I love those commercials for online dating services with the happy couples twirling around the screen. The tone of the commercials screams fun, fresh and exciting. But have you ever thought about the disillusioned husband or wife watching that commercial and thinking,Why isn't my marriage like that? I'll never have that kind of fun or passion in this relationship.
Contrary to our culture's message that chemistry and compatibility are essential to an enjoyable marriage, I'm convinced that character and commitment are really the essential qualities. My wife, Amy, and I have found that a fun, loving marriage is more about the daily decisions we make and not as much about what we have in common.
My wife and I are different in every way. I define savings as money in the bank; she defines savings as the difference between the actual price and the sale price. I like to sleep with the temperature in the house set at 75 degrees; she prefers 69.5. We are complete opposites in our personalities, television-programming and pizza-topping preferences.
Getting on the same page is no longer the goal for Amy and me. Trying to change one another is of no interest to us. And we don't strive for complete agreement on every issue. Instead, we simply agree to enjoy life and each other for the rest of our time on earth. You, too, can decide to enjoy life and marriage — no matter how many challenges you may face.
In Psalm 90:10, Moses reminds us that life is a grind: "The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away."
It doesn't matter how much money we make; we can't buy our way out of the grind. However, in the midst of the grind, Solomon encourages us: "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" (Ecclesiastes 9:9).
A fun, loving marriage is not shallow or immature. It requires plenty of hard work, taking couples beyond just enough effort to stay together. Amy and I made the decision 17 years ago that divorce would never be an option. I believe the decision to enjoy life together flows from the exact same place. It's our character that makes the decision and then sticks with it.
Make the decision to enjoy each other
I work hard to make Amy laugh. Walking out of the bedroom on some mornings, I give her a brief, fashion-model, runway walk displaying my choice of wardrobe. Having character and being a responsible adult doesn't mean you must always be serious. On the other hand, you don't need to be a comedian to enjoy life and each other. To create a fun culture in your marriage and home, start with minutes, not hours. My wife and I commit to cutting loose and having fun together for at least 15 to 20 minutes a day.
Make the decision to avoid ruts
Identify areas where you're stuck in routines. When you get stuck in marriage and life, you might blame your spouse for being the source of the problem, question your compatibility, close your heart and ultimately doubt your future as a couple. The grind of life can create a vacuum of intimacy, laughter and fun in marriage. But you don't have to allow duty and responsibility to trump passion and creativity. Break routine by establishing a fresh date night. Avoid the standard dinner and movie — try roller-skating, kayaking, hiking, jumping on a trampoline or renting a bicycle built for two. Plan a "staycation" (a stay-at-home vacation) without the kids. Shop for and prepare a multicourse, fine-dining meal at home. Whatever you choose, make it a new experience that gives you time to dream, play and laugh together.
Make the decision to value your spouse
I call this "mining for gold." Miners drill test holes, excavate the ground and process soil — all in the hope of finding gold. Although there are no guarantees, they work hard for a payoff that could be huge.
Amy and I want to be great miners in our marriage. We started major mining last year — looking for things we value about each other. We write our nuggets in a list we call "The Fun Loving You List."
My list for her includes:
- I love her "all or nothing" passion.
- I love her disdain for driving directions.
- I love her spontaneity.
Amy's list for me includes:
- I love his concern for my comfort.
- I love his fiscal responsibility.
- I love his exaggerated humor.
Every time a frustration or difference of opinion surfaces, we mine for more nuggets and add them to our lists. We regularly return to them to remind ourselves that our spouse is highly valuable. We cannot control the circumstances thrown at us by the grind of life, but in whatever situation we find ourselves, we can decide to pursue a fun, loving marriage.
Ted Cunningham is a pastor and the author of Fun Loving You.