When was the last time you and your spouse played together? It doesn’t matter if it was a leisurely bike ride, a card game, an intense one-on-one basketball game, a head-to-head video game competition, a dinner-and-movie date night, or dancing together in the living room to your favorite songs. Whether it was just a time of silliness and cutting loose or play that eventually led to something more amorous, play time is important to a healthy marriage! The physical and medical benefits of play are well documented, but play time also helps build up all the different facets of a couple’s intimacy—social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical.
Typically, when a couple is dating and first married, there is a lot of shared play time, as a couple laughs together and enjoys being with each other. However, our society treats recreation time as something that you work into an otherwise busy schedule when you can, but it should never be allowed to become the priority. So, over time a couple can drastically minimize the “power of play” in creating a healthy, vibrant marriage. When life happens and things get busy for spouses, the first place that is normally sacrificed is play time. When play time is minimized or eliminated altogether, a couple will eventually find themselves growing apart, thinking they have nothing in common with each other and seeing their spouse as someone they no longer believe they can have fun with.
It’s time for husbands and wives to reclaim their play time! We are often masters at making excuses for why we can’t have decent rest and relaxation time with our spouses, but play is such a powerful component of a strong relationship that we’ve got to get proactive on making play a priority again.
Here are a few guidelines that may help you as you get ready to play together:
Plan your play time. Spontaneity is great, but as I mentioned above, play time is typically the first thing sacrificed in our overly busy lives. Please understand that play is too important to overlook. Schedule play time with your spouse and make it non-compromisable.
Play frequently. Play time needs to show up as a non-compromisable on your calendar, but it also needs to show up at frequent, regular intervals. Play time doesn’t have to be an expensive week-long vacation (although extended times of rest are important for couples too!). Sometimes, we’re much more willing to overlook short, regular times of playful reconnection with our spouse to hold out for an extended time of play that may never come. Even if it’s just thirty minutes each week, husbands and wives need that regular interval to look forward to on a regular basis.
Keep your play private (at least part of the time). Family time and time with friends is important, but so is recreation time for you and your spouse alone. Eventually, children will leave. Life happens and friends come and go. Make sure you are connecting playfully one-on-one with your spouse so that the two of you will always see each other as someone you enjoy being around.
Be realistic. I'd love for my wife and I to jet down to Hawaii every few weeks, but that’s just not going to happen. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do based on time and money. Consider possible obstacles which might interfere with your recreation time together, and how you can overcome them. Be realistic, but don’t become pessimistic and constantly use time and money as an excuse for not finding some form of mutual play time together.
Help other couples and let them help you. Take turns watching the kids with another family, loan movies, share fun ideas, or whatever you can think to do to help others and let others help you and your spouse enjoy time together. (This is where being a part of a good church family can really be a blessing.)
Share. Don’t forget to do what the other person wants to do too. A husband's and a wife’s idea of fun may not always be the same thing. Try to find mutually enjoyable ways to connect playfully, but if you can’t find common interests, make sure you are not always insisting on what you want and you’re also making the effort to do what the other person wants to do . Shared time together can be great for a marriage, even if the activity isn’t always exactly equally enjoyable.
And just like any good playground, there are also some rules you need to observe to make sure your play time is safe and fun for both of you:
First, recreation time with friends is usually great, but it is foolish to engage in ongoing, one-on-one recreational activity with a member of the opposite sex who is not your spouse. Even though it may not lead to anything physically, you are setting yourself up for emotional infidelity. Never forget, most affairs start with flirty playfulness!
Second, If you constantly tell your spouse to grow up, behave, and stop acting foolish, and don't allow any spontaneous fun in the marriage, you will create a wall between the two of you. Yes, there absolutely has to be boundaries in how we act publically, but make sure you don’t kill your spouse’s playful spirit.
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22). Tap into "the power of play" that God blesses you and your mate with, and let your play time with your spouse be good medicine and a joyful spirit for your marriage.