For many years, we focused our relationship work primarily on all the hard stuff: conflict repair, vulnerable communication, relationship visioning, sex, childhood history…
Now, don’t get us wrong—all those things are important. As couples growing in life together, we must understand ourselves, and learn to be relationally skillful. We must be able to reveal ourselves at deep levels, and we must be able to repair conflict without re-wounding each other. These are essential parts of building intimacy.
But, recently, we’re excited by the ideas of interpersonal neurobiology and how people are hardwired for love, empathy, fun, and pleasure. We literally have the capacity built into our brains to connect with each other at very deep levels. And this connection, it turns out, is vital for our immune systems, our longevity, and our sense of well-being.
So, these days, we’re thinking a lot about fun and intimacy.
Once we interviewed an older married couple to ask what their secret was. They had had such a good life. Here is what they told us.
“Compromise,” he said. “I don’t always like what she wants to do, but I have found that listening, and making some part of it work, always enhances our love.”
“Tenderness,” she said. “Stroking his hair at night. Touching him when I walk by and he’s at the kitchen table.”
“Yes, tenderness.” He smiled. And then he added, “You know, we’ve had a lot of fun together.”
“What kind of fun?” I asked.
“We laugh at ourselves, we tickle each other’s funny bones. We are able to laugh at mistakes, laugh at good movies, and laugh with our grandchildren. Laughter feels real good, even when it’s about the silliest things.”
Then they both began musing about county fairs, a trip to the Grand Canyon, the time a tornado blew through and they had the grandkids with them and everyone spent the night in the basement.
“We brought down marshmallows, chocolate bars, graham crackers, and had cold 'smores. We laughed about it for months. The tornado did no damage, so we can remember the story with a lot of humor."
One of us said, “All these things sound so simple, and you got such pleasure from them.”
They agreed and he said, with a mischievous grin, “It also made our sex life real good.”
In our work we discovered that life is foreplay. The little things count far more than you would think. Compromise, tenderness, and laughter, making play out of every day events. This has become one of the core practices of our relationship.
© 2013 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies