Key to a thriving, happy romance? Plenty of playfulness, say researchers

HALLE, Germany — A new study finds that couples who play together, stay together. Researchers in Germany say being playful with your loved one can influence how happy you feel with your sex life. It may even reveal how long the relationship will last.

Scientists believe playfulness is not only important for children, but it also plays a role in most adults’ love lives. Surprising your partner or recreating special moments through role play are some of the things that can boost a relationship. Researchers suggest that a person’s playfulness can help with reducing conflict. It also cuts down on monotony as pairs engage in an active and fulfilling sex life and build trust with each other.

The study’s authors play encourages positive emotions and might relate to potential biological processes such as activating hormones and certain brain circuits. It also influences how people communicate and interact with each other. For example, it helps adults deal with stress and resolve interpersonal tension.

These can all impact relationship satisfaction (RS) and trust, ultimately affecting the longevity of relationships.

“Our literature review and studies from our lab show that being playful contributes to most people’s love lives,” says lead author Kay Brauer from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in a media release.

“Playful behaviors such as surprising the partner, retelling and reenacting joint experiences with the partner, or jointly forming new experiences often contribute to the happiness and longevity of relationships.”

How is playfulness linked to the bedroom?

Many studies have looked at play and playfulness in children, but researchers say it’s understudied in adults — especially its role in romantic life. Yet having a romantic relationship is among the most desired life goals for adults. It can affect a person’s physical and mental well-being.

Previous research shows adult playfulness helps people to build and maintain social relationships. This has also been seen in animals through rough-and-tumble play and facial expressions.

One popular theory as to why playfulness has such positive effects on romantic relationships is because it leads to positive emotions which help people to build and strengthen social bonds. Other theories suggest being playful might make people particularly attractive and visible to others. It could even be a signal for mating.

Research suggests play and playfulness could also play a part in “sexual selection,” with men seeking playful females as a sign of youth, health, and fertility.  Women seek the same trait in men as a sign of non-aggressiveness.

“The literature suggests that playfulness facilitates the experience of positive emotions, relates to potential biological processes, and how people communicate and interact with others,” Brauer and the team write in their report.

Having fun keeps couples together

“We assume that individuals’ playfulness affects the partner and the couple as an interdependent unit as well. For example, by contributing to RS, reducing conflict (e.g., by solving interpersonal tension) and monotony (e.g., by engaging in an active and fulfilling sexual life), and building trust with the partner.”

“The literature supports the notion that high RS, trust, and low conflict are robust predictors of stable and satisfying relationships,” the researchers continue. “Hence, we expect that playfulness indirectly contributes to the longevity of relationships. However, it must be noted that several components of this suggested model have not been tested empirically yet; for example, there is no knowledge on playfulness and trust.”

While the majority of findings suggest that playfulness contributes positively to relationships, no study has examined the negative consequences of playfulness at this point. Existing research suggests some types of playfulness could have a link to jealousy, or a perceived threat of a person’s relationship. However, current research supports the idea that playfulness contributes positively to forming and maintaining relationships.

The findings appear in the journal Social and Personality Psychology Compass.

SWNS writer Laura Sharman contributed to this report

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