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What Happens When Fun Gets Dropped in Relationships?

Margaret and James used to have a good time together, then life and responsibilities seemed to loom larger and the fun times seemed to fade. They rarely fought during the times they had lively conversations filled with laughter and fun activities, they both saw this time as a time to bond.

As less time was dedicated to spending some fun time together, not coincidentally, their relationship satisfaction dropped. Why aren’t we having more fun?” Margaret nodded her head in perplexed agreement. This was a great question, and not an uncommon issue or concern for many couples.

Relationship research indicates that the couples that do best over time find ways to establish new rituals of connection and find ways to celebrate and have fun. Faced with multiple stresses, worries, concerns, and responsibilities it is easy for couples to lose having fun as an important priority in their couple and family life.

Ask Yourselves: What Are We Doing To Build Some Fun In Our Lives?

Take time to talk about building fun back in the relationship

      Rekindle Old Fun Rituals and/or Establish New Ones

Margaret and James discussed new activities that they were willing to try together. For years they both expressed an interest in taking yoga, but procrastination always would win out with mutual promises of “Next time”.  Now that they were willing to make the time, they decided to take an online yoga class.

They also began making time for short walks, coffee time together after dinner, and bringing the cribbage board out of retirement. These were all activities they used to do and enjoyed. They found themselves open to new ideas about other things they had long talked about doing but never quite got to. James got his piano keyboard out of the closet and began to practice again.

It turns out that play is an important drive, hard wired into all brain circuitry.  Dr. Jaak Panksepp, noted psychologist and neuroscientist, writes about the emotional command systems in the subcortical structures in our brains that when activated predictably lead to specific behaviors; play is one of them. In other words, our brains are wired to experience fun as a priority for happiness. When this is missing, sometimes we compensate in unhealthy behaviors like excessive internet use or increased drinking. attempts to convince our brain we are having fun to fill the time.

All couples really need to make play a part of their relationship. It doesn’t really matter what activities you choose as long as you both enjoy it. Also, taking time for yourself to develop interests, nurturing a playful self is an important part of every individual wellness program that all too often is overlooked.

Think about the things you might want to do with your partner that could be a fun, shared experience, as well as finding or getting back to your own individual interests.

TIP: Do not wait for things to “slow down” before reintegrating fun activities. I mean really, when does life ever slow down!

Dr. Robert Navarra

Robert Navarra, PsyD, LMFT, MAC, is a Master Certified Gottman Therapist, Trainer, and Speaker, and an author. He is is certified as Master Addiction Counselor and specializes in treating and researching couples in recovery from addictive disorders. Dr. Navarra created "Roadmap for the Journey: A Workshop for Couples Embracing Recovery" and "Couples and Addiction Recovery: A Gottman Approach for Therapists, Counselors, and Addiction Professionals".

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