Play is a foundational component in healthy relationships, yet rarely do adults set an intention of inviting play into their daily interactions. Play allows us to add a lightness to our relationship and invite the type of back-and-forth dialogue that mirrors the flirtatious beginnings of a romantic partnership.
Often it is the ruts and transitions of life when play is most necessary, but also the most vulnerable. For many, the time after a child is born can feel like the least playful in a marriage. Suddenly life is full of scheduling dinners and playdates, and partner conversations revolve around bedtime routines and bottle feedings. Stress stifles play, but ironically, play is one of the most powerful ways to alleviate stress.
As Esther Perel says in her book Mating in Captivity, “Eroticism in the home requires active engagement and willful intent. It is an ongoing resistance to the message that marriage is serious, more work than play; and that passion is for teenagers and the immature.” If the loss of interpersonal play is, dare I say it, a path toward a slow and painful death of a relationship, then the rediscovery and intentional cultivation of deep play in a marriage can lead to fulfilling sexual intimacy, meaningful connection, and, ultimately, joy.
Play is a powerful force that not only can increase connection to one’s truest self and lighten the soul, but also can increase connections and reignite relationships.
Abigail (Abby) Wambaugh, M.S., is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, IMF #94231, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, Psy.D., MFT 50732. She specializes in treating relationship difficulties, trauma, and sexual issues.