February 2017



Play Together, Stay Together – The Importance of Having Fun

By: Kim Morse

When couples first start dating they usually spend a significant amount of time engaging in fun activities together and spending quality time together. Most people believe that the fun and spark in their relationship will last forever, but over time with all of the work deadlines, shuffling kids, household chores,and the everyday boring routine, taking time to have fun often takes a back seat.

Why is it important to keep fun in the relationship?

Research from The University of Denver shows that couples who make time for fun activities tend to stay together longer:

“The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high, and significant. The more you invest in fun and friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will get over time”, says Howard Markman, a psychologist who co-directs the university's Center for Marital and Family Studies.

Findings published in 2000 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by psychologist Arthur Aron of State University of New York-Stony Brook and colleagues, showed that sharing in new and exciting activities is consistently associated with better relationships.

In one set of experiments, some couples are assigned a mundane task that involves simply walking back and forth across a room. Other couples, however, take part in a more challenging exercise — their wrists and ankles are bound together as they crawl back and forth pushing a ball.

Before and after the exercise, the couples were asked things like, "How bored are you with your current relationship?" The couples who took part in the more challenging and novel activity showed bigger increases in love and satisfaction scores, while couples performing the mundane task showed no meaningful changes.

So how do we make fun a priority on our relationships?

1. Schedule a Date Night. Put it on the calendar and stick to it. Don't get discouraged if your spouse forgets, take the responsibility to make sure it happens. Brain storm all the possibilities of what is a great date. List what would light your fire and share your lists. Then take turns making them happen.

2. Be open to trying new things. Get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes our idea of fun is different from our partner's idea of fun. You might like it much more than you thought you would! Remember, if your partner is trying something new for you, be supportive and be their hero.

3. Stay in the moment. What you may be feeling for your partner in the moment or dwelling on conflicts may threaten to ruin a fun activity. Agree ahead of time to focus on having fun during the activity and to discuss important issues at another time.

4. Become a team. Competition between couples can become an issue when participating in games or sport. If you are the competitive type, try and pick activities that you can do as a team. Accomplishments that you fulfill together will only strengthen your bond.

5. Take advantage of the simple things. Seemingly mundane moments you have every day can add a little fun. These can become rituals in the relationship. Rituals are important because they are the little ways that we connect every day. Try a silly twist to saying hello or goodbye or make it a habit to stop and watch the sunset on the way back from running errands. It doesn’t have to be big, but it can have a big impact.

6. Go on a COUPLES RETREAT. A retreat is something you can schedule for just the two of you or with a Relationship Coach or Therapist. Retreats give couples the chance to rediscover each other. It can create an atmosphere of bonding that you can never get while in the middle of your everyday lives. You can uncover barriers and remember why you fell in love in the first place. Attending a retreat with Coach or Therapist gives you a partnership to help facilitate a change or shift to take your relationship to the next level while having FUN at the same time. What a winning combination!!

Copyright © 2016 by Kim Morse and the Relationship Coaching Institute. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.

Kim and Bob Morse, are the founders of Sailing Happily Ever After, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of relationships and marriage, by providing couples an enjoyable alternative to counseling in an environment that fosters intimacy, closeness and teamwork primarily through workshops and sailing retreats. Kim is a Master Relationship Coach and USCG Licensed Sailing Captain. www.sailinghappilyeverafter.com.

Ask Our Coaches

My husband is turning into his father. What can I do?

Dear Coaches,

My husband's father is a very difficult man. He's angry and bitter about his life and takes it out on everyone around him. My husband has always had an optimistic view on life and a positive outlook, but lately I notice that he has become very much like his father. He started out complaining (ranting) about politics and current events after watching the news. Then he started criticizing and complaining about our friends and our children. Now he seems to be angry with most of the world. I've tried talking to him about this but then he gets angry with me. Now I try to stay away from him as much as possible just because I don't want to hear his constant complaints. What can I do to get my "happy" husband back?

Lynn Goodacre

Lynn responds ...

It sounds like this is a very challenging time for you as you perhaps see a side of your husband that you hadn't seen before. Often when people feel helpless they lash out in anger. We are experiencing a lot of upsetting events in the world, and we can be quite triggered into disbelief, helplessness and, yes, anger, at the way things are going. Who's most likely to bear the brunt of this, albeit unfairly Unfortunately, it's often your family and friends. Your husband has seen anger and lashing out modeled by his father so it's not too surprising that when under stress this is the direction he’s moving.

Let's talk more about how compassion might be more helpful than labeling. You describe your father-in-law as a "difficult man". How might things shift if you saw him as a man in pain whose behavior makes him difficult to be around? This doesn't excuse his behavior but happy people don't feel bitter about their lives or take it out on others. You said that your husband is becoming much like his father. I wonder if it might be helpful to observe that he is using some of the [painful and ineffective] coping skills that you see in his dad rather than believe that he is turning into him. That doesn’t leave much room for growth or hope.

What is underneath the shift in your husband from optimistic to angry and critical? You say you've tried to talk to him but that didn't work. Perhaps he would be open to speaking to a coach either individually or as a couple so he can navigate his triggers without taking it out on others.

You say you want your "happy" husband back. We can't be happy or "up" all the time. Perhaps if your husband spoke with a professional he could get some help in allowing his emotions and learn skills to process them in healthy ways.

And what do you need? It sounds like you're avoiding him and walking on eggshells. The two of you might benefit from working with a coach so you can have a safe home where you can relax and there is harmony. I wish you well.

Lynn Goodacre | http://www.lovecoachlynn.com

Kim Morse

Kim responds ...

I can certainly hear your distress over your husband's apparent changes. This must feel very scary for you.

So many people have been experiencing stress during this challenging political time. It can be very easy when watching the news to get caught up in current events. While being informed may be good, being inundated could also be cause for agitation. It sounds as if he has become very discouraged and possibly allowed it to bring down his entire view of the world.

Trying to talk to him about how he is acting may not be the best approach right now, especially if you are challenging his thinking. It certainly has not been working. In every relationship there is usually a talker and a thinker and many times the thinker just simply does not want to talk about what is bothering them.

You stated that you are "staying away from him". Is it possible that he may really need you at this time but does not know how to talk about it or even know how he needs your support? Each person deals with stress in a very different way and he may need you in a much different way than you would need him if the situation were reversed. How you can show him support without questioning him about his negativity?

You are expressing concern that he will become like his father even though your husband has always been positive in the past. When you think that your husband is turning into his father, how do you react to your husband? Is it possible this fear can also be driving you away from him? I would encourage you not to jump to a conclusion and compare your husband to his father, but to try and see him for who he is and have compassion for what has apparently drove this "happy" man to feel so negative. Finding the strength to stay positive yourself and turning toward your husband instead of away could be the key to bringing him back to his old self again.

Kim Morse | http://www.sailinghappilyeverafter.com

The opinions stated are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the staff, members, or leadership of Relationship Coaching Institute.

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your question here and it will be forwarded to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.


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