Why so serious? Four thoughts that stifle laughterWritten by Amy Van Veen
What's inside this article
When was the last time you made your husband giggle to the point of snorting? Or the last time you got your wife to laugh so hard she spewed her morning coffee everywhere? What about the last time you two caught each other’s eye across a full room and shared a private chuckle?
If you can’t remember, you may be in what author Ted Cunningham calls "the grind," which is when a couple feels stuck in the routine of life. But routine needn’t mean an absence of fun.
"There’s a vacuum of laughter in our homes today," Cunningham explains to Jim Daly in a radio broadcast on how important it is to have fun in your marriage. He goes on to say that it’s not about sitting on the couch and watching a funny movie together, but rather it’s the "ability to pause, not take yourself too seriously, be able to laugh at yourself a little bit, be able to cut loose – and this can take minutes a day."
If you think you’re stuck in the grind and you’re feeling like there isn’t a way to get past the drudgery of chores, bills and predictable schedules, then you need what Cunningham calls "a paradigm shift in our thinking." He and his wife realized that the grind didn’t have to keep them from having a fun marriage. "Enjoying marriage and each other is possible in the midst of controversial issues, differences, pain, hard work, toddlers and a tight budget," he writes in Fun Loving You, later adding, "Life is difficult, yes, but you can decide to find those moments and enjoy each other."
After all, Daly points out, "that’s how it all started, isn’t it? Something attracted you to each other and I’m sure fun was a part of that in some way." The biggest step to rediscovering the laughter in your home is recognizing what thoughts need to be shifted in order to fully live out Ecclesiastes 9:9: "Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love."
What we, as a Church, get wrong about laughter
"I think it’s a problem within the broader Christian community that somehow piousness is seen as not laughing, not enjoying ourselves," Daly says. "That’s not the picture I have of the Lord . . . I think humour is His image, I think the Lord has a good sense of humour."
Cunningham adds to this, saying that "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 who have a very hard time grasping that." In his book, he writes, "I think somewhere along the line Christianity has taught us that marriage and adulthood are about long faces and being serious all the time."
It’s easy to mistake the seriousness of God’s calling on our lives as being one of stoic importance and forget that all-too-necessary ingredient of a life in Christ: joy.
"Marriages need the kind of laughter that comes out of joy," Ken Davis, editor of Happily Ever Laughter writes. "Deciding to choose joy doesn’t mean we pretend that life isn’t hard." Rather, he notes, it’s about making a choice to find those moments in your day that make you laugh, that make you smile and that give you something to share with your spouse.
Being a responsible adult doesn’t have to mean being serious
Do you lose any of the responsibility of supporting your spouse, raising your kids and providing for your family when you have a water fight while washing the car? Or when you and your wife get into a sword fight in a toy store while shopping for your kids? Or when you can’t stop laughing at your husband’s spastic dance moves?
Of course not.
Just because you take the time to goof around doesn’t mean you don’t understand the responsibility you have as adults; if anything it takes the pressure off and gives you a healthier attitude to deal with the grind.
"You show me people who can’t laugh," Davis explains, "and every time I’ll show you people who take themselves too seriously. This is especially true in marriage."
Cunningham adds to this, stating, "Being a responsible adult does not mean that you must be serious at all times. Self-deprecating humor goes a long way in building intimacy in your marriage."
So next time you have an impulse to do something ridiculous to make your spouse laugh, don’t hold back. Sometimes being a responsible adult involves having fun like a child.
Compatibility is not the same as character
Of course this all may be well and good for couples who have a lot in common and who still remember the last time they shared a hearty laugh, but what about the ones who can’t find fun anywhere in their recent relational history?
Cunningham says matchmaking commercials are to blame for the high premium we put on compatibility and chemistry. "They’re geared toward singles, but think about the married man that’s watching that right now in a stuck marriage. Think about the married woman who’s saying, ‘Man! We used to have fun. We don’t have fun anymore. Maybe that’s the problem . . . If I want to enjoy life again I need to find someone new.’"
But compatibility and chemistry are not the be-all and end-all. "Chemistry wanes. Chemistry changes over time as we go through different seasons of life," he says. "But the decision to enjoy life together . . . it flows from your character."
In Fun Loving You, he further clarifies this point, writing, "Character trumps chemistry and compatibility. Great marriages flow from character. A good match is a good start, but it will never sustain a thriving, intimate and loving marriage. Only character does that."
Fun in marriage shouldn’t be another to-do to check off
Author Bill Farrel writes that when he and his wife first got married, he heard a lot of advice about how much work a marriage takes and that you have to put in the time and effort to stay in love. Which, of course, is true. "But," he writes, "what people didn’t tell us is that even on days filled with chaos and responsibility, it only takes a few seconds to make a meaningful connection with your spouse."
Having fun in your marriage isn’t a box you can check off or a task you can complete. It goes back to what Cunningham talks about – a paradigm shift in our thinking.
"A fun, loving marriage may not be as hard as you think," he writes. "I believe the decision to enjoy life together flows from the same place where you made the decision to get married and stay together. It comes from the same place where you decide that your children are valuable. Your character makes the decision to enjoy life together."
And even if you feel like you may not have it in you to laugh or to make your spouse laugh, that doesn’t mean you can’t. "You can learn to spot the funny things in life and allow yourself to laugh," Davis advises. He goes on to add, "Laugh together, and make a point of noting what one of you thinks is funny that doesn’t strike the other the same way."
It doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. It’s just finding those moments where, as Davis explains, you can say, "‘I’m not OK; you’re not OK; but that’s OK!’ None of us are OK."
Reference to the individuals and organizations quoted does not constitute a blanket endorsement of either the individuals’ external work or their respective organizations.
Amy Van Veen is editorial manager at Focus on the Family Canada.
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