“Always jump in the puddles! Always skip alongside the flowers. The only fights worth fighting are the pillow and food varieties.” –Terri Guillemets
Even though a husband and wife may be grown up, with jobs, college degrees, responsibilities, a mortgage, and kids of their own, they are really just a little boy and a little girl who want to play together and have fun.
This was one of my lightbulb moments last night at a marriage workshop series I attended with my husband. I realized that I have forgotten how to have fun and how to BE fun! When I’m around energetic, animated people, then sure, it’s easy to have fun in their company. But when it’s just my husband and me…hmmm. I don’t know what happened. We used to have lots of fun back back before we got married, so I know we’re capable of it, but somewhere along the way, something must have gotten broken or lost. I know I’ve got to turn this around, because having fun together is the secret ingredient in successful relationships.
Another lightbulb moment was learning about the Paradox of Efforting. Basically it’s that working too hard on problems and constantly focusing on resolving issues could actually harm your relationship rather than improving it.
Wait, what? Hard work and effort could be a BAD thing? Well, yes, if it’s done at the exclusion of creating positive experiences, such as having fun together and playing.
“Shared positive experiences build bonds.” -Dr. Randy Chatelain
It makes total sense, now that I think about it. Working on issues and problems are usually not positive experiences. Doing this rarely brings you closer to your partner, and creates stress and anxiety, which can increase the distance between the two of you and steal away your energy.
On the other hand, having fun together maximizes the energy between you and creates bonds as you form positive memories. These positive experiences, unique to the two of you, define your relationship as distinct and unique, providing a sense of mutual solidarity.
Without these positive experiences, you stop feeling like a couple, stop feeling like you’re on the same team. You start to doubt whether the other person really has your best interests at heart, so you start ascribing selfish and negative motivations to their behavior and stop assuming good intent. And from there it all goes downhill. Trying to resolve issues in this climate is worse than a waste of time. It becomes discouraging as more and more issues and problems begin to pile up.
In my marriage, for me so far, the answer has been to work even harder, to pour even more energy in to resolving these things so that then things will be good and positive between us. Has this worked? Absolutely not, and yet I have kept trying and trying to do this. I had it all backwards. Create the positive experiences first, and then a lot of the issues and problems naturally fall away on their own.
My recent experience has been that once I finally felt a connection with my husband, I was happy to forget past issues and grievances and just let them go, without dealing with them. And now, moving forward, the important step to maintaining that connection is having fun together. (So I need to start remembering how to play, ASAP!)
I’m not saying it’s not important to deal with problems; conflict and differences are a natural part of every relationship. Just make sure you have enough shared positive experiences so that when you choose to go there, you will care about your relationship and your partner enough to go through the unpleasantness of it.
Because it’s ultimately only satisfying to work hard on something that brings more value and good than difficulty and struggle!