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Q&A: Cultivating Shared Interests in Your Relationship

Many couples share common activities during courtship but stop after marriage … and especially after they have children.

By Dennis and Barbara Rainey

Before we were married, my wife seemed to enjoy doing different things with me. We went fishing, golfing, or to football games. Now, she says she can’t stand those kinds of activities. When I want to continue doing them, she says I spend too much time away from the family. What happened?

Barbara: When we are courting, we do things that we might not otherwise do. When Dennis and I met, I was not interested in fishing at all. In fact, I had never held a fishing pole in my life. However, Dennis loves to fish.

Because I loved Dennis and wanted to spend time with him, I learned how to fish. I did things that otherwise I might never have done. When we started having children, I quit doing those kinds of things with him because I was preoccupied at home with the kids. I remember that Dennis had to decide what to do about that. Was he going to continue to pursue his interests or spend time with the family?

Dennis: I realized that our relationship had to be a higher priority than my hobbies. Barbara had put our family higher on her priority list than her own outside interests. We had to decide what we wanted to be at the end of our lives: two people who had grown old together as partners or two people who had grown old alone.

Making our relationship a priority, though, doesn’t mean just giving up our own agendas. It also means cultivating common interests.

It took me about 10 years to realize and implement this. If Barbara and I were going to develop common interests, that involved more than her coming fishing with me. That also meant me learning to enjoy gardening with her. Now I’m hybridizing day lilies and Barbara looks at me, shakes her head, and says, “What happened to my husband?”

Barbara: At some point one of us has to decide: “I am going to get involved in hunting, fishing, gardening, art, etc.” One of us needs to take the step to participate in an activity that the other is already involved in or interested in so that the relationship can have a chance to grow.

If that never happens, we will find that, 20 years later, when the kids have left home and we are alone again, we no longer know each other. Rediscovering or even rebuilding that common basis will take time and hard work, but it is possible.

Dennis: Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” In a culture where we claim our own rights and seek to have our needs met, this call to self-sacrifice is a counter-cultural challenge that must be taken seriously. A husband and wife need to reach a compromise, sacrificing our own rights and wishes for the ultimate good of the relationship.

Not only should couples cultivate common interests, but we should also discover a common cause—some ministry that both of us can passionately support. Perhaps mentoring younger couples, or teaching others how to make marriage work by facilitating The Art of Marriage® video event at your church or leading a small group through The Art of Marriage Connect.

Without a common foundation, the years of old age become the death years instead of the glow years because we have lost the intrigue, the interest, and the passion in knowing each other. That is not what Christian marriage was designed to be.

Instead of looking backward at what was missed along the way, we need to look forward to what can be accomplished with the years that lie ahead. These can be the best years of our lives.

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