by Shannon Traphagen

Life gets busy, and when it does, demands pile up, work hours increase, and family schedules and obligations take a toll. This is often when time for fun gets pushed aside, causing a strain in our relationships. However, according to the American Psychological Association, by engaging in fun, novel activities, partners grow closer to one another, experience more positive emotions in their relationships, feel happier, and want to stay together.

I come from a long line of family members who have had lasting relationships. My grandparents celebrated their 40th and 50th wedding anniversaries. My parents have been together 45 years, and my husband’s grandparents were married for more than 60 years. While there were plenty of ups and downs in their relationships, there was also one thread that remained constant—how much they enjoyed one another’s company. They also communicate, value, and respect each other as individuals.

Professor Benjamin Karney, co-director of the Relationship Institute at the University of California says, “Couples that can focus on whatever aspects of their relationship are most positive, shifting those positive traits as their relationship grows, are the ones who are happiest with their relationship overall.” By focusing on each other’s positive qualities, couples are more apt to focus on strengths instead of flaws, have more fun, and have a desire to spend more time together because they genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

Engaging in activities with your partner involves cooperation and shared experiences that can bring you closer together. Research conducted at the University of Denver supports the idea that finding moments to be together free of financial, family obligations, or other stresses—to simply have fun together, is not an indulgence. Psychologist Howard Markman, co-director of the University’s Center for Marital and Family Studies, said in a USA Today article, “The more you invest in fun and friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will get over time.”

My parents share a love of golf, a sport for which my dad has always had a passion, but my mom took up the sport later in life so that she could enjoy the hobby with him. My husband’s grandparents laughed often together. The deep affection and respect they had for one another was evident to everyone around them. The secret to my marriage is that my husband and I find activities we can enjoy together, while also supporting each other’s individual hobbies. For example, my husband loves racing cars, and while I don’t share the passion for it, I watch him race to show my support. Together, we share a love of cycling, going for walks, traveling, and spending time in nature. He isn’t just someone I married—he’s also my best friend. We make time to do fun activities together as a couple—we make time for each other.

Devote quality time, attention, and appreciation to your relationship and discover how doing so might give your relationship a new dimension and new life.