A Time to Laugh

Why having fun keeps the joy in our marriage.

I'm married to a joker. Greg can see the funny side of anything, even in the dead of night, or when disaster strikes. He's always playing practical jokes on me. So I was delighted the day I finally got "pay back."

My plan was simple: hide in a dark corner and ambush Greg as he walked in the house from the garage. It was perfect! While some people don't like to be scared, my husband thrives on it. I knew he'd find it hilarious—and I'd get him back for all his practical jokes.

The garage door lifted slowly as Greg's Honda Civic approached after a long day at work.

He'll never expect this, I thought, and laughed as I anticipated the look on his face.

I giggled as I hid in the corner awaiting his arrival. I remained perfectly still as the door opened. Greg took two steps in and then noticed a dark, sinister figure standing near his left shoulder. At that exact moment I leaned in toward him. Startled, Greg let out a shrieking yelp and flew back into the door.

"Sweet revenge!" I yelled as Greg massaged his pounding heart. We exchanged high-fives and embraced. "Welcome home!" I said, as we both laughed.

After Greg and I settled into a quiet evening, I began to reflect on the fact that one of my favorite things about our marriage is the fun we have together. I smiled as I remembered Greg's scream and the joy it gave me to scare him. The best part was when, later that evening, he told me how my little practical joke actually helped him feel connected to me. Who knew that my prank could turn into emotional intimacy?

During our 12 years of marriage, Greg and I have discovered that laughter is healthy, both emotionally and physically. Having a sense of humor helps keep our relationship fresh.

One of the first things that attracted me to Greg was his ability to make me laugh. Laughter brought me joy during our courtship, and it continues to bring me happiness all these years later. Often in the midst of life's chaos, a simple smile or a giggle can lighten tense situations. It creates a relaxed kind of intimacy. Greg claims that after a long day at work, coming home to an environment filled with laughter significantly eases his stress level.

Humor in marriage has always fascinated me. As I researched what the experts had to say about fun in marriage, I was overwhelmed by its importance. In his book Fighting for Your Marriage, marriage researcher Dr. Howard Markman reports that the amount of fun couples had together emerged as the single strongest factor in their overall marital happiness. Other positives were occurring in these relationships—but good relationships became great when they were preserving both the quantity and quality of fun times together.

But the sad truth is that many couples no longer share the type of fun they had when they were dating or newly married. It's almost as though the daily grind of life has zapped their ability and/or desire to have fun together. It certainly make sense: keeping up with jobs, kids, church, and friends makes it increasingly difficult to find time together. Throw conflict into the pot, and you have the perfect environment for removing the fun from life.

Greg and I made a commitment that our relationship would never lose that sense of fun. So we've made it a priority—we even schedule it on our calendars! And we protect that time. We don't talk about difficult topics or bring up subject matter that may lead to conflict.

Over the years I can recall how laughter and fun have influenced both stressful and joyful times in our home. From recovering after a C-section delivery (although that did hurt to laugh!) to roaring at the hilarious things our kids say to planning our practical jokes, laughter has continued to bring Greg and me closer in our relationship. And that, of course, has been great fun!

Erin Smalley, a family counselor at Smalley Marriage (www.smalleymarriage.com), lives and laughs in Missouri.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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