Keeping Marriage Fun
By Constance B. Fink
Two old fogies in a humdrum relationship? Not us! Though a childless couple, we have enjoyed a playful 31-year marriage. Whether an empty nester, childless or parents to a houseful of kids, any couple can have a lot of fun together.
It’s not always easy, though.
Life can wear us down so much that we do not have the energy to think of fun things to do, let alone do them. It is important for us to keep the source of stress in its place rather than allow it to spill into the marriage.
Coming up with an activity that is fun for both can be a challenge. Dave likes four-wheeling and target shooting; I like to go to garage sales and lie on the beach. I have learned to like to shoot (though not as much as he does), and Dave has found a few treasures at garage sales (bringing a book to read helps too).
When health or physical limitations are obstacles to playfulness, we find an activity to accommodate the limitations. With a little creativity and consideration, we can overcome excuses and obstacles.
For someone like me who is driven by schedule, life can seem automatic at times. In contrast, Dave is spontaneous and likes to live on the fly. Sometimes we plan an enjoyable activity—the anticipation adds to the fun. Other times, I ignore my need to know a “month” ahead and go with Dave’s idea to grab our coats, leave the map at home, and spend the day exploring a new town.
It is well worth the effort. Playful times instill good memories and create a diversion from difficult issues, even if just for a few minutes. Laughter relieves stress, and when we enjoy one another, we draw closer. We relax, let our defenses down, and drop our self-absorption. Our bond is tightened, our unity is deepened, and we can give to other people from a replenished well. All because we took a little time to laugh and play together.
It is important to identify the signals when we need a break, what we need a break from, and how to deliberately not include those things in the activity. For example, nitpicking is a signal we need to do something to make the other laugh. An overwhelming “to do list” is a signal we need to do something spontaneous and creative, even if it is only for an hour.
Here are some of our tried-and-proven ideas for a kid-like, fun-filled relationship.
Exchange Christmas or birthday gifts early and creatively
Last year, I gave Dave’s Christmas gifts to him starting on December 16 –one surprise a day. He transported my birthday presents to me one at a time in a radio-controlled pick-up truck from another room.
Enjoy a “Bed & Breakfast Day” at home
At least once a year, we stay in our pajamas, pile blankets and pillows on the floor, watch movies, read, or play kid games like Mouse Trap. At Christmas, we might sleep all night under the lighted Christmas tree. Preparation is simple: movies, snacks, and a crock pot meal. No cooking, cleanup, or phone calls. If possible, we keep it our secret that we’re home.
Rent a sports car for a day
For less than the cost of a day at the amusement park, we rented a retro-style high performance convertible, drove through beautiful scenery with winding roads, sang to 60’s music at the top of our lungs, stopped for hot dogs at a curbside stand, and ended with a star-filled cool summer night.
Don’t over plan vacation
We try not to work too hard to rest. One year, our criterion was to pack no earlier than thirty minutes before we left, and if it didn’t fit in a backpack, it didn’t go. We didn’t want to learn anything or think too hard, so we left the adult part of us at home and reacquainted ourselves with play. Taking into account my husband’s need for spontaneity, we loosely planned the days not knowing what we would do until we got up in the morning.
Breaking routine is eating dessert before supper, or driving two hours for breakfast. It’s not eating in chain restaurants or shopping in familiar stores. It’s taking back roads to a new town, exploring local shops and cafés.
Eat a progressive dinner in restaurants
We love to enjoy a leisurely meal, spread over several restaurants. We go somewhere for soup, another place for salad, and somewhere else for dessert.
Create theme dinners at home
Our favorite was the cowboy dinner: baked beans, BBQ, and fixin’s. We drank from tin cans and wore cowboy hats. Our napkins were bandanas, and we listened to country music in the background.
Be creative in holiday celebrations
Instead of traditional Valentine’s gifts like roses or jewelry, our rule is simple: something red. One year we grilled “red” meat and dessert was “red” licorice. Another year I gave Dave a book because after he finished it, it would be “read.”
Go on a “Movie Day”
It was fun to spend a day in a cinema, going to several movies, including at least one animated children’s movie or comedy.
Pass the Toy
Years ago, we picked up a Kermit the Frog stuffed toy from the side of the road. We’ve hidden the toy from each other for surprise findings in the refrigerator, garage, and even sent him through the mail! The funniest was when Dave hung him from the showerhead.
Unfortunately, for Kermit, I didn’t notice him until the end of my shower. By then, he was soaked and weighed 10 pounds. Because his tag said no dryer, he spent the night in the oven on low temperature (I kept the oven light on so he wouldn’t be afraid of the dark!).
Go to places kids love without kids
It’s fun to go where parents take children: toy stores, zoos, and amusement parks. But it is a lot more fun without strollers, diaper breaks, and hours of “I want this!” Our trips to the amusement park always includes at least one kiddy ride.
Even when apart, think of ways to connect
- Staying connected while Dave is on the road is a challenge but, with a little creativity, it can be done. Some ideas are:
- “Share a Show:” We watch light-hearted TV shows together over the phone, i.e., America’s Funniest Videos.
- “Share a Flavor:” We like to taste the same taste at the same time, i.e., the same fast food item.
- “Share a Date:” Yes, a date 600 miles apart. We went to the same movie at the same time and even ate the same candy. Even though we sat alone, we were together.
- Three things have kept our 31-year marriage fun and connected:
· We make each other laugh.
· We enjoy the kid in each other.
· We frequently ask “Why not?”
What attracted you to date your spouse? What keeps you connected? Even with life’s difficulties and conflicts, can you find a thread of playfulness?
Whether you are a seasoned fun-loving person or have realized that fun has been missing from your life now is the time to play. Having fun starts with a small step…and always ends with smiles. (It’s so much fun!)