One of the most distinguishing symptoms that a marriage has an infection of bitterness is that they have lost the ability to be playful. Instead, they bite and devour each other (Gal. 5:15). Every look is suspect. Every remark has a sharp edge to it. Every comment carries a sting. Every action is questioned. Every motive is suspected of nefariousness.
The eggshells cover every square inch of the marriage. Decisions about money, sex, the kids, work, in-laws, and what to have for supper are booby-trapped with trip wires which will set off another round of argument. And every argument is like a deep sea dredge which pulls up the rotting skeletons of unresolved offenses.
The insidious nature of social media, however, lets a couple post smiley, sunny pictures to keep up appearances; while the bitterness festers within the home like a boil in need of lancing. And again, there is no playfulness.
Now, I don’t mean that they never play Scrabble or Uno. I mean there is no laughing together, about each other, with each other, with no hint of animus. The fire of laughter can’t catch fire because everything is drenched in resentment. So they sit in the dripping rain of grumpiness, discontentment, and seething rage. There is no warmth between them. No shared jokes. No playfulness.
Solomon exhorts us to “Live joyfully with thy wife (Ecc. 9:9).” As well as to “rejoice in the wife of thy youth (Pro. 5:18).” The later passage is much more sexual in context (cf Pro. 5:19); however, a marriage in which sexual intercourse is in the context of a joyless, resentment filled marriage, is likely to be anything but a rejoicing in one’s wife. Solomon also demonstrates (in his famous love poem of Song of Songs) that lovers see each other everywhere and in everything from flocks of sheep, to towers, from pomegranates, to piles of wheat.
Paul teaches husbands to “love your wives, and be not bitter against them (Col. 3:19).” This could also be rendered as, “do not be a source of bitterness”; or don’t be embittering/exasperating.” This follows Paul telling wives to submit to their own husbands (Col. 3:18).
So if you are asking yourself “Where did all the joy and playfulness go in our marriage?” I’d bet that it is because the husband has been being an embittering lunkhead, and the wife has been a stubborn rebel. What should be done? If you are fed up with the eggshells, sweep them up by asking forgiveness for all your sins against your spouse. Which is why, I believe Paul precedes his instructions to wives and husbands (and then children and servants Col. 3:20-25) by insisting on forgiving and forbearance as the culture of Christian community (Col. 3:13).
When your conscience is clean, and your offenses are all forgiven or passed over, you can tease one another. Joke about how she leaves the cupboard doors open. Jest about how he forgot to put the slippers away again. Laugh at each other’s ridiculousnesses (I think that’s a new word I just invented). Rejoice in each other. Live joyfully with each other. Flirt with each other. Because your sins against each other are forgiven. Because your mistakes and forgotten chores are overlooked with forbearance and patience. You dance with each other while sweeping up the eggshells. You are playful, because you love her, and she respects you. The husband is a source of joy to the wife, and she is his glory and crown.
If that isn’t the case in your marriage, start with the eggshells right in front of you. Ask for forgiveness for today’s offenses, without demanding that your spouse grovel before you in return, or resenting them if they don’t seek forgiveness for their offenses against you. Give the gift of humble reconciliation.