Why Couples Need Play Therapy
“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves than when we are playing” (Charles Schaefer, Father of Play Therapy)
Couples go to counseling for three reasons: premarital counseling, preparing to separate or recommended by someone they trust. Rare is the couple that wants to go to therapy when problems are small. Most often, one partner has often given up emotionally but is willing to try couples counseling as a last ditch effort.
Why don’t we invest in our relationships? We go to a doctor or seek intervention when we are sick, why not go to a relationship expert? Because we hate sharing the intimate details of our relationships with a stranger. It seems easier to bury our heads in the sand and believe things will get better.
Relationships are hard. We trade freedom of doing what we want with balancing the needs of our partner with our own. In the movie, Sex and the City, Part II, Sara Jessica Parker’s character Carrie Bradshaw, explores the importance of alone time, hanging out with the girls, eating out and continuing to do the things she loves while also maintaining a close, intimate relationship with her husband.
WAS IT THE DIRTY DISHES?
Could our fight last night really be as trivial as the cleaning the dirty dishes or what do the dishes represent? Wives often complain that their husbands don’t listen and husbands often complain that wives don’t appreciate them or constantly nag. Several of the married couples I worked with in the last six months experienced infidelity with the wives being unfaithful. They complained their husbands worked too much and they felt abandoned or that their husbands avoided talking about important topics and/or sharing their feelings.
Couples That Play Together Stay Together
Play is the straw that stirs the drink of life (Dr. Stuart Brown, “Play). It is what makes life worth living. Life without play is a life without art, music, poetry, books, libraries, dance, sports, hopscotch, Connect Four, iphones, tv, storytelling. Sounds awful, right? Think about your personal relationship. Are you having fun; going on dates, laughing, smiling, hugging, cracking jokes, telling funny stories, spending time together, relaxing, enjoying each other? If not, what happened?
Do you believe play is about “goofing off” and “just for kids?” Do you make time for weekly dates with your spouse? Are you sleeping well, having regular sex and feeling good about yourself? Or are you overwhelmed and stressed out? Playing is the act of doing something enjoyable, for its own sake, it has some amazing health and social benefits. It helps people reduce self-judgment, improve social relationships, improve productivity at work and find solutions to problems.
Play therapy integrates the fun, engaging aspects of play into interventions designed to help you process and make sense of your feelings, thoughts and experiences. Sometimes, this means building structures with Legos, having battles with Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, blowing bubbles, playing Scrabble, snowball fights with cotton balls, drawing pictures or playing with miniature toys.
Here are a few meaningful and valuable tips for play therapy with couples:
Create a file filled with comic strips that relate to some aspect of your relationship. Keep a separate file for each of you. Refer back to it weekly.
Write each other a love letter, highlighting the amazing things you love most about each other.
Schedule a weekly play, at least 30 minutes. Agree to avoid talking about any serious topics and just enjoy having fun with each other.