If I told you to stop playing games with your husband or wife, would that be helpful or unhelpful? It all depends on what “playing games” means.
It might mean toying with your partner. This has the negative connotation of exploiting them for your own benefit. This could mean misleading them through deceitful communication. It’s passive-aggressive at best.
However, it might mean enjoying a pleasurable activity together. This would strengthen your relationship.
As it turns out, marriage and games have much in common. Looking at marriage as a game could help you see it from a fresh perspective. You might even become more excited to play it rather than leaving it untouched on your shelf.
Following are nine qualities that games have (based on the book, The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell). See how many of them could also describe your relationship.
1-Games Are Entered Willfully
You chose to marry your partner. No one should have to say that they were forced against their will to get married. Relationships thrive on freedom and they break down when one or both people exert unwanted control over the other.
2-Games Have Goals
Just about everything you can do has some sort of a goal. If it has a goal, it has a purpose. You might think that laying mindlessly on the beach has no purpose. But resting and relaxing are beneficial purposes. Games are fun because there is a specific goal to achieve. Who can reach the highest score before time runs out?
Marriage has goals some of which include: developing closeness and intimacy, creating and raising children, enjoying all life has to offer together, and portraying the church and the image of God.
3-Games Have Conflict
Conflict helps determine what is possible and impossible as well as what is helpful and unhelpful. Conflict is an obstacle to overcome so you can claim victory. In marriage, you can receive the fruit of victory when you resolve conflict by playing well together. Fighting fair results in resolving conflict and retaining friendship.
4-Games Have Rules
No rules or spontaneous rule-making breeds chaos. Everyone loses and everybody wins. Life is meaningless without structure and rules. Imagine running a race where each person can declare theirself the winner.
Marriage has rules that define its success or failure. It’s cooperative rather than competitive. You are supposed to seek the best for the other and for yourself. Marriage is the combination of one male and one female.
5-Games Can Be Won and Lost
Games are usually competitive, pitting one player against another. When husband and wife compete with each other, both lose. Divorce is the inevitable outcome of a competitive relationship. Show me a marriage that ends in divorce and I’ll show you a couple that excelled at opposing each other. When a couple stays together to the end, both win.
6-Games Are Interactive
The more interactive you are, the more you open yourself up to change. Just like anything you do has a goal, anything you do changes you. God made us to be always changing. Some experiences are more intense than others, allow for more exchanging of ideas, and therefore produce more change.
Marriage isn’t played alone. Husband and wife are meant to influence each other for the good. God designed each person to be attractive in their own way. Marriage encourages husband and wife to engage with each other.
7-Games Have Challenge
Humans become bored fairly easily. Once we master something, we’re ready to move on to the next challenge. God made us capable of solving challenging problems.
Marriage both has the greatest potential and the greatest challenge of all relationships. This makes marriage a high calling.
8-Games Can Create Their own Internal Value
The resources within a game are valuable while you are playing. For example, once Monopoly is over, the money is no longer worth anything.
In marriage, husband and wife develop their own sense of personal value. They can decide what is important to them. It might not be meaningful to anyone else. They might even develop their own language for communicating that no one else will understand.
9-Games are Time-Limited
People play a game usually for a relatively short period of time. The score is counted. Then the game is declared over. Marriage is time-limited too. It lasts until one person dies and moves on to the afterlife. There won’t be any marriage in heaven.
Based on Jesse Schell’s book I, I came up with my own definition of a game:
A game is a problem-solving activity that allows learning without real-world consequences.
Even though marriages and games have much in common, the above definition provides a clear distinction.
A marriage is a problem-solving activity that allows learning with real-world consequences.
This definition of marriage is general but true. If you find yourself thinking your marriage has become stale try playing games with your partner.
Read The 7 Principles To Grow Your Marriage
Image colored by Matt Pavlik