• The antidote to too much seriousness is playfulness.

  • There are many important benefits of play for adults.

    • Playful people can reduce stress for themselves and others around them.
    • Playfulness helps us see things from a new perspective, and come up with novel solutions.
    • Play tends to build and strengthen bonds between people.
    • Play makes life more interesting and distracts from stress.

  • PLAYFULNESS is a choice. The moment we choose, opportunities for playfulness suddenly show up everywhere.

    • Everyone can be playful; you don’t have to be funny to be playful. Funny and playful are two different things; they overlap only sometimes.
    • Playfulness is a mindset. Most people are as playful as they make up their minds to be. To be playful you must lower your ego.  You also might lower your ego by being playful.
    • Give yourself permission to be playful. Yeah, adults can be playful.
    • Add novelty to your life.
    • Adding playfulness back into your marriage is more about removing barriers to joy than it is adding forced laughter.

  • There are several different playful types.

    Do what feels natural to you; you can’t force playfulness. There’s no right way to be playful.

    • Other-directed: Those who like to fool around with friends and acquaintances
    • Light-hearted: People who regard their whole live as a type of game
    • Intellectual: Those who like to play with thoughts and ideas, and are able to turn monotonous tasks into something interesting
    • Whimsical: Tend to be interested in ‘strange and unusual things’ and are amused by small, everyday observations

1. Consciously and proactively choose and commit to enhance your marriage (and life in general) with some more playfulness – whatever your definition of playful is.

2. Discuss what playfulness means to each of you. 

Each of you answer this question: I feel most playful when I am …. Is there a commonality between all those things?

      • Review your ‘playfulness types’  from the What is your playfulness quiz; this should give you insights into what you and your spouse consider fun. ** (are you: Other-directed? Light-hearted? Intellectually playful? Whimsical?) 

3. You might try to make seeking novelty a habit in your marriage.  Remember, openness and novelty are hallmarks of playfulness.  Come up with a list of what you would like to try together.  Write/type it up and save it so you can access it later.

4. Look at your lists of when you feel most playful and fit those into your life. Examine your lifestyle to find areas where you can enhance your playfulness. What  barriers to spontaneity and playfulness can you remove or reduce?

** Don’t be concerned if your playfulness levels or types are different. Studies found that couples in which the partners were more similar in playfulness—whether both were high or both low—did not report greater relationship satisfaction than those who were less similar in playfulness. Thus, simply being similar to your partner in playfulness does not necessarily benefit relationship satisfaction.


Humor can make even the biggest problem more manageable. It can diffuse the stress and lighten the mood. It can make bad news easier to absorb. And humor helps people to relax, think more clearly, and make better decisions.
Couples (or teams) that laugh together can weather greater storms together. More easily.

It is worth trying to find the humor in any situation. Even if you are not naturally ‘funny’.

Some ways of finding humor:
– Reframe it. When a child makes a huge mess, you might say: “This is a 6 baby-wipe emergency.”
– Exaggerate it – for humor effect. “I may as well invest in a wipes manufacturer”. “You’d think that I was on a wipes testing team, trying all new ways to use wipes.”
– In your mind compare it to something bigger and worse. “At least it is not sticky molasses.”
– Laugh at yourself; don’t take yourself so seriously. “Not my finest moment.” (Don’t allow this to become a put-down of yourself.)
– Take a picture. “It didn’t really happen if there isn’t a photo.”

Sometimes, the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.


Life is stressful. We all have a lot going on. Lots on our plate, lots on our mind. And all that stress might get in the way of playfulness and intimacy.

It might be impossible to totally put aside all of life to be playful together. You might think of it as a series of switches – some stress ones, some relaxed/happy. The goal is to have more relaxed switches set to ‘on’ than stressed ones. At least temporarily so that you can enjoy each other’s company – which will probably put you in a better mood.

You may not be able to switch all stress switches to ‘off’. Your goal is to help each other turn as many stress switches to ‘off’ as possible – at least temporarily. Take a responsibility of your spouse’s ‘To-do’ list. Listen to their vent. Offer support.

Additionally, try to turn some happy switches ‘on’. Give a compliment. Bring home a small something that you spouse enjoys. Do something nice for their parents.

You know what works for your spouse.

You can also work to turn ‘off’ your own stress switches and turn ‘on’ your happy switches. You know what works for you. A quick run, a hot cup of coffee, listening to music, talking to a friend.


As you plan your days and weeks, plan for some downtime, for some play. Whatever play means to you; something you enjoy doing. Not every minute has to be filled with work and housework and chores and errands. Do things that are fun for you. Gardening, reading a book (OK, an article), crossword puzzles, slow sips of coffee, singing, just plain being goofy. Whatever works for you.

Research has shown that “play” is vital for people. It calms the mind and also builds one’s creativity and innovation – key components for finding solutions in crazy situations, which ultimately keeps one more composed and calm.

Think of your three favorite downtime play activities. And when you can fit those into your schedule. Put into your calendar. Keep those times sacred. Make it happen.

(At least one of your play activities should include your spouse. Discuss it together.)


Don’t take life so seriously all the time. Make time to laugh together. To do something goofy. Spontaneous. Irresponsible.

Make some space in the busyness of your life for playing. If you are the spontaneous type, then just let serendipity reign. Or, you can create a list of things your’d like to try, just beyond your comfort zone. Reach back into your childhood for what you considered play.

You can build sandcastles, play in the snow, stack cups into a tower, write messages to each other in the frost on a window or with dry erase markers. Silly stuff.

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