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Section 12
Resistance to Interpersonal Enjoyment with Couples

CEU Question 12 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Couples
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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In the last section, we discussed preserving and protecting friendship within marriage. We also discussed five roadblocks to friendship in marriage. These five roadblocks are there’s no time, "we’re not friends, we’re married," "we don’t talk like friends anymore," the ravages of conflict, and reckless words.

In this section, we will discuss three barriers to fun that married couples may experience. These three barriers to fun are being busy, the opinion that play is for kids, and that conflict gets in the way. We will also discuss the "Fun Deck" technique that can be used for helping married couples focus on having fun together.

Brendan and Lindsay began marital counseling after Brendan had a one night stand with a coworker. Brendan stated, "What I did really alarmed me. It was a lot of fun, but I started thinking about Lindsay and our six-year old twins Candice and Amy. When I thought about it, I realized that I just wasn’t having fun anymore at home. Everything with Lindsay is work and stress… I want to get what we used to have back! And I don’t want to hurt Lindsay like that again."

Have you treated a client like Brendan whose infidelity is in part related to a desire to reclaim a sense of fun that they feel is missing from their marriage? Would your Brendan benefit from learning new communication strategies regarding overcoming barriers to fun?

Three Barriers to Fun

Barrier #1: Being Busy
Brendan stated, "I just can’t figure it out. I mean, one of the main reasons I wanted to spend my life with Lindsay is that we had so much fun together! What the hell happened to us?" I explained to Brendan that the first common barrier to fun can be being busy. As you know, early in relationships couples put a high priority on making room for fun.

I stated, "Gradually, both partners get busy with careers and raising kids, and going out together seems like less of a priority. Between six and twenty years of marriage, couples report going out on dates less than once every two months!" Brendan stated, "That sounds like us. I mean, Candice and Amy are a blast, but raising twins is a lot of work. I don’t remember the last time Lindsay and I went out for dinner and a movie like we used to. Even when the kids are staying with friends, we just use the time to catch up on laundry and bills and all that stuff."

Barrier #2: Play is for Kids
A second barrier to fun can be the opinion that play is for kids. Brendan stated, "I’ve heard a lot of people saying that you need to "get out and play" with your spouse. But isn’t that kind of silly? I can see the need to get out of the house, but play is something our daughters do." I explained to Brendan, "Well, one way to look at it is that preschool experts say that play is the work children need to do to grow and gain social and emotional skills. It’s the same way for adults. And fun and play allow you to find a release from the pressure and hassle of being a grown-up. And when you’re relaxed, you’re more yourself."

Brendan stated, "I guess that’s true. When we were first dating, Lindsay and I used to go to the beach and make sandcastles, and splash each other in the water. It always made us feel really close. I guess sometimes it’s good to be like a kid." Are you treating a client, like Brendan, who might need to be reminded that play is for adults as well?

Barrier #3: Conflict
In addition to being busy, and the opinion that play is for kids, I explained to Brendan that a third barrier to fun for married couples can be that conflict gets in the way. Brendan stated, "You know, about six months ago we did try to get out more. We signed up for this couple's massage seminar. It was going great until the instructor said something about paying attention to your partner’s reactions. I told Lindsay it was a great idea, and she made some snarky comment about how she’d been trying to tell me that for years! She said I never listened to her! I felt really hurt. We ended up leaving the seminar early and not talking the whole rest of the night. How am I supposed to believe that the next time we try to go out, something the same won’t happen?"

Does your Brendan feel that conflict with his or her spouse may erupt at any moment, undermining their ability to relax and have fun? I encouraged Brendan and Lindsay to schedule time each week when they could meet together uninterrupted. I stated, "If you set aside time each week to deal with issues that come up, you may be better able to relax when you go out and have fun."

♦ Fun Deck Technique
Brendan asked, "Ok, so we really should get out more. But what should we do? I mean, we live in Illinois now, so it’s not like we can go to the beach. And some of our old favorite activities, like going to clubs, just aren’t practical anymore with the kids. And going to movies all the time just gets old." I invited Brendan and Lindsay to try the Fun Deck technique. I have found that the Fun Deck can be useful in helping couples maintain the progress they have made regarding changing the patterns in their relationship.

I explained to Brendan and Lindsay, "The first step in the Fun Deck technique is brainstorming a list of fun things. Be creative! Write down anything you think might be fun, like giving each other massages or going for a walk to count stars. Next, you can write these ideas out on a set of three-by-five index cards to keep in a safe place. That way, you can grab them when you’re ready for some fun. One idea is to set aside a regular time for couple's time. Each of you can pick out three things from the deck that you’d like to do during this time, then show each other the cards you have picked out.

The goal is for each partner to take responsibility for making one of their partner's three choices happen during the time you have set aside. You could also draw randomly from the deck for a quick fun idea!" Are you treating a couple like Brendan and Lindsay who would benefit from the Fun Deck technique? Would playing this section in your next session be helpful for them?

In this section, we discussed three barriers to fun that married couples may experience. These three barriers to fun are being busy, the opinion that play is for kids, and that conflict gets in the way. We also discussed the Fun Deck technique.

In the next section, we will discuss four topics relevant to helping couples enhance and protect sensuality and sexuality in their relationships. The four topics are roadblocks to sexuality, lack of interest in sex, communicating desires, and making sensuality a priority.

- Carter, B., MSW, & Peters, J. K. (1996) Love, Honor, and Negotiate: Making Your Marriage Work. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

- Thompson, K. (Apr 2017) Couple Therapy for Depression: The IAPT Service for Couples Working with the Relational Factors in a Diagnosis of Depression. Healthcare Counselling & Psychotherapy Journal, 17(2), 8-13.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Berg, C. A., Schindler, I., Smith, T. W., Skinner, M., & Beveridge, R. M. (Mar 2011). Perceptions of the cognitive compensation and interpersonal enjoyment functions of collaboration among middle-aged and older married couples. Psychology and Aging, 26(1), 167-173.

Briñol, P., McCaslin, M. J., & Petty, R. E. (2012). Self-generated persuasion: Effects of the target and direction of arguments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(5), 925–940.

Cook, J. M., Simiola, V., McCarthy, E., Ellis, A., & Stirman, S. W. (Sep 2018). Use of reflective journaling to understand decision making regarding two evidence-based psychotherapies for PTSD: Practice implications. Practice Innovations, 3(3), 153-167.

Creasey, G. (2014). Conflict-management behavior in dual trauma couples. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 6(3), 232–239.

Feuerman, M. L. (2018). Therapeutic presence in emotionally focused couples therapy. Journal of Experiential Psychotherapy21(3), 22-32.

Korobov, N. (2020). A discursive psychological approach to deflection in romantic couples’ everyday arguments. Qualitative Psychology. Advance online publication.

Maaravi, Y., Ganzach, Y., & Pazy, A. (2011). Negotiation as a form of persuasion: Arguments in first offers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(2), 245–255.

Oreg, S., & Sverdlik, N. (Mar 2011). Ambivalence toward imposed change: The conflict between dispositional resistance to change and the orientation toward the change agent. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(2), 337-349.

Sanford, K. (2012). The communication of emotion during conflict in married couples. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(3), 297–307.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 12
What are three barriers to fun that couples may experience? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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