Protecting Fun Activities from Conflict
By: Dr. Greg Smalley from the Smalley Relationship Center
"Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which [God] has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life..." (Ecclesiastes 9:9). This encouragement was written around the year 935 B.C. Even thousands of years ago, King Solomon realized the importance of spending time enjoying your spouse. Current research supports this same mandate. Marital research experts Dr. Scott Stanley and Dr. Howard Markman conducted a survey to discover what creates a "strong" relationship. To their surprise, the amount of fun couples had together emerged as the strongest factor in understanding overall marital happiness.
If it's important to enjoy our mate, how do we protect our fun time? My wife, Erin, and I learned how to protect fun experiences the hard way. During a marital date, we had made plans to spend the day at Disneyland. Before entering the park, we decided to save money by eating at a nearby Subway. In the midst of stuffing my mouth with a foot-long sub, somehow I managed to bring up a very sensitive issue, and an argument erupted. As the conflict escalated, we moved our "discussion" out into the car hoping to resolve the dispute without the entire restaurant watching. Unfortunately the privacy didn't help. Having no desire to spend the day walking around the "happiest place on earth" together, we drove home in silence. Because it took the entire day to resolve the argument, Erin and I were sick that we ruined our Disneyland date.
Erin and I did the exact thing that you should never do while having fun. We allowed conflict to infiltrate into our enjoyment. When conflict or sensitive issues invade our recreation, it's like throwing a red shirt into the washer with our white clothes. Even though it's only one small shirt, it can destroy an entire load of laundry by turning it pink. Likewise, even though you may be discussing only one tiny issue, if allowed to enter into your relaxation, the entire experience can be damaged.
Preventing Conflict from Destroying Your Recreation
Conflict can be destructive to your recreation because it intensifies emotions. As this happens, it becomes difficult to relax and enjoy each other. If this pattern occurs too often, your mate may lose the desire to do fun things because the experience ends up turning "pink." When Erin and I started to argue in Subway, we should have done something to stop the process. Instead of allowing anger and hurt feelings to take over, we needed to set a boundary by calling a TIME-OUT!
Before your enjoyment is destroyed, I encourage you to interrupt arguments or sensitive discussions by agreeing to talk about the issue at a different time. In other words, reschedule the conversation when you can provide the necessary attention it deserves. By not allowing conflict to harm you recreation you are sending a very important message. The statement you're conveying is that protecting your relationship is more important than impulsively arguing about a problem. Therefore, in order to build a strong relationship--As King Solomon mandated--we must be able to enjoy life with the ones we love.