Make It Fun Again
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
My husband and I have difficulty managing our conflicts. We knew marriage would be difficult. Ours, however, has turned out to be much more difficult than either of us anticipated. Sometimes our anger spills out in front of the children. Can you share something to help us do a better job of dealing with our differences? —Diane, Honolulu, Hawaii
Poor communication is often at the root of harmful relationships. This pattern develops rather easily in marriage because of the proximity in space most married couples share. There are skills, nevertheless, one can develop to communicate more effectively and do a better job of resolving conflict in marriage.
It is fair to say that it is less difficult to manage conflict in your marital relationship when it shows up if you already have a great working relationship with each other. When this is not the case, even fairly insignificant differences become a proverbial mountain to overcome because of the tension that already exists between you.
Most married couples find themselves in deteriorating relationships not long after the wedding, because once married they quit dating. In other words, they stop doing the wonderful things they did for and with each other before marriage, which is the reason they enjoyed their relationship so much.
If your relationship has experienced what we shared above, it is time to give attention to changing the patterns you have allowed yourselves to naturally drift toward. The truth about marriage relationships is that to avoid this dangerous rut you have to be intentional about nurturing your relationship on a regular basis.
Invite your husband to brainstorm with you about special things you can do together during the next month, and schedule a time to do them. Unless you take time to put these activities in your calendars, they will not take place.
Marriage is just like any other important venture you are involved in: it only succeeds if you make time to give it the priority it deserves. Once you begin to enjoy activities together, the good feelings between you will develop a healthier environment in your marriage that will allow you to talk about possible conflicts between you in a less adversarial way.
We encourage you to work fun into your marriage schedule on a regular basis—at least every week—so that your marriage can become a happy relationship with some sad times, rather than a sad relationship with some happy times. Once this becomes a reality in your marriage, managing conflict will become less stressful, which will clear the way for you and your husband to want to have more fun together.
You are both in our prayers as you trust God for the patience, kindness, and forgiveness it takes to have a thriving marriage relationship. Remember this message from the apostle Paul: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18).
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister and family sociologist, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. You may correspond with them at family.adventist.org.