*USA Today* 16 July 2008 includes an article: “Married couples who
play together stay together” by Sharon Jayson.

Here are some excerpts:

[begin excerpts]

Most couples know their marriages are happier when they make time to
have fun. But often it’s the fun that’s first to fall by the wayside as
demands pile up, especially in a trying economy when couples often work
long hours or hold down more than one job.

Now research from the University of Denver supports the idea that
finding moments to be together free of financial, family or other
stresses — just to have fun together — is not an indulgence.

“The more you invest in fun and friendship and being there for your
partner, the happier the relationship will get over time,” says Howard
Markman, a psychologist who co-directs the university’s Center for
Marital and Family Studies.

“The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high, and significant.”

For men, the connection is even more important, the researchers say.
They found that men are more likely than women to call their spouse
their best friend.

Markman and co-director Scott Stanley in 1996 began a long-term study of
306 Denver-area couples.


The research adds to findings published in 2000 in the Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology by psychologist Arthur Aron of State
University of New York-Stony Brook and colleagues. They showed that
sharing in new and exciting activities is consistently associated with
better relationships.

Markman, who conducts couples retreats, says individual leisure
activities, such as watching TV or using the Internet, don’t build those
positive connections.

Other relationship experts agree. “The thing we’re working for is to
have fun and relaxation and enjoyment together, and then we’re
contaminating it,” says Les Parrott, a psychology professor at Seattle
Pacific University and co-author of relationship books.

One of the reasons couples have trouble is that they have different
takes on fun and bonding, Parrott says. “Intimacy and friendship for a
man is built on shared activity, but for women, shared activity is a
backdrop for a great conversation. What she wants on date night is a
time of intimacy and friendship. He’s disappointed because she’ll never
go to a game or golfing, and it’s during shared activities that his
spirit is most likely to open up.”

Gender differences also showed up in another study by the Denver
researchers. They asked a random phone sample of 908 people how long it
had been since they had been on a date with their spouse; women, on
average, said it had been twice as long as men. (In couples married 11
to 19 years, women said 17.8 weeks, and men said nine.)

“Males and females have different definitions of what a date is,”
Markman says. “Females’ definition is much more planned in advance and
the husband puts more effort into it. For a guy, grabbing coffee —
that’s a date.”

Marital interaction is also declining, say researchers in the 2007 book
Alone Together: How Marriage in America Is Changing. Pennsylvania State
University sociologist Paul Amato and colleagues analyzed national
surveys of 2,034 married couples in 1980 and a similar sample of 2,100
in 2000. Those who reported “almost always” engaging in certain leisure
activities with their spouses dropped.


Thomas Bradbury, who co-directs the Marriage and Family Development
Laboratory and Relationship Institute at the University of California-
Los Angeles, believes having fun together can become a self-fulfilling
prophecy for couples: “People in happy relationships generate these
activities, and as they generate these activities, it keeps their
relationship strong and healthy and fresh.”

[end excerpts]

The complete article is online at: