Remember when you first met your
spouse? The excitement of new love? The longing to see them as often as you could?
The endless conversations as you got to know one another? Remember the nervousness when you decided to disclose
some new personal information to them? And the excitement of experiencing
acceptance anyway? How about the laughter and the thrill of trying something new
just because your spouse-to-be enjoyed it? These all represent moments of
self-expansion, growth, and learning.
They drew you and your spouse together. These moments were the building
blocks of intimacy and love.
Jump forward several years, perhaps
even to today. Are things getting routine? Feeling kind of bored? Feel like
your marriage is in a rut? Maybe you even feel a little dissatisfied and wonder
how to “liven things up” a bit. Do you miss the “spark,”
the burning ember of love that seems to have slowly cooled and
grown…comfortable? Then I have good
Research reported (in 2000) in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology offers a great solution. Turn back to your spouse and do the things you did when you first fell in love. Literally, grab your spouse and do something you both enjoyed but haven’t done since you first met. Or, better yet, do something completely new, something you’ve never done before, not even when you were dating. Play a new game, cook a new meal, try a new activity, take a trip to a new place. (If you can’t think of anything else, try the activity used in the study. Tie yourself to your spouse on one side by the wrist and ankle before crossing a gymnasium floor that includes at least one obstacle. It doesn’t sound exciting…so maybe try taking a hike or flying a kite together.) Whatever activity you choose, make sure it is a novel activity, a new activity for you as a couple.
When you engage in these novel activities, you and your spouse will learn new things. You will grow and experience an expanding sense of who you are as a couple. Even better, research suggests that when you engage in these novel, fun, and exciting activities together, you will feel better about your relationship. You will grow more supportive and accepting of one another. In other words, your marriage will grow stronger and more intimate. Now isn’t that worth a little bit of fun along the way?
I am always on the lookout for new “family fun ideas.” You can imagine, then, why I am so pleasantly surprised to discover 365 Days of Family Fun by Charlotte Hopkins. This gem of a book suggests a fun family activity for every day of the year…and tells you exactly how to make it happen. The first activity (January 1) involves the whole family in making an “Adventure Box” to fill up with memorabilia of the year’s fun (ticket stubs, menus, pictures, etc.). Then, as part of the final family fun day on December 31 you open the box and enjoy recalling the stories of fun you had throughout the year…and you’ll have more fun doing it! It’s true. From picnics to snowmen to puzzles to recipes you will have fun. Along the way you will learn fun facts, celebrate interesting days, and read great stories. You might just write a few of your own. All in all, this is a wonderful resource for any family seeking to celebrate and have fun together. Check it out on Amazon and start having some family fun today.
PS-If you missed our couple’s retreat P.L.A.Y. Rx you missed learning more about the joys of play, laughter, adventure, yearning, and rest for your marriage. But, here are some pictures of the times we shared. Hope to see you next year.
A virus has infected our marriages. Perhaps you have suffered with this virus. It capitalizes on the weakened immunity created by our busy lifestyles and our limited rest. Work, raising children, maintaining a home, and constant community involvement takes a toll on our physical and emotional health. This virus of busy-ness attacks our relationships, including our marriages, while we are in a weakened state. It creates a distance and disconnection between our spouses and us. Our home life begins to deteriorate as each spouse runs in a separate direction. Smiles disappear. Joy drifts from our interactions. The virus leaves us longing for a remedy for “we-don’t-even-know-what” because we have no energy or time to think. At the Camp Christian Couples’ Retreat (coming up on February 9-11, 2018) we will offer a prescription to treat this virus…P.L.A.Y. That’s right. PLAY offers an oasis in the desert of busyness, an effective treatment for the virus that has attacked our marriages and our homes. PLAY will bring the smiles back to our faces and the joy back into our interactions. PLAY will restore energy and revitalize intimacy. And why not? After all, we are made in the image of a God who loves PLAY, Laughter, Adventure, and Yearning. It’s the perfect Rest. Join us at the Couples’ Retreat February 9-11, 2018, as we partake of this prescription together and PLAY. Hope to see you there!
(If you haven’t registered yet, go on-line at Camp Christian and sign up today. Only room for 10 couples.)
Healthy families celebrate. They need to celebrate. Celebration creates even healthier families. How does celebration build a healthier family? “Let me count the ways.”
Celebration fosters an abundant family life filled with joy. It’s just plain fun! And fun adds abundance and vitality to life.
Celebration helps families balance their approach to one another and life. Celebrating families learn to not take themselves or one another too seriously. It frees them to experiment with new activities, to explore the world around them and learn about themselves and one another.
Celebration enhances and restores intimacy in your family. Celebration helps us set aside disagreements for a time. It lets us have an experience of joy with the one who disagreed with us. Those who disagreed find themselves in harmony as they celebrate together. They discover a basis on which to restore the intimacy of their relationship, even though they might disagree. Plato reportedly said, “You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than in an hour of conversation.” I think it’s true for celebration as well as play. Try it out and see if you agree.
Celebration refreshes our perspective of other family members. While we will likely encounter frustrating interactions with family members, celebration teaches us that the same person can laugh. They have an inner playfulness. We learn a whole new side of the people with whom we celebrate. We learn that we celebrate similar things even though we might have disagreements in other areas. We can disagree and celebrate. We can disagree and live at peace. We can disagree and love.
Celebration will energize your family. It culminates in a renewed vitality for life. When we celebrate accomplishments, relationships, or effort, we encourage continued effort. The celebration of effort and achievements revitalizes the desire to keep trying and do more. Why? We all enjoy being recognized and acknowledged.
Celebration reveals and strengthens your family’s priorities and values. We celebrate those things we value. And, we engage in those things we celebrate most often. Celebration will increase behaviors that match your priorities.
Celebration creates an upward spiral of positive experiences and joy for your family. It reinforces the priorities, encourages repeating the priorities, and increases the joy of celebrating those priorities. Celebration will help drive your family toward a future of more success and joy. Who wouldn’t want to do the right thing when you know it will be acknowledged and celebrated?
Yes, healthy families celebrate. Celebration creates an even healthier family. Why not start celebrating your family today?
Our communities and our families are being devastated by addiction. Drug use is destroying –families and we need to do everything we can to stop its contagion. I know this may sound simplistic…and in a way, it is; but I have an idea to help stem the rise of drug addiction. Now, I know that what I am about to suggest will not remedy the problem. It is not a magic bullet. It will only be a small part of a much broader solution. But, what I am about to suggest can play a role in stemming the scourge of drug addiction…and you can begin right in your own home with your own family. What is it? Give your family mega-doses of social laughter. Laugh as a family. Laugh with other families. Giggle, chuckle, or let out a “belly busting” laugh. Laugh Out Loud.
Research has found that laughing together increases the release of endorphins and other peptides in the brain, especially areas involved in arousal and emotions. Because laughter is contagious, its joy can spread through your family like…well, laughter! As it spreads, endorphins are released. Everyone experiences the pleasure and calming effect of this laughter-induced-endorphin-release. This promotes feelings of togetherness, enhancing bonding and connection among those laughing. If we can teach our families to enjoy the natural endorphins of laughing with your family (LOL), why would they want something else? And, who would want to lose the enhanced connection with family that comes through laughter. So, start laughing together early. Laugh often. Laugh hard. Laugh out loud.
Baseball season is fast approaching and that’s good news for marriages. Let me explain. In the early 1990’s Howard Markman, director of The University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies, conducted an informal study of cities with major league baseball teams (See Baseball Preserves Marriage). He discovered that cities with major league baseball teams had a 28% lower divorce rate than cities that did not have teams but expressed an interest in getting one. Even more surprising, Denver’s divorce rate stood at 6 divorces per 1,000 people the year before they were awarded a major league baseball franchise. Ten years later, 7 years after the Colorado Rockies played their first game, the divorce rate had dropped to 4.2 divorces per 1,000 people (a 20% drop). Lest you think that 20% decrease was just a product of the 10 year time span, the divorce rate for the United States had only declined by 15% over that same time period. Interesting…. Markman does not believe baseball saves marriages. But, he does believe that “going to a baseball game and… having fun and talking as friends is one way to protect and preserve love.” In other words, having fun as a couple strengthens your marriage. Said another way, “couples who play together stay together!”
Baseball aside, enjoying playful times as a couple really does strengthen marriage. It increases effective communication and conflict resolution. It enhances relationship satisfaction. Play promotes spontaneity, reminds us of our positive relationship history, and builds additional positive history for us to look back on with joy. Play also builds friendship and enhances commitment. In general, if you want a healthy, happy marriage, engage in copious amounts of play together. Enjoy fun activities. Be silly. Tell jokes. Tickle. Have a pillow fight. Laugh. Anything you both find fun and pleasurable provides an opportunity to play and grow more intimate in your relationship…which brings us back to the 7th inning stretch. Baseball may not save your marriage; but the playful conversation, light-hearted teasing, and plain old fun you have at the game will definitely contribute to a stronger, more intimate marriage. So sing along. Everybody now, “Take me out to the ballgame….”
Sarah Algoe, assistant professor of social psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill, believes “little things” like gratitude and laughter “help relationships flourish.” I agree, but she went so far as to test this belief. She and a graduate student asked 77 couples to describe how they
first met. They watched and listened as the couple answered. After reviewing the videotapes of the couples’ answers, the researchers discovered that couples who spent more time laughing together during their description felt more similar to one another. Each spouse in the couples who laughed together also felt their partner was more supportive of them. In other words, laughing together builds a stronger relationship.
Doesn’t laughing together sound like a great way to build a stronger marriage? A fun and enjoyable way to increase feelings of connection and support? So, here’s an idea. Plan a date night of laughter. Go out to dinner and share funny stories of your life together, from the time you met to yesterday’s humorous autocorrect text. After laughing your way through dinner, go to a movie. Make sure to see a funny movie, maybe even a romantic comedy. Laugh it up. After all, a couple who laughs together stays together.
A new year has begun. I’m glad. I am tired of the hassle, the bureaucracy, the constant barrage of sensational seeking in the news. I want to shed the heaviness of stress and feel the lightness of joy. So, I’ve decided to start an epidemic in my family. That’s right. I want to become ground zero for sending cheerfulness viral this year, starting right here in my own home with my own family. Perhaps you will join this epidemic to spread cheer and joy in your family and, from there, into the world around us. Here are some ways I plan to spread cheer this year.
Emoticon with big toothy smile
Smile. I am going to find reasons to smile. When I don’t feel like smiling, I will intentionally smile. I will smile at my spouse when she walks into the room. I will smile at my children every chance I get. I will smile at the clerk who rings up my groceries and even the person who cuts me off in traffic. I will smile because I’m happy to be alive. Smiling brings joy to the one smiling and the one who sees the smile. (Read On Safari for the Elusive Smile for more benefits of smiling.)
Laugh. Yes, I want to laugh. I will seek out jokes to make my whole family laugh. I will laugh at myself. I may even tell more dad jokes (learn about The Power of the Dad Joke) to create more “rolling eye laughter” among my family. A good hearty laugh is good for us. It will reduce stress and draw our families closer together. (More in Laughter is No Laughing Matter)
Show kindness. Nothing increases cheer and joy more than sharing a kind deed or being the recipient of an unexpected, kind deed. So, this year I will make it a point to show kindness to others. I will hold doors open for my family and the stranger behind us. I will give away the last cookie and let my spouse control the remote—in a real blast of kindness I will even let my children control the remote. I will wash dishes and do other chores around the house. I will seek out ways to help my neighbors. Cheerfulness and joy will ride into our lives on acts of kindness; I’m seeking ways to remain on kindness the whole way into the lives of all those I meet. (Click here to learn about The Mighty Power of Kindness and 8 Ways to Teach Children to be Kind.)
Express gratitude. In the midst of our abundance, we sometimes lose sight of how richly our families are blessed. We neglect to offer thanks and become burdened with the weight of ungratefulness and even entitlement. This year I will combat that sense of entitlement and say “thanks” to those who wait on my table at a restaurant or ring up my drink at the gas station. I will thank those who teach my children. I will thank my children and my spouse for all they do. I will become known as “the guy who always says thank you.” Wouldn’t you like to know that guy? Wouldn’t you be glad to help that guy? I would. This year, I’m going to “be that guy!” How about you? (Learn about more benefits of Intentional Gratitude in this short blog.)
Practice acceptance. This may prove one of the hardest behaviors in my search for cheer this year. In the words of the serenity prayer, “I will accept the things I cannot change.” Bureaucracy will continue to mount its assault. Hassles will remain countless. Stressors will constantly arise. But, I will accept these impingements on my joy as reminders of what I have. The hassle of being caught in traffic reveals the blessing of owning a car. The bureaucracy that raises the cost of nearly everything reminds me that I have employment and income and opportunities. The stress of paying bills reminds me of the abundant material blessing I have—running water, TV, internet, heat, air conditioning, transportation, etc.—that many in the world are forced to live without. Which brings me to the final way I will spread cheer this year…
Practice generosity. Our families truly are blessed. Unfortunately, those blessings sometimes enslave us and we begin to hoard the blessings. This year I will “break out of the hoard” and share…generously…as abundantly as possible. There is joy in giving, great joy. In fact, an ancient writer tells us that Jesus even said, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Your act of generosity may even get paid forward in another act of generosity, creating a rippling effect from ground zero in the epidemic of cheerfulness (read about a way to Pay It Forward here).
I’m starting this year…ground zero for an epidemic of cheerfulness and joy. I’m making it a point to spread cheer in my family and beyond. The world MAY BE a better place for it; but my family and I WILL BE a happier people because of it. Will you make your family a happier people?