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My friend Dr. Marcus Warner and I have been talking a lot about our new book, The 4 Habits Of Joy-Filled MarriagesOne of the points we keep bringing up is this. All of us decide to marry our spouse because we believe we will have more joy together than apart. Yet, somehow, our joy stalls over time. We become absorbed by the busyness of life, work, children and more. Our joy gardens become overrun with weeds. “What happened?” we ask as we try to figure this out. The better question may be, “What do we do now?”

To answer this question, Dr. Warner and I wrote The 4 Habits Of Joy-Filled Marriages book with two goals: 1. Introduce brain research that shows couples thrive on joy and, 2. Create practical exercises for couples to increase marriage joy. Sounds easy, right?

Dr. Warner and I share good news. You can shrink the joy gap in your marriage! That’s right. With frequent glad-to-be-together moments, the joy gap shrinks. When time passes with fewer moments of shared joy, the joy gap widens. The width of your joy gap can make or break a marriage. Have you ever heard couples say they fell out of love – or they no longer feel the spark in their marriage? This is another way of saying they have a big joy gap.

When the joy gap grows, problems become bigger than relationships. Pain is loud. Joy is a reflection of the health of your marriage. Our marriage needs joy like our body needs oxygen. Joy provides life, color and energy to invigorate a marriage relationship.

The good news is, no matter where our joy levels are, God designed us for relational joy. It is never too late to increase joy. We rely on joy to give us resiliency for life and the endurance to navigate hard stuff. Without joy, the hard stuff becomes bigger and louder.

Scripture tells us in Hebrews 12:2 that Jesus endured the cross for the “joy set before Him” and this says a lot about what Jesus values. Joy is about relationship, so we can see Jesus highly values His people! Not even the pain of the cross could hinder Jesus from pursuing a relationship with us.

In our book, we come up with some simple ways to increase marriage joy. We use the acrostic PLAN for the four habits that foster joy. Simply, couples need a “plan” to spark joy, which stands for Play together, Listen for emotions, Appreciate daily and Nurture a rhythm. Each of the 15-minute exercises woven through The 4 Habits book provide the steps to connect and practice the four habits. We have opportunities for couples to practice exercises and go through the book in an online format starting September 8th. We also have a free 6-day devotional available. Learn more at happyhappymarriage.org.

A little bit of joy goes a long way, so give the gift that keeps on giving and commit to practicing joy exercises for a season then watch what happens! If you are single or you would like to see your small group build some joy, you can practice relational skills with the Relational Skills In The Bible small group study as an excellent resource to get going. These resources make fun gifts, so consider giving a copy as a gift to bring a smile.

Posted in Skill Thoughts

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  1. Laura

    What do you do with the folks who spend more time with their RCs off than on? My husband was reluctant to try an exercise from the book, and when that one wasn’t wildly successful, he’s sure none of them “work” and likely won’t try another. I love everything I’ve read from Life Model authors and continue to grow, slowly and steadily. Thank you for everything!

    • Jen Coursey

      Thank you Laura for your note. You raise an important question that many couples will be able to relate with. First, we can pretty much guarantee that trying to build joy with the RC’s off will not build joy. If he is not in relational mode the exercises will feel more like a tooth cleaning than a joy moment. Second, it can take some time to activate the RC’s with the exercises, much like it would to start a car on a very cold day. I encourage you to to invite your husband to participate in the exercises with you because this is important for you. If no other reason in the whole wide world, simply focus on inviting him to practice – even if he doesn’t get much from it because, well, this is important for you! Also, your job is to keep your RC’s on as much as you are able and whether he is relational or not, everything goes better with your RC’s on. The final thought is to tell him stories about times your RC’s were on and times they were off. This provides some context for him to grow and live relationally.
      Blessings, Chris

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