Most of the time acting childish is bad news for a marriage relationship but when it comes to having fun, being “childish” may be the ticket to a happier, healthier, more satisfying marriage relationship! In a recent relationship research project couples were placed into two groups. The first group tied couples together at the wrist and ankles and sent them through an obstacle course pushing a foam cylinder with their heads. The second group of couples engaged in mundane tasks together. At the end of the day researchers found that those who engaged in the playful activities scored higher in relationship satisfaction.
Over the last twenty years, similar research has produced similar results. In general, couples who found ways to engage with each other in novel, challenging, exciting,—even goofy—activities together were happier in their marriages. Rated high on the list are activities such as hiking, biking, dancing, attending concerts, lectures and shows. One of the lowest rated activities was watching television together.
Interestingly, as I talk with couples having trouble I often find that this element is missing in their relationships. What gets in the way of having fun together? Here are some of my observations:
Over Commitment. Over commitment can fall into several categories but two seem to occur most frequently: time and debt. Couples often over commit their time to many good causes that tend to squeeze out the time needed to do the work of maintaining a healthy marriage relationship. Learning to say no for the sake of couple time will help combat this marriage-deteriorating situation. Likewise, Debt can create a situation where a couple does not have the freedom to afford playful activities or where each must work to meet the indebtedness. Avoiding oppressive debt will give the couple more opportunities to have fun.
Individual Fun. Reading, playing video games, hunting, fishing, gardening, and socializing are all worthwhile activities. However, when individual marriage partners are enjoying themselves in individual activities while not engaging in enough couple time then these activities can erode the marriage. Individual fun should be secondary to fun in the marriage relationship.
Kid-centric Family Life. Parents are often saddled with the false belief that children deserve or need every enriching activity known to childhood. The natural conclusion to this false belief is that the children are the most important aspect of the family so the children’s activities take priority. This is simply incorrect. The children should be viewed as an extension of the marriage not the purpose for it.
The greatest gift a couple can give their children is a marriage relationship that is vibrant, passionate, energetic, filled with laughter, compassion, and fun. In a word: healthy. The couple that plays together stays together! Enrich your relationship…go have fun!