NYC Psychotherapist Blog

power by WikipediaMindmap

Monday, April 7, 2014

Do You Remember What It Was Like to Have Fun in Your Relationship? Try a Little Playfulness

When you're in a long term relationship, it's easy to become bogged down with routines and responsibilities.  You can both get to the point where you feel so weighed down and bored that you forget the love and joy that brought the two of you together in the first place.  But you don't have to remain mired in old routines and boredom.  You can recapture some of the joy you felt in the early days of your relationship by bringing back fun and playfulness into your relationship.

Remember What It Was Like to have Fun in Your Relationship?  Try a Little Playfulness

A relationship that's serious all the time isn't enjoyable.  Over time, irritability, anxiety and a sense of being overwhelmed can erode an otherwise good relationship.

If the mood between you and your spouse tends to be heavy and serious all of the time, you're bound to become annoyed and impatient with each other.  This can lead to boredom, arguments and a feeling of estrangement between the two of you.

If this is what's happening to you and your spouse, you need to put some fun back into your relationship.

Remember "Fun?"
Do you remember what it was like to have fun with your spouse?  No?  Think back to what the two of you enjoyed doing in the past.

Over time, have you stopped doing the activities that were fun and nurturing in your relationship?

If so, maybe now is the time to talk to your spouse and choose a few activities that you used to like to do in the past and make plans to do them again.

Did you used to like to go dancing, biking or ice skating?  Have you given up these activities over time because you let all of your routines crowd them out of your schedule?

Why not make time for at least one of those activities and bring some light hearted fun back into your relationship?

Mary and Bob (a composite vignette of many cases):
Bob and Mary were married for over 25 years when they came to my psychotherapy private practice in NYC.

Their only son, Bill, moved out of state the year before to take a full time job after he graduated college.

Even though they loved their son dearly, prior to his moving out, they had been looking forward to the day when he would be on his own.  But when that day came, they both felt unprepared for the changes that it brought.

They felt a little awkward around each other without Bill at the dinner table every night talking excitedly about his plans for the future.  Neither of them realized, until he was gone, how much their lives centered around their son's life.  And now that he was gone, they each felt a void (see my article: Coping With the Empty Nest Syndrome).

At first, they each filled their spare time with individual projects around the house.  But, after a while, they realized that they were avoiding each other.  Neither of them felt any animosity towards the other.  They just felt that, aside from Bill being gone, "something was missing" from their relationship.

After a few sessions, it became evident that both of them were bored and they felt they didn't have much to look forward to in their relationship.

It was clear that, basically, they had a solid relationship--they just needed to learn to bring some fun and playfulness back into their relationship.  But when I mentioned this to them, they both looked at me as if I had lost my mind!  Bob turned away, and Mary said in a sarcastic tone, "Fun?  What's that?"

Undaunted, I persisted to recite back to them what they told me their average week was like:  Go to work, come home, have dinner, do chores, zone out in front of the TV, and go to bed.  Weekends were loaded with more chores and more mindless TV.  And neither of them could even remember the last time they had sex.

After they heard me reflect back their routines, they both agreed that it was no wonder that they each felt cranky and bored.

So, we began exploring what they each liked to do when they first got together.  We started with the ground rule that they each had to be respectful of what the other person brought up.  No groans or eye rolls.

After a few false starts where neither of them could remember what they liked to do in the early days, Mary said, somewhat sheepishly with a nervous laugh, "We used to have a lot of sex."  Bob looked away in embarrassment, so I told him that it's important to be able to talk about sex in couples counseling (see my article:  The Importance of Talking About Sexual Problems in Your Psychotherapy Sessions).

I often use humor, when appropriate, in therapy sessions (see my article: Humor Can Be An Effective Tool in Therapy).  Humor helped Bob and Mary to open up more and come up with suggestions of things they used to like to do as well as some new activities they wanted to try.

Do You Remember What It Was Like to Have Fun in Your Relationship? Try a Little Playfulness

They even began to make some tentative attempts to flirt with each other, awkwardly at first, and then with more ease.

Flirtation, which is a form of playfulness, helped them to rekindle their sex life, which was emotionally and physically gratifying for both of them.

After a few months, they looked like a different couple--more gregarious and even younger looking.  They were worrying less about their chores (Mary even joked about not worrying about the "dust bunnies" under the couch as she normally would before) and having more fun.

Putting Fun and Playfulness Back in Your Relationship

Not only were they having more fun, but they felt closer to each other than they had in many years.

Tips For Bringing Back Fun and Playfulness Into Your Relationship
Have you and your spouse forgotten how to have fun?

Here are some suggestions:

Bring humor back into your relationship:
  • Watch funny movies
  • Go to a comedy club
  • Play games
  • Tell jokes
  • Change your perspective and try to see the humorous side to life's small challenges
  • Learn to laugh more
  • Allow yourself to be "silly" without judging yourself or your spouse
Choose activities that you both enjoy:
  • Dust off those dancing shoes and hit the dance floor
  • Go for a walk out in nature
  • Take cooking lessons
  • Learn yoga
  • Sign up for art classes
Lighten Up:
  • Don't get into arguments over petty issues
  • Do role plays where you pretend to be different people
  • Use your imagination and get creative

Getting Help in Couples Therapy
Some couples need help to get out of their own way in order to bring back fun and playfulness into their relationship.

Sometimes, there are certain issues that need to get worked out in the relationship before each person can feel comfortable with letting go to have fun.

Getting Help in Couples Therapy

If this is the case in your relationship, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who works with couples and who has experience with helping couples to learn to have a loving and fulfilling relationship again.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individuals and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.