Romping Into Relationships and the Power of Play

~reprinted from The Huffington Post


I’m from California, and when I think of romance, in my mind, I see dolphins leaping in tandem across our beautiful Pacific Ocean. There is a playfulness in their togetherness, a synchronicity of movement, a deft understanding of each other, and perfect timing. It’s like watching a ballet!

A relationship is like that. It’s all about trust and timing. A sense of play in your relationship can lighten the heavier moments. By cultivating a sense of playfulness in a relationship you will discover the hidden treasures in your partner. We learn each other’s hard edges and soft spots. We become aware of each other’s boundaries and each other’s boundlessness. In this way, we learn to feel the subtleties and the nuances of each other. This forms a real bond of trust and intimacy that can lead to a more gentle and respectful consideration of each other.

My parents have been happily married for almost 60 years now. They also run their international music business together, (and still do!) They are literally together 24/7. Some of my clearest memories of them — then and now — are of my mother making funny faces until my father cries laughing. We all laugh — but especially him. They have that thing! They play.

A sense of play can make fun and light out of the heavier moments of life, and it is critical for recovery in arguments. Playing with each other, and the willingness to takes ourselves, and each other, lightly is part of the formula for a long-lasting love.

In a relationship, we can get way too serious. We can miss the little cues that would avoid an argument. And so many of those moments are non-verbal. They are conveyed by body language, tone of voice and subtle nuance. A shrug of the shoulder, a roll of the eyes, are examples of different information-packed secret codes of non-verbal communication. It’s another kind of emotional intelligence that adds depth to a relationship that becomes extremely important when “it’s time to go” when we’re at a party. A little head nod that says, I’m having a great time, or the opposite, let’s get out of here, can be completely and immediately understood because of a hundred intimate moments we have experienced together. We learn to read each other.

Playfulness is a form of vulnerability. Think of two puppies romping around, taking turns being rolled over. They are learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If the play gets too rough, the pup will make a yip, and all the action stops for a moment. They learn a boundary. That’s too much. Don’t bite so hard. They are learning. They are not meaning to hurt each other. They are playing on the edge of vulnerability.

Playing is a practice of trust like the game of falling backwards into your partner’s arms. You have to trust that they will catch you. This is how we learn each other. And this is the power of play. We are willing to share our weaknesses with each other for the purposes of not hurting each other, but to better support each other.

A little bit of ribbing will stretch us out of our comfort zones, and let us explore in a loving, lighthearted way, those touchy subjects of our lives. This playfulness creates a deep bonding.

Playing with your partner says, I love you, I trust you. It says, I can show you my deepest secrets and I know you won’t hurt me. And I won’t hurt you either.

If your partner can make you laugh, and hopefully, especially at yourself, an ever-deepening intimacy is fostered. Little private jokes, like a nudge under the table, a wink across the room, all produce a complex, secret love language that only the two of you know.

Finally, it’s all about feeling safe. Teasing, kidding and all the forms of play need to be founded in kindness. This is important, because we all know how piercing a pointed-but-accurate critical comment can be. They can wound us deeply. When we lovingly play with each other we are learning each other’s parameters of safety. In this established safe space we can be kidded, teased and challenged. Playfulness is a way to discover the edges of our safety zones while getting to know each other more and more. Furthermore, play can allow for uncomfortable subjects to be brought up like who we are voting for, or whose family to spend Thanksgiving with. When there is playfulness between you, there can be an easy forgiveness. There is a natural safety net of love and understanding being constantly reinforced by all of this interplay.

Remember, where there is humor, there is perspective. Where there is perspective, there is understanding. And where there is understanding, there can be forgiveness.

So play away! Learn each other’s foibles, eccentricities, and idiosyncrasies. Discover each other’s worlds. Let yourself play — like dolphins! There is a synchronicity to play, a timing, a rhythm and dance that is completely considerate and respectful of your partner, because we are always looking out for what is best for them!

When things feel very heavy or blocked, be like my mom and make a funny face. The whole mood of a situation can change by an unexpected English accent, or a mysterious glint in your eye. Giggling in bed, making a face across a room at an important event — that only he knows what it means — are all ways of building intimacy together. Tickling, kidding, poking and prodding all become a part of a growing arsenal of loving play at your disposal. All of which can potentially lead to belly laughs – or at least a snicker or two – and a deeper and growing trust between you.

Diana Lang is a spiritual teacher and author of

6 thoughts on “Romping Into Relationships and the Power of Play

  1. Jewels

    This photo and article made me happy and I laughed at the frivolity of the dolphins. I love their playfulness also. Such a perfect analogy, Diana. I get it.
    You are so prolific, the immense work that you generate is lovely.

    Love you,

  2. angelahite1

    I think I responded to this on Facebook, but let me respond here, too. Play is serious business! 🙂 I need to make time for more of it, and this is such a good reminder. The habit is to run, run, run, work, work, work, then fall out at the end! An unhealthy habit! But I’m learning! Thank you, beautiful, brilliant friend.


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