Playfulness in Marriage
by J.L. O
When two people start falling in love, people around often start wondering, Are they serious about each other? We say they are "serious," perhaps, because they spend so much time off by themselves, communicating with earnest intensity. But another reason for thinking that they are "serious" about each other is that they find it so easy to enjoy each other, have fun and kid each other, and be anything but serious with each other.
Staying in love, like falling in love, is a serious affair. And on the other hand we can get so caught up in analyzing and working on our relationships that it becomes a chore. Without a degree of light-heartedness, a relationship is more likely to sink.
One way to put more fun in a marriage is through shared recreation. Marital responsibilities are like work responsibilities. Taking a break from work routines allows us to return to our work with renewed vigor. "In any work there is an affection which puts the mind upon the stretch and keep it intent upon its work or pursuit. Unrelaxed, it becomes dull and its desire gets stale, as salt on losing its flavor no longer stimulates, or as a bow never unstrung loses its spring. This is just as true of the mind, kept day after day in the same idea." (Charity n.190) Likewise, the shared effort of marriage can be more delightful when there is shared fun as well.
Having fun together is more than an escape from routine. It is a way of communicating some of our deepest feelings. Victor Borge said that laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Plato is supposed to have said that you can learn more about a person in an hour of play than in an lifetime of conversation. That may be an exaggeration, but it is based on an important truth. Often when we talk we express ideas. By listening carefully and giving feedback, we can give a very important message: "I understand, and I care." But by playing with a person, we can communicate a message that goes a level deeper: "I enjoy you, I love to be with you." The first message soothes the mind. The second touches the heart.
A passage from the Writings describes how childlike innocence and openness in marriage leads to playfulness: "Innocence is loving the Lord as a Father, doing His commandments, and wanting to he ;led by Him, rather than oneself, like a little child.... Since true marriage love is innocence, married partners play with each other like little children do; and the more they love each other, the more the play. This is evident with everyone during their honeymoon, when their love is like true marriage love." (Apocalypse Explained, n. 496)
The degree of fun in a marriage will not make it or break it. You should not give up, feel guilty, or think you are failing just because your marriage is not as enjoyable as you would like it to be. Recreation is not an end in itself, but means of expressing and cementing a union which is already taking place on a deeper level. Inward union is the result of turning our minds to the Lord, purging our thoughts of adulterous ideas, and making usefulness to others the primary goal of the marriage. Having done this, a little recreation can help us feel more fully the joy and happiness that the deeper union gives.
Marriage is meant to be fun. The English language does not have enough. words to translate all the kinds of happiness, joy,, delight, pleasure, and just plain fun, that the Writings describe in, angels' marriages. Swedenborg wrote of marriage love that "all the states of blessedness, happiness, delight enjoyment, and pleasure which could ever be given to people by the Lord the Creator have been gathered into this His love." (Conjugal Love, n. 68)
Putting it to use...
Marriage, especially when it involves children, or demanding careers, can be hectic. Time for relaxation can get squeezed off the calendar. Below are some suggestions for squeezing it back in.
1. Take one evening every week to be by yourselves, go out to dinner, or do other things you enjoy doing together.
2. Read the comics or a funny book together.
3. Have a party, decorate the house, and invite just your partner.
4. Buy a new game, toy or puzzle and play it together.
5. Have one meal a week to which each person brings a joke.
6. Write a funny or "serious" note and hide it where your partner will find it.
7. Take turns doing something your partner enjoys. "Today I'll play golf with you, if tomorrow you garden with me."
8. Make a habit of going on short walks together.
9. Spend $5 on gag gifts for your partner, wrap them up, and save them for a rainy day.
10. Do the following exercise:
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-The Good Neighbor, October 1983, p. 7