On Sunday morning, Ike and I will wake up early, board a plane, and head to Disney World for six days, just the two of us, without our son. We’re doing this for one, very important reason:
Yep. Science. You see, a few years ago I heard about an interesting study on marriage. You may have heard of the researcher–John Gottman–because I’ve written about him numerous times before, but he discovered two key predictors of whether a marriage succeeds or fails.
The first is how the couple handles conflict. Couples who handle conflict by tearing one another down, name-calling, stone-walling, lashing out, or generally treating the conflict as if it is something to win, those marriages are less likely to last.
Successful couples, on the other hand, handle conflict respectfully. They affirm one another, are gentle with one another, listen to one another, and work through conflict as a team.
In short, successful marriages are not marriages without conflict. Every marriage, no matter how strong, has conflict. Instead, it’s how you handle the conflict that counts.
The second key predictor of a marriage’s success is chemistry. If the couple enjoys one another, laughs together, and has fun together, they are more likely to go the distance.
I heard about this study long before I ever met Ike, but I’ve never forgotten it. It has shaped the way I view conflict, and it has shaped the way I view fun.
Which brings us to Disney. The thing is, it wasn’t just Gottman who taught me the importance of fun in marriage. The couples I admire most, the couples I esteem and emulate, they are the couples that enjoy one another. For them, life is an adventure they delight to be on together. They can take the hard knocks in stride, because they know how to laugh their way through them.
I want to have that kind of marriage. And we’ve worked hard to have that kind of marriage.
But I have to be honest–it’s getting harder. The more we add to our lives–kids, full-time jobs, mortgages–the easier it is to settle for surviving. It’s easy to spend our free time talking about bills, schedules, and issues, rather than enjoying one another’s company.
If we go long enough without giving intentional time to fun, we start to feel the strain. Everything feels heavy. Life feels functional and grey. I laugh less, and I appreciate Ike less.
Which is why, over time, we have learned the importance of fighting for fun. Fun, for us, is a discipline. I know that’s a strange way of putting it–it sounds like a mom screaming at her child, “You’re going to have fun whether you like it or not, young lady!”–but it’s true. Fun is something we have to be intentional about. We have to weave it into our lives strategically, because it doesn’t just happen on its own.
Ike and I try to make time for fun with weekly dates and “family fun days.” Occasionally, at least once a year if we can, the two of us also get away together. While we’re gone Isaac will be with his grandparents–which is basically his own personal Disney World, so no, I don’t feel guilty about not bringing him!–and we will take time to enjoy one another. For the sake of our marriage, and for the sake of our family.
So we’re going to Disney World, and I CANNOT WAIT! If you think to pray for us and our time together, we would appreciate it so much.
I’ll be offline a lot next week while we’re gone, but before I sign off I want to leave you with one final thought…
If enjoyment is a discipline we cultivate in marriage, then the same is surely true of faith. So much of Scripture encourages us to “delight in” the Lord, but that delight does not happen on its own. Delight is the fruit of quality time, so keep that in mind if you want a faith marked by delight. Make space to spend time with the Lord and enjoy the goodness of who He is. If faith is always a slog, and discipleship is nothing but busy work and obligation, we won’t delight in God anymore than we would delight in any other person.
So this week I encourage you–make time to enjoy your spouse, or your friends, but also make time to enjoy the Lord. Both marriage and faith are so much lighter when we enjoy them.
See you when I get back!