In most families mom and dad are both working. Financial stressors, and keeping up with busy kids; there isn’t time enough for anything including each other. The first thing to get deleted off our calendars is usually playtime together as a couple. Playtime is thought of as wasteful, and we have our hands full making sure our kids get a little time outdoors. If you ask yourself when the last time was that you played with your partner, you may smile and remember back to pre-marriage days. That smile in your memory may be long gone from the present day-to-day routine you have established. If you feel as though you haven’t played or enjoyed an activity with your partner in a long time, you could be missing one of the most important keys to making a marriage fun and long lasting. In fact, men are more affected by the loss of play than women are, partly because guys want a wife they can do things with and call their best friend.
The University of Denver has researched the area of couples playing together, and the findings support the need for couples to have fun together. When couples enjoy activities or leisure time together they also note their stress levels decreasing emotionally as well as achieving a physical release of built up tension. Laughing is so important, as is feeling connected with one another. Play enhances both of these important aspects of health. The only part of couple play that is important is to have fun and enjoy one another’s friendship and companionship. Howard Markman Ph.D., who hosts retreats with couples, distinguishes between leisure time and couples’ playtime, noting that couples who watch TV or use the Internet together do not build the same positive connections as couples who have fun engaged in an activity together. This may be because that for guys, intimacy and friendship becomes more likely if the couple is physically active or engaged with something such as a game of golf or fishing, whereas for women, intimacy and friendship are more important. Those needs are met by talking. The key is playing or having fun together and being able to talk during the activity.
Couples will often tell me they don’t have time to play. This makes sense, because according to relationship experts, the average couple with kids spends only one hour a week alone together. Compare this to married couples who engage in affairs. All of a sudden these men and women who only had one hour for their partner now have ten to fifteen hours a week to spend with their new boyfriend or girlfriend. Where did this extra time come from? It came from them making time for this other person. Prioritizing your couple time to enjoy being and playing with your spouse must be a priority in your relationship. Time alone for the couple enhances all other areas including communication, intimacy, and sex and handling financial responsibilities. Most importantly, play/leisure time makes you want to stay married to your partner.
The quickest way to begin adding time and prioritizing your leisure playtime is to agree upon a time each week that both of you can share. This is the only part that must be planned because with kids involved, babysitters need to be organized. Once you have a date set aside each week, both partners can work on prioritizing that time within their own schedule. Below are a few suggestions that may help you further:
1. Playtime does not have to cost money. In fact, a walk to a favorite destination or park may be considered playtime, and it doesn’t cost anything.
2. When you commit to the time, don’t begrudge your spouse for this “unnecessary time.” You cannot keep a relationship vital if you don’t spend time together, and being there means being actively engaged, not just showing up.
3. Take turns deciding what the activity will be. Hitting tennis balls or golf balls are both great activities, but only if you both enjoy this activity.
4. Time spent laughing and talking is all part of the playtime experience. Yoga is a great activity for playtime, but yoga is all about breathing, so save time after yoga to get together and laugh at your inflexible body.
5. Cooking and trying new recipes are favorites for many couples. Playtime is fun time, but make sure you share the not so fun times too, such as doing dishes. No one single person should be responsible for cleaning up after playtime.
Many of the couples I counsel report that they have seen a significant improvement in their marriage when they take fifteen minutes each day to have one-on-one conversation without interference. This can be multiplied by 100 if couples will take time out each day and certainly each week to spend time together engaged in an activity they like. The research has suggested that it is more likely that rather than the couple growing apart, they stopped valuing their playtime together. After all, the only way a relationship continues to grow is when partners spend time together and enjoy being together. You cannot do that if you don’t play and have fun together. –Mary Jo Rapini
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