“Marriage is work.” Have you ever heard that statement before? You probably have, and if you are like many people, your visceral reaction to that little, three-word sentence is “Ugh.” The reason? The word “work” conjures up images of hard labor, calloused hands, low pay, unappreciation, long nights at the office, deadlines, unreasonable expectations, performance reviews, lazy coworkers who shuffle their load onto your desk, and a boss who just loves to micromanage. Who wants a marriage like that?
Instead, we want a marriage where we are excited to be together. Where it may be tough, but we know we can survive the trials of life because we support and encourage each other. We plan together, solve together, laugh together, and argue together. We take dates, raise children, take vacations, bury loved ones, and discover how to help each other accomplish their dreams. We realize that yes, marriage is difficult. It is not easy to navigate situations with someone raised completely different than you. There are responsibilities, and you must take intentional effort to nurture the relationship, but for the most part, marriage is not about the tasks you do. It’s about the person you are with.
So, let me ask you: Which way do you think about your marriage? Or your partner?
Are you keeping your head down, avoiding each other, just trying to make it through the day without any huge conflicts along the way? Or are you looking up, smiling at each other, taking joy in being with the one person who is both your best friend and your true love?
If you are the former, here are some tips that may help put some fun back in your marriage:
- Don’t call it a date. Just do things with each other. Lots of things. Relearn to enjoy each other’s presence. For some people, the word “date” connotes pressure to do something special. That’s an old holdover from adolescence. Adults know that getting away from the kids and going to Barnes and Noble for an hour can be just as fun as tickets to Broadway.
- The feeling of love comes in both being loved and giving love. If you only define love as “what’s in it for me,” you will either develop the habit of constantly using others for your personal pleasure/gain, or you will continually be disappointed in your partners.
- There is a difference between joy and pressure. Joy is the result of helping out your spouse without being asked and knowing you made a positive impact on their life. Pressure is about fulfilling an obligation. Or, to put it another way, it is the difference between desire and duty. Take initiative to understand what is going on in your spouse’s world each day and then do something to make their day at least a little bit better.
- Find what is funny to your spouse and reintroduce laughter into your marriage through a context that they enjoy. This could be anything from watching a movie, revisiting old photos/memories together, or going to the mall and poking fun at the strangers in the food court. Laughing together joins us together. It creates a shared experience and makes us feel like we are on the same team.
- Reintroduce flirting in your marriage. There is nothing like a little banter charged with the electricity of wit and attraction to make marriage fun again.
- Rebuild your friendship with your spouse. Find those areas of commonality, whether it is similar frustrations, likes/dislikes, types of entertainment, opinions, etc., and connect them like Legos through continual communication. Even small things like, “I can’t believe they said that to you,” or “I love it when that happens!”can begin to decrease the distance between you and your spouse. C.S. Lewis once said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”
- Expect nothing in return. Marriage is not a quid pro quo relationship. You give because the other person is valuable to you, and because you want to express the depth of that value to them, not because you will receive a reward in return. This may be a hard one. But it is one of the most important things you can do. Remember, it is more blessed to give than to receive.
- Look for how your spouse likes to demonstrate love to others, then reflect that back to them in your words and deeds. This should be a continual practice you do so that 1) you become fluent in how your spouse thinks and feels and 2) your spouse no longer has to guess if you are loving them. You will be speaking their language clearly.
- Look for ways you can assist your spouse, whether it is in physical or emotional ways. Tune in to what is going on in their world so that you can either pick up the slack or put an arm around them to get them to the finish line. Romance is in the attention to details in your spouse’s world and attending to them, not the ultra-creative moments you design for each other.
- Finally, in case you haven’t figured it out yet: Love is a skill, not a feeling. If you are telling yourself “I don’t think I have the ability to do marriage successfully,” it’s okay. No one has that ability in their nature. We are innately selfish creatures. That is why love is the skill of selflessness practiced endlessly with (and for) another person. It is not something that you arrive at through a two-hour seminar or a sermon on Sunday morning. It is a daily practice you engage in.
So, get out there. Get creative. Let your apron get dirty. Let’s make marriage fun again!