For those of you who have known me for a least three years, you probably know that I had a year where every time I wrote the word "fun" it appeared as "FUN!"
FUN! was my word for an entire year. Why? Because I was so terrible at having fun that I had to jazz it up to look and sound like even more fun than fun already was.
I've always been on the serious side. I've valued deep conversations, explorations of the soul, going to the hard places. This is what I thought made up a good, solid, real relationship. This was so important to me that I thought every time we had date night or a quiet, intimate moment alone that we had to have this kind of talk. And if we didn't, something was wrong or missing or disconnected. And if we were just silent? Silence was a killer. Silence (because of how I grew up) meant that we were angry and harboring resentment or that we had grown apart and had nothing to talk about.
You see now why I needed an entire year to just practice having FUN!? I went into marriage knowing it was going to take grit. What I didn't know was how fun would make the grit so much easier to put forth.
A focus on fun changed my life and my marriage in key ways. Here's what I learned:
- Laughter does wonders. Serious people tend to take everything seriously. I also tend to take things personally. You may be able to see why this would make me a train wreck from time to time. In my year of fun, I learned how to take some risks. I started risking not being so serious and not taking things personally (at the time, this seemed like a big risk). When Craig might be a little grumpy, instead of assuming it was my fault or that we had some big issue we needed to hash out (God love the man for putting up with me), I'd just try to be funny. I'd get him to laugh. I'd stray from the to-do list and tell him (or us) to do something fun or relaxing. Did it always work? No. But the times that it did, it was like the sun bursting forth after a huge thunderstorm. Laughter had the power to break ill-will, bad moods, and misperceptions. In the same manner, I became open to Craig's attempts to get me to laugh when I was in a less than jovial. In this process, I learned to better understand the difference between the big-deal things and the small stuff.
- Fun makes memories. Do you remember your honeymoon? A great vacation? A date night that was exciting? When I think about the night Craig and I met, we were at a youth lock-in at our church. We spent hours playing playing Bop-It with the kids, just goofing around and having fun. Our first encounter was FUN!, so why wouldn't the rest of our marriage life continue to be sprinkled with such goodness? These memories makes me smile and reminiscing about them stirs up those feel-good feelings. I love this quote by James M. Barrie: "God gave us memory so we might have roses in December." We know life isn't fun all the time. Remember, marriage takes grit! But when we're in the hard spaces, our memories have the power to remind us that we have experienced good things in the past and there are good things to come after the stormy present. (Dennis Rainey wrote a powerful piece about making memories. Click here to read.)
- Fun allows for togetherness without the pressure. Like I said previously, I thought connection flowed best through deep communication. But after a long, hard day, I may crave connection, but have no energy for deep conversation. My year of fun taught me that I don't always have to push for connection. I truly can connect with Craig by sitting on the couch watching Parks and Rec. We both love the show, love sitting together, and it provides the comic relief we're seeking after an exhausting day. This has been such a life-giving thing for both of us. These pockets of relaxing fun build up reserves for showing grace to each other later when we might be short of temper or a big issue comes up. Marriage takes work, but it doesn't mean you're always working hard.
Jesus says in John 10:10: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." Satan spent much of my life convincing me that fun wasn't necessary, that it was frivolous, and that it didn't carry as much weight as the serious stuff. He ended up stealing a lot of opportunities for joy. But God is faithful! Over time, He has showed me that He delights in our delight and it is it life-giving and imperative for our healthy to laugh, to have fun, to experience joy—in our marriage and in our relationship with Him.