Laughter, Fun & Perspective

diverse couple laughing while packing suitcases for holiday
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Couples in great marriages laugh a lot. They laugh together and they laugh individually. It is apparent in watching them that they are truly enjoying life and their relationship. Laughter is associated with fun. Nobody laughs when they’re miserable or bored. It is a symptom of a deeper feeling. So why is it so easy for some couples to laugh regularly, and others seem so terminally serious?

It’s all about perspective. It’s how we choose to react or feel in a given situation. I’m not talking about something dire like an emergency, sickness or death, but simply day to day situations. You can choose to be miserable, or you can choose to enjoy the moment and laugh.

My wife and I have been on several cruises. It’s a form of vacation that we really enjoy. Granted some of these trips have been better than others, but we have enjoyed each one of them. When we return, I typically go on line to leave a (positive) review, thinking that others might benefit from things that we discovered and loved. I’m always amazed when I read other’s reviews regarding the same trip. They complain about the food, the service, the filth in their rooms, the horrific attitude of the staff, etc. It’s hard to believe that I was actually on the same ship with them. That’s a great example of perspective. Did everything go exactly as we had planned it to go? Probably not. Was every meal worthy of a five-star review? No. Was every show the greatest we’d ever seen? Of course not. But where was our focus? Overall, we had a great time. The good always outweighed the less than perfect (notice I didn’t say bad). It was a week that we got to spend together, away from work and our routines. I always feel bad for people who go on these trips and “choose” to have such a miserable experience.

Sometimes things can be rough. We took a long road trip out West a couple of summers ago with our teens (son and daughter). Exhausted after driving all day, we needed to find a place to spend the night. We weren’t near any major cities (nearest one was going to be another two hours ahead), so we stopped at a motel in a smaller, Colorado town. This place looked like it was right out of an I Love Lucy episode from the 1950s. Two twin beds (and a cot for our daughter) were crammed into a dark, paneled room with a low ceiling. A 16″ flat screen television adorned the wall. There was no restaurant on site, no ice machine, none of the typical amenities that modern hotels offer. We were told there was a bait and tackle store across the street that served meals when they weren’t out fishing. Our teens were ready to leave at that moment. There was nothing about this place that made them want to stay.

But Tara and I saw this as a great adventure (perspective). We began laughing and making it out to be the greatest place imaginable. We even lucked out and found the bait store was serving dinner! In the middle of the night a long train went roaring by (it seemed within feet) the back of the motel literally shaking our beds. The teens woke up and groused, but Tara and I spoke of the additional ambiance that you just couldn’t get anywhere else.

Would I want to spend a week at a motel like that? Absolutely not. But it was one night, and it was far more memorable than staying at any of the chain hotels we were used to. The bottom line is, we chose to enjoy it. We knew it would make a memory and we laughed and laughed. Now, even the teens look back at it with humor.

We recently met with a couple that is working through some issues. We encouraged them to have a date night between our sessions. When we met with them again, they told us the date didn’t go very well. It turns out that he planned the evening. He asked her which of two types of live events she wanted to go to. He had one he really wanted to see (an NBA game), but offered up a second choice that he knew she liked a play at the community theater. She chose to go to the basketball game. From the moment she walked in she made it clear that this was not an experience she would enjoy. The atmosphere, the noise and the crowd were all aspects she disapproved of. As a result, his hope for a fun evening dissipated. When we met the next time and they recalled this story, we encouraged them to consider their perspective. If this was an event she knew in advance she wouldn’t like, she should have chosen the other option. But once she agreed to go, she should have tried to make the most of it. The purpose of date night wasn’t just to see an event (they could watch that at home on tv). It was to spend time together and experience something different. She got so focused on the “what”, she completely missed the “why”. Sometimes just looking at the “why” can help you to adjust your attitude.

Laughter is an indicator of happiness, which is in turn an indicator of a great (shocking) marriage. Make fun and laughter a priority in your marriage!

NOTE: If Laughter and fun are important to you, that should be a part of the Vision for your marriage. If you’ve not created a Vision, consider crafting one in our free course. It will walk you through the process of creating and living out a vision that can guide your relationship into the future!

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Valentine’s Day – Pleasure or Pressure?

be mine inscription with bunch of roses
Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

Valentine’s Day fascinates me. No so much the day itself, but rather how people respond to it. Years ago when I was in High School, they used to sell carnations leading up to the day. They had different colors to represent different feelings. Red was for love, green was for friendship, etc. The thing I remember most about that was the day the flowers were delivered. It clearly put people (especially girls) into one of two camps: those that got a flower(s) and those that did not. There were a lot of tears shed when highly coveted and anticipated flowers were never delivered.

Today, Valentine’s Day has become less about men trying to show affection to women and the responsibility is more equally shared. While the spirit of the day is to show love and affection, it’s become an obligation to do something showy. You don’t want to be the couple that did less than your friends or coworkers. Pressure from social media, retailers, florists and restaurants imply that if you love someone, you will do something very special for them on this day. If you do nothing, you must not care at all.

I am a huge fan of expressing love and affection in a relationship, especially in marriage. We should never become complacent or take our spouse for granted. Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to show your feelings toward your spouse. But my question is this. Are you celebrating the day to show your true feelings, or are you caving in to social pressure because every one else is?

In our early years of dating and marriage, Valentines Day was a huge deal for me. My love language is gifts, so it was natural for me to express my feelings by buying something special or taking my wife to a nice restaurant. What is interesting, is that her love language is acts of service. She appreciated the things I would purchase, but never came to expect them. During this same timeframe, I remember being disappointed when the day would come and go and there would no reciprocal gift giving (from her to me). It honestly, just never occurred to her.

As a result, most Valentines Days come and go for us with minimal recognition. She doesn’t expect anything, and I typically don’t do much. Now, having said that, let me clarify something. Just because I don’t cave into the pressure to do something on this specific day doesn’t mean that I don’t do things. I still love to express my affection for her through the purchasing of gifts (though I also perform acts of service as well to speak her language). But what I’ve found is that in our marriage, these gifts are far more meaningful when I give them for no specific reason. If I bring her flowers in mid-March, it simply sends the message that I was thinking of her and I love her. To my wife that is more meaningful than to receive roses on Valentine’s Day where she might suspect I simply gave into peer pressure or advertising.

The key is to do what your spouse most appreciates. Not all spouses are like my wife. You may be married to someone that would be terribly disappointed if you didn’t get them something specifically on Valentine’s Day. If that’s the case, please don’t disappoint them. But I can assure you that not limiting this expression of love to one day of the year will be at least equally appreciated, probably more so.

For many, Valentine’s Day serves as a calendar reminder to show our affections. Nothing wrong with that. But I encourage you to check your motivations to ensure that you really are expressing love, not just complying to social pressures. Show your love throughout the year.

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Cast a Vision for your Marriage

Most couples go through some form of planning prior to getting married. They probably discuss things like having children (and how many), careers, and likes and dislikes. Often times, these discussions are more about revealing personal preferences rather than planning for the future. E.g. “Okay, so she wants a big family and I want a kid or two – we’ll work that out later…”

After the wedding, there’s a honeymoon period where everything is perfect and their partner can do no wrong. This is a wonderful time that needs to be experienced by all couples – but unfortunately, it doesn’t last forever. Once the honeymoon phase begins to fade, most couples go back to pursuing individual interests. It’s not an intentional thing, but something that seems to happen naturally. Ironically, most couples don’t realize this is occurring. There’s an assumption both are on the same page, living for the same goals and even working together toward achieving them.

Many couples live like this for years. It’s not an open point of contention, but there are times it causes stress and frustration. It can be maddening when your spouse does not react the way you expect them to when you make a certain decision. You love the idea, why wouldn’t they?

Most of us have a direction for our lives. This is clearer for some than for others, but most are heading toward something. If prompted, you could probably use a blank sheet of paper, and put a big X on “You are here”. You could then probably put a separate point on the paper indicating where you want to go with your life. This could be in terms of your career, your family, your hobbies, your wealth or a variety of other things. We all have dreams and pursue them to some degree.

Here’s where it gets interesting. If you were to do this exercise, and your spouse were to do it independently, how well would your paths line up? Many couples would discover they were heading in different directions. It might be gradual at first, but over time the couple would feel the stress and tension that comes from this disparity. The individual that continually compromises their personal goals to follow their spouse may grow disappointed or even bitter. Over time, these negative feelings can emerge in other, unrelated areas, causing further discord in the relationship.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I encourage all married couples to take the effort to cast a vision for their marriage. Determine where (as a couple) you want to head and what you want to achieve. Put some milestones in place to gauge your progress along the way. Set annual goals to challenge and encourage yourselves. Reflect back periodically to see how you’ve done.

To help you toward this goal, I have created a free online course called “Cast a Vision for Your Marriage”. This provides you with a great process that you can work on together to create your own marital vision.

I’d love for you to complete this course and provide me feedback as to how it impacted your marriage. In the near future, I’ll be adding additional courses that I think will benefit marriages.

Don’t assume you’re both on the same page in terms of long-term goals and objectives for your marriage. Take the course today and make sure you are aligned!

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What I’d Tell my Newlywed Self

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Marriage Tips from an Expert – Sally Livingston

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Wifeology – Interview with the Author

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5 Tips to Improve Communication in your Marriage – Tip 1

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Fighting Fair – Tip 5 Look to the Heart of Your Spouse

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Fighting Fair – Tip 4 Less You, More I

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Fighting Fair Tip 3 – Avoid Absolutes

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