Lately I have been asking people, “Do you have fun together as a couple?” The reactions are mixed, but I must tell you much of the time I get blank stares. Guys tend to joke about sexuality. Women tend to be much more honest and say something like, “I really wish we did have more fun together.” Fun is a necessary ingredient to a marriage of intimacy.

A few years ago, Cathy and I were analyzing our marriage and we realized that there were some stale parts to the relationship. We talked about the amount of fun we had as a couple before we got married — the spontaneous tennis matches, hours of just talking, and late night ice cream runs. We laughed more. The responsibilities of raising three daughters, work, bills, schedules, and all the rest had drained us of our fun.

Our oldest daughter, Christy, had even remarked that someone had mentioned to her that when Cathy and I were in youth ministry we were really fun and funny people. She said, “I can’t picture you guys being that fun or funny as youth workers. You seem too serious.” Ouch! We decided right then and there that we would work on the fun factor in our lives. We wrote on the refrigerator door, “Are we having fun yet?” It was a reminder that taking the time to have fun was intentional.

Shortly after our little epiphany we decided to spontaneously take a family weekend, going away to Palm Springs to just play. Cathy and I had to reprogram ourselves because we had agendas for all three of our girls as well as work for us to complete. We purposefully left the work at home and set the agendas aside. We focused on fun. We ate fun food. We enjoyed the warmth of the sun and a pool. We rented a movie one night and ate popcorn and assorted junk food. We splurged on most everything that weekend, including our diet. The entire family looks at this as a great weekend. We came home to the same agendas and workload, but because we had connected as a family through fun, it made the load easier.

The Importance of Play

In a book I wrote called The 10 Building Blocks to a Happy Family I studied traits of healthy families and found that one of the strongest traits of healthy, happy families was play. This may sound like an oversimplification, but a family or a marriage that isn’t “working” is a family or marriage that isn’t playing. Fun builds positive memories, reduces stress, produces affirmation and support, and often causes good communication too. When you ask people about family or marriage traditions, they usually bring up fun times.

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Outdoor adventure expert Tim Hansel once said, “Play is a taste of the Paradise from which we came, a foretaste of the Paradise we will enter.” If you and your spouse can find time to play together, it really is a good bonding experience. Play doesn’t have to be sports. Play can be a hobby. Our friends Randy and Susan took a photography class together. Terry and Sharon ski. John and Bonnie took a cooking class together, and now once a week they put together a dinner for couples from their church. It doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that as a couple (and a family), there is a fun factor in your relationship.

Cathy and I love comedy movies. We know some of the lines from movies we have seen over and over again by heart. These lines have now entered into our life. We will give one of the lines and then just start laughing. Just as I have mentioned in other chapters, we have to be intentional about this. You might ask, “Are you saying to schedule fun?” Sure! I don’t know about scheduling laughter, but regularly putting “fun” on the calendar is a really good idea. It is therapeutic for couples to laugh together. Laughter even has health benefits.

The Bible says that “A merry heart does good, like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22 nkjv). The truth of this verse is confirmed in medical research. Laughter strengthens the immune system, burns calories, relieves stress, reduces blood pressure, reduces pain by increasing endorphins — the body’s natural painkillers, improves lung capacity and oxygen levels, and provides a good massage for internal organs. And, like yawning, laughing is contagious.

Besides the physical health benefits, large doses of fun and laughter help to build a strong relationship with your spouse.

Excerpted from Creating an Intimate Marriage by Jim Burns

Copyright © 2006, Published by Bethany House Publishers Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.