Real relationships don’t always have "happily ever afters." Here’s the truth that few of us care to admit: When you’ve figuratively ridden off into the sunset with your one true love, normal life resumes. Chances are, you both have jobs, mundane commitments, family issues, and everyday chores to do. As time passes, the romance may start to dwindle.
If you’re hoping to keep things going strong, there’s a simple approach to try. Being more playful in your relationship could keep the spark alive, according to a review from the University Halle-Wittenberg and Pennsylvania State University. The researchers suggest that this attitude may lower conflict in relationships, build trust, and even reduce monotony in the bedroom. However, finding a slot for playtime can be tricky.
That's why we've enlisted the help of three relationship experts: Dr. Sherry Cooper, Brooke Aymes, and Dr. Jess Carbino. “The overwhelmingness of increased responsibility can easily make people forget to be playful and fun in long-term relationships,” Dr. Cooper tells Brides. “Finding balance between fun and responsibility is important. Playfulness can help to maintain relationships by decreasing the burden of some responsibilities.”
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Sherry Cooper is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Florida and New Jersey. Additionally, she is a post-doctoral clinical psychology fellow and registered yoga teacher.
- Brooke Aymes is a licensed clinical social worker in New Jersey. She is the owner of Gaining Grace.
- Dr. Jess Carbino is a sociologist and relationship and online dating expert. She served as a sociologist for Tinder and Bumble.
Ready to unleash the cheery side of your personality? Let’s delve into some of the strikingly easy ways you can become more playful and revive that flirtatious side of yourself.
Show Some Vulnerability
First things first, make sure you feel comfortable introducing playfulness into your relationship. “The key is to feel secure enough in your relationship to be able to choose to be vulnerable,” Aymes, explains. “We are more likely to be vulnerable, to try new things, and to be playful in our relationships when we feel safe, secure, and accepted.”
“Adults can introduce playfulness in a gradual but concerted way. Many couples try to do something grand when facing difficulties with preserving or rekindling romance in their partnership such as going on a vacation or planning a big date night,” says Dr. Carbino. “While this grand gesture may be important as a first step to give the relationship a jolt, grand gestures must be maintained through smaller and daily playful acts and interactions."
Make Time for Each Other
You’re busy—we’re all busy—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make time for your partner. “The most important thing that couples can do to prevent the romance from dwindling in their relationship is to be intentional about scheduling quality time with one another,” says Aymes. “If we feel connected with one another then we are more likely to initiate and engage in romantic activities.”
Surprise Your Partner
You don’t have to plan a huge surprise party to catch your partner off guard. “If romance is dwindling in your relationship, do something to make your partner feel special. Send an unexpected text to say ‘I love you’ or ‘I have a surprise for you,’” says Dr. Cooper.
Surprise your partner with dinner, their favorite book, or send the kids to their grandparents’ house for a quiet night in.
Flirting is natural when you meet someone new. You may not even realize you’re doing it. However, the longer you’re with that person, the less you will feel the need to show your attraction. "Flirtation is important in a long-term relationship because it’s indicative of desire,” says Dr. Carbino. “As relationships evolve it’s very common for there to be a discrepancy in terms of mutual desire and that flirtation can be a critical mechanism to signal mutual desire.”
Crack a Joke
It’s the small things that count. Throughout the day, why not throw in a few one-liners for good measure? “Once we become more comfortable with engaging in play in our daily routines than we can be intentional about adding more playful interactions like joking, dancing or just being silly,” says Aymes.
Get Playful In the Bedroom
Tired of the same old bedroom routine? Your playful side doesn’t need to be confined to everyday activities. Why not try something new in bed? “Read the Kama Sutra together and decide on a new sexual position together,” suggests Dr. Cooper. “Play a sexy game such as The Intimacy Deck or Truth or Dare.”
Find a New Mutual Hobby
When was the last time you had a date night? It could be time to mix things up and do something new. "Dates allow for increased experiences to recall later in life and increased communication and teamwork,” shares Dr. Cooper. “Consider if it’s an activity that you have never done together, something neither of you are good at, or an activity that is not often available for you to do together.”
Go On an Adventure
Pack your bags and head out on an adventure together. This bonding experience is a surefire way to bring you closer together. “Whether it's hiking a mountain, axe throwing, trying hibachi for the first time, or visiting a new place we will most likely have the opportunity to see our partner in a different light,” says Aymes. “Revisit the dating stage of our relationship.”
Show a New Side of Yourself
Feeling comfortable in your relationship? Keep things fresh by sharing a new dimension of yourself. “Playful dates should allow the couple to see sides of their partner that they are most attractive and conducive to signaling important aspects of play (i.e. curiosity, imagination, etc.),” says Dr. Carbino.
Give a Spontaneous Treat
When was the last time you got your partner a treat just because? Sometimes, it’s these small gestures that have a big impact. “Spontaneous gifts can be a very nice and playful gesture because they provide an opportunity to surprise one’s partner and to enhance excitement in the partnership,” says Dr. Carbino.
Give a Thoughtful Gift
“Gifts that remind you of an experience with your partner or remind you of a funny nickname you have for a partner are thoughtful,” says Dr. Cooper. “For example, if one of your nicknames for your partner is Skittles and you know they love candles and you happen to be out and see a Skittles scented candle, buy it for them.”
Take a Trip Down Memory Lane
What was it that attracted you to your partner at first? Can you remember your first kiss? "Recalling fun memories that made each of you laugh can be a great way to introduce playfulness into everyday relationships,” offers Dr. Cooper. “Recall that awkwardness that comes from trying to impress someone you want to date.”