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Bringing Laughter to Your Marriage

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
March 22, 2024 3:13 am

Bringing Laughter to Your Marriage

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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March 22, 2024 3:13 am

On this lighthearted broadcast, Pastor Ted Cunningham shares humorous stories from life with his spouse to illustrate how laughter is a key component for a thriving and lasting marriage. He explores the emotional, physical, and spiritual benefits of laughter, and encourages listeners to discover their "humor muscle" and flex it on a daily basis.


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As a young teen, Mary became a follower of Jesus after reading Focus on the Family's Brio magazine.

And I remember thinking to myself, I don't have that. I'd really like to know what that's about. And so it was an inward decision right there that I made in my room after reading this article in the Brio magazine that I want to have that kind of walk with God that this girl is talking about. For 30 years, we've helped Mary grow in her faith. We've strengthened her marriage. And now we're equipping her to be a good mom to her own kids. Like really Focus on the Family has been and all the different resources and individuals, the voices of Focus on the Family has really been a mentor to me, to my family.

And just it's cool to see the legacy. I'm Jim Daly. Working together, we can save more families like Mary's every month.

Please call 800-AFAMILY or donate at slash family. It is something you can get better at. It starts with the decision that I'm going to lighten up. I'm not going to take myself so seriously. There are going to be times in this relationship we need to be dead serious. But just like date night or an annual abandon, we need to bring the joy into it.

So we go through clearly all the mental and physical and emotional benefits of this and then end with the spiritual. Well that's Ted Cunningham and he's with us today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller. Hey John, here's a revelation. Here at Focus on the Family, we love marriage.

I hope that's obvious to everybody. It's foundational to the family, of course, and we believe it's a gift from God. In fact, that's one reason why we talk so much about marriage here on the program. We want to equip you to help you have the best marriage you can have. A marriage that's thriving, as we say, thriving in Christ, regardless of what season of life you're in. As a newly married, God bless you, or as a couple that's been married 40, 50 years. There are still things to learn and I know that's true in my life and I've been married over 30 years.

But every day I'm thinking, ooh, I could have done that better, said that better. But one of the great ingredients that I have enjoyed in my marriage with Jean is being able to bring humor into it. It doesn't always work and I've failed at it, but today we want to help you brush up on those comedy skills. And not for an audience of many, but for an audience of one, your spouse. And we've invited one of our favorite guests here today, pastor and all-around funny guy, Ted Cunningham, to help us with this. And you'll laugh along the way, I hope, as we talk to Ted.

He is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri. I am not familiar with this term. Can you describe headlining comedy act? What does that mean?

You're the first one to use that, so I don't know. It's in my script here from our producer, so I'll just go with it. Headlining comedy act for the date night comedy tour. He's also the author of A Love That Laughs, which is a brand new book that Focus on the Family is putting out. Oh, that's great. It is.

And most of the material I understand for the book came from Ted's marriage to his wife, Amy. I don't know if that's true or not, but... Oh, there you go. I think he just slammed you.

I don't know. Hey, Ted, welcome to Focus, by the way. Hey, you know, I'm not just a guest. I am a listener of this broadcast. That's so much fun.

I love following y'all. All right, so you and Amy, how long have you been married now? Twenty-three years. Wow, that's good. And you're still laughing. Still laughing. Laughing more today than we did in the first 10, first 20.

That is so good. Early in your marriage, you had to find that fun way, though, of communicating, right? Yeah.

And how did that come about? I don't see you as a serious guy, even years ago. You're probably pretty funny. Did Amy ever go, can you just stop? Just stop. Stop being silly. And, you know, sometimes people come up to her at events and they'll say, is he like this all the time at home?

That's exhausting. Does he always tell jokes? I'm not telling jokes to my wife all the time.

Like, hey, have you heard this one? No, it's finding the humor in everyday life. That's the emphasis of the book, is to be observational in our humor. And so you don't have to be a funny guy, a funny lady. You don't have to be a comedian to find the humor in life for your marriage.

Okay, that right there, though, I did want to hit that, and we might as well hit it early, because temperaments play into this. And you're an extrovert. You can see that. You do have a lens in which you see the world with a bit of humor, you know. I've known you long enough to know that when something goes badly for you, you tend to find something funny in it. I tend to be that way, too. But not everybody's wired that way. Some people are very serious about life. Absolutely.

And there's a time and a place for it. So I don't find the funny in every single thing that happens to us. But as we introduce in the book, I want a laughter-to-conflict ratio that laughter's 100 to 1. And Amy's the one that gave us that first ratio when I asked her, if you were to compare our laughs to our conflict, what would the ratio be? And she didn't even, she gives answers quick in our marriage. She already has answers.

And she said 100 to 1. Well, it's a good place to say why. Why is there benefit to that? Again, I'm thinking of the dour person that's going, right, laughter. It's a waste of time.

Come on. Yeah, and from research we know children laugh more than adults. Some research tells us children laugh on average 150 times a day to an adult six times a day. So you think Jesus had an insight there when he said, don't suffer the kids to come to me, and if you're not like a child?

He grew indignant when people kept the children from him. I think when we are talking about laughter in marriage, it is truly a choice, something you have to look for. Whatever your personality, whatever your temperament, you have to make the decision to, today we're going to laugh. You get to the end of the day and you haven't laughed much, you need to ask why. Because laughter's a barometer of your marriage as well. If we're not laughing and enjoying life together, stop, pause, ask the question why.

Let me get your best argument for this and then we're going to move to some examples which are funny. But for that person that's saying, you know what, it doesn't come easy to me. I hate to blast the engineer mind. I know I'm going to hear from people who say, hey, I'm funny and I'm an engineer. I get that. But methodic planning people, engineering people, process people tend to look at things with maybe less humor.

And again, I know that there are exceptions to this, but generally I'm going back to the makeup and the temperament. So tell me again, why? Why do I need to laugh? It seems frivolous to me. And I don't know that the Lord would be laughing at these things.

Seriously, right? I just wish people could see your face right now. You've got that scowl. My wife, when we started this book, she said, make sure it is early on that you make it clear to everyone, I am not a comedian. I don't tell jokes. In 23 years of marriage, she's maybe told one or two jokes. It's just not who she is. She's more of a serious person by nature and she looks into every detail of life.

She's into her environment. And so she's grateful that we've made humor a priority in our marriage. And so I, believe it or not, I always start with Ecclesiastes 7 when it talks about a good name is better than fine perfume. And the day of death is better than the day of birth. And you're like, why would you start with a funeral to talk about laughter? Because you read it's better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting. Meaning when you go to a funeral, that's a recalibrating event. You're learning about life.

And you should be asking questions about how you're living. How are you honoring other people? And yet when you go to a party, that's a completely different purpose behind it. And that's why the scripture says sorrow is better than laughter. Well, because sorrow is a teacher. But it doesn't say sorrow is good, laughter is bad. It's just laughter has its place. And so laughter, a cheerful heart, is good medicine. And what I love about humor and laughter in marriage is it's not only a good medicine, but it helps other medicines go down.

So we can learn a lot in the process. And people describe my teaching at church or at conferences and seminars as, yeah, you get us laughing, and then you just hit us with something. We weren't expecting it. We double over. And with laughter, you kind of pick us back up and you give us a hug. And then, bam, right there again.

You're like, oh, it's like we just got shot. It's very effective. Yeah, because laughter is a great tool.

Humor is a great way that we can express ourselves through difficult and challenging times. All right. You've answered that. Let's go back to you and Amy and your differences. I think New York, you had something go on in a New York restaurant, which is an example of how to manage some things. So I was born in the corn fields outside of Chicago, Illinois, northern Illinois. And so my favorite meal was meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and corn.

I'm with you. That's just I can eat that every day. My wife is a foodie. So the first time she took us to a foodie restaurant, and you know what I mean by foodie. It means you're going to spend some money and you're going to need a snack when you leave. It's a small plate of food for a lot of money. You are not going to leave full. And so I already had all sorts of attitude going into it.

But one of the things I love about humor is you can enjoy your spouse's activity or hobby without actually enjoying your spouse's activity or hobby because you're having fun along the way. Right. We walked into this restaurant, and I don't make up one word of this. The waiter comes over with a plank, like a cedar plank, and he's got a mint leaf sticking out of both sides of it. And I look at Amy. I said, is that the salad? Is this where we're starting with this thing? And this waiter deadpan.

I mean, he's as serious as can be. He says, no, the chef picked this earlier today in New Jersey. Like, I'm supposed to be impressed with New Jersey mint. I don't know what New Jersey mint.

It is the garden state. But he was very proud of where they got the mint. And he said, the chef recommends that you rub this over your lips and under your nose and on your chin. I am rolling my eyes. And you're in a restaurant. And I'm in a restaurant, and he's not joking.

He wants us to prepare ourselves by cleaning our face with this mint. And I look over at my wife. She's chuckling because she knows what I'm thinking, which is that's the fun part of being married a long time. You don't even have to have conversation, and you can laugh because you know how your spouse is processing something. My wife's fully into it.

She is rubbing this leaf all over her lips and under her nose and fully into it. And I told the guy, I said, you know, where I'm from, we grew a lot of produce. We just never once thought about rubbing it on our faces.

And I think if a husband and wife are going to be rubbing produce on their faces, this is something we should have a little bit of privacy for. I'm going to need you to back away from this one a little bit, buddy. And he stood there. I wore that mint leaf out. I rubbed it everywhere. I was given – and he knew I was not appreciating it.

But those are those moments. Like, I've only had one massage in my life. My wife loves massages.

We were in an event, and I'm just going to say we were in California. So the event gifted us a couple's massage, and I hated every single minute of that 60-minute massage. I felt violated and uncomfortable.

I didn't like anything. And the entire time, coming from underneath the other table, this is all I heard from my wife. Because she knew. We didn't have to say a word, but she was laughing and having a good time because she knew I was miserable through the whole thing. And that's what I love about humor in marriage. It's like Amy doesn't even have to be here right now, and I can tell you completely.

You throw any scenario at me. I can tell you how she's going to react to it. And that's where you find the fun.

You know, Ted, again, some married couples, that may not go down as well, and I want to explore that a little bit. Where even in that scenario, you know, the wife's chuckling because she knows, and the husband's getting mad. He's not laughing about it.

It's like, why would you put me in this position? We're not talking about humor that's biting. We're not talking about humor that's sarcastic, that's like tearing of the flesh. We're not talking about mean, hurtful, constantly ribbing. It's that lightheartedness that I just see missing in so many marriages. And I'll be honest with you. I think most couples start off lighthearted.

You know, I listen to your broadcast. I hear a lot of great stories of couples early on, but then something happens, and I think that something that happens is drift. They drift away. It was natural. We say this often in marriage teaching. It was natural early in the relationship. But you drifted away from it, and all you need to do to make it natural again is become intentional. What was natural, you now need to be intentional with 10, 20, 30 years in.

And if you become intentional, it can become natural again, to where it's just the ebb and flow of your daily life as a couple. And that's the goal of this book. So if you're listening and you're really struggling here, chill out.

Just give it a try, and let's listen to some of the ways you can apply that. It leads us to what you're calling the callback. Now, I've never heard this term before, but in the book you describe the callback.

What is it? Okay, so the callback is why you love your favorite comedians. And you've heard the callback a lot, you just didn't know the name of it. Because the callback is when there's a punchline earlier in a set, and he brings it back up or she brings it back up off of a different story or a different premise. It usually gets a bigger laugh because you didn't see it coming. Because what comedy is, it's the jostling of the brain.

It's the shocking of the brain. I didn't see that one coming. So for Amy and I, that New York restaurant, I'm not leaving that restaurant without a callback. And now my callback is whenever we're at my favorite restaurant, which is Les Cracker Barrel. You take a lettuce leaf.

I take broccoli off her plate and start rubbing it on my cheek. And we have a laugh from something that happened six years ago. And that's why in the book, we want couples to figure out what their callbacks are, write them down at the end, put them in that journal so that you can keep going back to them.

You might call them an inside joke, but they're the callbacks. And we have so many callbacks in our marriage. Taking everything that's irritating, frustrating, annoying, that would just usually grate on us. And the key with all of this is we've made the decision we're going to enjoy life together. Enjoy life. That's what I like about that. You have to make the decision.

And I just want to put this out there first. Because if a couple comes into my office in conflict, if they're in need of hope restored and I need to send them to a marriage intensive, I'm not teaching them how to be funny with each other in that moment. I'm not teaching them to tell jokes and all that. But after they go through the marriage intensive, which is what we hear from couples coming out of the marriage intensive years later, we're experiencing levels of marital satisfaction.

We never dreamed possible. Then it's at that point you begin to teach them how not to get back into the drift that took you into that. And that's when I would begin teaching that couple quality couple time, enjoying life together, and bringing more humor into your marriage. That it plays a role. Exactly. Hey, Ted, I want to hit the benefits of laughter. Because, again, for the scientists in the audience, tell me why. What's the benefit of laughter?

Hit it. It's quite expansive. And you mentioned the engineers. They're going to love chapter two, which is 38 benefits of laughter. Right.

What are they? Well, the mental, the physical, the emotional, the relational, and then I end that list with the spiritual, the spiritual benefits. Most research went into that chapter of the book. But we just talk about how it manages stress, and you can work through difficult situations and conversations like we just have already really talked about. But it bonds us, it eases tension, diffuses anger, lightens the mood. I mean, and I go all the way through, it even makes you more attractive. You know, I tell the guys, I tell the young guys in our church who feel like, man, I'm never going to find a woman. Well, you don't need, you know, the face of Brad Pitt, the body of the rock, or the attitude of Tony Stark. Well, you need a paycheck and a few jokes. That's what I tell the guys in our church all the time. You just need a paycheck and a few jokes. But women find men with a sense of humor attractive, and you're like, well, I don't have a sense of humor. Well, that's why we talk about these benefits, because it's something you can work on. Right.

It is something you can get better at. It starts with the decision that I'm going to lighten up, I'm not going to take myself so seriously. There are going to be times in this relationship we need to be dead serious, but just like date night or an annual abandon, we need to bring the joy into it. So we go through clearly all the mental and physical and emotional benefits of this and then end with the spiritual. I love it. Which is good. Yeah.

I mean, that should be convincing right there. What's the difference between choosing and pursuing laughter rather than just waiting for it to happen? How can we choose laughter? Well, I've always been gripped with Scott Stanley's definition of choice, of choosing, when he says decisions have power. And I love that, because we talk about decisions all the time. You need to make decisions. So this is one of those decisions, a choice that you make, and it has power when we've decided. And now that's the decision. But then the pursuing is, we're looking for it all day long.

We're finding the opportunities. I can tell you, me laughing six times a day, if that's the average adult laughter, that is not for me. That is not for my home. That is not. That's underachieving for you. Oh, that's way underachieving. If I get to lunch and have only laughed six times, I don't think I'm pursuing it. Then that seems like a high bar all of a sudden. You've laughed 30 or 40 times already today, Jim. Well, I'm just saying for the person that doesn't come naturally, that could sound really overwhelming now. Wow, six times before lunch?

And that's low? Now you've intimidated me. Yeah, and I know there are jobs that are serious, and you're not cracking jokes. And I just want people to get, the emphasis of this book is not joke writing. The emphasis of this book is finding joy. It's your heart.

Yeah, and looking for lighthearted moments throughout the day. We find it in our kids. We find it in our marriage. We can find it in our jobs. We can find it at the DMV.

We can find it while driving. Okay, so somebody who's not had a high degree of humor in their marriage, and they're saying, okay, I heard Ted Cunningham today on Focus on the Family. I'm going to go for it tonight. And then, boom, their humor just bombs. And now they may give up, but what would be your encouragement to the person who's attempting humor in their marriage, but it's not landing right?

So we've already talked about timing, but I give some low-hanging fruit for humor and laughter. And I think singing and dancing are the lowest forms of comedy, because people will say the same thing. Well, I'm not good at singing. Well, that's the point. Right, that's what's funny. I don't have rhythm.

I can't dance. Well, that's the point, right? Commitment is everything. I'll walk off stage after I hear a comedian bomb, and they'll go, man, what happened?

I go, the problem was you weren't committed to the joke. And when you're not committed to it, the person receiving it is not going to be committed to it. We've all seen comedians give up on stage and be like, oh, man, if they weren't into it, I'm not going to be into it. So I think the person who hasn't pursued humor or hasn't made the decision to pursue it, they just haven't been working that muscle. They just got to get into a point where they're committed to it and trying and attempting. And this is a big, important part.

I cover this in the book over actually a couple pages. So there's physical benefits to laughter. We all know that. You breathe in oxygen-rich air. Van der Doer University says you can burn up to 40 calories with 10 to 15 minutes of belly laughing. That's what I say.

So don't go work out. Just help each other laugh. And this is the cool part. Your body cannot tell the difference between fake and real laughter. So I tell wives, when your husband's attempting it, fake it. Laugh. Just fake the laughter. Pursue it. And this is key.

It'll catch on. MD Anderson, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the Mayo Clinic, they have laughter therapy. They're not saying that laughter heals the body, but they know laughter is a great way to help people through the treatments. And one of the things they do is they just sit around in circles and they fake laugh. That fake laughter can turn into real laughter, but just like a yawn, laughter's contagious. And you watch somebody fake laughing and you're like, this is the weirdest thing I've ever seen, and it starts to trigger something in you. One of the things, and people are going to be shocked, but when the boys and Gene and I are praying, we're getting gathered, we do a little devotion or something, and then we're about to pray, certainly one of the three guys, it's never mom.

It's either me or Trent or Troy. We start giggling about something, because something is funny. The ritual sometimes can be quite funny, the way we approach it. And so one of us will start giggling, and it gets the other two of us giggling.

Mama's not giggling so much, because this is time before the Lord. But we can't help it. Okay, yeah, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Let me try again.

Here we go. And it's just so funny, but there's nothing really funny. What's going on with that? It's like spontaneous. And something strikes you as funny, but doesn't strike your spouse as funny, and you get to giggling. There's been more times in movies where I start laughing at my wife laughing, and that even becomes a callback of sorts, because you get in the car later, and she'll think about it.

She'll be falling asleep, and she'll think about that and start laughing, and I just start laughing, because she's laughing. This is the power of how God created us, this laughter, this joy. It's why Paul says, rejoice.

I'll say it again, rejoice. I mean, these are decisions that we make. But there's something in there about vulnerability.

It struck me a moment ago when you were talking about it, the ability to sing and dance. Yeah. Okay, there's a vulnerability in doing that, and you've got to be a little emptied of your ego to put yourself in a silly position, which again is why I think the Lord loves it.

Yeah. Because it kind of humbles you when you're not taking yourself so seriously all the time. Yeah, and I tell guys this, that they do not have a sense of humor, and they're wanting to figure out how to bring more humor into their marriage, and I tell them, all right, I just want you to pick one of her favorite songs and sing it to her. They're like, oh, dinner across the table? No, no, no, in the car while driving, because now you have another activity to focus on. This always helps.

This diffuses a guy. Maybe some background music that'll help you. Yeah, it's like karaoke in the car, and you've got the overhead lights that I use as spotlights, so when it's my turn to sing, I put the spotlight on me, and then I turn it off and put it on Amy. There's all sorts of ways that you can do this in what I call, again, that low-hanging fruit to just make the attempt. And I always tell the spouse, even with apologies, even if the words aren't coming out right, but you know the heart is there, receive it. I say the same thing with humor and laughter. If your spouse is making the attempt, that deserves recognition.

Exactly right. That deserves a fake laugh, if that's all you can come up with. This is where my girls in particular have watched us interact, and they're like, mom, he's just telling you the weather, and you're laughing about it.

What is it with that? But we've chosen to do that very thing, just to encourage each other and to find the humor in some of the silliest things. I hope that they catch that and go into marriage looking for a guy that's going to make them laugh.

Absolutely. And so we talk about this in the book. When you get married, there's also this shared sense of humor that you have to develop. And that's a whole other level that I enjoy that, again, we don't even have to be talking, and we can see something, and she knows what I'm thinking, I know what she's thinking, and the laughter starts. And that's that shared sense of humor that you get with the oneness of marriage, and you grow into over time. And that's what I want to encourage young couples with. If the joy and the fun and that which was natural early in the relationship, don't drift from that.

You have to make what we're talking about right now intentional. And so you have to find ways. Like, for Amy and I, we don't watch heavy movies. We really don't. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with dramas or anything like that. But our life is serious enough with some of the issues we deal with on a regular basis.

It can be quite stressful. And so we kind of make sure we're watching movies that make us laugh. And I consider them free laughs, even though you're paying for a movie ticket. But I mean, it's not anything I'm working for.

It's now there, and we're able to. And some of the humor in our marriage is bringing stuff from the screen into our marriage. I always joke with their, I don't know if you've ever noticed this, but all of these couples that don't have jobs and they're cuddling in five million dollar apartments in New York City. I always have to remind her, I would stay home, Amy, and cuddle with you all day. But I've got a job.

I've got a job, okay? I can't do what we see. And I'll say that to her in a movie when she sees something happen, and I'll be like, you know what?

We can't do that, right? And she's like, why? I go, because we have jobs.

Okay, we got to actually go out. And we've got kids. And we've got this and that. And we've got kids. Well, Ted, your book is just full of great laughing activities, and we can do this with our spouses. So start by bringing more laughter into your marriage.

That's a very inexpensive way. It's a lot cheaper than counseling right now. If you're in that place where you need counseling, don't get me wrong.

You need to get serious about that. But if you're just in the normal doldrums of life and marriage seems to be more dry than you remembered it in the beginning, try introducing again more humor into your relationship. Never at someone's expense, but with them. And Ted, you've done a great job. We're not laughing at you. We're laughing with you. That's right. Well, that was Ted Cunningham today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, talking about the importance of humor and laughter in marriage, and those really are crucial components to a healthy relationship.

They are. As long as those jokes aren't at your spouse's expense, like we were saying there at the end of the program. You have to find ways to laugh and enjoy life together. And this is why Focus on the Family exists. We want to help you have the best marriage possible.

That's why we create programs like this one. We want to give you tools and resources to make your marriage strong and thriving. One of those great resources is Ted's book, I Love That Laughs, Lighten Up, Cut Loose, and Enjoy Life Together. We have that here at the ministry. In fact, when you donate today, a gift of any amount, we'll send it to you as our way of saying thank you for supporting the work of Focus on the Family and helping couples just like you. And let me encourage you to consider becoming a monthly sustainer.

That means giving on a monthly basis. As a friend of Focus on the Family, your steady support really does allow us to have a steadier impact on families. When you give to Focus, you help us provide answers and hope to those who need it.

Couples on the brink of divorce, parents who are stressed out and worried about their children, families who just need that encouragement to keep going. If you aren't already giving monthly, join our membership drive. We've set a goal of finding a thousand people to join the community of monthly sustainers who care deeply about families just like yours. And let me say ahead of time, thank you for joining us. Become a friend of Focus on the Family and request your copy of Ted Cunningham's great book, A Love That Laughs.

We've got all the details in the program description. Coming up next time, Kevin Thompson offers insight on how you can reduce stress in your life. There's so many of us, so often what we do is we deny what's ours, we try to control what's theirs and we fight about what's God's. Instead of accepting God, you know what's best. I'm going to lean into what you're doing in this moment. I'm going to trust you and I'm going to accept what's taking place. Thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller inviting you back on Monday as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. Your marriage can be redeemed, even if the fights seem constant, even if there's been an affair, even if you haven't felt close in years, no matter how deep the wounds are, you can take a step toward healing them with a hope restored marriage intensive. Our biblically based counseling will help you find the root of your problems and face challenges together. We'll talk with you, pray with you and help you find out which program will work best. Call us at 1-866-875-2915.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-23 02:44:00 / 2024-03-23 02:57:12 / 13

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