Are you fun to live with?
by Dr. Dave Currie
Are you fun to live with? That’s a rather gutsy question to ask yourself. If you are not sure how you’d answer or what the truth might be, you can always ask those you live with. I dare you. Whether your spouse, kids, parents, siblings or a roommate, their responses could be enlightening and may cause some complicated soul searching.
Most of us know how to put on a show for others. We put our best foot forward and project a positive self-image as part of our public persona. We give the world our good side. But what about those we live with? I know. That’s another story. They get to see the real you – and the real me – complete with our ‘dark side’.
The title of this article, Are You Fun to Live With? is taken from the book by the same name by Lionel Whiston written in 1968. The only reason that I know about this book, though I have never read it, is because its title has haunted my wife (her words not mine) for years – at least until she addressed a few things in her own life. Here’s why: When Donalyn originally saw this hardcover on the shelf in a bookstore, we were living those crazy busy and thankless years of parenting four preteens. I know she felt like some weird, human mutation trying to be a taxi driver, drill sergeant, a referee and a mess-hall cook all in one body! She would say the title haunted her because she felt she’d have to say “no” to the question that she was not a fun person to live with. That’s scary to me. If this kind, servant-hearted wife of mine felt this way, you know how her brash and outspoken Scottish husband would have to answer the question!
But I digress. Enough about us. Are YOU a fun person to live with?
At our Fusion 2:1 Marriage Event, which we have presented to over 5,000 people, (why not invite us to your church?) we actually spend quality time on this question in our Attraction talk. We maintain that, as a couple, “if you stop having fun, commitment alone won’t keep your love alive.” We try to coach couples on how to keep the attraction growing over the years. That’s where our laws of attraction come in.
Love = Commitment + Attraction.
Law 1: You can’t build a great marriage on commitment or attraction alone.
Both are needed. Commitment is the pledge to remain engaged and the promise of exclusiveness. Commitment keeps you faithful and working on the relationship even in the tough seasons of marriage. There are times when commitment holds you together.
Attraction is that magnetic charm that draws you to your spouse. It is true that the appeal is present when the marriage is at its best and yes, during the dating and honeymoon phases. But it’s more than that. This pull is not a shallow thing but a critical thing by our definition. It involves healthy traits, attitudes, dispositions and actions that draw us to one another. It is a necessary component of the relationship and not a bonus. There are times when attraction holds you together.
Law 2: Commitment brings security; attraction brings enjoyment.
A genuine commitment allows your spouse to know you are not going anywhere. Your vows are just that! They express a sincere pledge that you’ll keep working on the relationship as a priority. This commitment will make you feel safe and secure in your marriage.
A growing attraction is your joint agreement to keep having fun together as well as to keep being fun to be around. It’s like that fresh life-giving smell in the air after a much-needed rain. You can just feel things starting to come alive. This attraction brings a smile to your face and a peace in your heart and you just want to have more of it.
Law 3: Commitment and attraction both require effort.
What happens if you start coasting the day you get married? Your relationship will gradually come to a stop. You need to keep taking turns pushing each other like two kids with a homemade go-cart. Sociological research of the family shows that on average, the powerful initial infatuation stage between two people newly married – that honeymoon feeling – lasts only 18 months. 18 MONTHS??? What then? Face it. Being faithful and being fun both will take work!
So as commitment is a choice; attraction too is a choice. You must be intentional. Even though it feels so easy at first when you are connecting, laughing and having fun, it’s not always like that. It doesn’t always come naturally. Speed bumps can become mountain ranges that can lead to years of rough road where you end up miles apart.
Unless you grasp the fact that for attraction to survive, it can no longer be by accident. You need to commit to being an attractive spouse. So I ask, Are you fun to live with? 1 John 3:18 says it well: “Let’s not merely say we that we love each other (our spouse); let us show the truth by our actions” – our genuine effort at being attractive.
Law 4: Factors of attraction are both innate and developed.
It’s true; there were some definite traits that drew me to Donalyn. Her inborn kindness and friendliness flow out of her as naturally as water from a hose. She doesn’t have to turn it on. It’s part of who she is and who she will always be. That’s why some traits are called ‘innate’ – they are part of your God-given personal style.
But we all have a ‘dark side’. Like if you could cut me open relationally, I’d bleed critical, judgmental and impatient. I totally need God to change me or at least soften me to a level of being tolerable. I need to work at being fun to be around or else the people closest to me might stop coming around.
If you find yourself being a stick in the mud, a grouch or just plain grumpy – you have to make changes. God wants us to be more fun (pleasant, encouraging & thoughtful) to be around. In Proverbs it says, “a cheerful heart (fun and friendly) is good medicine” (17:22). Your refreshing spirit will bring healing to people. It also says, “a cheerful heart (fun and friendly) is a continual feast” (15:15). People will keep coming back for a second helping of your warm and inviting disposition.
Law 5: Initial attraction differs from lifetime attraction.
Ok, with initial attraction, its like you start with a full tank of gas and for a long time, it feels like everything in the marriage is running smooth. But when things get tougher as you experience steep hills and miles between gas stations, you can start to run on fumes. It’s dangerous and you can actually be left feeling stranded.
You have to keep putting relational gas in the desirability tank. Attraction is both something you do and something you are… but mostly it’s the willingness to keep making an effort to bring a smile to your spouse’s face. Remember what you would do when you were dating to win your spouse’s heart. Now put in a similar push to keep their heart. Keep learning how your spouse spells attraction. And from our experience, it keeps evolving over time. So keep asking, ‘what do you need from me?’ then listen, learn it and live it.
Law 6: When attraction leaves, a vacancy appears.
The final law of attraction is more of a warning. What happens if you stop having fun together? What transpires when the attraction fades? In time, a vacancy appears. A vacancy is an ‘unoccupied position or place’. You can’t love if you are not there or not making an effort to love your spouse well. The result is an empty space for someone or something else to fill.
When the emotional connection is lost, a void grows – a huge cavern of all our unfulfilled hopes, dreams and promises. This void makes many people vulnerable and if the commitment isn’t strong enough, a serious violation of the marriage is too easily possible – an affair. The space is filled but not with your spouse. I see it all the time.
Proverbs 20:6 reads, “Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?” Unfailing love keeps the fun alive and the marital growth happening. It’s not just being faithful not to leave but faithful to never quit making it better. You build the attraction and protect the marriage by being a fun and caring person to be with. May God help you put more smiles on your spouse’s face.
I’d love to hear your perspective on keeping this aspect of your marital love alive. Leave your comments at www.DoingFamilyRight.com. And by the way, don’t tell my wife but I tracked down a 48-year-old copy of Whiston’s book for her birthday. We’ll see if she reads this column.