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Today’s Thriving Marriage Insights
Married couples need to have some fun together! And one of the best ways to do that is to find hobbies for couples.
We’ve had some heavy topics at To Love, Honor and Vacuum lately, and so I thought it was time to revisit one of my favorite posts ever and run it again, with some fun changes, so it could be higher up in the queue!
Let’s emotionally connect and have fun together again! No matter where you are in your marriage, you need some hobbies! A hobby is simply an activity or pursuit that you do together. And during COVID, we all could use some new ideas, too.
Hobbies can bring couples close because of two communication principles:
- It is often easier to communicate side by side, when you’re doing something, than it is to try to communicate face to face.
- When we spend more time together with shared activities (like hobbies!), then we build up goodwill, which makes it easier to tackle some of the bigger problems in marriage.
We all need shared activities, because that builds shared memories. You feel more like a team. You start chatting again (and the more you talk about little things, the easier it is to talk about big things!). And you laugh. Whenever you laugh together, walls come down. Tension dissipates. And you feel close. Often those petty things that bug you about each other seem to disappear!
Besides, it’s just plain fun to share hobbies as couples.
It’s fun to spend time away from a screen. It’s fun to build a memory or be productive or experience something new. And it’s fun to learn together! Here’s the neat thing about pursuing hobbies for couples, too: you don’t each have to love it to the same extent. The goal is not the hobby itself. The goal is spending time together and having those opportunities to laugh and chat. My husband and I go birdwatching. I enjoy it. It gets me outdoors; we get some exercise hiking; I learn more about photography.
But Keith will trek 2 miles through brush to sit still at dawn in the hopes that he might see a king rail (it’s a bird!). He will stand still at the base of a tree for 10 minutes to verify whether that was a white throated sparrow or a white crowned sparrow. He is WAY more into it than I am. But we still go birdwatching together, because I’m in it for the memories, not just for the birds. And when he wants to do something intense with counting birds, he goes without me.
I’m going to share a whole bunch of ideas for hobbies you can pursue together. Take this post as more of a brainstorming session. Maybe something I’ll mention will twig something in your brain and you’ll find an entirely different hobby to share with your husband! But what I’d recommend is this:
Finding a Hobbies for Couples
- Look through this list and identify 3 hobbies you’d like to start with your husband.
- Have your husband look through the list and identify 3 hobbies he’d like to start.
- Exchange lists and choose one on the other person’s list that you’d enjoy, too.
- Choose one to start first!
A Comprehensive List of Hobbies for Couples
Outdoorsy Hobbies for Couples
- Jogging/Training for Marathon
- Joining a co-ed sports league: basketball, baseball, soccer, etc.
- Target practice
- Rock climbing (on real rocks)
- Metal detecting
- Foraging (for wild mushrooms or other edibles)
My son-in-law David is really into foraging, especially mushrooms, and i want to join him in that this spring because I just love the idea of eating off the land as much as possible. Plus apparently some of the mushrooms taste really good! (and, yes, he knows how to tell the difference with the poisonous ones). We bought him a dehydrator for Christmas, too, so he can preserve some of them.
Domestic Hobbies for Couples to do Together
- Cooking (cook something gourmet once or twice a week together)
- Homesteading (where you try to become self-sufficient in some food products)
- Home improvement/painting
I’m already planning out my garden for the spring! I love growing herbs, and I dried and preserved so many last year, and made a ton of pesto.
Even if you’re in an apartment, you can make a balcony garden! But I love this garden tower for a house, too, because creating raised beds can be a hassle, and this I can put right on my deck and see it as I have my tea in the morning and it just makes me happy. Creating pestos and teas and salsas and hot sauces out of your produce can be another hobby you can do together.
And, seriously, it’s amazing how much you can grow in one of these garden towers!
And planning the garden can be so much fun as well. The yield on these towers can be incredible. Do you want to do herbs? Salad greens so you have fresh greens every night? Tomatoes or peppers? I’m planning on a variety of hot peppers myself!
Sporty Indoor Hobbies for Couples
Keith and I take ballroom dancing classes online, even during COVID! Before the last cruise we took, we learned the chacha really well, along with reviewing the foxtrot and the swing. And it’s just fun to do for 15 minutes a night. Each video is only 3-5 minutes long, and they teach you one thing at a time. We really enjoy it!
And Connor just went rock climbing again this weekend for the first time in, well, forever! The COVID lockdown is over here, and a new rock climbing gym opened in our hometown right before COVID hit. He’s determined to use it enough to keep it open! When Rebecca and he were first married, they loved rock climbing together (and they will again!).
Events to Attend Together
- NASCAR races
- Sporting events, especially more minor league local ones
- Plays, dance performances, or comedians
- Music performances: symphonies, bands, worship groups
- Special museum or art gallery exhibits
- Film festivals or film clubs
These may be all closed for the foreseeable future, but when they reopen, consider season’s tickets for something. It gets you deliberate date outings, and it supports something in your community.
Games Hobbies for Couples
- Chess league
- Board game club (even start your own)!
- Euchre club (host your own euchre parties)
- Bridge club
- Strategy video game (my husband play just one game of Crusader Kings and it lasts for several months!)
We’ve also got a board game cafe in our hometown, which are getting increasingly popular. Go out to play a board game (or stay in), and you can try new ones and figure out which ones you like!
Educational Hobbies for Couples
- Touring art galleries and nearby historical sites
- Learning local history and becoming tour guides
- Tracing your family tree
- Planning an educational trip, like a rainforest trip to learn about nature or a European trip to trace some World War II battles. Do research together beforehand.
- Touring wineries
Income Producing Hobbies as a Couple
“How do I reconnect with my husband?” That’s a question I get in various forms from so many of you who email. Life has gotten too busy, you feel like you pass like ships in the night, and you just want to feel like you know each other again. As we progress into the new year, I thought it would be a good idea to look again at how to reconnect with your husband if you feel as if the previous year–or years!–has made you grow apart.
Here, for instance, are two questions quite typical of many that come in to the blog:
I am married to an emotionally distant man. We go through the motions of being married, but I have no idea what’s actually going on in his heart. In fact, I doubt there’s much there at all. And he certainly has no idea what’s going on in mine! We only have one child left at home and I’m afraid that when he leaves for college we’ll have nothing left between us.
I’m tired of feeling all alone! My husband doesn’t want to do anything except play on his computer or play video games. We never spent any time together. Shouldn’t marriage be about the two of you? I don’t know how much more loneliness I can take.
Okay, those are rather sad to start off our year. But I know many of you are lonely. So let’s set the stage here on what emotional connection looks like, what it doesn’t look like, and how we can move towards reconnecting.
Some truths about emotional connection
Connection is based on communication. In order to reconnect with your husband, there are five different levels of communication: cliches, facts, opinions, feelings, needs.
We can share facts about our day–“It was so busy today, the last client didn’t leave until 5:15, and I didn’t think I was going to get out of there.”
But we can also share feelings: “I’m not even sure I like this job. People put so many demands on you and it all seems so pointless. We’re not producing anything worthwhile anyway.”
And then you can get to the point of sharing needs: “I just feel like there’s more to life than this. When I’m in my shop with a saw and some wood, I feel like I’m creating something. But all day long at work I feel like I’m just chasing paper, playing some big game, that doesn’t mean anything. I need more than that.”
Do you see the difference?
Many couples never get beyond facts or opinions.
Here’s the problem: when you’re stuck at the facts or opinions level, tension is going to start to build up, because you’re not really emotionally connected. You don’t know anything about what’s going on in each other’s hearts.
And so with each interaction that is only surface level, it’s going to feel like you’re actually growing more distant. That’s right: talking may actually make you feel worse, if the talking isn’t about something important.
And you can’t just jump over several levels of communication and expect to be able to reconnect with your husband and get truly vulnerable or talk about your needs without starting to share consistently at some of the other levels.
That’s why the answer to grow emotional connection isn’t necessarily to do something big. If you start insisting on a date night, for instance, where it’s supposed to be all romantic, you’re almost guaranteed to be disappointed and hurt. There’s too much tension there to have the date night go well! Instead, it’s better to start with little things to put into your day that can help you connect, and then, once that connection is starting to be there, add some bigger things to your life regularly that are low-stress and low-pressure.
But first, a few more truths about how to reconnect with your husband:
Truth #1: Most men are not emotionally distant or emotionally unavailable
Some men may indeed be emotionally unavailable, but what I’ve found in so many marriages is that the couple has built up patterns of interaction that have made sharing feelings hard.
So ask yourself this–when we were dating, did I know what my husband was feeling and thinking? Did he talk about his needs? Was he vulnerable to me? If so, it’s unlikely he’s suddenly become completely emotionally unavailable. It’s more likely that life has made him stressed, or that you’ve gotten into negative patterns of relating that have cut you both off from each other.
If he never opened up to you, and you never felt emotionally close, that’s a bigger problem, and may require a licensed counselor.
Truth #2: Most people actually want a good marriage
The vast majority of people rank having a good marriage as a major goal of theirs.
Often when we’re distant, though, we assume: “he must be angry at me and doesn’t really love me anymore.” We project negative feelings on our husbands that they may not actually have. He just may feel awkward, stressed, or unsure of what to do. Most likely he wants to feel closer to you, too! But he probably feels a lot of failure when he’s around you, because you’re likely upset at the lack of communication, and he senses it. And when a guy senses that he’s disappointed you, he will tend to retreat.
Of course he shouldn’t do that! But that’s not really the point right now: the point I want you to grasp is that your husband most likely wants to reconnect with you, too! Few people honestly want to go through life feeling distant from their spouse.
So here’s your assignment: assume the best of him. Assume that he is not deliberately keeping you at arm’s length. It will make a huge difference!
(Again, if he honestly doesn’t want the best, then I’d suggest seeing a licensed therapist, but in the majority of cases, the husband does care).
Truth #3: Most people are lazy
We fall into these ruts, like playing video games all night or watching Netflix and never talking. And then those turn into habits. It’s hard to break a habit unless there’s something else vying for our attention. If you guys are used to separating at night, it’s going to be hard to start doing something together unless there’s an actual option ahead of you. So when he goes off and gets back on his computer after dinner, it isn’t necessarily that he’s deliberately abandoning you. He’s developed a habit. And he isn’t likely to break that habit unless there’s something else on the agenda for that night.
Truth #4: Men tend to appreciate low-key communication
Or, to put it another way, women tend to be more comfortable communicating face to face, when we’re sitting across the table sharing our hearts. Men tend to open up more when they communicate side by side, when they’re doing something together. If you try to force him to sit down and talk to you, he’ll likely feel very uncomfortable, like he’s on the spot. So try reconnecting by actually doing something!
Again–these are generalities. In your marriage it may work the other way, and sometimes different personality types make communication preferences quite different from what we’d normally assume. But often the generalities ring true!
This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.
A blockbuster quote from a blockbuster book (Unwanted) by Jay Stringer unmasks what I have seen but been unable to describe in marriage about the intimacy men need:
“Few of my male clients recognize any needs they have except for sex. This puts a tremendous strain on their partners to be sexual in order to experience intimacy. The pressure men put on their partners inevitably erodes desire. How can a partner desire the very thing she is pressured to offer? Attunement and containment allow sex to become something other than the release of tension or the solo symbol of commitment. Eroticism between a couple is strengthened through being woven together with holistic passion, pleasure, and care.”
If a man isn’t aware of his relational and spiritual needs, the dopamine hit he gets from sex becomes his only cure whenever he’s down about anything, which makes his wife his only “rescue” for everything. Sex then becomes inherently selfish and a crushing burden on the wife.
To be a healthy husband with a healthy sexual relationship with his wife, you have to look at your life far beyond your sexual desire. You have other needs— intimacy with God, fun and laughter, meaningful work, respect, recreation, adventure, beauty, and rest. Get in touch with those other needs. Recognize it’s not selfish to pursue and fulfill those needs.
If you neglect yourself entirely to serve your wife and family, you can “give” your way into becoming selfish. So that you don’t miss that last sentence, let me restate it another way: if you try to keep giving without regard to your own basic needs, you can turn yourself into a selfish person because, for starters, you’re not God and can’t give infinitely, and secondly, eventually you’ll become desperate and demanding of at least one need (often sex, but also perhaps food or gambling or an out-of-control hobby). If that need isn’t met, your spouse will live with either a bully or a sulking adult who more accurately resembles a toddler.
All of us are “needy men” because God made us that way. We’re not miniature gods. We need food or we’ll starve. We need water. No one shames a person for these needs. Nor should we be shamed for wanting meaning, recreation, relationship, respect, occasional fun, intimacy, and sexual pleasure.
One of the greatest weaknesses of my life so far (there have been too many to count, so this is saying something) has been the neglect of self-nurture. I’ve felt guilty my entire life asking for anything. But that stupid philosophy taken to an extreme doesn’t make me less needy—everyone is needy—it just makes my demands passive (which makes them sound and feel even more pathetic). It asks others to step up as I think I’m stepping up. And when they don’t? Bitterness, resentment, and withdrawal (sorry, Lisa).
Men, recognize your needs. Name your needs. Don’t apologize for having needs. Of course, all this has to be done while recognizing that our wives have similar needs and we need to make sure theirs are met as well. Our intimacy needs aren’t more important than our wives’ needs, but they also aren’t non-existent, selfish or shameful.
Seek a “full” life. For me, a good day means my mind has to be stimulated, usually with thought-provoking reading about God early in the morning (the Bible, a Christian classic, and a chapter from a contemporary book) and an interesting history, biography or novel in the evening. I like to connect “significantly” with at least one friend every day. Exercise is pretty essential to my sense of well-being. Meaningful work matters to me, as well as the occasional risk-taking vocationally (being an introvert, that happens every time I speak publicly). I don’t care that much about food, but I do need a down day now and then and could do a much better job of planning (or taking) vacations.
Most men need adventure. I like the fear at the beginning of a marathon. Some men prefer their “fear” at the tee box, needing to score a strike for their bowling team, or playing a round of darts with their buddies after work. A man without some challenge is a man who is setting himself up for an addiction (so wives, encourage your men to seek their own adventure).
Here’s the point: a “full” man who manages his own intimacy needs is able to give to his wife and family more than a man who ignores his needs and becomes passively demanding.
All this is true for women as well, of course, but I’ve never heard a counselor tell me that “Few of my female clients recognize any needs they have except for sex,” so forgive me for playing to stereotypes for one blog post here. Women can be just as prone, however, to giving and giving and giving, neglecting their own needs in a martyr-like spirit that ultimately doesn’t serve the family long-term.
The Bible talks plenty about enjoying life. The Feast of Tabernacles in 1 Kings 8 was a fourteen day celebration in which Israel was basically commanded to party.
The psalmist praises God’s nurturing gifts:
He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts (104:14-15).
The writer of Ecclesiastes affirms a life of enjoyment: “Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God” (5:19).
If it’s good, it’s from God: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).
If you’re dealing with unwanted sexual behavior, Jay Stringer’s book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals our Way to Healing could be a game changer. If you need help learning how to pursue a bit more self-nurture, I’d point you toward my own book Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling Good?
For the purpose of this post, let me ask you, what are your needs? Give yourself permission to think about them. Talk about them with friends and your spouse. Name them. Be more intentional about mapping out a strategy to meet them. Sex is a very legitimate need, but it’s not your only need, and in a full life, it may not even feel like your most important need.
For instance, when a man needs respect but isn’t getting any, whether his wife says “no” or “yes” to any sexual encounter may not have as much to do with the sexual act as it does about whether she is going to “respect” him by her answer. There are other ways to get respect than through a spouse’s sexual willingness. Don’t just “take it” when your wife talks down to you; explain to her in a quiet but clear way how it feels to be so disrespected in front of others or even in private. Become a respectable person at work and with your friends and kids. If I’m respected by everyone around me and disrespected by one, I’m going to question the judgment of that one instead of myself, even if that “one” is my spouse.
Here’s what I’ve tried to say in the past that Jay Stringer’s quote uncovers: when a marriage is doing well, sex isn’t that big of a deal in marriage. It’s pleasurable, it renews affection, both spouses look forward to it and enjoy it, but it’s not a central focus. It feeds the marriage, certainly, but it’s not what the marriage is primarily based on. When the sexual relationship is broken, however, the marriage seems to become primarily about sex, at least in the mind of the disaffected spouse.
So, guys, become more aware of your overall intimacy needs as you keep on respecting your wife’s needs. Figure out a way to get those needs met. You’re responsible for your own needs. You may need to learn how to say no to other demands in order to meet your own needs, maybe for the first time in your entire life. That’s okay. In fact, that’s healthy.
Your goal is to create a “full” life out of which you can give to your wife, sexually and otherwise. The more your wife feels pleasured and fulfilled in your sexual relationship, the more likely she is to want to experience it, so your own sexual need gets met even more—not because it’s demanded, but because it’s desired, which, to a healthy man, is even more fulfilling than a coerced “mercy” encounter.
The intimacy men need isn’t the problem. Demanding that those needs be met by one person in one way—that’s the problem.