When is the last time you played with your partner? Nine months into a global pandemic, you might not feel very playful, especially if you and your loved ones have experienced hardship or loss. But that is exactly why we need play more than ever in our relationships! We need to counterbalance some of the disconnection, stress, and anxiety caused by covid-19.
Society tends to dismiss adult play as unproductive and trivial, but play can bring us joy and a sense of security. Studies have shown that play relieves stress, improves brain function, and keeps us young and energetic. Couples who are more playful in their relationships tend to experience more positive emotions, be more satisfied with their union, and feel closer to each other. They report that they communicate better, resolve conflicts better, and see their relationships in a more positive light.
I can be fun-challenged
I’m very interested in play because I’m so bad at it. As a conscientious, often serious, possibly boring first-born, I can definitely be fun-challenged. Yet I know from my work as a couples’ counselor how restorative play can be. It feels good to laugh! When we allow ourselves to be silly with each other, to let our guards down, to engage in playful communication and behaviors, we feel more connected.
Play is essential
So the next time you and your partner engage in a hot contest of Scrabble or a sexy game of truth-or-dare, remember that you’re not just having fun — you’re deepening trust and intimacy, essential ingredients in stable, fulfilling relationships. Or as relationship therapist R. Betcher puts it, in more academic terms: “Playing is a reconnoitering of the unknown borders of two psyches, whose contours can become reassuringly familiar only through the experience of mutual vulnerability and nonjudgmental responsiveness.”
What will you play?
During this holiday season when many of us will be staying indoors, I plan to hone my Pictionary skills, practice some funny new dance moves, and learn how to beat my husband at Settlers of Catan (no, I’ve never played it)!
What will you play?
Here are a few suggestions to bring more play into your relationship, inside and outside of the bedroom:
- Reflect on your childhood: what did you love to play? Bring back a memory of yourself as a child, engrossed in some kind of creative play. Remember what it felt like. Share those memories with your partner.
- Find a way to make your partner laugh unexpectedly this week.
- Plan one playful activity (make it silly, goofy, and fun) for the next week.
- Invest in a new game to play together. Do you prefer romantic, competitive, social or cooperative games? Check out this great resource.
- Increase the playfulness in your intimate connection. Experiment with some of the sex games here.
- Watch this silly video or this crazy one together. Enjoy!