I remember sitting with my grandparents in the kitchen during one of our family trips to their home in Monterey. With a twinkle in her eyes, my grandma told me about the time she put water in grandpa’s shoes that were stored in the garage, and how funny it was when he put them on and got his feet wet. They both shared a chuckle at the memory. The two of them were always playing little pranks on each other, and you could feel their joyful delight in them!
Sometimes when Christian and I take a walk, he will take my hand and invite me to skip with him down the street. Christian will often put the pillows upside down on the couch just to get a fun rise out of me. And I will take the placemat he is using out from under him when doing laundry to provoke a chuckle.
We will drive each other to laughing fits by something funny we say to each other, or by sharing a comedy YouTube or joke with each other. We will sometimes chase each other around the house, exaggerate something silly or laugh out loud at a quirky aspect of ourselves (“Me, particular about my pillows? Don’t know what you mean.” 🙂
I am not a fan of violent movies, but I will join Christian and watch a 007 or Fast and Furious movie from time to time (“OMG!? Not another freaking chase scene that ends in explosions!”). And he doesn’t particularly like musicals (“What’s with all the singing? Can they just get back to the action?”), but he has accompanied me to several shows involving singing and dancing over the years.
We consider it a good day when we laugh out loud together, when we engage in a shared activity we both enjoy.
Why Play And Fun Matter In Your Relationship
Did you know that couples who play and laugh together have fewer fights, more sex and longer lasting relationships? It’s true. Several researchers have concluded that playing together increases bonding, communication, conflict resolution, and relationship satisfaction (Baxter, 1992; Betcher, 1977; Kopecky, 1996; Vanderbleek, 2005). The authors of the book Fighting for Your Marriage, discovered in their research that “… the amount of fun [couples] had together emerged as the strongest factor in producing their overall marital happiness.
Play, fun and laughter matter in a marriage or relationship. The enjoyable times we share in our relationships are the sustaining lifeblood of a successful union. Laughter helps us get through the hard times, play reduces tension and stress, and fun shared activities feed our connection to one another. When we play together, we associate feeling good with being in a relationship and that keeps our love alive and fresh.
Playing uplifts our mood. Playing shifts our stories. Playing opens us to new possibilities. We are less afraid, and we take more risks when we play. We are more engaged, more present, more fulfilled, more creative, and more connected when we play. Playing helps us to let go and relax and enjoy the moment.
Unfortunately, in a culture that values work over play, logistics and chores move to the top of our lists, and playtime and fun move to the bottom. We can’t tell you how many couples we coach who work late into the night and on weekends deal with jobs, children, groceries, dishes, house cleaning, yard work, you name it. They fall into bed exhausted and spend what little precious time they have together fighting or zoning out with their phones.
What if you moved play to the top of your list (or at least ONTO the list)? What if it was just as important to have fun as it was to fill up the refrigerator with groceries? What if a regular date night was as important as mowing the lawn or folding the laundry?
Signs of Not Enough Play
Fighting and quiet disconnection are often a sign that there is not enough play and laughter in a relationship. Instead of spending less time together, which couples are inclined to do when they are not getting along, what if they spent more time together? Planned a fun trip together? Made a date to go play mini-golf or go see a comedy show? What if they went to an amusement park and rode roller coasters or took a bike ride around town? What if they booked a hotel near the ocean and played frisbee on the beach? Many couples report reconnecting with one another when given the space and time to play and enjoy an activity together.
We would all benefit from prioritizing play and laughter in our lives and relationships. Not only that, but we would benefit from rethinking our notions of play and work entirely!
You may have noticed that we often make a distinction between work and play. We think of work as serious, as drudgery, as something we have to get through or something we should do. At work, we might find ourselves going through the motions – half engaged, minimally present and under-expressed as we do what must be done. Play is what we do later, after we get done – IF we get done – with work and the things on our to-do list. Play is separate from work.
For many of us, when we think about improving our relationship and making changes in our love life, it seems like work. Hard work. Something we don’t look forward to. Talking about problems shows up like a negative endeavor with no real reward at the end.
Bring Playfulness Everywhere
What if we could bring an attitude of playfulness to everything we do – to our work, our chores? To our relationships? To the process of improving our relationships? Just like children play all day every day, what if we played while driving the car, played while cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry or making the bed? What if we played at interacting, flirting, and making love instead of having everything be so serious? What if we had fun discovering each other in conversation? What if we had fun creatively coming up with solutions to our disagreements and problems?
To the grumpy skeptics reading, we’re not talking about quitting your job and being on permanent vacation. Most of us need to work and keep up with our responsibilities. We’re simply suggesting it shouldn’t be at the expense of fun and play. We can prioritize work AND play.
When we begin to consider prioritizing play and fun and bringing a mood of playfulness to the things we do, many possibilities emerge.
One client we worked with took on the practice of playfully initiating intimacy and sex with her husband. She said, “I feel sexy. I am shimmying while folding laundry, knowing I am cleaning off the bed for later.”
Another couple decided to “fuck out their problems”. They started having much more fun being fully expressed, wild and playful in their sex, and are appreciating feeling less stressed and disconnected in their relationship as a result.
A man we worked with shared how much more fun he is having with his fiancé since he has taken more time to spontaneously express himself.
What if you could bring more play and fun into your relationship world? How might that nourish you and breathe new life into your connection?
Play matters. You can learn to bring play to your work, to your chores, to your activities, and to your relationships. You can learn to prioritize fun. It just requires a shift in focus, a remembering of what is important. And some planning.
If you would like ideas on how to spice up your relationship with more play and fun, join us on our Play, Love and Happiness mini-workshop. It’s a fun, easy way to inject some joy into your relationship and learn invaluable tools to serve your connection.