It's in so much of the marriage advice out there: cultivate common interests. At the beginning of our relationship ten years ago, I frankly didn't give it too much thought. After all, it was our common interests that brought us together. Check that one off the list. Of course we heard about the empty nesters who one day looked at each other and realized that with no kids in the house, they had nothing in common. Well, when you're starry eyed and just being in the same room is practically enough to sustain you, it's hard to imagine that would ever happen!
A few years down the road, and a couple kids later, and we still loved each other. A lot. But I can see how we settled a bit, or rather, a lot. Life took on a pretty normal routine; Erik going to work, I staying busy caring for our family and home. While I enjoy sewing and crafting and cooking, Erik is interested in photography and audio and roasting coffee. Sure, there were still plenty of things we enjoyed doing together, but somehow we lost sight of the dreams we once had together. We got so busy with life, with four kids and houses and jobs and homeschooling and chickens and health issues and paying bills and just making it through the day, that we sort of let our dreams slip away. Evening would come, and by the time the kids were in bed, we would often sit in the same room, together in a sense, but pursuing our own interests. We forgot that there was a big world out there, and that we still wanted to explore it, and that we still could, that this "American Dream" life we were living didn't seem to fit quite right.
Our love of travel and adventure and our desire to pursue a different sort of life is part of what brought us together in the first place. (Well, that and the amazing Sri Lankan curry Erik used to make.) We'd known each other for years, and even gone out a few times when we were on the same continent, but it was through the letters I wrote from Asia that he really became interested in me. (You can read our love story here.) Through the years, life here became pretty consuming and our old dreams were either buried in the past or way too far in the future. Somehow we forgot to keep dreaming together, to keep moving, however slowly, toward the things that were deep within both of our hearts.
Over the last year or so we've both felt a renewed energy and interest in moving on from here. After returning from three weeks in Mexico last February, something changed, and we found ourselves happily dreaming and planning and making small steps toward pulling up roots and going where the wind blows us. (We're still not entirely sure where that is!) One of the bonuses I hadn't anticipated is that it's been like a breath of fresh air for our relationship. I'd realized, and been bothered, that our interests seemed so divergent from one another, but I didn't know how to remedy it. (I really tried to get into the world of coffee roasting... I did. And I enjoy taking pictures, but start talking about shutter speeds and f-stops and depth of field and my eyes glaze over.)
Now I realize that we didn't need to give up our own interests, or dive into the other persons'. We just needed to "Go back to the beginning"! (I can't write that without hearing Vezzini say it in The Princess Bride.) It's been such a blessing to once again be dreaming our dreams together. And in that, we can still maintain our own unique interests. Erik is looking forward to visiting some coffee cultures and taking great pictures. I'm afraid his speakers and amplifier are going to have to stay at home though. (Sorry, my love!) One of my favorite things, true to my interests, is visiting local produce markets and learning to cook ethnic cuisine. We can do all of that, together.
So it turns out "they" were right; cultivating common interests is crucial to a relationship. I feel like we're closer and enjoying being together more. As a result of that, I can genuinely engage Erik about his interests, even the ones I don't really "get". Somehow they matter more to me now, not for my sake, but because they matter to him. (And I think he must feel the same way, given that he initiated a word game with me the other day. Not his favorite thing, but I love them.) I feel like there is more laughter, more smiles, more joy around our home these days, and for that, we're all grateful. I'm glad it only took ten years for us to remember the dream we had in the first place, and that we can begin to live it now, with our family. (Our years here, by the way, have been good and fruitful and full. I don't regret them a bit.)
If your relationship is feeling a bit dull these days, I highly recommend that you "Go back to the beginning!" I'm all for living in the moment, but you might need to go back a few years and dust off some old dreams. If your life looks nothing like what you were hoping for, then start dreaming together again. It's one time where living in the future a bit just might make the present a whole lot brighter.
I'd love to hear from others what things you've found to be helpful in keeping your relationships strong and healthy.
I've found that many people now comment on my posts via facebook, so I added a facebook box directly to the post to make it easier to converse. The regular comment box is there too.