Author: Tracey L. Vazquez, M.S. in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling
Couples Get Creative
It’s easy to feel engaged and enthralled in a new relationship because you both have so much to learn about each other’s pasts, hopes, character, connections, etc. Once you’ve built a thorough love map of your partner, however, you may find yourself struggling to think of things to say/ask. Maybe you don’t feel like rehashing your day, maybe the day was uneventful, or maybe you spent the day together and there’s nothing to share that the other didn’t experience with you. When we run out of things to discuss with our partner, it is common for couples to then begin to feel as though the quality of the relationship is deteriorating. Or, you may feel that your partner isn’t as interested in you as they once were. Our invigorating dating conversations about how excitingly similar or different our past experiences are become a bland day-to-day tale that may focus more on defragging our stressors than on sharing laughter and fun with the person we love most. The key to breaking this monotony and enjoying quality time with your spouse is to get creative.
Break the Monotony
If you’re a parent or work with children regularly, you’ll know that oftentimes children become bored very easily and it is during this boredom that they may entertain themselves in unhealthy ways. It is our job to create something safe (and quick!) to hold their interest in a fun and/or educational way. Suddenly an empty toilet paper roll and pipe cleaners turn into a magical litter bug named Brave Buggly who likes to take baths in sparkle glue. Adults are hardly different from children in the sense that we like to be entertained as well! Some of the top paying jobs in the world are reserved for celebrities and athletes who entertain us because entertainment is a necessary component of every person’s life. When we start to feel bored, it’s easy to turn our attention to the person sitting next to us on the couch and find them or our relationship with them at fault for our boredom. Truthfully, complacency happens whether we’re in a relationship or not and it’s a common human experience for which neither of you are to blame. We have stopped looking for ways to create fun for ourselves with the resources available. This article is dedicated to getting your creative couple juices flowing so that you can break the complacency that comes with cohabiting and daily routines. We’ll start off with the stories of Mary and Tim to demonstrate how they each found ways to get creative with their partners.
Mary: I realized our evening chores had to get done, but I was tired of us silently completing our tasks while the worries of our day continued to dampen our thoughts. This is when I invented the chore-game. My husband, Nick, loves history stories about conquests and voyages, so as he takes out the trash, folds the laundry, and walks the dog, he has to think up a story about an explorer who discovers a new place on the map. I have always enjoyed the idea of being an inventor, so as I wash dishes and prepare dinner, I have to invent a new machine in my mind that will do something either serious or silly like a device that will sound an alarm if you walk in the house without putting your car keys on the key hook. When both of our chores are completed, we sit down for dinner and Nick tells me all about his journey and discoveries down to the last new species of plant he named after himself as I share my new idea for an invention. This allows us to not only look forward to dinner, but it also gives us something to discuss and think about other than the chores we’re obligated to complete.
Timothy: my partner, Lucas, and I first connected over our love for original music/writings and abstract art. We are definitely the type to enjoy thinking out-of-the-box. Because of this, we started the under-60-second 5-item game. As we’re engaging in normal conversations, we each will point out something mundane and ask the other to think of 5 items about that thing in a creative setting in under a minute. For example, Lucas says “Susan told my boss at work today that she is expecting a baby, but she plans to keep working until the birth.” Then I say, “Quick, think of 5 occupations that come to mind when you hear the name ‘Susan.’” This is a simple improv game that has brought us many laughs, but – mostly importantly – it has kept the excitement to engage in conversation with each other alive. When our friends are around they even get in on the game with us and it has become a signature piece that everyone remembers and talks about when they go home.
How to Design Your Game
Now that you’ve got a better understanding of what it means to get creative as a couple, let’s talk about how you and your partner can invent your own custom game. First, talk about what kinds of interests you each have. Make one list of shared interests and a second list of non-shared interests. Now it’s time to brainstorm about how we can put these lists to use. Have a trivia night on Tuesdays where you each have to learn 10 uncommon facts about the other partner’s non-shared interest. Jay now has to learn 10 uncommon facts about hair extensions or makeup primer and Amy has to learn 10 uncommon facts about Jay’s favorite UFC competitor. One of you likes to cook and one of you likes to learn about foreign cultures? Pick two countries each month. On the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month, the person who likes to cook will prepare a dish native to the country selected and explain the process and cultural significance of the dish to the other partner. The other will prepare a short presentation and discussion about the culture and people of the country selected while you both enjoy the meal. Are we starting to get the idea?
Games don’t always have to focus on interests. You can have a memory-lane date where you each take turns sharing 3 special moments that you’ve shared with each other in the early, middle, and recent stages of your relationship. If you’re a competitive couple, create a game that each of you has an equal chance of winning (e.g. remembering details about the other person’s previous day, remembering that the other partner has an upcoming important meeting/doc apt, etc.) and keep score throughout the week to see which person has displayed the most consideration. It’s important to remember that the competition should be done in fun and should not be used as a tool to guilt or shame your partner for their lack of effort. Remember to show appreciation for each deed and complete the items with a genuine, kind spirit rather than merely looking for opportunities to win the weekly game.
Renew and Recreate
If a game doesn’t work out or if it works for a while but loses its appeal, don’t give up on the concept! This just means your inner child needs new stimulation and fresh ideas and has grown bored again. Tell your partner you’d like to revisit those lists of shared and non-shared interests and hit the drawing board. If you struggle as a couple to be creative, be resourceful! Conduct an online search about “improvisation games” or invite some of your creative-thinking friends over for dinner and ask for their help designing a new game. If you have kids, get the kids involved in thinking up new fun game rules (e.g. “Every time mom forgets to put her shoes on the shoe rack and dad trips over them, mom has to give dad a foot massage” or “every time dad forgets to put the toilet seat down and mom sees it, dad has to sing mom the chorus of a love song”).
The more you build fun and happy memories of engagement with your partner, the more likely you are to think fondly of your relationship and your time spent together. Use these games as a tool to strengthen the bond that you share and to remind you of all the reasons you fell in love with your partner. If you find that participating in the games is a struggle because one/both of you has lost interest in investing in the relationship or if conflict in the relationship seems to always prevent a safe space to play the games, this may be a sign that you could benefit from relationship counseling to decrease contention in the relationship and make room for the fun to begin. Remember, if you’re feeling bored, your relationship may not be to blame! It may be how you’re approaching your relationship or perhaps a personal issue that’s causing a lack of energy within the relationship. Before we give up on our relationship and label it as “stale” or “old,” take some time to reflect on what can be done to improve the time spent together. Even if getting creative isn’t the solution for you, perhaps reading a book together, looking up YouTube tutorials, or visiting a museum from the shared-interest list will be enough to hold your attention on strengthening your bond.