Intimate love — 29 October 2003
Playfulness can keep you together

When was the last time you went on a moonlight walk at the beach,
giggled together, or skipped along the railroad tracks? When did you
last create your own fun together rather being entertained?
You probably did so while you were dating, what happened since then? Most committed couples are so burdened by life’s stresses, that
playfulness gets relegated to a cherished memory. It does not need to be
that way.

We must learn from children. While they play they learn, create, use
their imagination and experience joy. That blissful practice prepares
them for life. In school, learning sessions are separated by playtime.
Being physical, interactive, and joyous improves the capacity to
concentrate at the next learning period. Children love to run, scream,
skip, and play games. Their natural buoyancy is exhilarating and
contagious. Teachers will tell you the value of playtime in channeling
energy, learning social skills, and clearing the mind for further learning.

Many adults seek tools for stress reduction. They are encouraged to
exercise, vacation, meditate, and practice relaxation, hobbies and fun
activities. All these are excellent and valuable tools for balancing
one’s stressful life. However, couple playful experiences are rarely
emphasized.

The joy experienced by most lovers at the early stages of their
relationship helps cement their union and is expected to wane and
disappear with time. Why? It is true that new priorities demand our
attention and it is also true that the intensity of emotion of the “in
love” state is hard to maintain. Yet, the playfulness, simple pleasures
and fun- can and should -be made an active part of each couple’s schedule.

David Daniels, M.D. a Stanford University professor of Psychiatry
maintains that a relationship is like a three-legged stool. One leg is
the couple’s history, the second is their sexuality and the third is
their mutual interests and activities. When any of the legs is shorter
than the others, the stool is wobbly. If we use this model, joyful
experiences shared by partners strengthen both their history and mutual
interests, and perhaps even their sexuality.

The value of playfulness is unquestionable. When people are playful
together, they access the lovable, free, childlike part of themselves
that is devoid of many adult constraints. Allowing natural joy to be
expressed brings couples to a deeper level of intimacy. Couples who play
together exhibit a glow of nonverbal connection that is almost magical.

“But we are too busy to have time to play”, “what do you mean by play,
adults don’t play?” “We passed the stage of playing, this is too silly”,
are comments by some couples who are so strained by life that they
closed themselves off to their lighter side. These people see adulthood
as a joyless, overwhelming, taxing state of self- denial. They are so
driven by the tasks at hand, that they can not appreciate play as a
rejuvenating force. They may end up bitter and resentful- the victims of
their lives_ demands.

You know how to play since you were once a child and then “in love”. The
capacity for joyous, silly, funny and even laughable behavior _ must be
re-awakened, cherished and practiced.

Here are some ways to access your joyous playful side.

® Recall the activities that made you feel carefree and happy as a
child. Adjust it to co-ed play.
® Observe children at play. Notice their uninhibited merriment.
® Ask yourself “how can I feel the exhilaration of childlike play-today?”
® Recall the shared small pleasures during courtship that meant so much
then.
® List the activities that helped you both forget everything else while
sharing a pleasurable time together.
® What made you laugh, what was your secret language and unique playful
talk?
® Re-introduce small playful behaviors and language into your daily life. ® Set up time to be alone and repeat or create new ways to be playful
together.

The energy you invest in re-creating playfulness in your relationship
will reward you in joy, relaxation, intimacy and bliss together.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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