I remember an interview I once saw with Dan Rather in which David Letterman asked about a story he heard about Rather. Dave asked if it was true that Dan Rather carried a bottle of tabasco sauce with him in his world travels. Dan chuckled and responded with a yes. Dave asked what the deal with the tobacco sauce was, to which Dan responded, “Dave, I travel all over the world, and sometimes the food is suspect. Often times it isn’t exactly what this good old Texas boy would choose for dinner, but Dave if you put enough tobacco sauce on it, you can eat anything.” And I want to suggest to you that you can apply the same principle to marriage.
Marriage researcher John Gottman discovered that roughly 70% of problems in marriage are never solved. Whether it is a healthy marriage that ends at “until death do us part” or a struggling marriage that ends in divorce, in both cases 70% of problems in a marriage exist in a marriage from start to finish. Regardless of healthy or unhealthy, couples still argued about in-laws, about how-to parent, or about how much sex is enough. His finding fascinates me. Because it stands to reason that healthy couples would be those that figured out the marriage issues….and unhealthy or divorced couples are the ones that just can’t seem to solve those nagging issues. But after 30 years of study, Dr. Gottman found that this just isn’t the case.
The difference between the couples that went the distance and those that struggled, ending in divorce, was that the healthy couples had fun together. In his research, Gottman called this idea continual investing in fondness for one another. The couples that made it to 10, 20, 40 years and even beyond had fun despite the circumstances. They found the ability to laugh with one another and at times at one another. The circumstances do no change because of the fun, but the perspective of the circumstances do. I wonder, how much fun are you having together? How fond are you of one another? It is typical to hear something like, “Well, a good marriage takes a lot of work.” Well then I want to challenge you to consider a good marriage takes a lot of fun too. Because it is the fun that makes that struggle palatable.
If it has been a while since you have had fun together, getting back at it is not easy. It can even be downright awkward. I recommend you schedule it and I recommend that you get creative. Don’t do dinner and a movie. It is a terrible idea for a first date and a lazy idea for a 157th date. Schedule something active that you can do together. Go to a comedy show. Take a cooking class. And most importantly, take turns because you are both responsible for your fun. There are no guarantees, but I will almost guarantee that if you will take the time to schedule your fun, after a few months you will notice that even the difficult things in life will have an element of fun. You will find yourselves laughing together and because of it, working together with a smile.