5 Tips to Increase the Fun in Your Marriage Putting the fun back into your marriage is easier than you think. BY DR. MICHELLE GANNON
Be sure to hit your fun quotient in your marriage. You'll be happier for it.
“ ...just spending time together is not enough for relationship satisfaction… scientists report that ideally, couples need to spend time together around novel and different experiences.”
Research has found that people are happier when they have more fun in their lives. Studies have also shown that the most happily married couples are happy because they have a lot of fun together. How much fun do you have in your life? How much fun do you have in your marriage? Do you prioritize opportunities to be playful and have fun together?
1. Increase Positivity: Research by Dr John Gottman has found that couples are more happily married if they have the magic ratio of, "5:1 Positive to Negative Interactions." For every "one" disagreement, misunderstanding or hurt feeling, they need "five" positive, affectionate, caring or fun interactions to counterbalance it. Conflict is inevitable in long-term relationships and we need to be careful to not allow the conflicts to erode relationship satisfaction.
2. Prioritize Your Relationship: We always recommend that couples prioritize their relationships. When couples are dating or engaged, that means carving out time to have fun together, especially if we are busy working, studying or planning events. When couples are married with or without children, having fun together is essential for relationship satisfaction and longevity. Make a weekly date together where the focus is to have fun and enjoy each other's company. Try to inject fun and playfulness into your daily interactions too.
3. Protect Fun Times from Conflict: It’s important to protect your fun and romantic times from conflict. If you go on a date with your spouse and one of you brings up an area of conflict, I strongly suggest that you "protect your fun time from conflict." Discuss this approach ahead of time. When one of you starts an argument the other can remind them and say, "Let’s protect our fun time from conflict." Agree to discuss the issue or problem in the morning over breakfast. Then take advantage of the opportunity to go out and just enjoy each other’s company.
We have known many couples who have ruined Valentine’s Day, anniversaries and birthdays because they allowed themselves to indulge in an argument or problem focused conversation. In the beginning of a relationship, you likely had many opportunities to fully enjoy each other’s company. We suggest you recreate those possibilities no matter how long you have been together.
4: Try Something New: In a New York Times article, "Reinventing Date Night for Long-Married Couples," studies found that just spending time together is not enough for relationship satisfaction. Brain and behavior scientists report that ideally, couples need to spend time together around novel and different experiences. "New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine, which are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love." In an experiment comparing 1) Couples spending 90 minutes per week doing pleasant and familiar activities 2) Couples spending 90 minutes on "exciting" activities that they did not typically do like plays, concerts, hiking and dancing 3) No particular activity; the findings were interesting. Couples that participated in "exciting" date nights showed a significantly greater increase in marital satisfaction.
5: Brainstorm Together: Be proactive and intentional about having more fun together. Make a list of activities that you can do together. Be conscious about increasing the fun quotient in your relationship. Be more open to new experiences. Try an experiment by getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new together. Maybe this is the time for trying dance lessons, renting a tandem bicycle, taking a cooking class or reading a book together. Are you intentional about the positivity and fun in your relationship? Please, share your ideas on the Married Life network.
Dr. Michelle Gannon is a psychologist specializing in relationships and women's issues. She has been in private practice in San Francisco for 20 years helping individuals and couples. She is also a founder of award winning Marriage Prep 101 Workshops for engaged, newlywed and seriously dating couples with her husband, Dr. Patrick Gannon. Marriage Prep 101 has been featured in local and national media including CBS Early Show," Evening Magazine," Ronn Owens Radio, "Time," San Francisco Chronicle, and many others. She blogs at www.DrMichelleGannon.com and www.MarriagePrep101.com. Dr Gannon lives in San Rafael, California with her husband, two sons, dog and cat.