Remember when you first fell in love with your spouse…And you found everything about him (or her) so fascinating? Whatever interested the one you loved…interested you. If they wanted to watch a game, or run errands, or eat pizza, you were happy to do it. Even the most boring topics or projects came to life if you were together.
Unfortunately, those feelings don’t always last.
A few years later, you might find your spouse’s interests mostly uninteresting. Their hobbies? Time consuming, or annoying. When you consider the things that your spouse gets excited about, words like “tolerate” or “endure” might be more fitting than “fascinating” and “exciting”.
If you relate to any of that, don’t panic — you’re pretty normal. However, you might want to pay attention to the rest of this post, because letting those feelings go unchecked might be a recipe for disaster.
You see, I read an article a few months ago (and I can’t for the life of me remember where,) about how a strong indicator of the longevity of a marriage is this:
How much interest we show towards the things that interest our spouse.
It probably stood out to me because the article used an example of a husband pointing out an interesting bird to his wife. (you know I’m also married to a bird
nerd guy.) The article suggested three main categories of how a wife might respond:
1. She might get up, and join her husband by showing interest in the bird.
2. She might not get up and join him, but she at least acknowledges her husband’s interest in a positive way.
3. She might ignore him completely, or say something critical about her husband’s interest in the bird.
The article suggested that each of these reactions (as they represent the general tone in a marriage) can be associated with a different marital forecast. The first would correlate with a long and healthy marriage, the second with a so-so marriage that likely won’t last. The third? Lookout — Things are looking cloudy with a high chance of divorce.
The article had more to say of course, but I mentally summarized it as: healthy marriages are built on strong friendships. Friends share interests and offer support. In a healthy marriage, spouses should also offer support and show interest in the things that interest our spouse. When it is easy and natural, and when it isn’t.
The article got me thinking, and I was happy to realize that Dave is actually super good at this particular skill. (I do think it’s a skill.) I sometimes call him in the middle of the day and interrupt whatever he is doing to tell him about something that is really important to me. And almost always, Dave will stop what he’s doing and not only listen, but make genuine comments, and ask really good follow-up questions. He shows sincere interest in the things that interest me.
Not too surprisingly, after we have those chats (the ones all about me and my interests) I have really great feelings about Dave. If I had to rate him as a husband in that moment, I’d give him the highest score possible. After those chats I look forward to seeing him, and I want to bless him in return.
And when you think about it, (guys, I hope you’re paying attention here) all of those loving feelings I have towards Dave come from the fact that he just took three minutes (ok sometimes more like ten) to listen and show interest in the things that interest me.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not as good about doing this for Dave. I definitely could improve in this area. But when I do take time to talk to him about his work, or surfing, (or the bird that just landed in the yard 😉 ) I can tell he feels loved. After all, from the beginning of our relationship, what drew Dave to me was my willingness to do things that he loved to do: I would kick a soccer ball with him (he played professionally then) or ride bikes, or read his medical school textbooks out loud to him while he drove. (I mostly fell asleep but I really tried!) My love compelled me to share life with him in every possible way. His interests quickly became my interests.
Now I’m thinking it would be good for me to have some of that mindset back again.
Here’s an idea: Make a list of the FIVE THINGS your spouse is most interested in. Make it a goal to bring up each of them in an authentic way this week! Talk about them, ask him questions about them…If they include hobbies or activities, you might plan a way to join him in that activity, or even just going along to show support.
Feel free to share in comments: What you remember doing at first with your spouse that maybe you’ve drifted away from. How do you show interest in what interests your spouse?
A word of caution: If your spouse isn’t so good at this skill, don’t get discouraged and gift up. You might find that as you model it to him or her, eventually there will be reciprocation. It’s really a great cycle and someone needs to start it, so why not you?
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PS A few more marriage posts: Building bridges when there is distance in your marriage, a recent letter I wrote to my husband in this busy season of raising kids, 7 attitudes that will sabotage your marriage, and 7 to replace them with.