Here’s another great article from Melody Brooke. She’ been a featured author on Ask Dan & Jennifer for quite some time now and we feel really fortunate to be able to share her thoughts and insights with you.
Today’s article however, had a tremendous impact on me personally – probably because it hit a little too close to home… We all get so busy doing the things that we think we ‘have’ to do that we forget to take the time to do the things that we ‘want’ to do and those things that brings us joy.
Not taking the time to have fun together can really cause a strain on your relationship.
Read this article to learn some really great ways to connect or re-connect with your partner.
But Seriously, Play with Me!
by Melody Brooke, MA, LPC, LMFT
When we date someone we are intent on finding time to enjoy being together. Discovering similar interests means doing things together that you both enjoy. The result is that we end up doing a lot of fun, playful things together when we are dating. Bonding during play is an important aspect of building intimacy with someone. We open our hearts up to those we feel safe with, and we play with those we feel safe with, too. When you think about the time you spent together when you were dating, weren’t you constantly on the look out for playful things to do together?
It’s funny but we will even do things that are outside of our own comfort zone when we are dating. We will attempt things we have never tried before and we will do things that we don’t even particularly like, simply because the other person finds it fun.
Before we were married my husband invited me on a ski trip. I was 43 and had never skied before. I hate the cold, my Reynauds caused my hands to go numb in the cold, but of course I went. He taught me to ski (turns out I have a knack for it) and I now love to ski. But I might not have ever tried it if it weren’t for wanting to spend time playing with my prospective partner.
Yet once we settle into our daily lives with our partner, we tend to forget or even avoid doing those fun things together. Why is that? I think there are many reasons for it, but the top reason is that we start taking life too seriously. We have kids to care for, bills to pay, pools to care for, lawns to feed, work to do… all of which fill up our time and our thoughts, requiring all of our energy and resources. Taking time to play with our partner becomes a chore on our to-do list.
Play, of course, can take many forms and is highly individual. That can make it complicated for couples. He likes to golf, she likes to garden. She likes to shop, he likes to tinker with his car. When the divergent ways we like to have fun keep us apart, intimacy can be interrupted. Play is an intimacy building activity. We play with those we are closest to, so if we stop playing with them we stop feeling close.
Play also builds creative connections and opens new pathways in our brains. Studies show that kids who don’t get enough play time lack ingenuity and struggle to get along with their peers. Creative play teaches us how to interact with others in ways that stretch our abilities. This is true for adults as well as children. I am not sure why the idea that playing is just for kids became so popular. Companies like Google build play into their workday and supply gaming activities in specific areas.
When I met my husband my favorite thing to do was to go out and sing at Karaoke clubs. He happily went with me when we were dating, and even into the first year or so of our marriage. But the truth is that it was boring for him so eventually he quit going. So now we go out dancing to bands that we both like.
Finding something that unites you, that you both like is of course the optimal choice. But what if you are really so different that you can’t find things you both like? That’s when we are forced to compromise. We stretch to do those activities that are not our favorite, simply because our partner loves them.
I am not a big fan of shoot’em up action movies, nor farces. My husband is not a big fan of lightweight girlie movies. So we go to both. I get him to go to Karaoke with me every now and again, and I go along to the air shows with him. I like seeing him smile. He likes seeing me smile.
Last year I discovered something called InterPlay. It’s a form of creative play that uses storytelling, movement and sound to stretch our creative genius. For me, being a counselor who dealt with a lot of heavy, intense issues on a daily basis it was a really important release. My husband doesn’t get it, but that’s okay. I get him to come now and again, and do some of the forms with him at home. But many couples do InterPlay together and find it a wonderful source of play, connection and discovery. They tell me they find out things about each other through InterPlay that they might never have found out any other way.
Play can be something simple like playing a game of cards together, or a board game. It may be even finding a Wii that you both like to do together or Guitar Hero. Whatever it is that you do together, the important thing is that you understand the serious importance of playing together. Playing together builds bonds, deepens connection and creates an atmosphere of joy in your relationship. You can’t put a price on that or take it too seriously.