Over the years, I have conducted an informal poll of couples married ten years or more, asking the following question: Do you and your spouse have any hobbies or interests that you enjoy doing together? A handful of these couples have responded affirmatively, listing traveling, golfing, backpacking, and bird watching as some of their shared interests. The majority, though, have looked at me blankly, as if the idea was completely foreign to them. I find this concerning, because I believe that finding a shared hobby is a key component to a happy marriage.
The Early Days
Remember the early days of your relationship, when responsibilities were few and time was abundant? It was easy to have fun together: every experience was new and forged the bond growing between you. I know, for Dave and me, it never occurred to us to find a hobby; just being together was exhilarating enough during our brief courtship. Unfortunately, with the arrival of children and our increasingly busy work and family schedules, finding time to discover and enjoy a common interest ended up on the back burner. Survival and sleep have been our shared interests for the past decade. 🙂
However, the idea never completely left our minds. We have explored and experimented with a few options (ie: a couples’ bowling league) as time permitted over the years. Now that our children are out of the baby/toddler years, and we have one old enough to watch the others for short periods, we are are earnestly pursuing a mutually fulfilling hobby. (I’ll tell you more about it later.)
Friendship in Marriage
According to marriage and family expert Gary Smalley, “Developing common interests and hobbies can decrease conflict in marriage and strengthen the idea that you and your spouse are a team. Having common hobbies can help couples deepen their sense of intimacy, connection, and especially friendship.”
Who doesn’t need more intimacy and friendship in their marriage? I know I do. Dave and I are exact opposites on personality tests; it is easy for us to misunderstand each other and fail to meet each others’ relational needs, especially when we are operating out of our selfish desires. It is important for me to remember that we are a team.
The Power of Us
Our church recently hosted Dr. Richard Marks, a marriage and family expert. He spoke on “The Power of Us.” He explained that there are three people in every marriage: the husband, the wife, and “us.” “Us” is the oneness that comes from pursuing what is best not just for you or your spouse, but what is best for both of you.
For example, he shared how he hates going to the beach. His wife loves it. So, when she asked if they could spend some time together at the beach while on vacation, “Us” said yes, even though he, personally, would have preferred to say no. He chose what was best for “us” over what was best for himself, and for a period of time that afternoon, he had a great time with his wife. After that period ended, he told his wife, “‘Us’ is going back to the boat. ‘Us’ is done laying on the beach and is ready to watch a movie.” His wife agreed, and “Us” had a great time back at the boat, too. When responding in favor of “us,” both parties win, because both the husband and wife are part of “us.” It’s not a matter of complete self-denial or subservience.
Me, Myself, and I
However, the idea of “us” flies in the face of what many consider to be important in life: “me.” We are always looking for what makes “me” happy, fighting for “my” rights, having to have it “my” way. There is little thought for what good can be done on behalf of another. I know I am guilty of that more often than I’d like to admit.
Repeatedly, Dr. Marks said, “You can choose to do what’s best for you, but don’t complain when ‘us’ disappears.” Again, “us” is that sense of closeness, connection, oneness. When we live outside of “us,” we can feel the lack of its presence: coldness, resentment, unforgiveness, and selfishness take its place. I know that my marriage thrives when “us” is present; I delight in bringing joy to my husband by accomplishing the things he considers important.
I share this idea of “us” as a framework for finding a shared interest or hobby with your spouse. Ideally, there will be an activity out there which delights both of you equally, but that won’t necessarily be the case for everyone. As you explore your options, remember to engage with goodwill, responding to and trying out ideas with the mindset of “us,” not self.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series, where we will talk about how to find a shared hobby with your spouse.
Do you and your spouse share any interests/hobbies? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.