Boring, drab, lifeless, stale, dull, tedious. These are probably not the words you hope to use to describe your relationships. How about well-planned, frugal, precise, productive, serious, busy? Though these can be characteristics of a strong, healthy relationship, they are not likely those things that make a relationship seem appealing. What made your relationship so attractive in the beginning? What is it about your partner that made you want to be with him or her?
In the beginning, no matter what the “spark” in your relationship was, it was so enjoyable you that both wanted to continue being together. Have your blissful days of being in love continued? Unfortunately strong, healthy, long-lasting marriages don’t just happen. We have to be intentional about our marriages, and research tells us that playing together helps us connect and feel more positive toward each other. Keeping the spark alive can be the most enjoyable work you and your partner will ever do. Make time to play and have fun; it is good for you and your relationship.
Consider the following barriers that stop couples from playing together and also ideas on how to combat them, based on ideas from “The Power of Play in Relationships Manual” and “Your Time Starved Marriage.”
Lack of energy and/or unhealthy living habits
Make a plan to eat right and participate in physical activities. Help each other stick to the plan.
“Some day” syndrome
Schedule it and leave reminders for yourself.
Fear of looking silly
Let your partner know your fears, and trust him or her to help you overcome them. Do fun things together that you feel comfortable with.
Differing ideas of fun
Find out why your partner enjoys his or her hobbies so much by asking questions and trying them yourself. Be open minded. Compromise.
Laugh at yourself. Just try playing and see what happens.
Remind yourself of how you used to feel toward each other by doing things you used to enjoy together, looking at old photos, or talking about feelings.
Loss of hope in the relationship
Remind yourself of happier times by displaying happy photos, reminiscing, looking at memorabilia, etc.
Being too competitive
Play a new game. Don’t keep score. Work together to complete a task.
Lack of money
Find fun things to do together that are free, or save for a special occasion.
Talk together about what you feel is important to make an enjoyable relationship.
Viewing it as a waste of time
Consider play as a way to strengthen your relationship, because it is!
Having no role model
Talk to or read about other couples who have had successful relationships. Watch children play; they are the experts.
Feeling it is unnecessary
Just try it and see how much more enjoyable your relationship can be.
Now that you have considered some of the barriers to play in your relationship, take action and make a plan to do something fun.
For additional ideas, see the fact sheet.
Naomi Brower is a Utah State University Extension professor.