Relationship Recess: Why Playing Together Promotes Staying Together

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By Sarah Wilson, PhD

For most kids, playing together at recess is the best part of the school day.

They can let down their guard, give their brain a break, and allow their muscles to work out pent-up tension.

As an adult, you don’t have recess like you did when you were a kid. But you can still steal away from life to enjoy a little playtime. Especially with your partner.

In fact, making “recess” a part of your relationship routine can actually strengthen your bond.

Here’s how.

Keeps You from Getting Bored

Couples often report that they divorce or end their relationship because they have grown apart or have gone in different directions. Relationship boredom may play a big role in this distancing.

Boredom often leads to dissatisfaction and dissatisfaction can lead to breaking up.

To safeguard your relationship from the downfall of boredom, infuse some pep into your routine.

For example, consider trying a new restaurant, maybe an ethnic food that neither of you have tried before. Or, plan a miniature golf outing with your partner. You can even go all-in and learn a new hobby or skill by taking a class together. How about dance lessons, a new language, or an exercise class?

The goal of trying new things isn’t to win or be the best, even if you’re super competitive. It’s to laugh and have fun together. Plus, the actual activity isn’t nearly as important as the attitude in which you participate.

Helps to Bridge the Good Feeling Gap

Humans work in a unique way, associating feelings with things and activities. You might associate grocery shopping with the feeling of urgency. Or, connect contentment to watching your favorite movie.

Playing together with your partner will provide the same sort of connectivity.

When you enjoy the activity you’re doing together, you experience good feelings. Your amazing brain will connect those good feelings to your relationship in general.

Essentially, doing fun and novel things together gives you both a rush of positivity. In turn, this positive rush washes over your relationship and covers you both in optimism and good feelings and emotions.

All these good feelings can help you resolve conflict more effectively, too.

Promotes Happiness in General

Trucking through the same routine day after day can eventually wear on you. Routine is good, and you may thrive on it, but everyone needs a bit of variety in their lives. Especially in our relationships with our partners. We need arousal and stimulation.

Not only can a new activity stimulate brain cells that are stuck on autopilot, but it can make you feel genuinely happy.

You might not be absolutely enamored with the activity itself. More than anything, though, a new activity can spark a flame that is at risk of fizzling out.

Unsurprisingly, this overall feeling of happiness often spills over into your relationship. When you are a happier person, you tend to be more pleasant and more satisfied with your partner.

It’s a Win/Win for Both of You

Starting out, establishing a fun relationship recess might seem too activity-focused. Meaning, you are both more concerned with enjoying the activity than enjoying each other.

Here’s the thing about a relationship recess, it has little to do with the actual activity. As mentioned before, it’s not the activity that makes the difference. It’s the spirit behind it.

Ultimately, it’s a win/win for both of you. Even if one of you isn’t a huge fan of the activity. And although your partner may “win” in convincing you to try something new, and vice versa, both of you are champions.

By playing together, you’re creating emotional intimacy and cultivating an intense connection.

You might even find yourself saying, “I never thought I’d be doing this!” And in the next breath, discovering you’re really having a great time.

Plus, the beaming smile on your partner’s face will be worth it.
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Do you and your partner need some help putting the "fun" back into your relationship? Dr. Sarah Wilson, LMFT Associate, can help you develop strategies and goals to bring the spark back to your relationship. Contact her at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin at 512-270-4883, ext. 104, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.