Couples who have fun together, who dance and play games, who laugh at themselves and each other, and who take delight in each other’s company are those who also want to stay together. This new year, embrace delight in each other – and yourself!
1. Be playful with each other
When last did you tickle or mock wrestle each other? Laughter is a very welcome antidote for that which pains and disappoints. Humour is a value and an essential life skill for the development of the self. There’s sufficient evidence to show that laughter nourishes body, mind and soul and is a vital element in a relationship, especially evident in the honeymoon phase.
Think back to the first stage of your past relationships. You’re likely to remember the playful teasing or tickling or joking that went on because you liked to see your partner laugh. This meant they were having fun with you. It’s not necessary for you and your partner to share the same sense of humour but it is important to encourage your partner to have a good laugh even if it’s at your expense (within reason).
2. Engage that inner child (in both of you)
When you first learned to bond as a child, it was most likely with other children who made you laugh. According to psychology Professor Robert Provina, babies laugh 330 times per day to the adult average of 18 times per day. Other research shows that women laugh less than men, 13 times each day for a woman compared with 19 for a man.
Think about your favourite people, aren’t many of them people who make you laugh? If you’ve stopped laughing, you’re probably taking life far too seriously. We spend so much time being the responsible adult, of course, but we often seem to lose the ability to access the light-hearted playfulness of our inner child. That’s the part of us that enjoys being with others, and especially interactions that are light.
Quite simply, people like people who make them smile because smiling feels good. People are also drawn to people who can smile at life. Bitterness quells the laugh-ability in us. Pity wipes away grins. Withholding forgiveness mows down smiles.
Fun and laughter, on the other hand, is refreshing, freeing and renewing. It’s like a relationship elixir. It’s about lightness, silliness, naturalness and spontaneity. When we engage our inner child, we engage the part of us that represents our feelings. It’s a vulnerable, responsive side that can be light, humorous and in the moment. And its power in a relationship can’t be overstated.
3. Play games together
Bridge, Marjon, 30 Seconds, Trivial Pursuit, Charades, Canasta, Chess, lawn bowling, pool, Dominoes, Backgammon and other popular games all work to bring people together in play. Often, it’s the games shared with adults that children most value about key calendar dates, such as Christmas, Diwali, Yom Kippur and Thanksgiving. That’s when the whole family engages in game playing rituals and everyone is included – young and old.
Play encourages us to be unedited, light and creative and is a super stress reliever. Play provides an escape, a detachment. We can be funny and foolish, goofy and silly. Play invites joy. We can dress up, sing karaoke, tickle each other, engage in water and food fights, sing, mud-wrestle, joke, be naughty, tumble, dance in the rain or simply do fun activities together like cycle, hike or cook.
Whether it’s playing pass-the-orange, leaving little notes in each other’s lunch box, jumping on trampolines or taking part in chin theatre or carpet soccer, there’s a child in all of us who needs some form of expression and when it’s boys vs. girls, play can become quite magnetic.
4. Dance like nobody’s watching
Oh, and let’s not forget dancing. Testimonies from countless couples talk to the healing, sensual, freeing wonder of dance, and the metaphors for a relationship are endless. With dance, you learn to synchronise with one another. Dance is intimate. Dance talks for you. It can be raunchy, angry, sensual, graceful, melancholy, feminine and masculine.
Dance is provocative, seductive, enticing. You have the chance to connect, touch one another and create heat. Dance can be the ultimate foreplay without the need for a single word. Dance teaches you to trust one another by relying on one another’s movement, sometimes leaning in and surrendering, at other times letting go, minding each other’s step. You don’t need to be a good dancer to learn to dance. As in a good relationship, dance is about listening (to the music) and learning to read your partner. As time goes by and you master the art of dance together, you will become more and more familiar with one another’s dance moves, you will find yourselves dancing because you like how you feel when you dance, and you will always have this intimate, joyful means of connecting, way into your old age.
5. Spend time with kids
For those of you with kids, ask them how you can lighten up. They’ll help you out of your (dis)comfort zone and show you the world from a perspective of wonder, magic and enchantment again. If you’re in a relationship, it’s worth finding the path to your partner’s smile and giving them the key to yours, because if it’s not fun anymore inside the relationship, one or both of you will likely look elsewhere for your laughs.