It seems that in the past 2 years, several experiences have put me off track, and somehow I forgot how to have fun. It’s a loss that affects me every day, and needless to say it’s also affecting my marriage. In the course of investigating and working through the painful issues that are contributing to my lack of fun of late, I brainstormed a list of things I used to do for fun. It looks something like this:
What did I learn from this exercise? So many things. First, a lot of what I love involves being in communication with or in the presence of other people, typically friends but often just people interested in the same things that interest me.
Second, that my senses offer me a great source of fun: seeing beauty, hearing beauty, being in the presence of beauty—all of those things make me truly happy.
Third, I need and enjoy alone time, such as when I am reading and learning and interacting with music via dancing, etc. But too much alone time makes me feel disconnected and very, very unhappy.
Fourth, Italy and the Italian language have been a huge source of fun, happiness, and community for me the last 15 years.
And finally, the greatest learning of all: I have had very little of the above sources of fun since I got married and moved overseas. And now comes the difficult part: Figuring out how to work back in most, if not all, of these sources of fun, happiness, and aliveness without excluding my spouse and my marriage, and without leaving the EU.
When J and I first thought about what our marriage would look like, it contained a lot of fun-sounding things—even being in Italy a LOT together. We share the love for outdoor activity, for eating (which I am currently having difficulties with, actually, due to a long-term commitment to healing my gut from antibiotic use and stress and sugar addiction), good movies/stories, and planning adventures.
Indeed, we planned to embark on 2 years of solid adventure and travel throughout Italy and beyond before the German government wrote to tell me that we had to scrap our plans (only after J had quit his job and we had moved out of his apartment in preparation for us leaving) and head back to Germany, homeless and jobless, so that I could enroll in 9 to 12 months of German classes within 3 months of getting that letter.
That was one of the biggest factors affecting our ability to offer me the specific kinds of fun that I need in my life. Another is that, although we do share the travel/adventure/outdoor activity bugs, about 75% of the rest of J’s list of “fun” activities are very different from my list. He can be alone all the time and not ever care or feel lonely. He does not need other people for fun and sharing/relating. He also doesn’t care if he ever does yoga, if he learns Italian, or if he gets to spend any time in Italy. And no, don’t ever ask this lanky German boy (of totally repressed parentage) to dance to House music.
Finally—and this one shocked and saddened me to learn--is that since we got married, I turned into Ms. Responsible. Somewhere in my youth, I learned that adults (married adults? “real” adults? I’m not sure yet) don’t have fun. They get serious and they work really hard to be responsible and to make security-through-money their primary goal. Earning it, saving it, worrying about it.
When J left his job so we could go travel and volunteer for a couple years, and then we were told, “Nope, get your asses back to Germany right now,” we had no idea how to do it without his having a job. So I acted in the way I thought I should: I just worked extra hard to take care of both of us (hence the stress and sugar addiction that strongly contributed to destroying my gut). Ms. Responsible became my role, and Fun Adventure Woman was nowhere to be found. Now that J has a job again, he’s committed to making it work, which means he’s staying in Germany to do just that. No 2 years of adventure travel for us; none of the type of “fun” we had planned 2 years ago when we got married.
So where do we go from here? It’s a complicated question to answer, and we’re working on it every day. We seem to be getting closer to a satisfying agreement that involves me spending more time in Italy, speaking Italian, communing with friends, traveling alone, meeting new people, learning new things, and being immersed in beauty, with as many opportunities to dance and hear music as I can find. The fact that J will be alone, at home, with whole days and weeks to himself to run 100-mile trail races, read good stories, cook vegan meals (most of which I can no longer eat), listen to music that I don’t consider music, and build up his business, is actually quite OK him. And if this agreement makes me happier and able to be the fun person he married—and the woman I miss so much--again, then it will be totally worth it for us both.
Keep your fingers crossed. And tell me, am I the only adult with “fun” needs? Has anyone else dealt with this kind of “crisis of the missing fun” before?
I think this external post should still be live. It’s an interview I did that explains so much of what made me fall in love with Italy. How could I ever willingly give this up?
Sara Hauber, MA
Coach, listener, observer, writer, and erstwhile teacher; constantly curious
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