How Balancing Work, Play and Hanging Out Benefits Your Relationship

How Balancing Work, Play and Hanging Out Benefits Your Relationship

PHIL: I always admired a friend of mine (also a computer programmer) for his work-play balance. He always took time to go surfing, play volleyball and, each Christmas, take an extended vacation to exotic locales.

Think of play as what is left after work is removed. But what counts as work? It’s fuzzy because the words “work” and “play” have been around for more than a millennium and they have a wide variety of meanings and connotations. America in particular has internalized the Protestant ethic that work is virtuous and the path to Heaven.

Rather than work meaning the exertion of effort or an activity that you are paid for, think of it as what you don’t want to do. In this light, your job, if you are lucky, could be a form of play, and housework might or might not be work. This boundary between work and play is, of course, not clear-cut; there are degrees of pleasantness involved, and mental attitude is a big factor. Ask your favorite Zen monk about this.

And then there is the common belief that relationships take work. That’s true in the sense that you need to maintain and actually cultivate the connection with your partner, but the struggle and conflict that many people experience is not necessary.

Which means that a relationship is play. Here, it helps to remember that play is an ancient word with a plethora of meanings. There are 95 different ones in my dictionary – acting, board games, competition, dramatization, exercise, fun, gambling – the word has been adopted for so many uses.

The root meaning of them all is given as “leap for joy, dance, rejoice, be glad,” and is that not what we all hope for in our relationships? Yet that darned Lutheran work ethic can nibble away at joy and time off, with Benjamin Franklin whispering in our ear that leisure time is a loss of earnings.

Be like my friend with the work-play balance: finish your work, put it in a box, shut the lid firmly, then go out and play.Finish your work, put it in a box, shut the lid firmly, then go out and play #quote #relationships Share on X

MAUDE: It is frequently stated that having good relationships takes work. We have spoken and written about how it takes presence, intention, belief, acceptance and a desire to find solutions that create mutuality.

A critical aspect which is less frequently mentioned is play: playing together, being playful, creating space for laughter and joy. I have been talking a lot lately about an element I find missing in so many of my intimate relationships – hanging out.

Some of this lack has come from the pandemic, and a pattern many of us have gotten into of connecting through online meetings or at a distance, all of which have to be scheduled to occur. We seem to have lost the art of just being with each other, the art of being together without a formalized structure.

People gather to meet and eat, meet and accomplish, meet and discuss, meet and produce. Meeting just to be together seems to have fallen off the list of things seen as having value. The culture is one of being busy, ever busier in a world demanding much involvement in keeping everything functioning and moving forward.

“I’ve become an accidental witness to a growing crisis,” writes Sheila Liming in Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time. “People struggling to hang out, or else voicing concern and anxiety about how to hang out. Take risks,” she writes. “Create opportunities to spend unproductive, unstructured time doing nothing with other people.”

Phil and I have found that playing, this art of just being with each other, is an integral and important part of our relationship and adds valued depth to all our relationships. We set time  aside every evening when we spend time connecting, hanging out together, experiencing each other, playing games, talking, making love (what an apropos term), creating, watching and discussing programs.

“The best thing about play, besides the fact that it’s something you enjoy, is that while you’re doing it, it’s benefiting your overall wellbeing and impacting your health. It can fuel your creativity, emotional wellbeing and ability to problem solve.” The Beacon

Our lives are permeated by many other forms of play and times of play, mixed into the fabric of our relationship: writing, learning, sharing, walking, talking, hiking, discussing. Living in peace and harmony is a natural platform for play. We have given lightness and joy and play a deep value in our togetherness.

There are many ways to do this and each of you can find your own ways to give this a place of value in your shared lives. The more you balance work and play, effort and ease, being and doing, the happier and the more effective you and your relationships will be.

Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: Maude in woods

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