Marriage Advice From A Christian Perspective

Want a Healthy Marriage? Prioritize Fun

  • Michael Smalley
  • Updated Aug 29, 2007
Want a Healthy Marriage? Prioritize Fun
I meet with couples and families in crisis every week. Do you know what one of the most common similarities is between them? You might be thinking poor communication, money issues, an affair, but you’d be wrong. What I’ve started to discover, and researchers much more smarter than I am already know, is that these couples – for a multitude of reasons – have stopped having fun together.

I guess it makes sense when you think about it for a minute. If a family or couple is in distress, they argue and squabble over everything and feelings are treated like yesterday’s garbage. Who wants to have fun when there is so much pain?

One of the most important things you will ever do as a couple and family is have fun together. Ecclesiastes 8:15 reads, “So, I’m all for just going ahead and having a good time - the best possible. The only earthly good men and women can look forward to is to eat and drink well and have a good time - compensation for the struggle for survival these few years God gives us on earth. (MSG)” Dr. John Gottman tells us that couples who stay together for the long haul, and who are satisfied, have a 5 to 1 positive experience to every negative experience in their marriage.

The simple reality is this, if you stop having fun together you will stop wanting to be together.

The problem is that many people dictate their ability to have fun with someone based on their feelings. This is a major mistake and one which can eventually lead to divorce. We can not let our lives be dictated by our emotions. Emotions are wonderful but they are chaotic, one day up and the next day down.

American’s have been duped into thinking we are unable to choose our emotions. We can choose our mate, choose our school, and even choose our destiny. But when it comes to our emotions, we are simply victims and we allow our emotions to defeat our relationships. Isaiah 40:30-31 tells us, “For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”

We can soar like eagles when we depend on God for the strength to do it.

The next time you are on a vacation or a date, and your mate (or child) does something to hurt your feelings, what are you going to do? This is an inevitable part of any relationship. The question is, what are we going to do when our feelings get hurt during fun time? Are we going to sulk, get angry, fight for our honor?

Matthew 5:43-46 gives us a great plan of action, “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best - the sun to warm and the rain to nourish - to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that.”

Ask God to help you keep focused on the purpose of your time together. I suggest you simply table the feelings for later, for a more appropriate time, and make the choice to enjoy your fun time together. I’m not asking you to avoid your hurt feelings, I’m just asking you to wait for the right time to share them. Keep fun-time sacred from conflict. Remember the Gottman ratio of 5 to 1? If you turn every date night and vacation in to a major battle ground, then what is your ratio going to look like?

To make sure you have a healthy ratio, establish a regular date night with each other and the family. This does not have to be an expensive activity, but something that you can enjoy together. Pick a day of the week for your date night as a couple as well as your family fun time. Scheduling a time is critical if you are going to make it a priority. It is too easy to fall into the same old routine and avoid fun time because of conflict, but if you make an honest and purposeful decision to have fun together on a specific day, then your chances of succeeding significantly increase.

Michael Smalley and his wife Amy both earned a Master's Degree in clinical psychology from Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois. For the past ten years they have taught millions of people around the world how to better love God, others, and themselves through practical insights and hilarious illustrations. Michael is the founder and Executive Director of The Smalley Marriage and Family Center located in The Woodlands, Texas. His center offers Marriage Restoration Intensives - where couples from around the country fly in for intensive care on their marriage.

Michael and Amy have authored or coauthored relationship advice books like Communicating with Your Teen , the Men's Relational Toolbox, and Don't Date Naked , The DNA of Relationships, and their latest book More than a Match.

The Smalley's have three children, Cole, Reagan, and David.  They have been married for 12 years. Visit Michael's website and blog at