Monday, May 29, 2006

Recreational Intimacy, Play with me?

It's intimate, silly If you remember what I wrote about the five types of intimacy, requires that you do something together and work at making it fun. It's a nasty job, but somebody has to do it. At least for a couple of hours a week.

Even when both partners like a certain type of recreation, they can still manage to sabotage the fun. Even fun, see, can be a complete set up and total disaster. (More on this on the Types of Couples posts to come). Let's take my personal favorite recreation.

Tennis. Now there's a potentially intimate game, right? Two people can play together without a third or fourth to triangle one or the other out. (More on Triangles another day) It's potentially intimate because the players face one another from a short distance, across the court, usually in public, yet they are emotionally the only ones in the game. They wear scanty clothes, sometimes! They're exercising and will hopefully shower later. Should be fertile ground for recreational intimacy that could even lead to other types of intimacy. Should be.

But the recreational intimacy is very hard to pull off, actually, for many reasons. One may not want to beat the other or may feel terrible losing. One or both may be bad sports and tease, verbally abuse. Maybe one partner is really better than the other and gets frustrated at the other's lousy game. There are all kinds of things that can and do go wrong.

A famous neurologist, Jack Fox, says that everyone thinks he/she is a better tennis player than they really are. Let’s say that Jack's right. Now take Suz and Alan(made up names). They've been married a few months. They both played tennis in the past. They both loved the game. And no exception to Jack's rule, both thought themselves better at tennis than they really were.

So it was no surprise, when they started to play tennis, that each expected to win. It turned out that although Alan was no Bjorn Borg, he wasn’t that bad and he could beat Suz, beat her badly. He had a murderous serve. He smashed it, and when it was accurate, it flew way over her head. She hadn't a chance. She lost game after game and didn't like playing very much. What she wanted was that they each play with their own friends, not each other.

But Alan wanted to play with Suz. He really just wanted to play with her. Alan and Suz were not a conflictual or otherwise dysfunctional couple, and they really did want to do something fun together. But you can see how the situation was loaded with potential problems. So how did they manage it?

Suz, took some lessons and improved her game remarkably. Meanwhile, when they played together he tried to softened his serve. When he did smash the daylights out of the tennis ball (he still needed to do that for some reason) she took the smash from way behind the service line and by holding her racket steady, returned it fairly often. That was all she needed to do to put him on the defensive. She could rush the net to put away the next shot.

Such constructive problem solving! Not power tripping or giving up on the notion that they could have fun playing a game they both loved and were obviously VERY good at! And great problem solving is very, very intimate. More next time.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc

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