I remember his words like it was yesterday. We were planning our honeymoon, and my husband said, “I want to go somewhere where we can mingle with the locals.” I had more of a five-star resort in mind. Lush bedding, a gorgeous view, a private spot on the beach, time with my husband, and no one else. Except maybe an occasional visit from room service or housekeeping. Clearly, our ideas of a honeymoon were vastly different.
Eventually, we reached a compromise and found a quiet hotel in southern Belize. We rented a car at the airport and drove several hours through the mountains, dodged potholes on dirt roads, and carefully crossed one very rickety bridge. Eventually, we found our honeymoon destination, off the beaten path. It was close to a town, but far enough away from other people that we would indeed have some privacy. I was confident we would have fun and also find some people to mingle with. But when the air conditioning went out the first night and my legs were covered in bug bites, I started to regret our decision. Where was the closest resort? Could we somehow change our plans? Why did I ever agree to this? I don’t think I said these things out loud, but I was not happy.
The next morning, we walked across the street to the restaurant where the hotel offered breakfast each day. As we sat waiting for our scrambled eggs and fry jacks, I began to relax. My new husband was talking with the cook, asking her questions, laughing, smiling, and making her feel seen and known. Later that day, we wandered through town and found a local bakery. We had the most delightful conversation with John the Baker while he showed us his shop and packaged up our fresh bread. During a scuba diving excursion, we met another American couple and somehow agreed to join them for dinner the following night. As the week went on, we had more conversations with people from the community and got to experience hole-in-the-wall restaurants and coffee shops no other tourists had probably seen.
Mingling with the locals wasn’t on my list of five top things to do on your honeymoon, but my husband made it fun. You see, this was his life. He was born in West Africa, and spent thirteen years there as a missionary kid. Most of his life consisted of experiencing other cultures and learning about new people. To wander through a small town, taste new food, and try to understand a different way of life brought him immense joy.
At the time, I didn’t understand my husband’s idea of fun. But now, fifteen years later, I’m beginning to understand that our different ideas of a honeymoon were actually rooted in the same desire. We wanted to enjoy what we loved with the person we loved most. In short: we wanted to have fun together.
When you find something you love and enjoy, you want to be able to do it with the people you love most. A shared experience brings you together and unites you. You collect memories and stories and fun moments. And, you start to appreciate the things your husband loves. But having fun together is often one of the first things to go when life is busy.
Sometimes, we’re so tired and busy with life that our marriages are barely staying afloat. We went many years without a regular date night, and I know this is true for many families. But I also know date nights aren’t the only way to buoy your marriage. You can have fun together without childcare and without spending a lot of money. Sometimes, you might need to include your kids, but you can still make it fun.
My Marriage & Family professor in college, referred to fun together as recreational intimacy. He encouraged us to make time for playfulness with our future spouses, even if it was hard or felt like work. I know it might seem difficult to find space for anything more than logistics or sleep. But, what could it look like to do something fun with your husband, and maybe even bring your kids along?
Here are five ways to have fun and enjoy togetherness with your husband. If you don’t have a way to get childcare, you can even adapt these to include your kids. Your fun might become chaotic, your plans may not go as you anticipated, and someone might end up in tears. But it’s worth it.
- Play a game (Might I suggest a board game in bed? Just trust me on this one).
- Explore your hometown. Walk the streets or have a picnic in a park. Browse through a shop or visit a restaurant off the beaten path. Talk to the owners. Try a new soup. Get a dozen donuts or buy a fresh loaf of bread to take home.
- Pick a new show to watch together (our family has enjoyed LEGO Masters, Fixer Upper, and the Great British Baking Show).
- Invite a couple without kids over for dessert—or a late dinner—after you put your kids down for bed. Building friendships with other couples is a fun way to enhance your friendship with your spouse.
- Take turns choosing a book to read, and read it simultaneously—not necessarily out loud, unless you’re really into that sort of thing—so you can laugh, discuss, and learn something together. (Some of our favorites were: Beneath a Scarlet Sky, The Last Valley, and Furnishing Eternity).
Have fun with your husband. Laughter is good medicine for tired and busy marriages.
This is Day 8 of a series: A Diligent Wife