In my almost eight years of marriage, I have learned that there are certain things that invite joy into my life and marriage, and there are other things that drain me of joy.
I’ve also learned that joy isn’t circumstantial. It is a choice. Each of us is meant to have joy. Each of us is meant to truly live a full and meaningful life - now.
Definition of Joy
Joy, by my definition, comes from aligning my priorities and choices with my deeply held beliefs - with the truths I know in both my mind and my heart.
Joy is feeling deeply connected to your spouse. Joy is savoring all the little moments that make a marriage beautiful - that simple kiss, the note he left you on your pillow, her phone call just to say, “hi,” and hundreds of other small gestures. Joy is found in the process of change, improvement, and becoming one in marriage. Joy is staying together on the nights when your first impulse is to run away and hide from “hard.” Joy is forgiving each other and letting new beginnings take place in your marriage. Joy is knowing that through thick and thin, your sweet spouse is loyally by your side, walking this journey of life along with you, and championing your cause no matter what.
Joy isn’t momentary. It can’t be bought. It isn’t about how much money I make, the kind of home I live in, the kind of car I drive, or the brand of clothes I wear. It isn’t about achieving some ideal weight, having a wrinkle-free face, or receiving the praise and accolades of the world.
Joy isn’t about pleasure or thrill. For example, I am a chocolate lover...okay, an all-around sweets lover. However, chocolate doesn’t bring me joy. Momentary pleasure and momentary satisfaction? Absolutely. But joy? No.
Finally, joy most certainly isn’t about having a care-free or worry-free life. Joy doesn’t equal “easy” or “hardship free.” Rather, joy can be yours, and it can be mine, during the hard, inconvenient, and even stressful times of life.
Joy is available to me, and it’s available to you. In fact, it’s yours for the choosing.
So, what is getting in the way?
There are a few things that immediately come to mind that are currently getting in the way of me choosing more joy in my life and marriage - being too busy, not taking care of my health, and spending too much time on screens and too little time with the people who matter most to me, etc.
To put it simply, joy is diminished when my choices don’t align with my values and beliefs.
So, if joy comes from aligning my priorities and choices with my deeply held beliefs, then I choose joy in life and marriage when I choose to give my time, attention, and focus to those things that truly matter.
Here are 10 ways I choose joy in my marriage.
1. I choose selflessness.
For me, joy isn’t about me at all. In fact, I believe that true joy really stems from selflessness. It comes from serving others and from giving of myself. In my marriage, joy comes from cleaning my husband’s car, giving him a back massage, calling him just because, working together to save money for the future, or listening to him vent about frustrations at work.
2. I choose patience.
Joy comes when I choose to let that little thing he said slide, instead of fester. Joy comes from recognizing that my husband is doing the best he can, and that neither of us are perfect. Joy comes from being patient when I feel like getting angry, and from biting my tongue when I want to say something that isn’t kind. Yes, joy comes from patience, and patience is often expressed through kindness.
3. I choose connection.
Joy comes when I put my phone down over dinner and actually look into my husband’s eyes and ask about his day. Without realizing it, it’s all too easy to live life through a screen. I’ve learned that virtual reality is no reality at all. Real life is what happens to us outside of screens. It’s about people, real face-to-face interactions, connection. It’s about caring, giving, and sharing of ourselves with others.
In my marriage, joy comes from simple moments of connection - when I catch my handsome husband wink at me, or from hugs, kisses, and love taps on the bum. Joy, and connection, come through meaningful and romantic love making, as well.
4. I choose intentionality.
Joy comes from being intentional about my marriage. It comes from regularly saying, “I love you,” making sure date night happens, planning romantic getaways, and from washing dishes together after dinner. Joy comes from holding hands and walking around the block, going on late-night milkshake runs together, or cuddling up in the backyard to look at the stars.
5. I choose gratitude.
Joy comes from choosing to be grateful for my husband and to point out all of the things I appreciate and love about him. It comes from saying simple things to him, like “I really appreciate that you called my mom today to wish her happy birthday,” or “Thank you so much for that text you sent. It totally made me laugh out loud.” Joy comes as I let my heart fill with gratitude for all the things my husband does to provide for me, protect me, and bless my life.
6. I choose simplicity.
When I say “yes,” to too much, and simply fill my schedule with busyness rather than fulfilling and meaningful things, I start to lose joy. And I start to lose my cool. I find myself snapping at my husband or kids, being impatient, and frankly, becoming a bit angry. I find myself getting critical and seeing the world, and my spouse, through a negative lens. Joy comes as I simplify my schedule, say “no,” more, and fill my space and time with the people and things I love. When I simplify my life, I am able to choose joy as I say “yes,” to the things that truly bring meaning, satisfaction and fulfillment into my life.
7. I choose forgiveness.
Joy comes as I look at my life and realize the things I need to change to make my marriage better. In fact, some of the sweetest and most joyful moments of my marriage have come when either my husband or myself have been humble enough to say, “I’m sorry. What I said was wrong and hurtful. What can I do to make things better? Can we start over?” Sweet embraces and hugs that last for minutes have been followed by kisses that truly mean something and sex that really connects. Joy comes from forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.
8. I choose health.
When I am running on too little sleep, it is hard to choose joy. When I eat too many processed or sugary-filled foods, I never feel well. And if I sit on my bum and never move around or take a walk in the great-outdoors, then my joy levels drop dramatically. When I don’t feel good about myself, I don’t have energy, enthusiasm, or passion for life or love.
So choosing joy for me includes finding a sleep schedule that works for both me and my husband (so we can go to bed together every night), from eating healthier foods, and from moving my body more. By choosing to take care of my health, I feel more confident about myself and am much more likely to want to express my love for my husband in physical ways (if you catch my drift).
9. I choose laughter.
Joy for me stems from living in the moment, being present, and laughing with my husband on a daily basis. It comes from seeing the humor in situations that may not seem funny at first. It comes from spending time together talking, working, and laughing. It comes from not taking myself too seriously. Joy comes when I look over at my husband, and we both erupt in bouts of laughter because we were thinking the exact same thing at exactly the same moment.
10. I choose love.
Yes, joy comes from choosing love. Love is pretty all-encompassing. Love for my husband fills my heart as I pick up his favorite cereal at the store, write him a love letter, cook his favorite meal, encourage him to go golfing, watch his favorite show with him, cheer him on in his big race, listen to him, and compliment him. Love grows as I choose to see all the marvelous gifts, talents, and attributes that make him who he is. Love comes as I seek to serve my husband, be fiercely loyal to him, and to be someone he wants to be around for the rest of his life. Joy and love comes as he makes those same efforts for me.
As I choose love, joy is returned to me in full measure. Therefore, I choose joy.
Why choose joy?
Choosing joy brings a measure of peace, comfort, and purpose to your life in ways you may not currently recognize are possible. Choosing joy helps you slow down, live in the present, and soak up every beautiful moment that life has to offer you - filling you with happy and rewarding memories for years to come.
Choosing joy in marriage doesn’t mean your life will be perfect, but it does mean that you will be able to see and recognize perfect moments, and give thanks for them. It does mean that you will be able to see progress, change, and improvement in yourself and in your marriage. Choosing joy helps you find meaning, happiness, and fulfillment where it matters most - in your relationships with others, especially with your spouse.
How can you choose joy this week?
Here are a few questions to get you thinking about the level of joy you are currently experiencing in your life. Write down at least one response to each of these questions, and then decide to do something small to choose joy in your marriage this week.
As you intentionally choose joy in your life and marriage, you will find that your outlook on life is happier, more positive, and more cheerful. You will find yourself treating others in a more kind and respectful way. You will find your heart being filled with gratitude for little things, things you may never have thought to be grateful for in the past.
Yes, choosing joy will change your life in hundreds of small ways, and help you find meaning and fulfillment in the here and now. So, go be joyful.
Photo Credit: Caitlinn Mahar-Daniels
"You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly."
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