Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Ted Cunningham's new book, Fun Loving You: Enjoying Your Marriage in the Midst of the Grind (David C. Cook, 2013).
God intends for you and your spouse to share a life of joy together. But doing so can be challenging in the midst of life’s incessant demands – from errands and household chores that must be done, to the stress of job and parenting duties. You can’t escape the grind of daily responsibilities in marriage. But you don’t have to let that grind wear down your relationship so that you don’t enjoy it.
You and your spouse can enjoy each day together to the fullest even in the midst of dealing with life’s stressful responsibilities. The key is intentionally having fun together every day. Here’s how:
Laugh together. Humor is a gift from God that can benefit your marriage in many ways, including reducing stress and tension, improving you and your spouse’s health, and creating bonds that build intimacy in your marriage. So incorporate laughter into each day together, as much as possible. Refuse to take each other too seriously to laugh about your human foibles.
Honor each other. When you honor each other’s value as people made in God’s image rather than criticizing each other, you create positive attitudes in your marriage that can help both of your enjoy your relationship with confidence. Keep a running list of the many specific qualities that you value in your spouse. Speak well of your spouse to friends and family members.
Avoid a kid-centered home. If you center your home around your children, they’ll drain the energy out of your marriage. Protect the time you need to spend with your spouse regularly to enjoy your marriage by limiting the time that you spend unnecessarily on parenting. Cut back on your children’s activities if they’re creating a hectic schedule for your family. Require that your kids spend some time on independent projects (such as reading) and playing with others (such as friends and siblings) so they’re not demanding that you’re with them constantly. Realize that by strengthening your marriage, you’re actually giving your kids a valuable gift, because kids want their parents to enjoy strong relationships.
Forgive and pursue healing. Don’t allow pain from the past to interfere with your ability to enjoy marriage now. Forgive each other, with God’s help, for the ways you all have hurt or offended each other. Resolve conflicts, solve problems, learn from mistakes, and change unhealthy behavior patterns through prayer, honest and respectful conversations in which you both listen well to each other, and support from trustworthy people such as counselors, clergy, and support group members.
Make an ongoing effort to be attractive for each other. Since romantic sparks are an important part of a fun marriage, do whatever you can to be romantically desirable, and ask your spouse to do the same. Increase your physical attractiveness by getting as physically fit as possible, updating your wardrobe and hairstyle, and paying close attention to hygiene. Increase your emotional attractiveness by smiling at your spouse, listening well when your spouse shares thoughts and feelings with you, and speaking kind and encouraging words.
Prioritize quality couple time every day. Incorporate time to talk to each other without distractions into every day of your marriage. If you’re not able to get together in person (such as when one of you is on a business trip), talk by phone or text. Eat meals together whenever possible, and don’t rush them, so you can enjoy good conversations while eating. Talk with each other about the most difficult and the most rewarding parts of every day.
Go on weekly dates together. Plan to go on a date with each other every week, whether you do so through an outing or simply at home. Use your God-given creativity to come up with fresh ideas for adventurous dates in which you all can have fun playing together. Instead of just going to dinner or a movie, try something more unusual, such as going roller-skating or taking a cooking class together. Dream together by asking each other thoughtful questions about future goals for your marriage. Fuel the fires of curiosity and fascination between you by regularly seeking to learn more about what’s important to each of you, and why. Overcome the financial and childcare challenges by going on inexpensive outings, dating at home after your children have gone to bed, meeting for lunch while your kids are in school, or swapping childcare with friends who are also parents.
Get away for a couple’s trip at least annually. Plan and save money for a trip together (and without your children) at least once a year. Traveling to a destination that both of you want to visit will help you reenergize your relationship in powerful ways.
Renew your marriage by investing more effort into it. Think back to your wedding day, and all the effort that went into making that day special for both of you. Then ask yourselves whether or not you’re giving your marriage at least as much attention as you gave the process of planning your wedding. Consider renewing your marriage vows. Ask yourselves these key questions about your marriage today: “Are we submitted to biblical authority and accountability?”, “Are we plugged into biblical community?”, “Are we committed to our vows?”, “Is our marriage a celebration of what God is doing in our life together?”, and “Does our marriage model the gospel of Jesus Christ?”
Enjoy sexual intimacy together. Talk candidly with each other about how to make sex fun in your marriage. Ask each other questions about various aspects of your sexual relationship, such as: “What parts of your body are you insecure about and what can I do to ease those insecurities?”, “How satisfied are you with how often we have sex?”, “What we can we do to bring our sex life out of a rut?”, “What gets you in the mood more than anything?”, “What position is most comfortable for you?”, “Is there anything I ever do that makes you uncomfortable or causes you pain?”, “What we can do to be more creative?”, and “How satisfied are you with how long we spend making love?”
Enjoy your marriage for a lifetime. Keep fun a priority in your marriage for as long as God gives both of you to live. Think about the legacy you’ll leave behind on Earth; decide to make a fun-filled marriage part of that legacy to inspire others.
Adapted from Fun Loving You: Enjoying Your Marriage in the Midst of the Grind, copyright 2013 by Ted Cunningham. Published by David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, Co., www.davidccook.com.
Ted Cunningham is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri. A graduate of Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary, Cunningham is the author or co-author of numerous books, including Trophy Child and Young and in Love. He and his wife have two children.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.