My husband and I have recreational interests that couldn't be more different, so we spend most of our free time apart. I feel like we are becoming disconnected from each other, but my husband says the point of recreation is to do what we enjoy — even if that means doing it independently. Who's right?
On one level, your husband is right. The point of recreation is to do something enjoyable, free from the stresses of everyday life. But it is even more than that: It is the chance to step back from the worries and pressures of the day and reflect on larger questions. It is during our leisure time that we share memories, make optimistic plans for the future and engage in building relationships with those we love.
We believe it can become a significant problem if married couples don't ever recreate together. If we only spend time with our spouses during the hectic work week —or when paying bills, disciplining the children or doing chores — we begin to view our spouse as a part of the burdens of life. He or she conjures up images of responsibilities and pressures. As a result, instead of just happening to have differing interests, we might actually begin to need to be away from our spouse in order to truly relax. As a solution, we look for activities that won't involve them. This results in a spiral of isolation and negativity that can only make matters worse.
What a far cry that is from the very things that brought a couple together in the beginning! Part of the excitement of new love was that the beloved provided a way up and away from the stresses of life. Even better, a man and woman in love lead one another to holiness. We can't do this when we flee from each other in our precious few moments of reflection and relaxation.
If a husband's only true way to recreate is away from his spouse, there is a problem in the relationship. One small way to work on this is simply to make time to spend with each other. Surely, there are some things you enjoy doing together. If there aren't, you would never have come together in the first place.
Go on a walk and hold hands. Do some gardening together. Attend a free summer concert or play in the park. Have a regular movie night where you watch a DVD after the kids go to bed — you can take turns choosing the movie. Even something as mundane as going out to dinner can be a great start.
Also, be open to sharing each other's interests; you might be surprised at what happens. Because of our desire to spend time with each other, we both made an effort to be open to new things. As a result, after 13 years of marriage, we both enjoy subtitled foreign movies … and college football!
The McDonalds are family-life coordinators for the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama.