After we moved in with my parents, it quickly became apparent to both HusbandX and me that we really needed something to do with each other, to talk about. With no jobs, and in a house with so many other people with a variety of competing needs, we were spending less and less time together. And when we did spend time together, it always felt like it ended in an argument.
We both knew we needed something to foster communication, togetherness, and common interests, but didn't really know what. We have separate hobbies--I read (so much) and he plays video games. In our own home, we'd spend that time in the same room, doing our own thing but free to talk to each other if something caught our interest. This is how I ended up reading Let's Pretend This Never Happened (by Jenny Lawson) aloud, because I was so tired of going back to read the part that made me laugh out loud that it was just easier to read the whole book to him. This was, hands down, one of the most fun things HusbandX and I have ever done together.
Here, though, we don't have the luxury to do things like this as much. Someone's always around, or interrupting, or we're just so darn sick of being around people that we don't want to speak to anyone. (Even extroverts need alone time!) We get some time from our Thursday night bike rides that is completely ours, but an hour or so a week is just not enough time for a couple to devote to each other.
So we came up with a simple bargain: we would each take on the other's hobbies. At least once every six months, I would play a video game and he would read two books. Naturally, they had to be games he'd played and books I'd read, so that we could discuss them. We came up with lists of what we thought the other person would really enjoy, and a few special agreements within the grand bargain. For instance, the Hunger Games series is a very quick read, so he would read all three in exchange for me playing Portal.
Over our bike camping weekend, HusbandX brought Ender's Game to read, and we discussed the book as he went along. He enjoyed it, as I'd known he would, and we both enjoyed the discussions we had.
Unfortunately, fulfilling my end of the bargain hasn't been so easy. I picked BioShock Infinite as my first game, but it turns out that my computer isn't good enough to handle the graphics. The second game we tried ended the same way. Now, I'm onto my third pick of game (Mass Effect), and my least favorite style of game: a console. I hate the controls because I always end up in a corner staring at the sky and shouting at the screen, "I don't know what's going on!" as I furiously button-mash. Yeah, there are reasons I don't usually play video games.
I will persist, however, because this is important to me. I hate the console, but it's right next to HusbandX's computer so I get to spend that time with him. Usually he's laughing at me, but that's ok too.**
This, of course, isn't the only thing we've done to get back on track with each other. Aside from the bike camping, we've also spent all that time picking and processing the food people have given us this year. Spending a few hours with your spouse while chopping and pressing apples might not be high up on anyone's list of most romantic moments, but it turns out that it's a great way to connect. My brother found where we can stream "Whose Line Is It Anyway", and we watch those as we work to preserve food for the winter. Laughing with your spouse can be one of the best balms for any marriage. Now, all we need to do is say, "Butterstick!" and at least one of us laughs.
We've worked on getting out for more bike rides, just the two of us. When we run errands the Munchkin is there, which is awesome (she sings while we ride) but isn't quite the same as being alone with your partner. There are topics we discuss on our bike rides with just each other that we never seem to broach when even the toddler is around: fears, stresses, highlights of the day or week, discussing ideas for our future or what we'd like to have happen in the next year.
So we're beginning the autumn in a far better state than we were over the summer. Perhaps the heat had something to do with our tempers, and I know the stress of unemployment has taken its toll, but whatever the cause I'm glad we're out of marital discord. Even better, Jenny Lawson has another book that just came out. Thanks to the Munchkin, I think my read-aloud skills are brushed up enough for the coming challenge.
**UPDATE: HusbandX managed to get this on the computer instead, so now I'm button-mashing on the computer hooked up to the TV in the office. Still next to HusbandX so we get to spend the time together and he gets to laugh at me when I accidentally discharge my weapon and then squeak. Which I apparently do a lot. Even so, the computer works so much better for me than the console.