Have you ever heard the saying, “Couples who play together, stay together”?
A quick Google search into this saying yields some interesting hits, for example a study from 2012 where couples had to engage in either arousing or boring activities. Not surprisingly, the couples who engaged in arousing and novel activities reported feeling happier in their relationship than the other couples.
In our experience working with couples and singles for many years, there is definitely (and perhaps obviously) truth to this saying. We’ve found that people who play are healthier and more fulfilled in life in general. Couples that play and laugh together have fewer fights. Couples who play and have fun are often more relaxed and creative in bed! Singles that play are happier, more fulfilled and more likely to create connections with others.
Play is a way to connect beyond words. Play, fun and laughter is a common language we all share.
Play and fun is first to go
On the flipside, play and “chill time” is the first thing to go out the window when we get stressed. Can you relate to that? We talk to a lot of couples and individuals who during the elevated stress and challenges of Covid times simply forget about playing and relaxing. And it takes a toll.
As an example, I’ve been coaching two different couples recently. Both couples have similar circumstances. Both couples consist of two full-time working-from-home adults, and both couples have two young children who needs full-time care and both families are stuck inside their houses due to Covid and West Coast wild fires. It’s a challenging time for all of them, to say the least.
One of these couples is doing pretty great. Despite the elevated stress and huge demands on their time, they work together as a team and make sure to stay in communication and stay in love. The other couple is spiraling downwards in anger, stress, arguing and lack of alignment. They’re barely keeping it together.
There are of course a lot of factors impacting this situation, too many to cover here. But one of the crucial elements of the first couple’s success is that they still find time to play and relax, while the other couple doesn’t manage to find the time or space to play. Which means they never get a break from the stress and disconnection, which in turn wears them down.
For that reason alone, it’s even more essential to find times and ways to play when you’re stressed.
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The tricky part is that during times of high stress, the last thing you think about is playing and having fun! So that’s when you really need to. Which is why we’re highlighting this topic in the first place.
Playing counteracts stress
There are a lot of aspects of play and fun that work to effectively counteract the effects of stress and disconnection. When you play, you get present in your body, you feel focused, you forget about worries, you allow yourself to be silly and let go of control a bit. When you play together, you get a shared mood boost that lingers for some time. You access different aspects of your personality. When you really let yourself play, you release a ton of built-up stress and tension. You get to put a grin on your face.
So how do you play?
For some, it’s easy and natural to play and have fun and you don’t need any direction for how to do it. But for others, playing and having fun don’t come natural at all. Plus, as a couple, you might have very different styles and preferences when it comes to play.
Just last week, we talked to a couple where the husband said he loves structured play with specific rules, such as card games or volleyball. His wife, on the other side, said the exact opposite. For her, play means no rules and free-flowing movement, like comedy improv.
No matter who you are, as an individual or as a couple, you should be able to find something to do to play and have fun in the list below, compiled with help from our students.
In the last few weeks of Covid and smoke induced "cooped-up-ness", Sonika and I have liked learning line dancing, hauling our cornhole boards into our house (and almost wrecking the wall of family pictures), and putting on very loud music and dancing wildly.
Watch the Youtube video of this post with Sonika & Christian.
How about you? What’s your fun?
The Fun List
With no further ado, here’s a long list of ideas for play, fun, chill and relax time, in no particular order, compiled with help from our students:
Plan a day of adventure or a fun evening out.
Tickle each other.
Chase each other through the house.
Skip down the road.
Interrupt patterns. Step out of your comfort zone.
Have a picnic on the floor of your living room.
Skinny dip in a lake.
Have sex in another room in the house!
Eat desert first
Role play each other
Exaggerate habits and feelings
Make up new words to songs
Dry yourself backwards
Eat dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner
Play badminton indoors
Have fun with quirks and habits.
Make a mess if you are a clean freak.
Turn Pillows upside down.
Turn off every light in the house.
Smart couples know how to enjoy their partner having fun!
Give your partner what makes them happy. (For example Christian joins me for musicals sometimes, even though it’s not his favorite thing).
Do something you have never done before.
Dancing (We’re learning line dancing)
Board and Card Games (Heads up, Taboo, Pictionary, etc.)
Badminton, volleyball, pickle ball
Corn hole, horseshoes
Bike rides in new places
Car rides to new places
Online classes, comedy shows, dance lessons, Biodanza, theatre.
Read fun books and watch fun movies.
Watch America’s Funniest Home Videos
Have fun with other people!
Host family dinners
Plan a girl’s or guy’s only night out
It’s important to not expect our partner to be our only fueling station. Not fair or realistic to expect all the fun will come from one person. We are multi-faceted beings, and that means we need to have multiple outlets for fun. Keeps things fresh!
Make your own ice cream
Run through a sprinkler
Have a watermelon seed spitting contest
Camp out in the backyard
Make s’mores https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/desserts/best-way-to-make-smores
Have a water balloon fight
Nap in a hammock
Sip a rosé (or frosé https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/frose)
Eat popsicles and ice cream cones
Have a barbecue
Try your hand at face painting
Seek out a drive-in movie (or make your own https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/decorating/outdoor-living/backyard-movie-theater)
Have a backyard or indoor scavenger hunt
Look for fireflies
Grow a little garden
Create a sidewalk chalk art gallery
Finish the perfect summer read https://www.realsimple.com/work-life/entertainment/summer-reading
Go for a socially distanced hike
Picnic in your backyard—or your living room
Visit an outdoor farmer’s market
Have fun at a virtual summer camp https://www.realsimple.com/work-life/family/kids-parenting/virtual-summer-camps
Make massive ice cream sundaes
Master something new—a new dance step, a new hobby, or a new cooking technique
Do fun science experiments https://www.realsimple.com/work-life/family/kids-parenting/science-experiments-for-kids (the baking soda and vinegar volcano is a classic)
Create a virtual book club
Watch the sun set
Make homemade lemonade
Kayak, canoe, or paddleboard
Give yourself a fun pedicure (rainbow toes, anyone?)
Have a campfire in your backyard
Make a pillow fort
Splash in rain puddles
Go for a scenic drive
Make your own pesto https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/how-to-make-pesto
Go to the beach—six feet away from other beachgoers
Run a virtual 5K
Bake a fresh blueberry or cherry pie
Climb a tree
Drink a fruity cocktail with an umbrella in it
Eat vegetables and fruit right out of the garden
Look for a rainbow during a downpour (if you can find a downpour:-)
LoveWorks: We believe relationships are meant to be an empowering, fun, passionate, safe place to grow, love, and learn. Where we get to be more of who we are, not less. We know it’s not always easy, but it can definitely be easier! With our unique and practical approach to relationship, you learn how to resolve conflicts quickly and enjoy fulfilling intimacy for the rest of your life. To learn more or contact us, visit www.loveworkssolution.com.