In relationships, a spirit of playfulness can ease tensions, build intimacy, facilitate connection, help us solve problems, and lower stress. Laughing, playing games, and using imagination and creativity can strengthen a relationship. However, unfair play, such as hurtful teasing and ridicule, can damage relationships. How can we bring the spirit of play into our relationships in a principled manner, one that honors the worth and dignity of our partners?
The nonprofit website HelpGuide.org recommends considering the following questions before approaching "ego-sensitive subjects" through playful communication:
- Are you feeling calm, energetic, and warmly connected to your partner?
- Is your true intent to communicate positive feelings?
- Are you certain your humorous gesture will be understood and appreciated?
- Are you aware of the emotional tone of the nonverbal messages you are sending?
- Are you sensitive to the nonverbal signals your partner is sending?
- Do you back off if your partner seems hurt or angry?
- If you say or do something that offends, is it easy for you to immediately apologize?
On the other side, if your partner's playful communication hurts your feelings, it doesn't mean you're uptight or that you don't have a sense of humor! Playful communication, especially teasing, can slip into hurtful communication even when the teaser doesn't intend to hurt. If our bodies get hurt while playing, we usually say something, stop playing, and tend to the hurt. The same goes with feelings — if they get hurt, stop and say something so that the healing can begin.