Those who play together, stay together!
When we first married, Jody and I did not enjoy the same recreational activities. I’m sure we both assumed we would be forever making out – why would we need activities outside the bedroom? Through our courtship and engagement, we attended college 1,000 miles apart; we didn’t hang-out often enough to develop common recreational interests prior to marriage. When we did see each other, we were just glad to be in the same room, not to mention same city or state. That was enough … then. But soon after the newness of the marriage wore off, we realized we needed to find things that we both enjoyed doing. And now after years of getting to know many, many other married couples, I understand that Jody and I were not alone. A lack of shared recreational activities is a common problem in marriages. I blame this, partly, on simple laws of attraction. We are often attracted to our potential spouse because of their looks, intelligence, conversational skills, and common faith, but not so much by how he/she spends their free time. The problem here is that spending time with your spouse is important to the overall happiness of your relationship. It's through this fellowship (to use a church word) that intimacy develops. Uh oh, the word washed wife is finally going to talk about sex, or at least hint around it! Problems in the bedroom often have nothing to do with what is happening between the sheets. Often, problems in the bedroom are a manifestation of a lack of intimacy experienced by one, or both spouses. Playing together and enjoying shared experiences give a couple another intimate ground on which to connect, and further cements the foundation of their relationship. So let's devote some time and energy to deciding how we can play with our clothes on. Then maybe, just maybe, the couple will take their clothes off more frequently.
Jody has an adventurous nature. He was an Eagle Scout – he still loves to hike, camp and explore outdoors. He wrestled in high school and in college, and was a pool lifeguard – he is devoted to physical fitness. He was an Army Brat and grew up in many towns and cities in the US and oversees – he still loves to travel. Jody is always up for trying new foods – he never turns his nose up to anything edible. I on the other hand was a very picky eater. I was from a small town and loved to read historical fiction and mystery novels. I'm not an athlete, but my Dad taught me to play tennis when I was a kid, so that he could have someone to play tennis with. I played tennis every day in the summers, and could hold my own on the tennis court. I love swimming. I love music, and grew up singing in church. My family loved card and board games. I have a competitive nature, or am a bad loser, depending on who you talk to. I liked hiking, but not for extended periods of time. My one and only camping trip prior to marrying Jody was with the Girl Scouts. I was terrified of the outhouse and didn't go once over the entire weekend. I came home sick as a dog.
So when it came time to play, we were not naturally compatible – we soon found that we had something to work on. We loved each other and enjoyed each other’s company, so we were motivated to find a recreational activity we both could genuinely enjoy! We first tried to camp, but I could never get comfortable sleeping outside in a tent. I would sit up all night and peek though the tent window, like a watch dog, while Jody snored away totally at peace and one with nature. But since Jody loved camping, and I adored him, we tried camping again, this time in a camper. I slept a little bit better, but it still not my cup of tea. Our foray into camper camping was not a total bust as we did conceive our first child in a camper in Rocky Mountain National Park. I admit, I was just trying to keep Jody awake, but hey, it adds interest to the story! We also tried playing tennis, my all-time favorite sport. We scheduled time to go to the tennis court with a few cans of balls and a couple of my rackets. I would patiently show Jody the basics, lob a ball to him and he would power it over the fence. I would retrieve it and remind him again to level-out his racket. But with the next lob, he'd murder it into the next county. I would run all over to retrieve his wild balls, sweating while he stood still and waited for the next service. The game would end with me frustrated and tired and him wondering what I saw in this game. We even attempted tennis lessons, but that didn't work either – I remember that the instructor cancelled with him after one session. Jody just did not have the tennis knack and finally admitted that he played baseball one season growing up, but never got a hit. So, we moved on. We tried a framing class, but I sliced off the tip of my finger. Another no go! Since we both loved swimming, when we first got married, we spent every day we could in our apartment's pool. Then we bought our first house – no pool. We also enjoyed working out together at the gym, but there isn't much play in that – he would lift weights and I would do an aerobics class dressed like the girl from Flashdance (1983) – thankfully no pictures survived to accompany this post. Gotta love the 80's! Then I taught Jody Bridge, my favorite card game growing up, and finally something clicked! He was a natural card player; we were soon enjoying hours of card play with friends and family. This was a low budget activity and required very little planning, so when our children were young, it was the perfect activity.
Dr Willard Harley's book, His Needs, Her Needs (see Sue's reading list) supports the need for enjoyable recreational activities. Dr. Harley states that a majority of men rank the need for recreational companionship second only to sexual fulfillment. That says it all! For me, recreational companionship is important because it fosters conversation – the key to my feeling intimately connected with Jody. Not really knowing or understanding this when we got married, Jody and I tried out activities that met both his need for adventure and my need for meaningful conversation. Dr Harley has a comprehensive list of potential activities for couples to consider. He suggests that husband and wife first look at activities separately, and then compare notes, finding the top 5-10 activities that they would like to try. His list is very lengthy, so I have included a shorter list. My list of 50 activities www.wordwashedwife.com/interestsurvey is comprised of every activity I've heard about through our marriage groups. So, hopefully it will contain something you would enjoy doing too! Review my list, both you and your husband or wife, and rate each activity with: Love, Like or Never. If an activity is deemed a NEVER, cross it off your list, but only with a pencil. Some of the things I vowed I would never do, like watching college football, are some of my favorite activities now!
Today, Jody and I love cycling, taking long walks together, watching college football, swimming in our pool, running 5Ks, travelling, trying out new restaurants and playing golf. We have a great time with each other. I feel loved. Jody feels loved. Playing together is an important part of our marriage and it often leads to spontaneous intimacy, if you catch my drift. Jody still takes a week-long hike each year, and I still love playing tennis – just not with Jody! So Jody and I didn’t give up all the activities that we didn't enjoy together, but we didn't make them a priority either. Our "we " is more important than either of our “me” desires!
Sidebar - if we are to treat our marriage like the priority God intended, we need to spend time together with our spouse! Many noted marriage counselors would suggest 5-10 hours a week. That can appear daunting, given the busyness of life, but with creativity, and a desire for more intimacy, it can be done! Make playing together the subject of a conversation this week, new friend!
I realize this was not a deep spiritual read, but a very practical post. Hopefully you enjoyed it and your marriage will be strengthened. Love each other well and keep reading!
And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect unity.