Sometimes, a bit of distance can make intimate relationships even closer. It’s akin to the feeling of returning home after staying at a dormitory or reuniting with a close friend after a long journey. However, intentionally creating physical distance to increase intimacy is not always straightforward. That’s where the concept of ‘parallel play,’ suggested by psychologists, comes into play – a simple technique that allows couples to feel a sense of togetherness while pursuing individual activities.
‘Parallel play’ initially applied to parent-child relationships but has gained popularity among couples, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when interdependence between partners increased significantly.
Psychologist Sarah Bryne explained to Well+Good that “parallel play can increase both independence and intimacy between partners.” According to Bryne, parallel play doesn’t mean being completely apart; it involves being together while engaging in individual enjoyable activities. Partners can share stories or engage in conversations if they wish because they are physically present for one another.
‘Parallel play’ can also help overcome insecure attachment patterns in relationships. Psychologist Vian Ewing told ABC News, “Parallel play can be helpful for practicing secure attachment behaviors, especially when trying to heal attachment trauma stemming from unstable relationships with caregivers.”
Engaging in ‘parallel play’ is remarkably simple. Mental health therapist Amira Martin suggests that it can take various forms, such as sitting together and reading books, working on individual projects or assignments, or even watching the same movie without conversing.
So, while staying in the same space with your partner, why not enjoy a moment of gentle separation? Relationships can become more comfortable and intimate through this practice.