In 2013 When our 14 year old son was visiting Kenya and preparing to fly home alone using the unaccompanied minors program, the international terminal at the Nairobi airport burnt down. Jay and I were reading the news late at night on our phones while we lay in bed. When we checked British Airlines to learn of any updates and read the part that mentioned their “luxury lounge,” we lost it. It was one of the best laughs we have ever had. I laughed until tears ran down my cheeks and my sides hurt.
Now don’t get me wrong, we were also concerned that this would impact his return flight just a few days later, and we pondered all the possible outcomes. But there is something comforting about getting bad news while you’re in bed. Our harried, frantic lives have been put on hold. It’s just the two of you. It seems like all the stress just melts away and you are just left with the one person who you can conquer the world with. Jay and I have a reputation for laughing in bed. It is not uncommon for the kids to ask us in the morning what we were laughing about the night before. Typically, it is something stupid like the time that I told Jay he smelled nice and then realized it was actually my own hands I had just washed in a new soap. Sometimes it’s really stupid because we are tired and slap happy.
For us, one of the best times to talk is those moments before sleep takes over. Jay, who is a chipper morning person, know enough than to start a conversation with his wife in the hostile hours of morning light. Getting ready to go to work or while I’m making dinner are also not great times. We chat about how our day went and the practical day-to-day schedules and plans at dinner or in the evening, but bedtime is when we often talk about the hard things or the humorous. I like the later better.
As a couple, don’t just find the best time for you; make those times. Go beyond the daily need to have communication and reserve those times for the want to have conversations. Maybe you are both morning people (unnatural as that is) and you enjoy chatting over breakfast. Maybe it’s Saturday morning while the kids sleep-in (teens!) or Tuesday nights while they are at soccer practice. Maybe you take a stroll through your neighborhood twice a week after work or just sit on your back patio after dinner drinking tea while the kids play in the yard. Take those moments not to settle the carpool schedule for the week, but to laugh over what happened in the office kitchen. Reminisce about your first date and plan that vacation you’re going to take when your house is finally paid off. Laugh at each other good-naturedly. Dream. Look for the humor in that disaster of a work day, or in the not so stellar parent teacher conference you just had. (True story: This year, I knew the end of the year conference wasn’t going to be all about how superb a student our child was, so Jay and I created bingo cards with key phrases we rightly anticipated hearing and distributed them to the teachers at the start of the conference.) Sometimes the humor is hiding in the chaos just waiting to be discovered. Trust me, it’s worth searching for.
Being a couple who makes laughter a habit adds a protective layer over your relationship during the hard times. Trust me, I know. Maybe it’s true that the family that prays together stays together, but the couple who can literally grin and bear are more likely to get through those hard times with an honest smile on their faces.
Who wants their marriage to just survive when it can thrive?