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We’re talking about going back to the days of carefree play, when activities like pillow fights, truth or dare, Twister, and tag ruled your world.
“Childlike play . . . brings excitement to the relationship, relieves stress and boredom, and builds intimacy,” says sex therapist Nan Wise, Ph.D. “I’m talking about that rough-and-tumble play, like wrestling, running around like kids, playing games like touch football, or tag, or Twister.”
Getting into an immature mindset worked for Tracy, 41, and her husband Chris, 42. “We were in bed on our computers, in a rut, so I just decided to start a pillow fight,” she says. “He got a little mad, but he pinned me down, and the next thing you know we’re having sex.”
Tracy claims that prior to their pillow throw-down, it had been three weeks since they’d last been intimate. “I’ll definitely smack him in the face with a pillow again if needed,” she says.
Sex therapist Chris Donaghue, Ph.D, is also a big fan of adults playing like kids. “We know that working out together is beneficial to relationships, so this idea of play is similar,” says Donaghue. “But what play does, as opposed to exercising together, is it lets you be silly with your partner, laugh, let go, be vulnerable, and escape a little bit with no rules, judgments, or goals.”
Many childhood games involve play fighting—pillow fights, chicken fights in the pool, tickle fights, and water balloon or water gun fights, to name a few. Kait Scalisi, a sex and relationship coach and founder of PassionbyKait.com, relates this type of play to the stress response system: Fight, flight, freeze, feed, and fornicate.
“If you get hit with a water balloon, for instance, the adrenaline starts running and it defaults to one of these Fs,” she explains. “When couples engage in play fighting like this, it’s most likely to lead to fucking since there’s a heightened sense of intimacy and closeness.”
You can also try turning PG-rated games to R-rated, such as naked Twister, a sexual version of truth or dare, spin the bottle with friends (if you’re willing to share a little), Simon Says, or strip poker. Traditional games that are more physical, such as Pictionary or even charades, can get the juices flowing. Or, try games that have elements of chase and tackle, like tag, one-on-one football, and swimming pool games such as chicken fighting or Marco Polo.
And, yes, there is even science behind it: “The play system is facilitated by our natural opiate neurotransmitters, called opioids, which are released during play,” says Wise. “The brain’s own endogenous cannabinoid system—the naturally occurring marijuana-like chemicals in our brains—are also released during play.”