by Dan Miggin
Do you remember how your marriage first started? Chances are, if you are like most couples your love for each other grew because of the fun you had together. You enjoyed being together so much, that you decided to make it permanent by getting married. Remember the things you did together that were so much fun…and not just in the romantic arena? Are you still doing those things? If you are not, why did you stop? If the things that brought you together made you feel close and comfortable with each other, wouldn’t it make sense that they would still do so, even after years of marriage?
As a marriage counselor, I have seen hundreds of couples who are experiencing marital troubles. I have found that in many cases, they have long since stopped doing the kinds of activities that brought them closer to each other. In contrast, “happily married couples” do some specific types of things to keep their marriages vibrant and meaningful for both partners.
I often compare relationships to a bank account, where each partner can make deposits (positive contributions to the health of the marriage) or make withdrawals (difficulties between each other). When the bank account is robust, then the couple feels better with each other and is more secure. They don’t sweat the small stuff, because there is plenty in the account to satisfy the needed withdrawals that inevitably come to any relationship. On the other hand, when the account is neglected and has become low (or even overdrawn), then the least little stressor on the marriage (like a “bill” coming due) seems like a huge burden and creates great stress. Over time, if neglected, this account can become so “in debt” that the only option seems to be declaring bankruptcy (or divorce).
Using that comparison, I propose that successful couples are those that are constantly and actively making many small deposits into the relationship. One of the best ways to do this is to play together. Couples that play together enjoy being with each other, and having fun together. You can recapture the fun of your dating days by rediscovering or finding new activities that you and your spouse can enjoy together.
Couples often make excuses for why they are not making time to enjoy together, whether it’s the kids, too much work, other obligations or that they don’t have enough money to play together. I don’t accept these excuses, and remind them of how play can happen with just a little time and no money at all. As long as they want to make that a priority in their marriage, there is a way.
Play can not only benefit your marriage, but also has personal health benefits for you. There is a good internet article* that sums up some of these benefits. “Playing together for the fun of it brings joy, vitality and resilience to relationships. Play can also heal resentments, disagreements and pain. Through regular play, we learn to trust one another and feel safe. Trust enables us to work together, open ourselves to intimacy, and try new things.”
So, if you feel that your marriage could benefit from a healthy dose of play, consider doing more of something you have already enjoyed together. Invite your spouse to try something you enjoy, or try something new for both of you that you think you might enjoy.
Here are some quick and cheap ideas to help you get started:
Exercising together (even if you go to the gym together and each work out at your own pace), relaxing together (time in front of the TV, movie or other screens is not as effective as a walk together, yoga, or sitting in the shade drinking lemonade), take an art class together, go camping or for a short hike, join a bowling league, ride bicycles together, take a dance class together or go line dancing (or dance at home), racquet sports such as tennis or racquetball visit art galleries or museums, go to a comedy club, go to car shows, visit a flea market for unusual finds and many, many more.
It’s been said that “Happiness is being married to your best friend”, and I believe that can be true. Marriage is supposed to be fun! If you’ve fallen into a rut or lost the playfulness in your marriage, then it’s time to try something new and rekindle those feelings that brought you together in the first place.