We’re newly weds. Well, oldly-newly weds. I think a month past the three year mark deserves a little accreditation. We’re in our fourth summer of being married, after all. But I still get excited when I hear him coming up the stairs at the end of a work day and I still feel like crying when he leaves for an overnight trip. (Or a day trip, for that matter.) I like being with him, he is my happy place. So surely we’re not out of the newly married season yet, are we? Or maybe we could stay in this general stage of liking each other a lot forever?
Marriage gets a lot of focus and hype in the early years. From pre-marital counseling to young married’s studies – everyone is interested in making sure you know how hard marriage is and how to handle those hard things. Which I appreciate. It’s good to have structured instruction on dealing with finances, conflict, in-laws, and toothpaste application. But there’s something that often gets left behind in these conversations, something that I’ve found to be key to keeping our marriage happy and healthy.
Seriously, when did everyone get to be so serious?
Maybe it is the backlash of the American family structure crumbling over the past decades. We all want to see these divorce rates drop a little. We all want to find our way back to in-tact marriages and functional home lives. But it seems this (very good) pursuit has increased the looming doom and disaster in our descriptions of what it’s like to be married.
(Every beaming bride who has sat with older women at a wedding shower knows this. With every unwrapped towel and serving piece there comes the threat: marriage is going to be hard. Don’t get too excited.)
I’m certainly not a marriage expert. I’ve only traveled three years on this path. I don’t know what it’s like to raise kids, or face unexpected illness, or encounter a significant job loss or a financial crisis, or a lot of the things that is said to make marriage hard. But I guess three years of experience is more than none, and in these few years I’ve found the grittiest conflicts and most stressful circumstances are tapered with a little light-hearted frivolity. It doesn’t mean things don’t get messy or there aren’t days that we feel disconnected or frustrated. But incorporating fun things – both little and big – has been part of how we maintain a thriving friendship on this crazy journey called marriage.
- Late night snacks runs
We might already have brushed our teeth and are on our way to bed but why not go on a quick food adventure before sleep? Personal pizza, slurpees, cookie dough, root beer floats – we are the snackiest couple and it makes for many fun evenings.
- Sharing TV and book series binges
Harry Potter is better when you can share each plot twist with your spouse. Countless hours spent catching up on Once Upon a Time can be justified as marriage building because you discuss each unfolding theory with each other and cry over the same characters poor decisions and complicated relationships.
- Morning doughnut walks
Because these deep fried calories don’t count when you walk to get them and catch up with your spouse on the way.
Yeah, this continues to be the best part about being married. Who doesn’t like an endless sleepover with your best friend? Just the simple routine of climbing into bed each night is transformed into a slumber party when we go to bed at the same time, talk in the dark, or pull out the blankets and sleep on the couch, or pitch a tent and unroll our sleeping bags.
- Shared hobbies and artistic endeavors
Finally, someone who will do a paint by number with me and pick out the perfect flowers for our balcony planter boxes! Someone to play piano duets with and whistle the harmony part for the Andy Griffith theme song!
- Adventure partners
Maybe it is learning to paddle board together or maybe it is fixing the screen on the bedroom window. The more adventures we share the richer our friendship becomes.
- Finding humor in small things
This happens especially well when we work in the classroom together, standing in line at the grocery store, or at family gatherings. Things can get stressful – it’s best to make eye contact and laugh at the life happening around us.
- Treating each other
He makes Starbucks stops for me. I put a Star Crunch in his lunch. He lets me sleep in while he gets breakfast, I take him out for dessert to celebrate his successes. It is fun to be treated. It is more fun to treat.
8. Embrace Silly
I will never get tired of unexpected dance breaks, ridiculous emoticons, and horrible puns.
9. Explore together
Among my favorite things we’ve done as a couple, traveling to new places is at the top. It might just be an hour road trip to the Royal Gorge, it might be a flight across the country to tour the East Coast. There is something incredibly bonding about being traveling buddies.
10. Cuddle parties
Honestly, the sweetest hours we spend together are cuddling on the couch. I wouldn’t trade these for anything.
I know life gets complicated. I know marriages face adversity. And I could be wrong, but I have the feeling that more fun we pour into the marriage, the more we’ll enjoy being married. I admire couples who make it to their thirtieth and fortieth and fiftieth anniversaries. I admire them more when they are still smiling, laughing, and having fun.