Help us turn off our TV
October 1, 2005 4:29 AM   Subscribe

How to pass time enjoyably with my wife?

My wife and I have somewhat drifted apart in the last few years. Many of the activities that we used to enjoy together are less practical now that we have busier schedules and a toddler. We see each other mainly in the evenings for just an hour or two after our child is down to bed. Typically she reads and I work on the computer, or we may watch TV together, and that's about it.

She raised the issue, which I agree with, that this way of non-interactively passing our time isn't conducive to the intimacy that we both want and miss. But neither of us has an idea of what to do instead. Our interests have diverged over time (I'm an engineer and she studies permaculture), but we love each other deeply and are willing to meet in the middle for our time together. We want to find games, crafts, projects, or other activities to while away the hours enjoyably and in a way that brings us closer together. Help!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Crossword Puzzles or some such. Try games magazine.

Or maybe just putting a puzzle together?

Perhaps redesigning a room in the house?

Haven you ever played Myst or Riven? Perhaps you two could play that together?

Or maybe read to each other, a bit of poetry or short stories?

If all else fails, try a threesome :)
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:59 AM on October 1, 2005

I suggest hiking, which is a bit of a laugh coming from me as I never get around to it. The reason why I do so is that my wife and I live a couple hours from both our families. This means every third weekend or so we're going to be in a car together, talking, for four-six straight hours (round trip) with nothing else to do. When birthdays, holidays and such are packed together extremely close, we'll do it every single weekend for as much as a month.

My advice is pick a few good trails about an hour's drive from where you live and go hiking. The time in the car will give you forced, concentrated chat time, and the hiking will provide a nice less-intensive second act before the conversational finale.

For day to day I can't be of much help. Mostly we just sit across the room from each other on our computers chatting online (with each other and other people) all night, every night - and straight through Saturdays. That doesn't cut it for most people. Try the hiking thing, though.
posted by Ryvar at 5:02 AM on October 1, 2005

Ah, it's only AFTER I hit post that I see I misread your question entirely, glossing over the word 'toddler'. You can do hiking fairly frequently on a tight time budget, but the after-toddler-hours bit kills it. The having a toddler kills it for weekends, too. Sorry.

You might want to try MMORPGs - I know a lot of couples that play WoW together and get a lot out of it. Besides the social nature of the game, there's a bonding that takes place with the shared experience of defeating a challenging opponent. Some people find MMOs a drag though (as I do Myst-type games), so that may not be your cup of tea.
posted by Ryvar at 5:17 AM on October 1, 2005

A deck of cards is going to be healthier and cheaper than video games, and more conducive to conversation. Trivial Pursuit always seems to lead to loopy conversations about the questions.
posted by mimi at 5:58 AM on October 1, 2005

Try to eat dinner together regularly.
Cultivate some babysitters.
Spend time as a family every weekend, if only for an hour or two.
Get off the computer, it is the death of intimacy.
posted by caddis at 6:05 AM on October 1, 2005

Part of my point is that you can spend good time together even with your toddler around, especially if he or she is occupied. That time alone together at the very end of the day is not really good time because you are usually too tired to enjoy it.
posted by caddis at 6:09 AM on October 1, 2005

After work and kids can be pretty hard to do anything requiring a lot of brain power and/or planning. Sometimes using that time to save yourself other time when you're more awake/alert is time well spent.

-stuff that gets us ready for sleep like reading out loud to each other when we're already in pj's. We'll do a chapter a night of a book we both like, or read poetry that the other person likes.
-planning for the upcoming days [especially making food so that we'll have food we like to take to work and not have to rush or prepping good things to make for everyone for dinner]
- games that we either learn together or ones that we know by heart like cribbage/backgammon. we keep running totals.
- we don't eschew tv, we just plan what we watch and don't watch more than that [the Daily Show often, sometimes local news, British comedies, whatever] same with movie rentals
- we'll do projects in small parts that are hobby oriented. for me it's writing letters, for him it's car stuff and catching up on legal news he's missed. The key is, it's together time not just mindless surfing so we'll be a little more interactive than how we are when we're just click-click-click. Writing to our elected reps lately has been a big one.
- daydreaming works. we'll talk about a future vacation, a future holiday, an upcoming event or something we'd like to get done. Sitting down with a cup of tea and just talking is good together time and requires no planning, just a desire to do it.
- walking. while the weather's nice, we'll go out with cameras and just take a walk around the nighborhood, this can happen with a sleepy toddler in a carriage, or with someone around at the house. If we do it regularly, we'll notice little changes in the neighborhood more regulary and the exercise is good for us. Even in winter, we'll suit up and take a hurried run around the block, just to get out of the house.
posted by jessamyn at 7:25 AM on October 1, 2005

There have been a couple of good AskMe discussions on good games--see this one, for example.

Another possibility is to look for a more interactive TV experience. You might try watching French in Action together--it involves talking back at the TV, and you can then practice your French on each other.
posted by yankeefog at 7:49 AM on October 1, 2005

From experience:

-- Boil some water for tea. Make two mugs of tea. Sit on the couch together. Conversation follows, always. Just talking about nothing -- words, the toddler, trivia, anything.
-- I hope your wife has long hair. If she does, and you don't know how to braid hair, learn how to. Braiding my wife's hair, and brushing it, and giving her a scalp massage or just a nominal backrub, has a huge narcotic power on both of us. I mean it when I say it's quite a glue in our relationship. If you want to be a really good husband, suggest it rather than waiting for the suggestion.
posted by argybarg at 8:32 AM on October 1, 2005

I second Myst and Riven. I'm only marginally into computer games and my wife isn't into them at all. Yet we had HOURS of fun playing Myst together. They are different from most other games. You can play at your own pace -- not against each other but as a team -- and pause to talk over your next move for as-long-as you want.

How about cooking some meals together? It might be especially fun to learn some new type cuisine.

Also, you may be against this at first, but consider taking an active interest in each other's work. Almost anything becomes interesting once you get into it deeply enough. Read some books on permaculture (I had know idea what this was when I read your post, so I had to look it up -- sounds interesting!). Are there some books she could read on engineering (books for the layperson?)

This may be a naive question (coming from someone who knows almost nothing about both your fields), but isn't there a project you could work on together that would make use of both of your areas of expertise? Some kind of complex garden structure?
posted by grumblebee at 8:42 AM on October 1, 2005

Our favorite games are Sorry! (seriously, this is a blast), and a word game called Snatch. We play Scrabble as well, but that isn't quite as interactive and fun.

As far as television goes, we interact more when we wait for the DVD of a show to come out. The rhythm of commercials is deadening. Also, when you have the DVDs, you can limit your time much more easily.
posted by frykitty at 8:54 AM on October 1, 2005

Build a doll house together for the kid. Or an "action figure" house, as the case may be.
posted by leapingsheep at 8:54 AM on October 1, 2005

Adventure games, as suggested above, are wonderful fun as collaborative efforts. And there are hundreds of free ones, of many different styles, designed to take only a couple of hours, which other people have already rated them for you! Here's a place to start.
posted by Aknaton at 9:49 AM on October 1, 2005

The game of Go is pretty good -- as deep as chess but with the advantage that players are 'handicapped' to equalize their success, unlike chess where the better player usually wins. Always being the loser isn't much fun, but with Go you can win even as a weaker player. There's a free Windows beginner version you can download (no Mac version afaik), which you can use to understand the basics, but a nice (physical) board with good stones is a pleasure to play with.

Mancala is also a good occasional game for two.

I wouldn't recommend building a doll house / train set / whatever while you have a toddler -- it would be wrecked faster than you could build. It would be fun when your child's a bit older.
posted by anadem at 10:18 AM on October 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

Get away from the house. The house is where this drifting mundanity has taken you both over. Get a sitter and go out together. Just like in the old days. And not to the cinema: go somewhere where you can pay attention to each other. The pub. A restaurant. A walk. A holiday. Put up at a hotel for one night of kid-free passion. Get out of yourselves, and you'll get back into yourselves.
posted by Decani at 11:02 AM on October 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

Try cooking/baking together. You can make something dessert-y together in an hour on any given evening, and it can be a welcome change of pace to do something non-computery and non-intellectual together. Cooking may be the last thing you want to do for recreation but I really enjoy it and you get something yummy out of it :) Just be sure to make something that's a treat, otherwise it becomes routine
posted by scarabic at 12:30 PM on October 1, 2005

"Get away from the house. The house is where this drifting mundanity has taken you both over."

I don't know about that. My wife and I would love to spend more time together at home, because it's something we've made together. If the poster of this thread owns his home rather than rents, maybe redecorating/renovating a room or two could be of interest. Cultivate a garden, do some landscaping. Build something. Have something to show from your time together that you both invested some muscle and sweat in (other than your toddler!)
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:41 PM on October 1, 2005

The most important thing my wife and I ever did was get a good sitter and have a regular date night. Some weeks we go out and literally hit Target for diapers, but on average it's a sushi and then hanging out at Border's evening, and others a great italian meal and movie. The point is that being together and enjoying the time was/is more important than connecting, as it were. The connection we lost after kids re-established because we were able to just be, without the threat of interruption. Some nights we literally go out for an hour or two, but off-loading the evening rigors of baths/books/meals/clean-up is like a two week holiday in France.

I remember taking my first road trip with my (not yet) wife, remarking that it seemed the real connecting in a relationship seemed to occur when there was not a deliberate attempt to do so, but just when we were both drifting along thinkingour own thoughts and enjoying the comfort of the others presence.

Good luck. Oh yeah, pay your sitter enough to clean up and do the damn dishes.
posted by docpops at 1:50 PM on October 1, 2005

You've got part of the answer in your question: get that TV out of your life! I know that it's a valuable way to entertain a small child, but don't turn it on at other times except a "date" to watch a movie together. I cancelled the cable and can rent quite a few films/tv shows for that same $50/mo. We play some games together too: Katamari and Gran Turismo. The ladies seem to do well with the wheel & pedals, and you can hadicap yourself with a slow car.
I would also go for some evening walks before winter sets in- are you both photographers? Even if not, take some snaps of each other. She might appreciate software like Picasa to make organization and cleanup easier. (My fiancee has fallen in love with it.) Also: she makes complicated mixed drinks and hors d'oeuvres while I cook for us, or for friends. We make wish-lists of furniture, painting, and organizational tasks for the house. We write down things (toys) we want to buy, and figure out how to afford them. We wrestle the dog, and I teach her how to use photoshop to make ridiculous pictures of her family. We shop online together. (Get a giant CRT monitor, it helps!) We chat about work. I proofread some of her emails to clients. Grab anything that needs talking about.
posted by wzcx at 2:07 PM on October 1, 2005

Get pot into your life. Sex is beyond spectacular when stoned. You will want to spend more intimate time together. Lots more.

We wrestle the dog, and I teach her how to use photoshop to make ridiculous pictures of her family.

Wow. Are your dog's photoshopped pix posted to flickr?

posted by five fresh fish at 4:04 PM on October 1, 2005

We have a toddler and a baby and no babysitter. It's not so hard for one of us to get away, but it is hard for both of us to get away together, so nights at home have to compensate for that so we get couple time.

Lost Cities is a great two-player card game. Dominos are fun (and you can gamble small stakes against each other for more competition). Friends of mine play cribbage with each other. I like Othello. We have an old NES and play Dr. Mario.

Once the toddler goes to bed, turn on the radio quietly if you need some background noise, prep up a little plate of crackers and cheese or veggies with dip, pour a glass of wine, or pop some popcorn, and cozy up on the couch. Make conversation. It helps to make this sort of an end-of-day daily event; it's time for both of you to unwind and discuss your day, your plans, whatever.

Narrow down your TV time to a few specific things - and only turn it on to watch those things (together). Make one night (and only one night) movie night.

Sit in the kitchen with each other while making dinner and doing cleanup. I love it if my husband sits and talks to me while I do the dishes; they go so much faster. Or if he helps me make dinner.
posted by Melinika at 6:28 PM on October 1, 2005

I have to second what Satapher said. WoW or any other MMORPG might get you to spend more time together, but it's hardly quality time.

MMORPGs are quite addictive, and if you really get into it the rest of your life will suffer. I speak from my own experience...

I'd bet WoW ends a hell of a lot more marriages than it saves.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 6:31 PM on October 1, 2005

To echo what others in this thread have already stated I would encourage you to make dinner with your wife as much as possible. It doesn't have to be anything fancy but throw in a good glass of wine and you will get to know each other again quite well. Dinner together is such an important way to get to know each other again.

If this is too much of a commitment then I would recommend establishing at least one date night a week. This doesn't mean going to a movie. This means going out to dinner and then a walk or museum or, etc. As difficult as it may be, do not let anything interfere with you plans.

Look at it this way, if you don't know your wife as well as you used to this provides an excellent way to get to know her again. Perhaps it could be your second "first date".
posted by quadog at 3:42 PM on October 2, 2005

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