When it comes to happy couples, secret code words, inside jokes and other playful communication often points to a satisfying relationship.
“Maraya? What are you doing??”, my son asked me recently while I, his seemingly no-nonsense step-mom, was chuckling with satisfaction as I busily taped an inch-long pink plastic pig onto the handle of the scoop my husband uses to measure his daily protein powder. Caught red-handed, Christopher soon learned a secret game that his uber-serious business executive father and I, his MBA-touting, structured, entrepreneurial wife, have been playing for over seven years. “Well,” I answered, “Your father and I...we take turns putting this pig in various places around the house...to surprise each other.” The confused expression on his face seemed to communicate “Uh....okaaayy?
The pig game started back when the kids had received some sort of pig-shooting gun contraption as a gift from Grandma that had the unfortunate result of distributing tiny pink pigs in the most innocuous places all over the house, which continued to be unearthed during cleaning sessions for years to come. At some point my husband made light of the never-ending appearances by purposefully placing one in my jewelry box as a joke. Ever since, we’ve been taking turns several times a year, tit for tat, planting the pink pig in laptop bags, wallets, medicine cabinets, stuck in the white goo of deodorants and, in this case, hog-tied onto my husband’s protein powder scoop where it would undoubtedly greet him mischievously at his daily 5:30 AM protein shake preparation.
But what does my pink porker have to do with your relationship? A lot! According to a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, playful interaction such as “inside jokes”, pet names and secret code language often points to high relationship satisfaction. And the more unusual or unique the play, the stronger the bond because the insider nature of these interactions makes you and your partner members of an exclusive two-person club, enhancing the “us” factor in the relationship.
Drs. Jeaneatte and Robert Lauer, authors of The Play Solution: How to Put Fun and Excitement Back into Your Relationship, say that play between couples strengthens the sense of “we” in relationships, nurtures physical and emotional well-being, helps partners cope with stress, keeps tension and frustration under control and can help diffuse conflict in a relationship.
To increase the playfulness if your relationship, plan activities with your partner such as sports, exercise, travel or going to a movie. Flirt, take a shower together, plant a sweet note where your partner will find it unexpectedly, engage in playful teasing, hold hands, have sex or just be silly.
A word of caution is that in order for playfulness to have a positive impact, it must be mutually satisfying. If it’s not, it’s not play. Also, it’s important not to use humor to cover up other emotions. For example, psychologist Dr. Jeanne Segal, says someone who is uncomfortable with conflict may use humor to avoid necessary discussions and another who has difficulty expressing herself might use humor in a biting way to inappropriately express a fear or concern, resulting in negative communication.
But, steering clear of negative humor, your playful interactions only serve to strengthen your relationship. If your love life seems devoid of mirth at the moment, rekindle the feelings by making new memories or reminiscing about the special moments you’ve shared but may have forgotten. Then take action - go on a walk, watch the sunset or go on an adventure. As your quality time increases, so does your bank account of memories and special meanings. Maybe my husband and I are the only ones who will ever enjoy planting pink pigs in protein powder, but there is a world of other playful possibilities just waiting for you and your partner to discover and use to bring the fun and spark back into your relationship.
Pearson is also the author of “The Home CEO’s Guide to Life: How to Live in Harmony, Health and Happiness”, which helps all women achieve total life organization. To learn more about Home CEO, Inc., Maraya Pearson or to purchase “The Home CEO’s Guide to Life”, visit www.healthyhomeceo.com.The Pink Pig Makes An Appearance in Cancun on Home CEO's 2008 Honeymoon