A few months ago my-brother-in-law bought a karaoke video game for my husband and me. I was a bit mystified by the gift because the only video game I’d ever played was old school Ms. Pac-Man. Fortunately, at-home karaoke requires no hand-eye coordination, just the ability to grab a microphone and sing along to on-screen lyrics. When I asked my brother-in-law why he bought it, he shrugged and replied, “You sing. I thought it would be fun.”
It’s true. My husband and I do sing, though not publicly and not often. We met in high school when cast as the romantic leads in Cole Porter’s musical Anything Goes. But except for car-radio sing-alongs, we haven’t performed a duet since. We played the game anywayand it turned out to be fun. Very fun. In fact, it might be, to quote my 5-year-old son, “the funnest invention in the history of the whole world.”
OK, forgive the hyperbole. But the karaoke video game inspired my husband and me to be unself-conscious dorks together, in a way we hadn’t been in years. We solo: My high-scoring song is Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker”; his, Elvis’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love”…with you. We duet: Starship’s “We Built This City”…on rock and roll. And we laugh, especially when I attempt “What a Girl Wants,” that impossible Christina Aguilera song.
When we told friends that we’d been spending Friday nights singing ourselves into the final round of American Idol, they seemed baffled: “So you just sing together? Like, in your house?” When we answered yes, their bemusement turned to something resembling jealousy. “That sounds kind of fun,” they confessed. “I don’t know. Maybe we should try it.”
Perhaps our attempt at novelty seems a bit desperate. (I remember an episode of Happy Days in which Mrs. Cunningham tried to spice up her marriage by belly dancing and preparing an exotic meal of couscous for her confounded husband.) I’ve always believed in spending quality time togethergoing for walks at sunset, swapping sections of the newspaper on Sunday mornings, sipping wine in front of the fireplace. Does it matter that all of our favorite activities seem like cliches out of a cheesy personal ad?
It matters a lot, says Arthur Aron, PhD, a social psychologist at Stony Brook University. Long-term couples that try new experiences are happier. “When people fall in love, there is great exhilaration, which shows up in the brain as activation in the dopamine reward system,” he explains. But that stimulating effect usually settles down once you get to know your beloved. That’s why even the most compatible twosomes can get bored with each other. The good news? “Doing new things, like playing a game,” Aron says, “create a similar exhilaration.”
In short, the karaoke game re-created the feeling of falling in love all over again. Alas, its novelty will soon wear offand we’ll have to find a new way to spend our Friday nights. My husband and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, and I can say without qualification that he is the best friend I’ve ever had. I’m grateful for this silly game and how it reminded us that no matter how well we know each other, there’s always more to discover.
Megan McCafferty is the author of Fourth Comings. Find out more about her at www.meganmccafferty.com.