Q: How can we use humor to promote a more cheerful and healthy atmosphere in our home?
Jim: That's a great question and one that reflects an understanding that humor and laughter are important elements of a happy, healthy and thriving family life. I think writer Agnes Repplier got it exactly right when she said, "We cannot really love anybody with whom we never laugh."
So how can you turn your house into a place where love and laughter flow like the Mississippi? Here are some suggestions:
-- First, don't take yourself too seriously. Perspective often escapes us, making it easy to distort the significance of things. Take a step back and try to get a sense of where you fit in the "bigger picture." And remind yourself that God alone sees your situation as it really is.
-- Second, resolve to laugh even when you don't feel like laughing. Tough times are when a good laugh is most urgent, and a bit of humor can help wash away the stress. It can also keep your marriage and family together when you're coming unglued.
-- Next, look for the humor around you. Art Linkletter famously observed that "people are funny" -- and it's true. Life is full of good comedic material, so stay on the lookout for the comic element in everyday life.
-- Also, discover what makes your spouse and children laugh. Study their individual humor styles and find ways to exploit and develop them at least once a day.
-- Finally, learn how to poke fun at one another in a lighthearted, healthy, affirming and non-derogatory way. In the right relationship and proper context, some good-natured "teasing" can actually increase feelings of intimacy among family members. Just so long as one person's "joke" doesn't become another person's raw and bleeding wound.
Question: I'm a single woman and have a mutual interest in getting to know a man who's eight years younger than I am. This feels strange because other guys I've dated have been closer to my own age. Do you think this is OK? Any advice?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: It wasn't so long ago that your question would've raised eyebrows. But older women dating and marrying younger men isn't considered as culturally taboo as it once was. Like every other relationship, the most important consideration is the character of the man and woman involved. That said, it's worth mentioning some dynamics that can make these relationships unique in their challenges.
One obvious area you'll want to evaluate is his level of maturity and stability. Keep in mind that there can be a big difference if you and he are ages 26 and 18, or 34 and 26. This can be an issue, as men generally take more time to identify their purpose and place in the world; they aren't always inclined to settle down, or prepared to support a family. Watch for how he handles his finances, stress, commitments to job, church, friends, family, etc.
Equally important is the need for you to take an honest look at your motives and to be aware of possible blind spots. Women tend to be the more nurturing of the sexes, and some guys are looking for a perpetual mother. Such pairings typically have disastrous results, with the woman taking on every responsibility and eventually losing respect for and resenting the "little boy" she married who never grew up.
Feel free, then, to move ahead. But as you do, be sure to ask yourself these and other questions early on and along the way to ensure that you're both like-minded and in a similar, healthy place.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.