Before we got married it was so easy to have fun with my boyfriend. But since getting married about five years ago, I find it difficult to have fun with my husband without having our time together end up in an argument about some disagreement we’ve never solved. This is so frustrating. It makes me feel like giving up. Does marriage actually work? Is it possible to have fun with my husband without getting angry and feeling like this will never be what I expected before I got married?
An interesting feature of dating relationships that lead to marriage is that dating couples tend to concentrate and talk about how much they have in common, while married couples tend to talk about how different they are. A similar reality is that while dating, opposites tend to attract; in marriage, opposites seem to repel.
By now, after five years of marriage, it has become clear that one of your biggest disappointments has been that the expectations you had for your marriage haven’t, to a great extent, been realized. This is because when it comes to relationships—especially intimate relationships in which you don’t share many responsibilities—there’s a penchant for being sentimental, emotional, and idealistic, in contrast to relationships in which individuals share the same space, bills, dirty dishes, children, and deciding whose family to visit for Thanksgiving or where to go on vacation.
Dating and courtship often feel like a lot of fun because your time together is limited and reserved especially for fun. You also tend to give more attention to each other during this period, because you’re trying to impress the other person that you’re worth being with and staying with, since a final decision to be together for life hasn’t yet been made. Courtship is like a job interview. Because you want the job, you present yourself in the best possible light and remain super vigilant about only showing those sides of your personality that are most desirable and pleasing.
Marriage, on the other hand, is more apt to feel like drudgery, because you’re now in the middle of real life and its attending challenges. You’re no longer interviewing for the job—you actually got the job—and now you’re confronted with the task of managing multiple contingencies that take commitment, patience, and kindness, including handling the sensitive feelings of another human being who shares the same space with you regardless of whether you feel high or low. This could be the reason you find it difficult to have fun in your marriage.
So, unless you and your husband agree on the need to set aside time—special time—to have fun together, it won’t likely happen. Of course, you can and should be having spontaneous moments of hilarity, humor, and fun together. Still, to get the full advantage of quality time together, you must make these occasions a high priority in your marriage or they’ll simply be crowded out by necessary tasks that will remain with you for the rest of your lives. You have to take this matter so seriously that you feel compelled to set healthier boundaries to give your marriage relationship the singular attention it needs to stay alive and blossom.
You must also agree to protect your fun time for fun only, intentionally not allowing disagreements to take center stage. A good place to begin is to agree on a specific weekly date night, then guard that time as if your marriage depends on it, because it actually does.
The Bible reminds us: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:1, 4, NKJV). So, determine to make time to laugh and dance with your husband, and your marriage will go from good to great.
Willie Oliver, Ph.D., C.F.L.E., an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, family sociologist, and certified family life educator, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, M.A., L.C.P.C., C.F.L.E., a licensed clinical professional counselor and certified family life educator, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries. You may communicate with them at Family.Adventist.org or HopeTV.org/RealFamilyTalk.