Skip to main content
Faculty Research

He Said, She Said

Couples that play together stay together

Participating in recreational activities is a powerful indicator of how satisfied couples are with their marriages, according to a study authored by three Marriott School professors. The findings, published in the Journal of Leisure Research, also revealed that the amount of time partners spend together isn’t as important as what they’re doing. In fact, everyday activities—like watching Netflix, walking the dog, or cooking together—contribute more to marital bliss than the occasional tropical getaway.

So do Peter Ward, Neil Lundberg, and Ramon Zabriskie practice what the research preaches? We interviewed all three professors—and their spouses—to find out.

Peter & Carri Ward >

Peter & Carri Ward walking their dog on a hiking trail

Peter and Carri aren’t really a TV-watching couple. When they spend time together, they’re at their boys’ lacrosse or wrestling events, skiing for the second time that week, or hiking with their young German shorthaired pointer through the mountains.

Q: Why are these hobbies so important to your relationship?

CW: It gives us something to have in common. With him working and me at home, we have totally different responsibilities. We don’t share a lot of the same anything in those aspects, but when we go out and do something together, we can create new interests that we have in common.

PW: It’s a chance to be together. Life is so busy that you can very easily become just a partner to the person with whom you’re raising a family. When we recreate together, we continue to get to know each other.

CW: We have to continue to build our relationship, or it can go stagnant.

Ramon & Marci Zabriskie >

Ramon & Marci Zabriskie playing a board game together

Ramon and Marci can make a mean stir fry, but they’re also known to whip up a batch of cookies that they bring to families in their neighborhood. They utilize their DVR to catch up on an episode of a TV show together after their kids go to bed, and enjoy hosting couples game nights; competitions are amplified by a special ring given to the current winner of their favorite games—Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride.

Q: What happens when you aren’t interested in the same activities?

MZ: Some things we don’t share. And that’s okay. After we got married, we began to recognize the things that we enjoyed doing together and the things that we didn’t.

RZ: New couples get in the habit of thinking they have to do everything together. It’s perfectly fine to have individual interests! The key is supporting and encouraging that and having joint interests as well.

MZ: I also think it’s important that our kids see us doing normal things together, so they know that those are the kinds of things that make a marriage strong. I don’t think we would have made it through some of the hard things in our life without having the stability of those core activities.

RZ: The little things are huge. It’s the everyday things that hold everything together.

Neil & Melanie Lundberg >

Neil & Melanie Lundberg riding a two person bike

With packed schedules, Neil and Melanie take advantage of the middle of the day, whether that’s attending BYU devotionals or grabbing lunch together. They can also be seen playing one-on-one basketball, strolling nearby mountain trails, or pedaling on their tandem bike.

Q: With such busy lives, how do you make time to be with your spouse?

ML: One of the things that has been the most helpful is trying to make our activities compatible so we do a lot of things together.

NL: Even though we might be at a different skill level in some activities, we’ve figured out ways to make little modifications so that we both enjoy doing them together.

ML: Yeah, like when we play basketball one-on-one, I get two points per basket. He only gets one.

NL: It’s the idea of connecting that’s so important. It’s not good enough to say that next month we’ll go on a vacation. Vacations are important, but you can’t live off of those types of activities. Taking time for date night and simple activities together gives you that chance to continually reconnect.


Article written by Kasee Bailey
Photography by Bradley Slade