Omega: How can couples cultivate more playfulness in their relationship?
Richard: People do take themselves much too seriously. I have a title for a book that I'd like to write, called We're Married, But It's Not Serious.
Antra: We think of relationship as one-third positive, one-third negative, and one-third neutral, and that this a really good deal. Most people think, “I want to live happily ever after,” which would be 98 percent happiness, and two percent pain, and certainly no neutrality, because that would be like living with a roommate. Anything short of that and there’s something wrong. As soon as you realize that life is really one-third wonderful, one-third painful and challenging, and one-third neutral, that neutral then becomes playfulness.
Humor comes from seeing how things just go up and down. In our workshop we have this game that Rich used to play when he was a boy called, “Yay, Boo.”
Rich: We’d make up stories in which you would alternate one positive thing with one negative thing, and when the people listening heard the positive thing they would say, “Yay,” and with the negative thing they would say, “Boo.” So in our comedy workshop one of the things we did was tell the story of our wedding. The story starts, “We are on our way to our wedding and we’re going to get married.” “Yay.”
Antra: But we get stopped by the police.
Rich: For speeding, “Boo.”
Antra: But we make it to the boat in time, “Yay.”
Antra: But the suitcase falls into the water.
Rich: “Boo.” But we retrieve it and nothing has been damaged, “Yay."
Antra: And it just goes on and on.
Rich: The alternation equally of positive and negative plus this detachment—what we call neutral—is the formula for humor and playfulness. In humor, nothing is absolute. Happiness is not absolute. Sorrow, grief, and negativity are not absolute. And we are surely not all neutral, no matter how much we meditate our brains out. We’re not ever going to be totally neutral. So this mix is what creates playfulness and humor.
Another thing we do is exaggerate a conflict or difference. For example, sometimes we’ll have a mock argument. Just to create energy, we’ll argue about something we agree on.
Antra: So one of us will say, “Okay. We absolutely need to be ready at noon today.”
Rich: “No, no, it’s 12:00 p.m.”
Antra: “No, Rich, I said it was noon.”
Rich: “No, it’s 12:00 p.m!”
Antra: “No. Look, I’m sure that it’s 12:00 p.m. and you said it’s noon. It’s not noon.”
Rich: “No, I said it was 12:00 p.m. and you said it was noon.”
Antra: “No, no, no, no, no, I said it was 12 p.m. and you said it was noon.”
Rich: So, it just becomes totally ridiculous.
Antra: What we're looking for is the energy. In the beginning of a long-term relationship, we get what we call “a free-trial offer.” The energy is easy and buoyant, and we are just mesmerized by our partner. We’ve been together for almost 46 years, and the way that we’re still mesmerized by each other is that we really know this is an absolutely new moment—each moment. So I’ve never met Rich before this moment in which he is sitting across from me. It’s never happened before.
Rich: And it will never happen again.
Antra: Never again. So we’ve learned how to be fully present and to feel the surprise—and not always the delightful surprise—but the surprise of finding ourselves, meeting, and being here.
© 2016 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies