January 16, 2016

Choosing Enthusiasm

Gary Thomas — 

C hoosing Enthusiasm (1)

Choosing Enthusiasm

One of the best gifts you can give your spouse doesn’t cost anything, it’s appropriate for literally every holiday, and you never have to wrap it.

I’m talking about enthusiasm.

Lisa and I look at food through two radically different lenses. I eat primarily because I hate being hungry, but food isn’t something I ever get all that excited about. It’s a means to an end for me. Lisa, on the other hand, likes being hungry because that means she gets to eat. So when we travel she researches the restaurants and then wants to discuss where I’d like to eat before we go.

The problem is, I have to work at making myself care. I don’t really care about restaurant reviews or menus, but if I tell her, “Just choose whatever sounds best to you,” I spoil her fun. She wants me to at least try to sound excited, to show a little enthusiasm.

So, loving my wife means listening to her reading the reviews, looking at menus, and trying to be as enthusiastic as possible.

I think this same principle holds true for some couples with sex. For some people, sex is a wonderful, sensual, fulfilling, and thrilling experience. For others, it occasionally may feel like a need, but why all the bother? Let’s just do it, get it over with, and move on.

If your spouse enjoys sex like my spouse enjoys food and you’re more like me when it comes to choosing a restaurant, it’s kindness to play along and add a little enthusiasm. Maybe your spouse knows something you don’t. I’m not proud of my attitude toward food, and you shouldn’t necessarily be proud of your attitude toward sex. I could easily make my lack of interest sound spiritual—eating is often called a sensual desire. It’s setting our heart on transient things. Jesus even warns about giving what we eat too much attention—and you could make those exact same arguments against too much focus on sex.

But here’s the thing: Lisa actually serves our marriage by making us care a little more about food and menus than I do. She just about fell into despair when she found out that while I was on a solo trip to a very small town I ate at a Wendy’s three days in a row (“I like the chili,” I explained, “and it was close to my hotel”). Perhaps your spouse is serving your marriage by trying to make the sexual relationship more of a “gourmet” experience than you would otherwise enjoy.www.garythomas.com (5)

Look, it’s not healthy for me to eat at a Wendy’s three days in a row just because it’s convenient and meets the need. And, sexually speaking, you don’t want to go to “Wendy’s” three times in a row either. So maybe you need a reminder. It would thrill Lisa if I took the initiative occasionally and researched a great restaurant, surprising her and delighting her that for once she didn’t have to do all the work. And it might thrill your spouse if you put a little forethought into an intimate encounter that required a little preparation and effort.

What I love about this is that serving my wife means caring about something that doesn’t naturally have all that much appeal to me. Choosing enthusiasm creates humility, generosity, kindness, and the spirit of service. Those are good things, right?

And what do we foster when we choose not to care and not to be enthusiastic? Apathy. Self-centeredness. Stinginess.

Simply saying “I’m available whenever you want” with a begrudging attitude doesn’t serve someone who wants more than that. It’s not just about being “available” but being enthusiastically engaged.

If you’re a young couple, learning to be enthusiastic about something you’re not naturally all that excited about will serve you very well as a parent with your children. It will help you in social situations with strangers. It will assist you as your parents get older and want to talk about their days.

Enthusiasm is a wonderful gift for all of life, and marriage is an ideal “factory” out of which it can be liberally produced.

Choose enthusiasm.

In what ways have you learned to show enthusiasm in your marriage?

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7 responses to Choosing Enthusiasm

  1. Gary,
    Great post! Thank you for saying in such a way that will be easy to apply.
    We’re sending out to our marriage community group and it will serve them well.

  2. I’m convicted by this post. I’m the “Wendy’s three days in a row” gal when it comes to encounters with my husband, but you’ve encouraged me to try to drum up some inner enthusiasm. Actually, praying for it would be more effective than trying to drum it up myself, since there’s no doubt that I’d be praying within the will of God! Thanks for this reminder, Gary. I often nonchalantly pass by articles about marriage, since my marriage is doing well and isn’t in crisis mode. But I need to remember that every time I pause to read one of your blog posts, I’m edified and glad that I took the few minutes to read and reflect.

  3. I had the delightful opportunity to join my husband at his favorite childhood fantasy-metal band concert when they came into town recently–he had loved them for almost 20 years, and even though he had other friends who might be more “into” it, he was delighted to take me. (I am no metal-head, and what a culture shock, haha! But SUCH a fun day together!) I later asked him, “Given the chance to take me or your childhood best friend (who also LOVES the band, but lives far away), who would you choose?” “You, of course,” he said without hesitation, “because you’re my best friend!” My heart melted. 🙂 The tables turned when it came time to see Star Wars, and I was hoping to find a better audience to take than him because he’s not that into it. (This is some serious fandom, haha.) That hurt his feelings! He had been more than joyous to welcome me into the fold, letting me wear his band sweater and ring and teaching me how to head-bang. 🙂 So I’d say, show interest, and don’t be afraid to share your interests, too! 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for posting on this topic. I was very grateful that I read the following in my email.


    Since you didn’t marry a clone, you’ll sometimes find yourself living with a spouse who is excited about something that really has very little interest for you. How you engage with that something, and the level of enthusiasm you show (or don’t show), will have a huge impact on the overall quality of your marriage.”

    Shortly after, my husband began sharing his knowledge and appreciation in various basketball players determination. Normally, I would show little interest but God gave me the grace to seek not my own interest but also the interest of my husband. However, it was a struggle to REALLY pay attention with a smile on my face. I could tell that he enjoyed my interest because he continued to share with a glow in his eyes 15 minutes after I pulled into the drive way.

    I thank God for allowing you to point out the pride I did not know I had, by not enthusiastically seeking others interest. I know this will also help me be more relatable to my children and with any person God brings across my path.

    If God willing keep posting ?

  5. “Choosing enthusiasm creates humility, generosity, kindness, and the spirit of service. Those are good things, right?”
    Absolutely!!! Characteristics I am striving for…and what better place to practice than in the home?!?!?! Great post, thank you!

  6. Thanks Gary….this was helpful. I am going to try to be more enthused!

  7. I love this one! Thank you.