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COLUMN: Having fun together is key to relationship success

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By John Lapp

What in the world does it mean to play and stay together? Are you telling me that if we play together, we will more than likely stay together for the long haul? Yes I am.
Now that I have your attention, let me explain what this really means as it relates to the full enjoyment of your marriage. First of all, there is still a child in each of us, me included, although I cannot play at things like I once did when I was much more physically flexible and more daring. I no longer climb trees or tumble across the grass with no thought about the potential danger, even pain, associated with this type of play. We might suppress child-like behaviors in ourselves as we grow up and mature, but it is important to never outgrow the need and desire for fun.
So, what does it mean for a couple to play together? Well, let’s start out by stating a few things it does not mean. It does not mean that our fun together is based on a competitive model of who is the better player in a game, as if the important thing when playing is always to win. For example, for those who would like to go to a tennis court and have some fun — if this is your idea of having fun and playing, then play for the fun of it and let that be all. If you are a better player and even more athletic, then pick a friend to play tennis whose ultimate goal is to win and with that in mind, just go ahead and try to win, but when playing with your spouse, do something that helps keep competitiveness at bay.
In our dating years, I would have been considered a “bowling nut,” as it was my sport of choice and I was competing in three leagues per week. I was also practicing for several hours each Saturday. But when my wife and I went bowling and she was not as proficient, and my scores were always quite good, it didn’t matter to either of us. I was not out to show her how good I was, as she already was aware of that. I have heard from some couples who attempt to have fun together but the competition is so fierce that it turns into a battle that eventually takes away from the fun that was originally intended.
When playing tennis, or any other sport or game, you should be playing for the enjoyment of being with your special person for the pure enjoyment of laughing, even if you lost. When we had a recent electrical storm here in Taylorsville, and we chose to pull the plugs on the television sets and the computer, we pulled out the cards and played a fun game of Rummy, and guess what? Mrs. Lapp won, and won by a great margin. I didn’t let her win. She won, hands down, and did it legitimately with no slight of hand.
Another major factor about continuing to play together is that if you do not, you will lose your playfulness. What has happened is that life includes everyday responsibilities, schedules, work, child care, dealing with problems or worries about making ends meet, etc., and those issues can eventually squeeze the fun out of your time together and can actually make the marriage lack in excitement. Along with that, many have been raised with an age-old philosophy that playing is childish and is not for adults. Many adults think that they shouldn’t play until the work is done, and, of course, the work is rarely or ever done. That leaves no time for play.
Some even think that playing is a waste of valuable time and misuse of energy. If you are the sort of person who always needs to be “grown up” and act responsibly, it may help you to realize that couples who take time to play together tend to have more energy, communicate better, are able to solve problems easier and faster and don’t waste so much time hassling and arguing.
If you have not been having much fun in your relationship, I would encourage you to be bold enough to explore with each other what is fun for each of you and what you may be able to develop in your life that helps you to enjoy some activities together. A not-so-good example of this is the husband who claimed that he and his wife have fun together when they go golfing. What happened there is the husband played golf and the wife always drove the cart. Now, there’s nothing wrong with them doing that on occasion, but if that is his regular idea of having fun together, he might better drive his own golf cart and let her go to the yard/garage sales with a friend, which may be more her idea of fun. That is not what is meant by playing together.
Finally, it must be stated here that because you do not include playing together as a regular part of your marriage, someone else may come along and sneak in to your otherwise fairly good marriage relationship by offering your mate what is sorely lacking, namely having fun and playing together. Don’t turn fun into work like a chore.
Never forget that having fun — playing together — is a way of life. Don’t make life so serious that there is never room for play. And, don’t use the shop-worn statement, “Well, we don’t have a lot of money to go out and spend, like other couples can.” That does not fly. Go to the store, buy a deck of cards, or a table game or two, get some popcorn, sit down together and have fun. Try to enjoy it even when you don’t win. Maybe you’ll find that losing may begin to win your relationship back. Make your marriage better. Try it. You’ll like it.
May God bless you as you learn the importance of play.