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A Guide for Fun and Play, guest article from Dr. Gary Brainerd

"The couple that plays together stays together." "The couple that laughs lasts". (Brainerd 2002, adapted from other sayings).

In the Romantic Stage of a relationship, there is a lot of laughter, fun and play. Both people are "on drugs" (See the article on Stages of Romantic Relationships) and find great pleasure in just being with each other.

As the relationship deepens and develops, the drugs wear off and the Power Struggle or Growth Struggle phase of the relationship begins. During this period, fun and play become less and less spontaneous and less and less frequent. The brain responds to safety with playfulness. When there is anxiety or anger in the relationship, playfulness does not emerge as often.

Therefore we believe it is important that couples address this phenomenon with their cortex, the conscious, intentional part of the brain, and choicefully create times for play and enjoyment.

Laughter and play are an important part of mental health. A "belly laugh" each day is not an unreasonable goal. Finding way to create laughter and play is a worthy challenge. Each week do something playful, enjoyable, fun, recreational with your partner.

A rough rule of thumb for couples is that approximately half of their leisure time activities should be couple activities and about half should be separate activities, either alone or with friends. Both extremes where all leisure time activities "have to" be with each or when virtually no leisure time activities are with each other are troublesome.

Playing and having fun is an important part of mental health and marital health. In the growth phase of a relationship, things can get pretty heavy and serious. Learning to regularly take time to enjoy, laugh, play together is essential.

You also might try periodically telling each other a joke or a funny story each day or several times a week. Developing, maintaining and using a sense of humor will take you far in this relationship journey.

Relearning play

"I know that there is a real need for people who were not played with as infants to relearn interactive play - which is essential for successful adult relationship, both causal (with people who are basically strangers and will remain so) and people with whom you are in committed relationships: spouses, grown children siblings. Playfulness is important in successful conflict resolution as well as for shared fun and joy. Lots of people suffer in their relationships because they are so serious all the time. The ability to playfully interact can save your life in a serious emergency setting like a hospital - keeping people attuned to you and you attuned to life."

Dr. Jeanne Segal

If you or someone you know or work with is ready to bring fun back into his or her life, Bernie is available by phone and email for personal coaching. Click Contact for more information on how to reach him.

Loving Fun

The Well-Played Game
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