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'Playfulness' is the key to a long and happy relationship, say researchers

So far, play and playfulness have been studied well in children. This study explores the structure and consequences of playfulness in adults.

'Playfulness' is the key to a long and happy relationship, say researchers
Image Source: Getty Images/Westend61

Growing up we were made to believe adulthood would entail a lot of serious business with no room for frivolity. We leave behind the days of having fun and playing in our teen years and replace them with a stern smile and a firm handshake. We were told to take everything seriously or we would fail as people. The same applied to all parts of life including our relationships, romantic and otherwise. But scientists are here to tell you otherwise. Research suggests that having childlike playfulness can actually do wonders for you especially when it comes to your romantic relationships.


Play and playfulness have been studied well in children, but their structure and consequences are understudied in adults. The research, published in Social and Personality Psychology Compass, explores this playfulness in adults and its importance in the romantic relationships they have. “Our literature review and studies from our lab show that being playful contributes to most people’s love lives,” lead author Kay Brauer, MSc, of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, in Germany said in a statement. “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.”




Playfulness helps create positive emotions and even activates certain hormones and certain brain circuits. This helps improve the way they communicate with each other, often aiding problem-solving and handling stressful scenarios with ease. The way they interact also improves that will ultimately reflect in relationship satisfaction and also help relationships last long, filled with happiness. René T Proyer, another author in the study defines playfulness as "an individual differences variable that allows people to frame or reframe everyday situations in a way such that they experience them as entertaining, and/or intellectually stimulating, and/or personally interesting."




The authors also noted the importance of playfulness in an adult when it comes to picking a partner. It's when we say things like, "I want someone with a good sense of humor." This was, in fact, the most desirable trait as ranked by people in a survey of 254 university students to rate the 16 characteristics regarding their desirability. Participants rated “playful” fifth overall, as stated in the study. This also checks out with the general hypothesis regarding the importance of playfulness and associated traits in partners. Researchers also carried out genetic assortative mating testing.


Genetic assortative mating is "the tendency for people to choose mates who are more similar (positive) or dissimilar (negative) to themselves," according to Science Direct. This notion was also supported for playfulness to a certain degree. All of this would culminate into the level of satisfaction the partners' experience in their relationship. It was found that less satisfied couples were also lower in playfulness. The authors classified playfulness into lighthearted, intellectual, and whimsical playfulness. The different types of playfulness together contribute to the overall satisfaction a person feels in their relationship.


Source: Getty Images/Hello World


The authors concluded, "The study of adult playfulness contributes to the understanding of how people experience, facilitate, and maintain close relationships." They further explain that this is only the initial insight into the role playfulness has on a romantic relationship. The authors state, "It must be noted that ambiguity in the conceptualization and assessment of playfulness makes it difficult to generalize the findings across the field (e.g., distinguishing between the ludic and playful love style.)" So don't let the child in you die. Stay curious and playful because clearly, it has more benefits than we thought.


Source: Getty Images/Westend61

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