If you are like me, some days you feel like crawling out of your skin. If my routine does not shake up a little soon, I might just scream! At these times, I have to remind myself that social media is only the highlight reel of my friends’ lives and that everyone experiences some boring, mundane days.
Weekends come and go, and typically Eric and I do very few noteworthy experiences. By Saturday evening, I am usually regretting our intense relaxation. Even two hours of something out of the ordinary (or even just getting out of the house) can be excellent for mental health and relational bonding.
Each year seems to pass by a little quicker than the last. As the calendar turns, I think of all the years I have let slip past me, and I wonder how much life I have left. But, since there is nothing I can do about the past (other than learn from it), and I cannot control the future, I have to live today! So, I shout from the rooftops, “Live, everyone! Live!” Let’s shake ourselves out of these boxes we wrap around our lives and get a little bit uncomfortable once in a while. Even writing that made me feel anxious and excited (because anyone who knows me knows I live for comfort).
Dynamite the Guilt
We should not feel guilty for having fun. We should enjoy the world and the people God has placed around us. We serve the same God who created Eden and gave Adam dominion over it all. He created woman from man; gifted them with sex; gave them all the food they would ever need; and provided an amazing, lush home surrounded by four rivers. Surely, they enjoyed their life there before sin entered the world. God created the world to be enjoyed.
Everything in moderation is important. We need to work hard. We need to rest and rejuvenate. We need to love and be loved. We need to worship. It is easy to think, especially in some cultures, that working should be praised and leisure should be avoided; but, a well-balanced person is more creative and more productive than an exhausted, overwhelmed person.
Play on Purpose
So, let us play. We need it. But, we need to be purposefully playful. Too often, I let Saturday happen to me instead of making plans. Before long, the day is gone and I have done very little work, but I have also had very little fun. Going to bed after a wasted day is unfulfilling.
Fun is not the opposite of work, as it sometimes seems. Fun occasionally happens organically. Sometimes we run into a friend and share a good laugh or enjoy an event more than expected; but, if we do not regularly plan enjoyable events, we will let hours slip away unnoticed – scrolling on our phones or playing mindless games – not truly experiencing joyful play.
Enjoy Life and Each Other’s Company
We get to a place of comfort in long-term relationships; and, comfort is good as long as it does not cause you to fall asleep to your life and each other. Having fun and exploring with your partner keeps life interesting. As much as I like Eric, I enjoy his company more when we are actively spending time together and not just in the same room playing games on our phones.
We have established that fun is good; but, fun is also necessary.
Consider breaking out of the comfy mold and incorporating the following into your relationship:
- Pick one habit to start together and one habit to break This may not sound much like recreation, but it can help you and your partner move out of your rut and possibly free up time for fun activities. We are going to break our habit of mindlessly scrolling on our phones each night and create an efficient, yet leisurely, 30-minute bedtime routine.
- Pick a book or TV series to enjoy together. Try to avoid binge watching or binge reading. Enjoy a chapter or two at a time, or an episode or two at a time. Be sure to only watch together. Additionally, pick something which is out of the ordinary for you and your person. Eric and I watch plenty of political clips and comedy, so we could pick something historical, a series of mysteries, or a game show series to shake up our entertainment.
- One day per week (if possible), do something new together. Instead of going out to eat, get take-out and eat in a park or on a mountain with a breath-taking view. You can have the same “new” day each week or mix it up to suit your schedule. Since our memories are not as reliable as we hope they will be, keep a journal (written and/or photo) of your exploits. It will be fun to look back over the years and see the different activities you tried together. There is a good chance a lasting hobby or two will emerge from this exercise.
- Fast something together. What takes up most of your time now? Is it something you can live without or lessen? What takes up a large chunk of time in your life? Keep asking these questions until you have your top ten time-consumers written down (e.g., work, sleeping, gaming, housework, etc.). Realistically, how much time can you shave off these tasks each week? Pick something from the list which wastes a lot of your time and set it aside for a week. Maybe it is watching Netflix. Maybe it is gaming. Maybe it is unnecessary research. You may feel like you cannot live without it, but after a week, you may realize how insignificant it is in the scheme of life. I remember being without a TV for a week when I was in college, and it was one of the most spiritually fruitful weeks of my life. Use the time you are saving to do something different and worthwhile (visit friends, take a meal to a neighbor, study the Bible together, etc.).
- Create sacred time. It can be a two-hour window on Saturday mornings, or an entire day in the middle of the week but put boundaries around specific times for you and your significant other. Because Eric and I both work from home, we are “together” all the time, but we rarely make plans to do something specific together. Knowing date night is coming can boost your mood, give you something to look forward to, and guarantee the chance to reconnect at least once a week. Couples often fall into ruts when they quit discovering each other.
- Once in a while, play first. For the achievers and perfectionists out there, this may seem completely backwards and ridiculous. Try it anyway! Will it feel uncomfortable? Yes. Will it help you build your flexibility muscles? Yes! Instead of insisting the house is spotless before allowing yourself popcorn and a movie, order pizza and enjoy a matinee together. Clean afterwards (if the house even needs it). Instead of finishing the paper first, go on a hike or picnic together. The time out can refresh you and give you more energy to complete the less exciting tasks in your life. Flexibility is important and will serve you well in certain seasons of your life. Dessert should not always be eaten last. (Alternately, if the house is in consistent disarray, it would be helpful to clean it to give your order-loving partner a chance to breathe deeply so he or she can relax enough to play.)
- Create a bucket list for each season and keep it where you can see it every day. Our friends’ children created a summer bucket list on a chalk board they keep in the kitchen. It is a visual reminder that something fun is always coming. When the summer is over, they will look back and remember all the cool activities they got to enjoy together. That is a good idea for big people too! Write down at least four events you want to experience at the beginning of each season, plan for them, check them off, and move to the next season. Let something fun always be on the horizon. Adults need fun too… maybe even more than the kiddos!
Are you ready to put down the budget, the vacuum cleaner, and the textbook and take off on an impromptu day trip? Are you ready to get together with friends for a bonfire or game night? Are you ready to try that experience which scares you a little bit?
Let us live, guys. There will always be work. There will always be responsibilities. We must be vigilant if we want to keep our lives and relationships balanced. We can do it. Ready! Set! Play!
We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. – George Bernard Shaw
Keep breaking free!!!
Do you and your partner prioritize fun in your relationship?