Research has found that people are happier when they have more FUN in their lives. Studies have also found that the most happily married couples report…”They are happy because they have a lot of fun together”.
How much fun do you have in your life? Do you prioritize opportunities to be playful, and have fun?
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 counter balance it. Conflict is inevitable in long-term relationships. You just need to be careful to not allow the conflicts to erode relationship satisfaction.
Many of us have busy lives, and we need to remember to prioritize our relationships. When we are dating or engaged, that means carving out time to have fun together especially if we are busy working, studying or wedding planning. When we are married-with or without children- having fun together is essential for our relationship satisfaction and longevity.
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 suggest as plays, concerts, hiking and dancing
3) Couples not spending time together on any particular activity.
The findings were interesting. Couples that participated in “exciting” and novel date nights showed a significantly greater increase in marital satisfaction.
In our Marriage Prep 101 Workshops we emphasize the importance of protecting your fun and romantic times from conflict. If you go on a date with your partner, and one of you brings up an area of conflict, we suggest you “Protect your fun time from conflict”. Discuss this approach ahead of time. When one of you starts an argument, the other can remind, “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 that have ruined Valentine’s Day; anniversary and birthday celebrations because they stayed in an argument or a problem focused conversation.
In the beginning of a relationship, you likely had many opportunities to fully enjoy each other’s company. I suggest you recreate those possibilities -No matter how long you have been together. Dinner and a movie can be a lovely, relaxing way to spend time together, but maybe it is time to try some new adventures together. Hiking, exploring, theater or even dancing!
Dr Michelle Gannon is a Psychologist, Relationship Expert and Marriage Prep 101 Founder.
She is a writer, speaker, seminar leader, media expert, individual and couples therapist.