May 012013 7 Responses

Playfulness: One Sign of a Healthy Marriage

One characteristic of a healthy marriage is playfulness.

My wife and I recently had a date at the local courthouse. She was in a minor car accident and was subpoenaed to testify against the other driver who received a ticket. We were mandated to be at the courthouse by 1:00 even though traffic court doesn’t take place until 4:00. For three hours we watched as drug users and petty thieves pleaded their cases. Sadly it was one of the best dates we’ve had in years. Without any expectations, no phones, and no children, she and I were able to spend time together.

It felt as though we were high school sweethearts sitting in class trying not to get in trouble by the teacher. (At least I assume that’s what it would have felt like if she would have dated in me high school, but that’s a post for another time). (See: On George Strait, a First Kiss, and Seminary Women)

As we sat in court and I giggled as she “shushed,” I was reminded of the importance of playfulness in marriage.

Few things breed intimacy and few things reveal intimacy as much as playfulness.

Picture a small toddler and her mother playing peekaboo. They are building a bond, but the playfulness also reveals a bond. What characterizes their relationship:

  • Love
  • Trust
  • Fun
  • Contentment with one another

What wonderfully describes a toddler and her mom can also describe the beginning of many relationships. Think back to your relationship when it was getting serious. How much playfulness was present? Studies have long shown that women are more attracted to men who have a sense of humor and men are more likely to approach a woman who smiles at them. What was true in dating, remains true in marriage.

Yet playfulness is hard to maintain in a marriage.

What erodes playfulness in a relationship?

Distrust. Nothing destroys play as much as distrust. The centerpiece of playfulness is opening oneself up to another for interaction. If we do not trust one another, we can not be truly playful with one another. The importance of trust is one reason that playfulness is more of a presenting characteristic than the actual issue at play. The absence of playfulness is a symptom of a much deeper disease.

Weariness. Playfulness has the appearance of uselessness. While it is vital to the relationship, engaging in it can feel like a waste of time. If we are tired we will not feel the freedom to be playful. We also will not have the energy and creativity necessary. Most couples I see remain playful in their marriage until they have their first child. When the weariness of pregnancy sets in, many lose their playfulness and are never able to regain it.

A marital rut. The relationship between playfulness and creativity is such that being in a rut can hinder both. As we repeat the daily routines over and over, we lose our sense of wonder, excitement, and joy. One of the first things to be lost is a happy playfulness between spouses. (See: When Your Marriage Feels Stuck)

While distrust, weariness and a marital rut can erode playfulness, we can also rediscover it. We can rebuild the habit into our relationships.

How to rebuild playfulness into a relationship:

Restore trust. This takes the most time, but true playfulness can’t exist without it. A relationship is destined to die if it goes too long without trust. Thankfully, it can be rebuilt. By consistently being truthful, true to your word, and loving, trust can be restored. Many times couples expect it to be rebuilt much faster than is realistic. I often tell people, you can’t walk the wrong way for 10 years, turn around, and expect to be in the right place after walking 10 minutes. Trust can be built back faster than it was destroyed, but it takes longer than we like.

Rest. If trust is present, rebuilding playfulness becomes easy. Often the simplest task is to rest. As difficult as it is, find ways to give the best of your day to a spouse. It clearly can’t happen every day because of work, children, and the demands of life, but if our spouses always get time with us at the end of the day when we are the most tired, it will be difficult to enjoy each other’s company. On occasion, give your spouse your best. When you are most awake, most refreshed, most alive, give that time to the one you love the most.

Shared experiences. Playfulness is often built off of shared experiences. Inside jokes, stories only the two of you know, being able to link a current situation to a past experience can be vital to being playful. By having shared hobbies, learning something new together, or making sure you spend regular time together, we can build opportunities for fun to be experienced. (See: One Habit that Starves Your Marriage)

A change in scenery. If a marital rut can erode playfulness, a change of scenery can quickly inject it back into a relationship. Even a crowded courtroom with shop-lifters can be enough of a change of pace to allow playfulness to come forward. If a sense of play is missing in your relationship, when was the last time you took an extended trip with just your spouse? Sleep in, explore a new place, and watch how your conversation is different by being in a different place with different expectations and none of the demands of home.

If playfulness is a sign of a healthy marriage, how is your marriage? What can you do to restore a playful spirit to your marriage?

7 Responses to Playfulness: One Sign of a Healthy Marriage
  1. RobertM Reply

    Playfulness is one of the most components parts of a marriage. It should be paramont in marriage counseling.

  2. […] if she can’t cook, drive or add, don’t air her faults in public. While playfulness is a ... kevinathompson.com/making-fun-wife
  3. […] Playfulness. If a couple can’t have fun WITH each other (not at the expense of each other) wha... kevinathompson.com/how-i-predict-divorce-based-on-the-wedding-cake
  4. judy75 Reply

    I am almost always rejected when I try to be playful with my husband. It is very painful.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Judy75, I can’t imagine the pain. I would highly recommend seeing something about it–either with your husband or without him.

  5. […] If a couple can’t have fun WITH each other (not at the expense of each other), what’s the point ... pastorwells.com/how-to-predict-divorce-hint-it-involves-the-wedding-cake
  6. […] company. They laugh, joke, seek out fun, and try to make difficult things more enjoyable. As playful... kevinathompson.com/7-red-flags-dying-intimacy

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