I’ve been counseling and teaching couples about love and relationships for almost 20 years now, and without fail, the thing I most often hear from couples is that it takes “hard work” to sustain a loving relationship, that in order to feel connected, you really need to know how to communicate well. This is where I always follow up with a “Yes, especially since great communication today also involves passion, pleasure and play…and, in my book of love, sometimes couples need to learn to do that well, too!”After all, good verbal communication is one thing, but when couples base their relationships on friendship, fondness and fun, they usually also find joy and happiness in their lives. Now don’t get me wrong, workshop skills and structure can become immensely helpful to enhancing couple communication but without routinely preserving the positive side of life, couples may soon find their so-called “communication skills” waning. So, what I believe to be true is that communication skills become even more effective when couples also make time to love and enjoy one another.
It’s all about connection.
Personally, I find it bamboozling (I just love that word:-) as to why it is that we enter this world full of curiosity, laughter and joy and continue to develop these play skills for many years to come, only to find ourselves suddenly too “grown up” or too “caught up” in our roles and responsibilities...and way too fast! Even more so, as parenting couples, we’ll often find excuses not to do enjoyable things, or only when and if it involves our kids. How different this seems from the early days of courtship- or dating…omg, do people even say these words anymore…lol!!
But seriously, remember how in the beginning we would stop at nothing to get together, to go out and enjoy each other’s company? We felt so connected! Even sex was more fun because we actually planned on it and looked forward to it. Yes, you read right: we actually planned it! Remember all those Friday nights you looked forward to in the earlier days of your relationship: you knew exactly when you’d be getting together, what you’d be wearing and what you’d be doing…..in other words you were actually anticipating and making plans for having some fun together? Intentionality. I think the sad truth is that after being together a long time, many couples become busier, take each other for granted and stop dating and even stop making special times a priority in their lives. Even worse are the couples who no longer know how to be together and fear that too much time has gone by anyway, and complacently allow this “awkwardness” between them to rule the day. And if you take a look at the research, well, studies keep reminding us that if couples would only just take the time for fun and pleasure with each other, they would actually help prevent both boredom and growing apart in their relationships- and that this could even help rejuvenate them during busier and more stressful times.
Who knew that having fun was no trivial pursuit?
Did you know that doing something new together can actually bolster dopamine levels in our brain (you know…that sexy neurotransmitting chemical we all have or what I fondly call “the sex, drugs & rock ‘n roll chemical of the brain” …and not that I’m advocating drugs) making us feel even more excited or interested in one another? Did you know that dopamine can even help assuage the fights we have along the way? Now, isn’t that cool?
So, along with having fun for fun’s sake, what many of us fail to realize is that “fun” can actually preserve us and act as a powerful buffer against conflict down the road. It’s because when couples make time for fun and friendship with each other, they not only keep the spark alive, they also laugh and bring humour to their lives. In essence, couples create a positive impression of their lives. It’s as if this exchange in positive vibes somehow gets stored in the brain, and kindly reminds us that we can still feel good about each other and can still be the best of friends, even in the worst of times. So, really, when you think about it, what we are doing when we aren’t fighting can actually have a lot to do with the way we eventually repair or resolve our fights.
However, with the many things vying for our time in everyday life like careers, children and chores, we really need to keep in mind that “fun” oftentimes requires planning…. This means we cannot always leave it up to spontaneity. When you really, really think about it…waiting for spontaneity to kick in can be like “waiting for the cows to come home”…..I know, I know..I’m showing my age :-). Instead, by scheduling and trying new things together, we can actually shake up the familiar expectations or patterns in our life, even deepen our intimate friendship.
In my experience, I have always noticed how the quality of communication (not to mention satisfaction) immediately improves when couples feel that they matter to each other. When couples give off the message that they are a priority in each other’s life, whether by words or by their actions, they seem to continue to uphold the kindness, consideration and expressions of affection and desire that first brought them to each other. In other words, they create an environment which continues to nurture their relationship and helps it grow. They feel happier! This is why I strongly believe that making some time for each other is part of the lifeblood of an intimate relationship, and having fun together becomes the glue…. because it is exactly these type of loving qualities which end up reigniting in a couple’s life, time and time again, too. Without some quality time together, the connection between a couple withers and becomes increasingly difficult to reconnect. Deliberately planning and scheduling pleasurable activities together can not only naturally offset any potential demise from creeping into a couple’s life, but can also richly contribute to their shared sense of history.
So, my question to you is : how do you stay connected? What makes your relationship a happy one? How does having fun together help you communicate better? Please feel free to add your comments below…..
“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” — Helen Keller