What do you want to do? I don't know, what do you want to do?
September 19, 2007 8:58 AM   Subscribe

What kinds of activities can a couple enjoy together (besides the obvious)? We're engaged, early 30s, no kids, together for 3 years. A lot of that time has been fairly busy - grad school, different jobs, moving. Now we're settled down to an extent, and we're getting bored. Well, at least I am.

He doesn't like to do a lot of the things I like, and vice versa. So he does his thing, and I do mine. We spend a lot of time together, but most of that is watching TV or practical household stuff, and it sometimes feels as if we're roommates, not romantic partners.

If this is completely normal, and we should be doing what we want with our family/friends and not expect it from each other, just tell me that. But I am really hoping for some middle ground here. (Note: he's fine with the status quo.)

My interests: Bookstores, museums, academic lectures, cafes, foreign films, live music, festivals, dance clubs.
My dream vacation: Paris.

His: Kayaking, camping, backpacking, NASCAR (on TV), football (on TV), Playstation, PC gaming.
His dream vacation: A remote island with plenty of kayaking.

He's got ADD, so he finds a lot of the stuff I like to be interminably boring. Getting him to go to a museum is like pulling teeth. He's also allergic to smoke and doesn't like crowds, so festivals/clubs/bars are generally out. I've got panic disorder with agoraphobia, so I don't like being outdoors a whole lot, though a day hike/bike is usually OK. I tried kayaking and it wasn't any fun at all. Trying to plan a weekend for both of us has been difficult and we either end up doing our separate things or just doing chores and watching TV.

We recently moved 40 miles NW of Chicago, and I'm not that familiar with the area, so regional suggestions are welcome.
posted by desjardins to Human Relations (29 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
A day trip to Madison might work. There are plenty of thing in both of your lists here. Rent a canoe and go for a paddle in one of lakes; galleries/museums on State Street/campus; Badger footbal; smoke free bars; many many cafes; walk in the arboretum. I could come up with more specific recs if you want.
posted by sulaine at 9:11 AM on September 19, 2007

Cooking lessons?

But I don't think that sort of thing is a problem in a lot of cases. Don't go around thinking you should be bothered that the two of you are not BFF for every activity.
posted by kmennie at 9:12 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

One of the most romantic things my husband does for me is hang out and put a good faith effort into trying to find some enjoyment from doing something I like.

We try to at least in spirit take some interest - even if you don't like kayaking, could the two of you go to a coffee shop together and read outdoors magazines and let him tell you everything he loves about it and CARE, even though you don't want to GO? Could he pick up a great bottle of wine and some french cheeses on the way home from work, rent a romantic movie that takes place in Paris, dim the lights, and create a romantic parisian night at home with you (I mention, because my husband once did so for me, during a time that my ache to travel well exceeded our financial ability to do so). I don't know Chicago, but for example here in New York there are groups that do day trips where you horseback ride or snowmobile or hike between different vinyards or breweries, stop for a nice lunch, and thus have a little bit of culture and perhaps a manageable bite of the outdoors.

The root of my suggestion is that if you take baby steps to enjoy each other's interests, you'll be communicating better and be more likely to find some areas of overlap you can each enjoy. You might find mutual interest new to each of you. I know you're looking for more specific suggestions, but this is the best I can do.
posted by bunnycup at 9:12 AM on September 19, 2007

Another suggestion is to compromise and do want you want. For example, I like antiques and my partner likes beer and football. So, often on a Sat or Sun we'll go to an antique mall or store with a bar nearby. He'll come into the store for a quick look around with me (maybe half hour) and then he'll retire to the bar and beer and football. I'll spend however much longer I want with the antiques and then go and join him and have a beer and do the crossword while he finishes watching the game. We both get to do want we want and share some of it and spend time together.
posted by sulaine at 9:15 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Get a Wii :-)
posted by donut at 9:17 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Quite common. Do some of your activities with friends and family and let him do the same. I think it is important to do some things together though, even if it as simple as lunches, movies, walks in the park, etc. It might require some compromise on both parts, but common and shared experience helps strengthen a relationship. If you plan on having kids they will provide plenty of that for you into the future, but for now I think finding a few hours per week to spend together is a laudable goal. Watching TV together counts, but it is kind of passive unless you are getting into good discussions of the shows.
posted by caddis at 9:20 AM on September 19, 2007

My SO an I like to play games: backgammon (very fast moving game, not boring like chess might be to him), Scrabble, Set, and of course, Wii games!

We also like doing crafts and home improvement proejcts together, from planting seeds to making light fixtures to designing theremins and hookahs and I don't know what all.

I am friends with a couple who do the Jumble together every morning. Silly and cute, it ensures that they have some direct interaction every day, not just parallel play.

Or perhaps you can learn something together - like French?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:25 AM on September 19, 2007

Seconding the Wii -- awesome fun without having to leave the house :).

Even though you mentioned your little interest in outdoor activities, maybe you could consider joining an adult recreational league (like kickball, bowling, softball, volleyball, whatever).
posted by fallenposters at 9:26 AM on September 19, 2007

My husband and I have nothing in common either, but we both like food, and center a lot of our together time on finding recipes, planning food, getting it, prepping it, making it, and eating it. Poring over cookbooks together, finding cool or intriguing things to try, shopping together for the food (if you can), etc etc....it can be very romantic, and fun. We try to hit a bookstore together once a week or so to get coffee and sit around and look through the new cookbooks to get ideas.

Oh, and playing board games together. Winner gets "a favor", as we like to call it.
posted by iconomy at 9:27 AM on September 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

You list your interests, and you list his interests, but you don't list any that you share. Which I don't think means you don't share interests.

For instance, you could take dance classes -- no smoke there -- or start cooking fun meals together, or you could find a video game you both like. Even if you're normally bookish and he's normally guy-ish, there must be things that drew you together. Whatever they are, rediscover them and try inventing a few new things as well.

My BF and I recently signed up for Netflix and found we both like a lot of similar movies, even though I'd previously refused to watch a lot of his movies, and he didn't much enjoy mine. We take turns -- one movie will be "his" and the next "mine," but we'll watch together.

If you don't like kayaking, are there other boating type sports you enjoy? Kayaking is sort of heavy-duty, but there's dragon boating, which is more hilariously fun, or you could find a rowing club and try a few lessons. If you like it, you could try double sculling.

Regardless, just try to find things you both enjoy. They're out there, trust me.
posted by brina at 9:35 AM on September 19, 2007

Thirding the Wii.
posted by cashman at 9:36 AM on September 19, 2007

If this is completely normal, and we should be doing what we want with our family/friends and not expect it from each other, just tell me that.

It really depends on your mindset and goals. For me personally, I want a partner, someone to enjoy all of life's activities with me. I have just such a person now, and would not settle for anything less. HOWEVER sometimes people do settle (and that's exactly what I think it is), for various reasons, and there's nothing less legitimate about that.

So you can either (1) accept being disparate, and find a way to be philosophical about it, (2) change it. If you go with the second option, you can do so inside the relationship (it sounds like you will have to make the effort) or you can do so outside of it...

I always wonder how people get to this point. What activities did you have in common for the first three years other than the obvious?

If you all are going to grow together, it has to be important to the both of you. Not just lip-service important, but fundamentally ideologically important. If he's not there, I'm not sure that geocaching (as cool as it is), is going to get him there.
posted by letahl at 9:37 AM on September 19, 2007

I'll preface this by reiterating what other said, that you each HAVE to have your own time to pursue your own stuff. Crucial to a relationship -- people who do everything together frighten me.

Maybe both need to go outside your normal activities, and search for something completely different that has some appeal on both sides? It could be that your time together is doing things that *neither* of you has done before. Ballroom dancing, for example? Sign up for a class to learn together, and stick it out for the duration. If, at the end, you both didn't enjoy it, drop like the proverbial hot potato and try something else. The intimacy is in the deciding, and the adventure of being completely outside your norms together.

Here's a suggestion for your next holiday that will possibly satisfy you both: houseboating on the canals in France:


Travel at your own pace down the canals, day trip hiking and boating, lots of historical content to see and visit.....maybe a good compromise?
posted by liquado at 9:40 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think it's important for both of you to try to see, through each other's eyes, what makes the other's interests enjoyable to them.

Personally, I enjoy almost everything on both lists, but to a large extent, it's only because I was inspired by past girlfriends.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:47 AM on September 19, 2007

Yeah, sounds a bit like my marriage.

It's okay to have separate interests. Really.
posted by konolia at 9:51 AM on September 19, 2007

Try this: The Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval re-creation society.

The thing about this group is that you do history. All aspects of it. From making/eating food, to making/listening/dancing to music, to making armor and then fighting in it, to creating and receiving illuminated manuscripts, to making and wearing medieval/Renaissance clothing. This is NOT a ren faire, it's an absorbing hobby full of friendly people and things that families and couples can do together, as well as separately. Two people can do separate activities all day, at the same event, then enjoy a feast and Royal Court together.

Events happen just about every weekend, all over the U.S. and Canada (as well as points overseas), making this a nice hobby for people who like to travel, but there are also activities happening locally. Events include classes (hands-on and lectures), tournaments, feasts, court, concerts, dancing, and more. Summer brings camping events; winter events are usually indoors. Either way there is usually an opportunity for quality alcohol ingestion (for the adults) in the evening. More fun than clubbing...and tastier (and cheaper) drinks. (Yes, you too can learn to make mead!)

Contact me if you're interested in learning more; I live in Madison and know tons of people in your area.

I also second the day trip to Madison, but that's more of a travel idea than a new hobby. Sure, hanging out in Madison makes a great hobby, but it's much easier if you actually live here. ;)
posted by gillyflower at 9:52 AM on September 19, 2007

Love-love-loved rock climbing together at an indoor gym when my husband and I were dating (and our interests split similarly to yours). It looks like it might meet your criteria. Or a home-based Dance Dance Revolution competition.

(While I like the kid idea crazycanuck mentions, and have done it myself, having a kid can separate you an awful lot at the beginning stages as you tag-team on everything.)
posted by cocoagirl at 10:46 AM on September 19, 2007

Where did you kayak? Because my interests are exactly yours, and I LOVE kayaking...because I go on educational kayak tours in beautiful surroundings with calm waters. That thing where you go for open water and it's a lot of physical work? Yawn. Paddling through remote marshes seeing alligators, river otter, turtles, having a guide identify birds and tell stories and point out which plants could be eaten? Awesome.

Other ways to bring your interests together:

What about urban hikes in cities with terrific parks? Best of both worlds. (Montreal comes to mind immediately.)

Comedy clubs are a club, but everyone's focused on the performance, not milling around banging into each other. A lot of big cities are going smoke-free, too, which eliminates the smoke problem.

Aquariums are museums that are not boring to people-who-don't-like-museums. (Giant sharks, anyone?)
posted by desuetude at 11:23 AM on September 19, 2007

With a little bit of Googling, you could probably find a smoke free place with live comedy/improv which is usually good fun for everyone.
posted by tomcooke at 11:25 AM on September 19, 2007

The SCA offers him a chances to be physical and you a chance to look around at arts and crafts but this might be a bit too nerdy for some. Cooking Class are a great idea especially if you center them around his taste in food. A trip to a gambling casino might offer you guys a mix bag of things to do you can choose a place that offer you a nice restaurant while he can get into some poker. You guys really do seem to have a hard time of it. Maybe you should just tell him that you have to have one day of a month where you feel that your wants and needs are important. Most guys will be like okay one day a month no problem she does all the planning i just have to tag along. Girls dont like to do that stuff but it the ideal way to get what you want which is your companion to accompany you to an event. Maybe you guys can hang out with some hippy very earthy people outdoorsy type that are into deep ideas. Find some type of organization that has a drum circle you can learn the play the drums and meet some people that might have the same sitution as you.
posted by Rolandkorn at 11:30 AM on September 19, 2007

Picking something that one or the other likes isn't the best option. Try something new together and create a bonding experience out of that. Here are a few ideas to get you started; kite flying, salsa dancing, skydiving, furniture making, canning, bondage :P Anyway, you get the idea.
posted by JJ86 at 12:58 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I agree with the Wii option. My boyfriend got me one for my birthday, and calls it "the most backhanded gift I've ever given." We have a lot of fun playing it together - especially Mario Party 8. I'd consider the Wii a good investment because there will be games that you both like, and you could also each get games that you want to play by yourselves or with your own friends.
posted by radioamy at 1:30 PM on September 19, 2007

He likes doing things, hands-on. So what are some things that you might like, that are in that vein?

- Boardgames? Sounds lame but a lot of the new ones can be really fun. See if there is a local game shop or club near you and it might be a good way to meet other people in your new area.
- Crossword puzzle, or some other goal-oriented hands-on activity, sitting in a cafe?
- Puzzle- or adventure- type video games (eg Myst), where you could play together or where you would be happy to sit while he holds the controller, and the two of you could play together ("Oh oh! Go that way!")? Katamari Damacy has a two-player mode that's fun, ditto some driving games.
- Geocaching is a great idea.
- Making things - eg carpentry, pottery, gardening, bike repair, etc. There are classes for this, or go-it-alone
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:29 PM on September 19, 2007

World of Warcraft. My wife and I find time to play together about twice a week, what with 3 kids and all.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:57 PM on September 19, 2007

No kids, huh?

Do some babysitting. Then imagine that every day was like that, with no relief for nearly two decades.

This should make it easier to appreciate doing nothing together.
posted by mullingitover at 4:00 PM on September 19, 2007

I was a little put off (no offense) by the previous poster who intimated that if you settle for less than total togetherness you are, well, settling. My husband and I both have stuff we enjoy doing separately, and have active social lives (this is helped by the fact that we do have kids and it's rare for us to get out together with no kids).

HOWEVER, in my first marriage, the only activities we did together were his activities (and it continues to be that way with his new wife). If I wanted couple time, I would spend time doing his godawful activities...like going to shows featuring powerline glass insulators. He never chose to go along with me. So, basically, I agree with most the PPs-I think it's worth it to stretch outside your comfort zone and do something that your partner loves, even if it's not your thing, because you love each other and that's something you do for someone you love. And I think it's really important to create some new things together.

I am more of a homebody/social butterfly/indoor girl, and DH is more of a surfer/skier/sailing solo guy. We both love food, and cooking and eating together. We both love wine, and have fun tasting and drinking. We love to travel, and have a huge list of trips that would meet both our interests-sailing in Greece, for instance-easy sailing a couple hours a day, coupled with fabulous food and interesting sites.

On the other hand, and I don't mean to rain on this parade-there is also a chance that you may not be cut out to be together. If you really can't find anything in common that you want to do for fun, I think that's something to think about. My ex and I, as I mentioned previously, were that way almost entirely, and by the end of our relationship we really had separate lives, which wasn't a good thing.
posted by purenitrous at 9:46 PM on September 19, 2007

I don't mean to panic you, but a pet theory that I was told once is that a couple needs to have a child or 'virtual child' within the first 2-3 years of being together - to take over after the honeymoon period - or the relationship will eventually disintegrate.

By 'virtual child', a pet is probably the most obvious thing that would spring to mind, but better yet is some sort of shared project - something beyond mere weekend leisure activities. This might be buying a place together, doing renovations or setting up a garden (bonus points for something even more projecty, like a permaculture garden for your own kitchen), some sort of small business, goal-oriented travel - like budgeting & planning to trek across Tibet, restoring some quirky old vehicle with a view towards travelling around the country, learning a foreign language or taking dancing classes together...that sort of thing. It should be challenging in a fun sorta way, and should embiggen your life, leaving you with more than you started out with, and should require both of you to work together towards the goal.

Wii's & so on might be fun time-wasters, but pale - in my opinion - in comparison to those kinds of shared projects.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:14 AM on September 20, 2007 [7 favorites]

Try dancing. Swing dancing or contra dancing or something like that.

go to a beginner class together. it's fun. active. involves music. etc.
posted by lotusmonster at 5:44 AM on September 20, 2007

I was a little put off (no offense) by the previous poster who intimated that if you settle for less than total togetherness you are, well, settling. My husband and I both have stuff we enjoy doing separately, and have active social lives (this is helped by the fact that we do have kids and it's rare for us to get out together with no kids).

You're right. I could have used better wording. "Total togetherness" is scary. I have a friend that is now in a couple that is so totally together they have a joint myspace page. "One of us in into boybands, the other likes emo," etc. Yeah, scary.

It really depends on what you want in a romantic relationship is all I was trying to say. I want someone who also enjoys *doing* stuff (exploring, hiking, traveling, being out, art walks), but then again one of my favorite things about my s/o is that I get a lot of reading done around the house and he doesn't require constant attention. I have to think, for me, that its best to have a lover I can share my passion and passions with.

I will second the "virtual pet" post, but better if its a project. I have to think that this comes naturally to couples that are "meant to be together," if you believe in all that. Like I read the post about the lady and her husband that worked out an antiquing/bar compromise, and I wonder if that was an intellectual activity or whether they just compromised naturally, because they were important to each other. Anyway, if you can't find something that you both love, in addition to each other, you kinda are roommates.
posted by letahl at 6:58 AM on September 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

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