(Re)Learning to be fun: The Wife Edition
By Kari Patterson,
See her blog
A few weeks ago I shared that I’m (Re)Learning to be fun, and I’m a little relieved to know I’m not the only mom who’s relearning this fun-stuff! Now if you’ve been married for longer than, say, a week, tell me this: If you look at pictures of when you were dating, or newly married, what do you see? I did this recently and you know what I saw? A whole lot of fun.
Our honeymoon album sits on the dresser in our bedroom. Its pages are filled with our fun adventures on Kauai. We had disasters (The Love Nest!), we had serious times, but all in all we began our marriage willing to laugh at anything, try anything, work it out and risk it all. You did too, right?
But somewhere along the line there were one too many dirty socks left balled up on the floor. One too many whiny children, one too many late nights working, or just one too many responsibilities that took precedence over, well, fun. The checkbook may be balanced and the house clean. The children may even behave, miracle of all miracles, but something’s missing.
I confessed it to Jeff like this–I can unwittingly become the “antibacterial wife”. I sterilize our life. In some ways I have taken those Lysol wipes and given our whole life a wash down–we are germ free, streak free, dust free little creatures. Just like with mommyhood, as wives we can be efficient, effective, and productive–and have barren souls and joyless lives. How tragic! Now we as a family are certainly not there (barrenness and joylessness), but hey, we could use a dose of fun in the marriage department. Anybody else?
I mentioned before the Created to be his helpmeet book by Debi Pearl. She repeatedly talks about being your husband’s playmate. Being fun, flirtatious, energetic, purposefully injecting your family’s life with joy and vitality. That is part of our job, girls! So why is that so hard for me?
So here is where it began to click for me: Part of submitting to my husband is joyfully and enthusiastically submitting to his initiatives for fun. What do I mean by this? I mean that 9 times out of 10 it is Jeff who suggests we do something out of the ordinary. He’s way more likely to suggest that we go to ice cream or go rent a movie or just go on some silly excursion as a family. Me? Oh I’m usually the one who proceeds to slip into my INTJ mastermind mode and do some hopelessly OCD analysis of whether we have the money and whether that’s wise biblical stewardship and how many orphans we could be feeding with that ice cream money and whether the kids will get to bed on time and whether that’s the best parenting technique and blah blah blah…anyone want to throw up yet? Yeah, someone please punch me. The right thing to do? The thing that will honor, esteem, respect, and bless your husband? Give an enthusiastic, “Let’s do it!” and let the whole family get caught up in your joyful embrace of dad’s plans. (And, if God truly convicts you about giving more away to orphans, then cut corners in some other area and give it quietly away, but don’t sabotage your husband’s initiatives!) So this has struck me the last few weeks and and God has given me three recent opportunities to (Re)Learn this lesson again.
Opportunity 1: Target
Because of a lovely stomach bug, I had an interesting week that included not being able to eat much. So Wednesday night, I was about as lively and fun as a dirty sock, and when Jeff came home from work I had just finished going over our budget (that’s another post, more on that later), so you can imagine how joyfully adventurous I felt at the moment. Jeff could see that, and he had also known that I’d been wanting to do this particular project with Christmas lights (which we didn’t have), but hadn’t wanted to spend the money to buy them. So, he announced, “Let’s all take a family trip to Target and get a box of Christmas lights and we can do your project together! You can get an apple cider to help your stomach. It’ll be fun!”
I froze. Dilemma. Side one: We can’t spend money on frivolous things like that. We’ve given it all away and don’t even have gas money left. What on earth are we doing buying Christmas lights when some kids have no food. It’ll be way past our kids bedtimes. Target will be a zoo. Side two: LET YOUR HUSBAND LEAD. Resolution: “Ok. Let’s do it.” I wish I could say I did it joyfully and enthusiastically, but I can’t. But at least I went along with it!
What was so neat was that on the way there, Jeff was sharing with me how he’d been stirred and challenged again by Mark Driscoll’s exhortation to husband’s that they should lead their families in doing festive fun activities during the holidays. Usually it’s the wife who wraps gifts, decorates, etc. but part of leading is leading your family in fun. When he shared that it helped me realize that I had been so close to dumping cold water on his awesome efforts to lead our family in fun. Oh wives, how discouraging we can be to our dear husband’s noble efforts!
No need to bore you with Target details, but can I just say we had SO much fun. We ended up finding just the thing to help my stomach, we found lights at a great price, the kids were great, we found a certain toy that Dutch had been dreaming about for a long time (and it only cost $2.36! That made me happy!), and Jeff and I put the kids to bed and then spent the whole evening working together on my little project. So. Good. For. Us. Lesson learned.
Opportunity 2: Blazers
I guess God wanted to give me lots of practice at this so we are having lots of fun. Jeff had been talking for a long time about maybe going to a Blazer game together to celebrate graduating seminary. Again, we never go out. We never even eat out. For crying out loud we never even buy packaged food, are you beginning to see the picture here? (I don’t need to repeat the Side one and side two scenario from above. You get it.) So, I found crazy cheap tickets and bought them! My parents took the kids for the whole night, and we had a REAL date out and it was SO fun. There were so many amazing details, again I won’t bore you with all them, but our little date had God’s hand all over it. He was showing me, again and again, it’s not a waste of money to invest in your marriage, to have fun with your man, to bless him and love him and create memories together. (To give you perspective, they were $9 tickets, are you laughing at me yet?) Talk about worth it! It was so fun. This morning we got up and used a gift card to go out to breakfast at Panera Bread. We wasted time all morning talking and sipping coffee and walking through the mall marveling at how much stuff we’re happy that we don’t need. 🙂 It was so FUN!
Opportunity 3: Maui
Yeah, I know, right about now you’re ready to throw things at me. The fact that my “submitting” and “letting go” would include being willing to take a Hawaiian vacation seems very strange, but hear me out. Again, long story but we have never taken a vacation–other than to visit other family, since we’ve gotten married. We’ve never done a vacation just us. We also received counsel that it might be helpful for us to get away somewhere sunny (or go tanning!) during the winter. Well a friend told me about a crazy cheap flight to Hawaii. Again, I added it all up, and while yes, it was steal of a deal (cheaper than going to California!), I still felt like it was ridiculous to spend that much money on ourselves. To tell you the honest truth I still struggle with it. Yes we found a great, cheap motel, all that, and the dates worked out perfectly and I do think it will be a marvelously blessed and restful and sweet experience for our little family (before Heidi turns 2 and requires a ticket 🙂 , but it still feels very very extravagant. But you know what? If my husband, who God has placed as my spiritual head, wants to bless me by taking us there, I will joyfully and enthusiastically embrace it! And yes, it is not hard to warm to the idea. 🙂 So hey, maybe this learning to be fun stuff can actually be, well, fun!
So I share this to just encourage all my fellow wives out there–Let’s (re)learn how to be fun. When our husband wants to bless us, let’s embrace it rather than hee and haw over how much it costs. Maybe that means cutting corners elsewhere but at least you’re letting your man be a man and you’re letting yourself and your marriage be blessed. And even more than just responding joyfully to his initiative, let’s (can you imagine?) brainstorm ways to be fun. How can you add laughter to the dinner hour? How can you spice up your evening? How can you plan a fun date doing something he’d enjoy? (ticketstub.com has cheap Blazer tickets!) How can you make yourself be just a tad bit silly and loosen up a bit? It’s amazing how the whole house responds to whatever vibe mom happens to send. We have so much power, girls–let’s use it to bless our husbands and (Re)learn to be fun all over again.
Need a place to start? Smile. Really, that’s it. Just practice smiling and you’ll catch on soon enough.
Need more inspiration? Get out those honeymoon photo albums!
PS Got ideas to introduce more fun into marriage? Please share!