How Simple Play Can Save Your Marriage –Play allows exploration of the impossible!
We were in the car headed to our date destination. The car was silent. It’s amazing how quiet it can get when there are no children aboard.
The elephant in the room made the silence intolerable.
The “elephant” for us was our marriage issues. We were struggling like never before but we were also fighting for our marriage, so we made ourselves go on dates.
We silently got out of the car and road down the hilly path. Our date was simple, but it entailed the things we enjoyed doing together– nature and being active.
With each mile that went by the tension was easing up between us. By the end of our uphill ride we were laughing with each other. Well, more like laughing at each other with how pathetic and old we were getting. We couldn’t even ride up a hill without huffing and puffing.
By the time we got back to the car we were smiling, not holding hands mind you, but we were smiling. We got back in the car and the silence enveloped us again. But on the ride back home, I broke the silence. I looked over at him and I said with tears in my eyes, “We may have a sucky marriage right now, but we have always known how to play together.” He looked over at me and smiled in agreement.
This happened ages ago, but that conversation has stuck with me to this day. We do know how to play together and that has been one of the many things which has saved our marriage in the hardest of times. Well, that and lots of prayer. I have shared in the past about the power of prayer in our marriage so today I’ll share about the importance of play in our marriage.
Play is Not an Option
The opposite of play is not work–the opposite of play is depression.” Dr. Brown
A critically important component in our marriages is play! It’s so easy to forget about playing because who has time to play in the midst of hauling kids to soccer practice, chess club and gymnastics. Not to mention every day life like watching dishes, going to work, dealing with traffic and sassy tweens.
“In today’s culture–where our self-worth is tied to our net worth, and we base our worthiness on our level of productivity–spending time doing purposeless activities is rare.” ~Brene Brown
But it’s absolutely vital in our marriage that we introduce simple play back into our life. There is research to prove that it’s of utter importance to incorporate purposeless activities in our life! Dr. Brown wrote a book called Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul and in it he says,
Play shapes our brain, helps us foster empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups, and is at the core of creativity and innovation.”
We are designed to play for a lifetime not just as kids. When we play our stress levels are lowered and our cortex is sending signals to us–relax, ease up. When we do it then takes us out of the “fight or flight” mode. Which in turn allows our heart and soul to be covered with the healing power of play.
There are serious consequences for play deprivation not just in our own personal life but also in our marriage. Dr. Stuart Brown shares in his seminar on the Neuroscience of Play that we are designed to play. He points to three things:
- It allows us to develop empathy.
- Play invites humor which keeps us from living in a rigid system.
- Interpersonal conflicts are lessened by play.
All three of these things are needed to survive in our interpersonal relationships especially our marriages.
related post: 3 Things That Keep Us Connected
We have a generation of children today who desperately need to look into the eyes of Mom and Dad and see two people deeply in love with each other, committed to one another for life and honoring God in their relationship. If God has blessed your life with children, make sure your children know and see your love regularly. Make the marriage they see in you the same type of relationship they’ll want one day for themselves.” via Family LIfe
We need to value play!
I believe that play can bring excitement and joy into your marriage even if you’re are not struggling. Play also allows healing to happen if you’re in the middle of a hard time in your marriage. No, it’s not going to fix all of your problems, you may need to see a counselor or therapist. But play will allow you to invite healing into your life! When you are playing your brain gives you permission to breathe, relax and is not in fight or flight mode.
Play doesn’t ignore the pain and suffering you are dealing with, but instead it helps us better deal with pain.
Play will strengthen your marriage at the most vulnerable time because it will take you back to what you once knew how to do together. Play helps us navigate the complexities of our circumstances with less tension and it provides a sense of nostalgia that binds you to your past and gives you hope for your future.
Don’t believe the lies:
- You’re too busy to play.–Doing more on your to-do list is not going to bring you deep joy but playing will.
- My marriage is too far gone. –You may need to see a counselor to work through these marriage struggles but it’s not too late.
- You have nothing in common.–Dig deep my friends and find that 1 thing that attracted you to each other–was it dancing, going on walks, reading together, the theater, listening to music…then go do it! Even if you don’t have the same hobbies then start a new hobby together.
- If you’re more successful it will make your spouse happy. –Working more will only create more of a distance. It will not bring you closer together.
- We are on a tight budget right now so we can’t go out on dates.–Spending time together doesn’t have to be fancy. Explore a new hobby if the one you enjoy is not in your budget.
- You’ll start dating again when your baby turn 6 years old.–This is the biggest lie ever because the truth is there is never going to be a good time. Something always comes up, whether it’s a teething baby, soccer season, sick child… there’s always something. So just do it.
If you want to have a strong and thriving marriage then you must become deliberate about cultivating play in your relationship. Today make the choice to carve out time to play with your spouse.
Some of the best date memories I have with my husband have been simple. Remember it doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Long ago, we were coming back from a party and my husband pulled the car over by the lake and turned on some music. Then he took me by the hand and we danced to one of our favorite songs under the moonlight. It wasn’t long, it wasn’t expensive but it was fun. I love when he picks me up and swings me around the kitchen. It has me giggling like a little school girl.
related post: Loving Your Man When It Hurts Series
How to Make Time to Play
Go put it on the calendar. Then do it! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Heck, when the kids go to bed just turn down the lights and play! Turn up”Your” song, and dance like back when you were dating. Play a video game together. Remember, you don’t have to have the same hobbies to play together. Here are some ideas that I came up with that are simple but fun. I also shared these 25 Fun Dates.
- Have a pillow fight.
- This past Christmas my husband gave me a 12 Dates Nights gift which was the best gift ever. Basically, he planned 12 dates, one for each month for us to enjoy this year.
- Walk in the neighborhood and hold hands.
- Go to a coffee shop and play a game together.
- Visit your local bookstore and pick a small book out and read it to each other in a different accent.
- Go have milkshakes and drink from the same glass using two straws.
- Do Madlibs together.
- Have a picnic!
- Tap him and then say, “Tag your it!” Then run!
- Take a class together.
- Watch a silly movie.
- Serve at your local shelter together.
- Play a card game.
- Laugh together!
Just remember–play is free of criticism, it’s inviting and it’s giving. The best kind of play is when you take turns suggesting how you should play together. You can learn a lot from your spouse through it.
Play and love deeply connect us!