumble into it. As a couple, you get to choose whether an activity, date night or event is fun or frustrating. Where you are and what you do are simply factors in the equation, but they are not the summation of a good time.
For example, can you remember a day when everything went wrong, when everyone and everything seemed to be working against you to the point that it became comical? That's when Amy and I simply shake our heads and say, "What else could go wrong?" Every bad thing that happens after that question becomes one more punch line in our day. This kind of perspective can give you and your spouse one more fun story to tell friends and family.
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.
If you desire more fun in your marriage, start by creating it rather than waiting for it. Fun as a couple can be found while lying on a beach, stuck in traffic, standing in line — even while eating a holiday meal with your parents. The choice is yours.
You may resist the idea of deciding on fun and think, Yeah, this is all good and well, but it takes two people to make a marriage fun. I submit that it often takes just one spouse to get the ball rolling. So let it start with you. Decide for yourself (not your spouse) to loosen up, not take yourself so seriously and enjoy what life and marriage throw at you.
Create fun in everyday moments
Your marriage needs daily time free from conversations about serious matters, such as the budget, parenting, jobs and household chores. All it takes is a few minutes of spontaneous fun to lighten up the rest of the day. So inject a little humor into your everyday routines and schedules.
For example, all I need to do to turn an ordinary meal into fun is to grab a vegetable off Amy's plate and start rubbing it on my face. It immediately takes us back to that mint leaf. We laugh, reminisce a bit and plan for another foodie experience.
Your lighter moments may have nothing to do with food. Do you need to run errands? Break into a spontaneous dance to a familiar tune while you're waiting in line at the DMV. While sitting in traffic, turn on the radio and belt out a song. Better yet, turn off the radio and invite your spouse to join you as you belt out a song. If you can't sing or dance, that's even better! Uncoordinated dancing and out-of-tune singing usually guarantee a laugh. Make it a goal to get your spouse to smile, chuckle or even belly laugh. Laughter is good for the soul. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A joyful heart is good medicine." Your marriage needs a daily dose of laughter.
Find fun games to play anywhere
Every marriage needs a go-to game. A simple game like "Would You Rather" requires no set-up time, game pieces or box. It travels with you everywhere you go, and it's ever evolving. Ask each other a series of questions like …
- Would you rather live on a lake or on the ocean?
- Would you rather have dinner at the White House or take an all-expenses-paid two-week tour of Europe?
- Would you rather be Batman or Superman?
Amy and I love playing "Would You Rather" because it helps us dream. We rapid-fire questions at each other, often pausing to ask, "Why?" This game even has the potential for fun debates. If you've been married for some time, you just might begin answering these questions for each other. When you hear an unexpected answer, respond in jest, "And I thought I knew you!"
Plan for fun times
Once you find fun in everyday moments, you may start craving it in larger doses. Make time for fun dates. Schedule one night a week to hit the town and unwind. Studies show that quality couple time on a regular basis relieves stress, increases sexual desire and lowers your chances of divorce. Quality time evades many couples who get stuck in the rut of "dinner and a movie." If your marriage lacks in the creative dating department, try something new. Consider roller-skating, hiking, spelunking, water-skiing, zip-lining, fishing, bowling or cooking classes.
A weekly date night is good, but an annual abandon is even better. Plan a getaway every year while the kids are at camp, with grandparents or on a school trip. Going on a trip is exciting, but you can get just as much excitement out of planning a trip. If you haven't been on a vacation since your honeymoon, it's time to plan some out-of-town fun where you get away from work and the kids.
Budget for fun times
As you work on your family budget for the new year, add a line item called "couple fun," "marital satisfaction" or "one fun marriage." Investing in your marriage is as important as investing in your child's education and your retirement plan.
I often hear couples say, "We can't afford to date or take vacations away from the kids." Blogs and social media posts offer penny-pinching advice like, "Dating your spouse does not need to be expensive or extravagant." I agree. You don't need a yacht to enjoy time on the water, and you don't need a five-star hotel to enjoy a romantic vacation. However, occasionally spoiling your spouse is not a waste of money, and it just might be more affordable than you think. Review your other expenses while looking for the funds to invest in your marriage. That might mean buying a used vehicle rather than a new one, or eating out with the kids less and with each other more. Some couples even choose to buy tiny houses with no mortgage so they can do more together.
These ideas may seem drastic, perhaps ridiculous, to you, but your marriage is worth it. Your children need a mom and dad who invest relationally, emotionally, physically and yes, even financially, in their marriage. Don't go into debt for the sake of your marriage, but don't give up on some great experiences together because of the stuff in your life. To paraphrase pastor Mark Batterson: "Invest in experiences, not stuff."
Amy and I choose to drive a minivan that has over 180,000 miles on the odometer. When people ask, "Ted, when are you going to get a new car?" I respond with, "I'm driving this one until the wheels fall off because I love dating my wife." Our van may be falling apart, but our marriage is stronger than ever.
One final thought: Many couples believe fun is the result of compatibility. In other words, the more compatible you are, the more fun you will experience. But the biblical definition of compatibility is found in Mark 10:8, where it says, "The two shall become one." Compatibility is not something you discover or find online. You choose compatibility. You choose to blend your differences. Some call the process of two becoming one "hard work," but I call it "fun work."
A senior lady in our church has worked for the same missions organization for over 60 years. She often says, "Find a job you enjoy, and you won't work a day in your life." The same is true for marriage. Find fun in your marriage, and it won't seem like such hard work.Ted Cunningham is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri, and the author of Fun Loving You.