When we are able to bring play into our relationship, not just when things are hunky-dory, but actually when it’s relationship rocky-road, we’re able to call on an entire playbook of benefits that will keep us cool, calm and open to our partner.
Here are our top five playful tools for your relationship toolbox -
Code words - find a code word to express certain messages that may be a bit sensitive or triggering. For example: when my husband and I started dating, carrot-cake was code word for I love you, babe but you need some mouth wash, or we would use sandwiches which stands for I’m totally on to you trying to waste time with some other menial task so you don’t have to help me with the kids.
Sing-along - mix up your intonation. You know how in scary movies, it’s the suspenseful soundtrack that heightens the thrill - well, same goes for our tone of voice and intonation. Change your tone and your message might be land differently. Just try singing about the laundry and who knows, maybe it’ll get done a different way? Extra points if you add a lilt to your script.
Comic-strip - You know how in comic strips, there are the thought bubbles. Who says those are reserved for the funnies? Include thought bubbles into your interaction as a playful way to pull back the curtain to your thoughts, internal voice and vulnerable emotions. How to: Before you begin to speak, mime a thought bubble or say: bloop bloop thought bubble - and then share those inner working thoughts. Pro tip: it may actually help to break eye contact and look away because you’re sharing inner thoughts and that’s vulnerable.
“Who’s the dog, Harry?” - Ever notice how your favorite pooch will have a good shake-off after they come in contact with a stressful situation? That’s your dog literally shaking off the emotion, letting it go and moving on. We know that emotions run through our body, so taking a minute to shake it off is a great way to signal that you’re letting the emotion run through you and you’re ready to move on.
Stomp it out - Another helpful trick when you’re angry or upset is to stomp it out. Jump around. It’s playful, while at the same time genuinely expressive of the anger, frustration or hostility your feeling.
Accessing play when you’re in an argument, stressful situation or just cranky is not easy. It’s a skill, and like any skill, it requires practice. We suggest choosing one of the above and finding small moments to introduce playfulness into your interactions. It’s important to give your partner a heads up that you’re actively working on incorporating more play (so your goofy behavior doesn’t worry them).