Last week's Wild Wednesday column was about the importance of play in a relationship. If you're single, play can help you develop the solid intimate friendships that can lead to a relationship. If you're in a relationship or are currently married, play can deepen the bond between you.
This week's post is about how to incorporate "play" into a relationship.
Kinds of Play
The National Institute for Play describes seven different types of play:
- Attunement — Play that establishes connection with another person.
- Body — Physical play.
- Object — Playing with toys or other objects.
- Social — Playing with groups of people or teams.
- Imaginative — Role playing, pretend, fantasy.
- Narrative — Storytelling.
- Transformative— Playing to learn or discover new knowledge. Explorative play.
Dancing may involve attunement play and body play.
Playing a team sport may involve body, object, and social play—perhaps even a bit of transformative play, if the game involves finding creative ways to win or score points.
Ideas for Play
The previous column suggested that couples schedule "play time". But what should you do? Sometimes as adults, we forget how to play.
Don't think that "play" has to be limited to just the two of you to build a relationship. Any kind of playing that you do together is going to bring a relaxed sense of fun into your relationship that will bring you closer together.
Take up a hobby or activity that you both enjoy. Not only can this introduce you to fun experiences, but it can also introduce you to fun people who enjoy the same things you do. After all, you're all in the activity to have fun.
If you have children, your kids are experts at play. Playing with kids helps us experience the magic of play through their perspective. Let yourself be a kid again and join in the fun. (Just don't join in so much that your kids don't have time to play as kids. They need that.)
Schedule game night. Game night can be a great way to have fun with friends. It can be a great way to connect with the kids. Or it can be something fun for just the two of you to do together.
Overcoming Barriers to Play
Many adults find that they have forgotten how to play. Naomi Brower of Utah State University writes about how to overcome common barriers to play:
So how do we add more play into our relationships? Consider some of the following suggestions on how to overcome common barriers to play:
1. Schedule some fun. Many couples intend to play but never actually make it happen (Parrott & Parrott, 2006). Agree on a date and time and put it on the calendar (Markman, et al., 2004). When we schedule time for fun, we are more likely to make it happen.
2. Get active. Lack of energy and unhealthy living habits can often leave us feeling drained even when we find time in our busy schedules for fun (Braff & Schwarz, 2004). Make a plan to help each other eat right and participate in physical activities. You can make physical activity fun!
3. Give yourself permission to be a kid again. Because we spend so much time acting like adults, we may feel it is childish to play and instead want to act serious to maintain our dignity (Markman, et al., 2004). Let your partner know your fears and trust him or her to help you overcome them. Do fun things that you feel comfortable with (Braff & Schwarz, 2004).
4. Be open to trying new things. Sometimes our idea of fun is different than our partner’s idea of fun. Find out why your partner enjoys what they do by asking questions and trying it yourself. Be open minded and willing to compromise. You might like it much more than you thought you would!
5. Protect fun from conflict and resentment. Sometimes negative feelings for our partner or conflicts may threaten to ruin a fun activity. Agree ahead of time to focus on having fun during the activity and to discuss important issues and conflicts at another time (Markman, et al., 2004). It may be hard to do this at first, but spending this important time together will strengthen your relationship and your ability to resolve conflicts in the long run.
6. Focus on teamwork. Some people are very competitive and may avoid playing games because they know they will become too competitive and want to win, even at his or her partner’s expense. In this case, learn a new game together, or find an activity where you can play or work as a team (Braff & Schwarz, 2004).
7. Budget for some fun. For many, money is tight, but there are often ways to find a small amount of money in a budget for some fun activities or for a special occasion. Just remember, having fun does not require a lot of money, and there are lots of fun activities that are free!
8. Make having fun more of a priority. Some people feel they are too busy to have fun or that it’s unproductive and unnecessary (Braff & Schwarz, 2004). Play really can help us to strengthen our relationships with others; just try it and see just how much more enjoyable your relationship can be! Take advantage of the simple and seemingly mundane moments you have every day to add a little fun. Try a silly twist to saying hello or goodbye, add something fun to meal time or take time to just stop and watch the sunset on the way back from running errands. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time to add a little fun into your routine, and it can create many lasting memories
There are even "Play Workshops" to help grown-ups remember how to play.
Play: Not Just Fun, It's Vital!
A pioneer in research on play, Dr. Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing, flirtation and fantasy are more than just fun.
Any time you think play is a waste, remember that it offers some serious benefits for both you and others. As Brown says in his book, “Play is the purest expression of love.”
Readers: Any other ideas for incorporating play into your relationship?
Next week's column will be about ways that married couples can incorporate play into their intimate relationship. No reason why play has to stop at the bedroom door. ;-)