By Anna Mussmann
None of us want to be “that woman”--the one who pours her emotional energy into her children or career but forgets to maintain a meaningful relationship with her husband. After all, husbands are pretty awesome. They are the people we’ve vowed to stick with for the rest of our lives. Why miss out on enjoying life together?
There are lots of ingredients that go into nurturing any relationship, and, despite having passed my thirtieth birthday, I’m still learning about them. One ingredient, of course, is time together.
My husband and I go on occasional dates. However, we also like to spend quality time together at home, and we’ve found that tricky to consistently achieve. Even after the kids go to bed, our home is full of distractions. There are chores to be done, books to read, and links to click. It’s easy to live parallel lives without focusing on each other. By the time we’ve come to the end of the week, we are often too tired to come up with creative ideas for a joint activity. That’s why it’s nice to have a pre-made list of suggestions.
Here are five of the at-home couple-time activities that help us have fun together.
One: Play a Two-Person Board Game or Card Game
Board games and card games let you sit across from the your husband, making jokes and sharing eye-contact, without pressure to come up with a conversational topic or address anything important. Sometimes that’s restful. Especially, ahem, for the guy (somehow, my husband doesn’t seem to find “talking about everything” nearly as essential and rejuvenating as I do!).
Both my husband and I like to play games, but we face two challenges. One: most games are optimal with more than two people. Two: he’s much more of a long-term strategic thinker than I am, and the contest is too unequal for us in games like chess. Over the last few years, however, we’ve found a few choices that work for us. (Looking for a Valentine’s Day or birthday gift for your husband? One of these might fit the bill!).
Jaipur. One of the best things about this easily-understandable, two-person game is the way the balance between luck and strategy make it difficult for any single player to win every time. The simple summary: players collect cards that they then sell for various goods (gold, diamonds, silk, spices, etc.) with different point values. The most valuable goods are first come, first served, but the game also rewards players who bide their time and sell larger numbers of goods at once. Each round is fairly short, which means that tired parents can choose to play only one round and then go to bed if they really want to. The rules are simple enough that Jaipur also doubles as a good game to play with kids.
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small. This one is much more complex and open-ended. The learning curve is longer, but the choices available to each player make it a great match for my husband and me, because we can both explore completely different options without knowing who will win until the end. The game feels different each time we play. The simple summary: in order to multiply the number of animals on their farm, players must build stables and fence pastures. The version we have seems to be out-of-print, but a new one is available here.
Patchwork. This is one of those rare, well-designed games in which the difficulty level is almost completely dependent on the skill of the players. Unfortunately, after a few rounds, my husband and I couldn’t play it together anymore (he’s a far more spatial thinker than I am and easily beats me every time), but he can play it with his brothers and I can play it with our son. It might work for you. The simple summary: Players use “buttons” to buy pieces of various shapes and sizes that they then place on their own grid (or “quilt”). As the game goes on, it becomes harder to find pieces that will fit in the remaining spaces. Overall it’s pretty fast-paced.
A few other options: Carcassonne, a classic tile-laying game, works reasonably well with two players. I also want to try playing a cooperative game like Pandemic together sometime. Plus, since the whole point of playing board games with your spouse is to have fun, consider pulling out a childhood classic (Battleship, perhaps? That also comes in a card game version these days) and having a laugh over it.
Two: Work through a Series of Lectures Together
My husband doesn’t enjoy most movies, and besides, a whole movie is often too long for us to squeeze between our evening chores and our bedtime. We prefer to watch material that comes in shorter segments. One of the best alternatives we’ve tried is purchasing a series of lectures on DVD from the Great Courses company. Because we own them, there is no time pressure to get through the course quickly, and we can enjoy them at our leisure. Watch for sales!
Three: Look through Old Photos Together
It’s amazing how much our little family has changed over the last few years. Looking through old photos--whether in an album or an online slideshow--is a fun reminder of the blessings we have been given. Besides, nothing brings out the warm fuzzies like our wedding album or the pictures of our children’s births.
Four: Sit on the Couch and Talk
Two people who live in the same house, eat dinner at the same table, and sleep in the same bed ought automatically to have plenty of opportunities to talk together, right? Ha, yeah. It’s funny how easily family life interferes with sustained conversation.
My husband and I benefit immensely from setting aside time to sit down together, sans distractions, and chat. Sometimes we address significant issues. Sometimes we ask about each other’s lives. Sometimes we share our feelings about our marriage and relationship. It’s easier to share difficult feelings in the safety of a designated time frame when no one will interrupt and neither of you will start getting antsy about an undone project. No matter the topic, the time together is helpful.
Five: Sing Good Hymns Together
Have you ever flipped through the hymnal with your spouse, sharing favorite hymns? We especially enjoy doing this during Christmas or the season of Easter. It’s endearing to hear my husband share the memories that certain music brings back for him.
None of us want to be “that woman.” It’s not that women should bear the entire burden of cultivating the marital relationship, or that we should see our husband as one more item on the to-do list of the successful Christian female. The point is that time with our husbands is one of God’s good gifts. We sinful human beings aren’t always top-notch at recognizing and receiving God’s gifts. It helps to bolster our inconsistent wills and feelings with good habits. This Valentine’s Day, why not work on the habit of enjoy a fun date night at home?
After graduating from Concordia Wisconsin, Anna taught in Lutheran schools for several years and became so enthusiastic about Classical Education that she will talk about it to whomever will listen. She is a big fan of Jane Austen, dark chocolate, and the Oxford comma. Anna and her husband live in Pennsylvania with their two small children. Anna's work can also be found in The Federalist.