How to See Fun as a Priority for Your Relationship

Investing in Fun for Better Relationships | Frock Files

A few weeks ago, we were watching a documentary called This Emotional Life in which psychologists pointed out that one of the driving factors of a successful marriage is having new, fun experiences together. This idea glued itself to the back of my mind, in part because I get so stuck on doing the same, comfortable things over and over again. Sometimes my desire to simplify creates a stagnancy that I have a hard time emerging from. It’s a little like finding just the right spot under the blankets in bed — cozy and comfortable for awhile, but eventually you need to get out of bed to have some coffee.

The Uncomfortable Zone

So last weekend, even though I was a little bit anxious about it, James and I headed out to a St. Patrick’s Day party his friends were throwing. A lot of things got my stomach knotted up about it — there would be a lot of new people, it was at a dive bar, I can’t really drink much anyway. But I was in once James mentioned the word “dancing,” which, aside from weddings, we have rarely gone out to do together.

The DJ played everything from Brick House to Ke$ha, which was appropriate since the crowd ranged in age from 21 to 85. While on one side of the dance floor a group of girls could do back bends, on the other side an elderly couple was dancing/supporting one another. There were good dancers and terrible dancers, and no one cared because it wasn’t about that — it was just about having a good time. And we did. It was so much fun.

The Pursuit of Imperfection

What I realized is that I struggle with trying new things and having fun because they don’t seem to contribute to any of my missions. I’m not sure if I’ll be any good at them, and if I’m not, then isn’t it a waste of time? Mel Schwartz wrote about this phenomenon in an article called “To Excel or to Have Fun? That Is the Question” for Psychology Today. He writes:

When high levels of performance become the goal— and simple playful pleasure is no longer desirable, let alone permissible— I fear that we are falling into a pathological condition.

Will a night of dancing grow my blog? Help me build up the university’s social media? Add to my bank account? No.

But what it did do is contribute to my overall state of being and the general happiness of our relationship. Having fun together makes it easier to see things from each other’s perspectives. It makes us feel closer. It creates a lightness that allows the little nagging responsibilities of our everyday lives be reduced to virtually nothing. Having fun makes the days feel full of possibility. It gives us something to look forward to. And in all these ways, even if we’re doing things imperfectly, if we’re having fun then we’re adding to the intangible but much more important growth of happiness.

Part of the problem, I think, is that James and I could have fun if someone locked us in a box together. We really just enjoy each other. So when we think about doing something out of the norm for the sake of fun, I tend to think, “But we’re already having fun!” Only, making that bit of extra effort to try new things adds a new level of depth to our connection, not just to each other but to all the people we care about, too.

So this weekend, take some time to laugh. Have fun. Give yourself permission to indulge in something that won’t benefit your career or your blog or your status, but will make you happy in a way that will resonate through the coming week. Make a deposit into your happiness bank!

P.S. A simple way to have a fresh perspective on your day.


Happily Ever After (?): Before Midnight

Frock Files | Thoughts on the "Before" Trilogy

Do you remember what it’s like to fall in love? That breathless, new, sizzling-with-electricity, talk-all-night-about-everything kind of love? I think one of the reasons I’ve watched and re-watched Before Sunrise so many times, when I can rarely get myself to sit still for a second viewing of anything, is because it conjures that magical exhilaration with such simplicity.

And the reason I re-watch its sequel, Before Sunset, is because I believe in soul mates.

So now the third installment is coming out — Before Midnight — and I’m at once aching to see it and a little scared. This film is about what happens after the whirlwind. The main characters, Jesse and Celine, have taken the plunge and created a life together and, like anything you use and wear and maybe even neglect and take for granted a little, the relationship is beginning to strain. It’s what happens after happily ever after. It’s complicated.

James loves these movies too, so we decided to do a mini marathon. We spent the past couple of nights re-watching the movies in preparation for tonight, when Before Midnight is released. It’s safe to say that we’re more in love with them than ever, which makes us just that much more vulnerable for tonight’s viewing.

But I suppose that whatever happens, we can always go back to those first two films and fall in love with them all over again. And at the end of the movie, even if Celine and Jesse don’t make it — which seems unlikely, but who knows? — I’ll have my happily ever after sitting next to me, and the knowledge that it’s important to remember, every single day, what it was like in the beginning.

P.S. Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and director Richard Linklater on Fresh Air.

Investing in Friendship

Frock Files | Friendship

Of all the things I’ve learned from blogging, perhaps the most important one is about the power of friendship. I’ve read articles about women searching for friends and having a difficult time of it, but since creating my blog I’ve had the good fortune of meeting a huge number of kind and talented people, a handful of whom have become great friends.

After spending the day with Monica this week (she’s the most wonderful hostess!), I began thinking about how energizing it is to invest in friendships. Here are a few pieces of advice from friendship pros on putting effort and thought into your friendships:

Just as Woody Allen said that “Eighty percent of success is showing up,” a big part of friendship is showing up. Whenever you have the chance to see other people, take it. Go to the party. Stop by someone’s desk. Make the effort.Make Plans and Keep Them.  “Just as Woody Allen said that ‘Eighty percent of success is showing up,’ a big part of friendship is showing up. Whenever you have the chance to see other people, take it. Go to the party. Stop by someone’s desk. Make the effort.”

– Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project from her post 8 Tips for Making Friends

Dalai Lama on FriendshipKeep Balance. “Genuine friendship can only be based on trust and affection, which can only arise when there is a mutual sense of concern and respect.”

– The Dalai Lama

Do you have a friendship that feels out of balance? Check out The Friendship Test by Martha Beck.

Stop Giving Unsolicited Advice. “If you always tell your friend how to fix her problems, the relationship will be unbalanced. You become the One Who Knows All, and she becomes the One Who Is Troubled. Eventually you’re both going to tire of those roles. Instead, let her bounce ideas off of you.”
– Frank M. Lachmannm Ph.D. from the Real Simple article, How to Be a Good Friend

Andrea Benoir on FriendshipIt’s Okay to Be Nervous. “Every relationship has to start at the beginning with two people who have never danced together,which means all of us will have our insecurities. You are not alone — even the outgoing, beautiful, confident, successful women among us have the voice of the critic telling them they are not enough.”
– Andrea Bonoir, author of The Friendship Fix

A lot of people put tons of effort into their romantic relationships, but friendships also need to be tended to in a loving way. This is something I want to work on more this year. I’m curious — how do you invest in your friendships?

Love in the Everyday

Happy Valentine’s Day, cupids! We’re celebrating over here by spending as much time as possible outside.

Yesterday, as the sun was beginning to set, we jumped in the pool. An old woman sitting nearby asked if the water was cold, and we told her it was. She said, “Probably not as cold as where I’m from: Philadelphia. But it’s okay because I’m here and it’s my birthday!” We wished her a happy birthday and talked about living on the East Coast for awhile. She told us that she hopes next year Philly and Boston both make it to the World Series.

We dried off and James went to order drinks for us. I wished that I had asked him to get one for our new friend too, but he was long gone. I shrugged it off — it was getting windy and she might go inside soon anyway. And how were we to know what she would like? It was probably for the best, right? I went back to reading my magazine.

But then, when he returned a few minutes later he told me he’d ordered our drinks and a slice of chocolate cake (with a candle) for our pool-mate from Philly.

This is why James is and always will be my Valentine.

Over the last month, Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project put together a 21 Day Relationship Challenge. It was all about strengthening your connections with loved ones rather than taking them for granted. Here are a few of the ideas that I liked most, which I think we should all practice every day  — not just on Valentine’s Day.

Joanna Goddard once wrote that she and her husband kiss for at least 10 seconds before he leaves for work in the morning. As a big fan of kissing, I’m totally on board with this.

How do you want to inspire more romance into your everyday life?

P.S. I’m sharing some parts of my life that I haven’t yet talked about over on Not Merely Living today. Go there and meet the lovely Mere, who you’ll wish lived next door so you could be best friends.

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