Pardon the repetitiveness, but when you’re talking about marriage, 19 feels like an amazing number. Nineteen years (19!!) is the invisible line Billy and I cross today and my prevailing thought is, “Dang this is fun!”
Oh sure, it’s been “work,” but let’s be clear, LIVING is work.
I mean, we have to shower and sleep and charge our phones. Those actions keep our systems on line, but that doesn’t necessarily turn the work into a burden.
No. Marriage “work” with Billy is like taking a late-afternoon nap after the demands of playing on the beach – utterly delightful.
[NOTE: I am just getting started. This post involves serious gushing. If you have a sensitive stomach, consider this your warning.]
I imagine there are many ways to build great marriages, but I can only speak to the prevailing themes of my world. I can most accurately represent the joy I’ve experienced with a relationship rooted in a shared faith and fueled by a commitment to enjoy each other.
In fact, the most mundane block and tackle habits are actually practices which enable us to laugh, play, and celebrate life together. Let me give you nineteen (19!) examples plus one to grow on…
#1 – Stay out of debt
Nothing kills fun faster than being stressed about money. When you live debt-free, decision-making is streamlined and creativity for fun-filled activities is heightened! While this is counter-cultural, one of the best decisions of our marriage was to prioritize giving first, saving second, and living on the balance third.
Perhaps this means keeping cars past their prime… Ah well! Spend less to enjoy life more!
#2 – Get some rest
Naps improve marriage.
I am in no way being flip. Nothing makes me less pleasant than sleep deprivation. Nothing makes Billy more withdrawn than when he needs sleep. When necessary, we adjust who takes the early shift so the other one can sleep in. Under-scheduling your life is almost as important as living without debt!
#3 – Prioritize fun
Decide, in advance, to prioritize fun. Don’t be afraid to skip school to make memories. Does ______ (activity) bring you joy? If not, ditch it! If you can’t ditch it, then do it together. This leads to the next habit…
#4 – Work together
How in the world can household work be fun? Let’s take a page from Mary Poppins people…
In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game!
You may not be as geeky as we are, but FUN is the spoonful of sugar you need whether you’re unloading the dishwasher, cleaning up the backyard, or fishing frogs from the pool!
#5 – Hold loosely to your agenda
Billy doesn’t feel the burning need to explore the latest food spot in Atlanta, but he knows I love to, so he plays along. He battles Friday traffic, stupid parking hunts, and questionable menu choices without an ounce of resentment.
Just this week he ate a chicken liver tart at The Staplehouse for our anniversary dinner, and he loved it!!
#6 – Show up
Quality time is directly linked to quantity time. You can’t enjoy a relationship which gets the dregs of your calendar. Fun is always a factor of presence. Sure, walking the dog doesn’t feel important, but when it makes for a smoother evening routine, everyone benefits!
#7 – Pay Attention
The best comedians see humor in the mundane.
They look and listen well. Your marriage is more fun when you do the same. That means noticing how your spouse likes projects and pictures. It means not just “going along to get along,” but actually creating your own shenanigans.
#8 – Surprise & delight
Go out of your way to surprise your spouse. Pony up for an Amazon Prime membership and take the initiative to knock things off the “to do” list. Replace the broken soap holder, order the kid’s music book, buy better straws as a surprise.
Surprises are fun, even when they are $3.00 straws. (UH-Mazing straws I might add!)
#9 – Have a pet
Rough days are immeasurably better with the happiest dog on the planet. Sure, there’s poop to scoop, walks in the cold, window-shattering barks, but mostly there’s fun.
Sharing a pet is awesomeness.
#10 – Travel together
Wander! Explore! Get Lost! Lose your Bags! Misunderstand Street Signs!
If you can work out the stresses of travel together, you’re golden. If you find the humor in the lost bag that went to Maui and the expired passport that killed your trip to Europe (both true), you can find ways to have fun on the road.
Nineteen (19!) years in, there’s no one I’d rather travel with than this guy!
#11 – Remember the romance
Double dates are not date nights.
Having your kids with you are not date nights.
One-on-One is a date. Showering, looking good, and flirting are all part of great dates. For romance’s sake, brush your teeth, work on your appearance, maybe even Dress Up! You are the only person your spouse should legitimately lust after, so make it worth his/her while!
Perhaps you can sweep them off their feet!
#12 – Embrace differences
There are multiple effective ways to load the dishwasher, manage money, and handle sticky conversations. There is nothing inherently noble with an extrovert or introvert. There are many acceptable ways to correct a child and talk to family members.
Differences are good things. Embrace and celebrate how your spouse approaches the world, and life is MUCH more fun!
#13 – Make amusement a goal
Fun is a muscle which develops as you stretch and practice. Billy relentlessly exercises this muscle keeping me on my toes.
Recently we stopped to put gas in my car and I gave him a $50 gift card. He used $49.99 of the card and gave me back the receipt and the card. This from a man who loves even numbers… he SWEARS he couldn’t fit in another penny, but I SWEAR he was testing to see if I’d hold onto a card worth one cent (I’m kinda cheap).
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions…
#14 – Act like a team
Problems and challenges don’t have to come between us if we decide in advance it’s not a he or she issue, it’s a “we” issue. “We” has become our favorite pronoun.
We have work struggles. We have to beat the calendar into submission. We have to figure out strategies together.
We are a team.
#15 – Tell your stories
Many times, the team fails. Many times the team makes bad calls. Many times the team lives with messy lives. The beauty of life is sharing the messes with others.
That terrible doctor’s visit becomes a story. That epic meltdown? A story. That financial misstep? Well, that’s a story too.
The fun of the mess isn’t in the middle, it’s hindsight when you know the ending.
#16 – Pace yourself
As a newlywed I was the Queen of Terrible Timing. I wanted to wrestle every disagreement to the ground immediately and never, ever sleep on a tension. This was a horrible plan.
Sleep is a friend. Food is a friend. Waiting for space and time to talk is a good thing. (Recall the 10-to-10 rule.)
Conversations were just one of the areas where taking the long view made the days better.
#17 – Have a consistent community
Have I talked about our newlywed community group enough? We have been sitting around in circles with couple for 19 years, and it is a game changer! Marriage is MUCH richer when it’s shared.
I think I need to do an entire post on our groups…they are the best!
#18 – Value what your spouse values
This may be my favorite picture with Billy because it represents how well he embraces my ridiculousness. I love taking jump shots. I don’t mind making a fool of myself in public. Neither of these activities are Billy’s favorites, but he does them.
In this instance, during my birthday trip, Billy endured countless jumps as we tried to coordinate couple and group shots.
He is SUCH a good sport!
# 19 – Lighten up
My default in any situation is to race to analysis mode. I have spent most of my marriage retraining myself to STOP already. A light touch is always, always, ALWAYS a good option!
#20 – Pray together
Praying together is the single best thing we do. No contest.
There is nothing more powerful than having your spouse acknowledge the hopes and dreams he has for you when he prays. I feel supported, acknowledged, and valued even in a quick, pre-caffeinated state. Even if you’re a religious person, I know this sounds like an awkward thing to do, but I promise you it’s no more strange than yoga… just try it!
(I don’t have a picture of us praying together so this photo booth shot will have to do!)
Nineteen (19!) years of marriage to a man who makes me laugh is not something I take for granted and is something for which no amount of gratitude feels adequate.
1-4-3 sweet man of mine.