Jen Coursey is the founder and author of the Thriving Mama’s Blog and Executive Director of THRIVEtoday.
I was standing at a recent conference, behind our resource table, selling books when an attendee began asking questions about our 30 Days of Joy for Busy Married Couples book. It came up in our conversation that Chris and my anniversary was the next day and the attendee’s eyes grew wide and asked, “So what are the authors of the joyful marriage books doing for their anniversary?” I chuckled and responded that since I had been traveling all week while Chris was at home holding down the fort with our kiddos, our celebration would revolve around respecting our capacity. In this case, we would probably stop by the grocery store after they picked me up at the airport and proceed to have a low-key evening as a family watching a movie and celebrating as a couple next weekend when we were both more rested.
This may surprise some of you, but part of having a joy-filled marriage (or joy-filled relationship of any kind) is allowing each other to rest when tired and not pushing through capacity. Joy and Rest go hand in hand to create a balanced rhythm in our lives and relationships. Too much of one without the other is not helpful or healthy.
In relationships it is common to have one person with higher energy, who has more desire and capacity for joy while the other tends towards lower energy, and more desire and need for rest. Especially in a marriage – there is a challenging dance of respecting each other’s capacity and shifting outside of our comfort zone to meet our spouse in their need for a lower or higher energy. In our marriage, I tend to have the higher energy level.
For this year’s anniversary, even though I had been traveling all week, I would have been up for celebrating our anniversary when I arrived home. However, I knew Chris would be tired. After a long week of managing the household, kids, and work, he would need some recovery time before it was realistic to expect high joy interactions. To be candid, this ability to anticipate and respect his need for rest reflects a lot of personal growth. Early in our marriage, we had many conflicts over my expectations of high joy interactions when he was too tired. It’s taken years for me to work on shifting my expectations so our interactions can be more satisfying for both of us.
So what did we end up doing for our anniversary when we had our “couple time” of celebration? We enjoyed our annual tradition of reflecting on the highlights of our last year of marriage. This year we did that over a cup of coffee in a bookstore followed by a tasty dinner at a favorite restaurant. We continued to chat and share joyful glances over dessert while talking about our hopes for the coming year and what we were looking forward to.