Category Archives: Communication

When’s The Last Time You Laughed Together?

Some of you who read this blog regularly are in marriage crisis and are desperate for help. This may not be the blog post for you, because when you’re in crisis it can be difficult to smile around each other, much less share deep laughter. I have no desire to downplay what this feels like or the serious work you must do.

Many others who read this blog aren’t in crisis per se, but you are looking for ways to deepen, strengthen, and mature your relationship. You’re serious about moving your marriage from ho-hum to high-energy – or maybe it’s already there and you just want more ways to maintain it.

My advice to you: Laugh together more.

What laughter does for us

One of my favorite movie scenes from youth is the “I love to laugh” song in Mary Poppins. As the adults and children are overcome with laughter, they begin floating in air. The more they laugh, the higher they float. (I dare you to watch this clip without at least a grin.)

That scene is a perfect visualization of what laughter does for us. It lifts us up. Scientists will tell you: your laughter triggers your endorphins (your feel-good hormones) and reduces your stress hormones. It also helps you fight infection. All good, but you don’t even need to understand the biology to know that when we laugh, everything just feels better.

And the laugher is even richer when you share it with a partner. You have a shared history, you know each other’s triggers (the good kind), and you know how to play off of one another. When it happens, it’s magic. The only thing better is good sex! Or, good sex and laughter!

Making the most of it

So the question is, how do we laugh together more? How do we make the most of this magic elixir that makes us feel so good?

One way is to play together more. Dr. Stuart Brown, a renowned psychiatrist, author of the book PLAY and head of the National Institute for Play, defines playing as something done for its own sake. “It’s voluntary,” he says. “It’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”

Does that remind you of anything you’ve done with your spouse lately? If not, get with it! The more you play together, the more likely you’ll be laughing together. To inspire you, consider these types of playing behaviors as listed by Brown:

Body play: Have you ever jumped up and down just for the fun of it? That’s body play.

Object play: This is using any type of object for fun, such as tossing a ball or throwing Frisbees.

Social play: Think of rough-housing and team games.

Imaginative and pretend play: Ever done an escape room?

Storytelling/narrative play: This is seeing a play together, or just a great Netflix show, or maybe even listening to a story-based podcast.

Creative play: When’s the last time you built a sandcastle together?

What has made you laugh in the past?

Dr. Brown also encourages people to consider their “play history,” which is thinking about the ways they’ve experienced fun in the past. This is something that’s really helpful for me. I love thinking back over my life with John and remembering when we laughed best together. What were we doing? Who were we with? How did we feel?

How about you? Think of times when you’ve really enjoyed being with your spouse, laughing together, without any demands on one another. What dynamics were in play that you could replicate now? What keeps you from going there again?

A word of warning

Laughter and playing can be one of the richest rewards of marriage; but sometimes they can be used to cover up issues in our marriages needing to be surfaced and addressed. The key to noticing is balance. There is a time for laughter, but also a time for tears, and a time for deep, soulful sharing. Your marriage deserves all of these.

Much of this you can do on your own. But sometimes it helps to have an outside perspective, especially when you find your marriage is stuck in low gear. Our coaches have techniques they can share to help get started. Don’t hesitate to get the help you need – your marriage is worth it.

Call us or schedule an appointment

(972) 441-4432 or Send us a text at (214) 431-5764

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Are You Lying To Your Spouse?

We face a dilemma in our marriages: Do we lie and keep the peace? Or, do we share honestly and risk conflict?

We’re all tempted to lie. Whether it’s a response to “Do these pants make me look big?” or “Did you remember to pay the gas bill?” or “What were you doing last night?”, we’re just one remark away from a rip in our relationship. Small rips over time add up to huge gashes in the fabric of our marriages, resulting in a lack of authenticity, increasing emotional distance, and eventual complete separation.

''Small rips over time add up to huge gashes in the fabric of our marriages.'' Click To Tweet

Why do we lie?

One of my favorite relationship experts, Dr. Ellyn Bader, outlines four stages of marriage, each of which present unique challenges to honesty:

Stage One: The Honeymoon
Stage Two: Emerging Differences
Stage Three: Seeking Freedom
Stage Four: Together as Two

Dr. Bader says that in each stage we’re challenged to either 1) increase our level of honesty with one another, or 2) increase our level of deception. For instance, in the honeymoon stage, we can choose to honestly address differences as we learn more about each other, or we can keep pretending that everything is perfect. In the freedom stage, we can honestly negotiate how much time we spend together, or we can pursue “freedom unhinged” in which anything goes and we ignore our true desires.

In Bader’s view, at the root of all lies are:

  • The desire to protect ourselves – usually when we want to avoid emotional distress, such as reflecting on a painful self-truth.
  • The desire to serve ourselves – usually when we’re trying to gain an advantage of some type over our spouse.

When we choose to lie, our focus is inward, on ourselves.

Honesty is risky

Dr. Bader’s approach reminds me that I take a risk every time I share something with my spouse.

When I disclose, I’m opening my personal armor, choosing to let my spouse see something previously hidden (whether consciously or not). My spouse then has his own choice: He can open his own armor, sharing more of himself with me, or he can take advantage of my openness and hurt me.

Is the risk worth it?

Only you can answer that for your relationship. But for me, and the hundreds of people I’ve counseled, honesty isn’t just the best policy, it’s also the path to more richness in the marriage – to more embraces, more laughter, more shared secrets, more delight in living every day.

''Honesty is a path to more – more embraces, more laughter, more shared secrets, more delight'' Click To Tweet

But a warning comes with the honesty user’s guide: Sometimes the truth hurts. When you open up to your spouse, you’re making a commitment to hear what they say. That’s part of the deal. Even when it hurts.

So what do you do when the truth hurts?  Dr. Bader suggests you remind yourself of these things when you’re hearing hard truths from your spouse:

  • Deep down, I’m glad they’re being honest.
  • Even if I don’t like what I’m hearing, listening gives us a better chance to work this out.
  • I’ll listen now and take time to digest it later, as part of a bigger picture.
  • This isn’t all about me – there’s a reason they need to tell me.
  • Maybe they felt they couldn’t be honest before now. I need to stay open, so I can hear the reason.

Yes, this approach takes a courageous commitment. And, no small amount of time. But I believe – no matter what marriage stage you’re in – this approach will make your relationship stronger.

For a deep-dive into truth-telling in your marriage, I recommend Dr. Bader’s book, Tell Me No Lies, cowritten with Peter Pearson, Ph.D., and Judith Schwartz. Or if you want to take steps immediately toward a stronger marriage, call my office and ask to speak with a marriage coach today. Or,  schedule an appointment online.

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