I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a sweeping-generalization-type-of-statement: No one wants to become simply roommates with their spouse.
Right? Right. It’s trendy to talk about how we should still make time to “date” our spouses, but I think that should mean more than a date night once a month. Remember when you were dating and you’d be willing to do almost anything your significant other suggested, just because you wanted to spend as much time with them as possible? (Just me?) Don’t get me wrong: dinners and movies and stuff like that are necessary. One-on-one time is necessary. I’m just proposing an extension of that.
Like I mentioned the last time I wrote a post for #staymarried, my husband and I have been in a season of dream-chasing for about two years now. He has made excellent progress in his goals of acting, directing, and improvising in Chicago– with a number of shows, short films, and web series under his belt. I have been so proud of him, but it has also been difficult being the wife of a dream-chaser. There has been lots of solo parenting, pity parties, and poor communication in the past two years.
The first year of this season was especially hard. In order to keep working his full time job AND chase his dreams, it meant that we weren’t seeing very much of each other. He’d spend many evenings down in Chicago taking improv classes, many weekends working on commercials or independent films, and I’d spend that time taking care of our son and doing my own thing. Truth be told, I didn’t like it very much. I knew it was necessary, because we agreed he was going to “go for it,” but it was lonely, and I felt jealous and spiteful and guilty about feeling all of those things. Instead of being on one path, we were forging two different paths and trying to make them run parallel to one another rather than to make them intersect and work together. In marriage we often refer to this as “disconnect.” Of course we still tried to make time for date nights during this stage in our dream-chasing, but there was still huge disconnect on our dates. I felt like all he ever talked about was his improv, his friends, and his experiences in Chicago. That probably wasn’t true, but what was true is that it was hard to talk about because they weren’t my experiences. I felt like he was telling me about his other life– one that I just wasn’t part of. We were living like roommates.
How the Writing Program at Second City Helped Our Marriage
Michelle’s post last week was all about how to connect when you’re too tired to connect… and that’s exactly where we were in the beginning, when we were trying to figure out how this new direction of our life should work and look like. I reflect often on this process and how we’ve made it work. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but there seems to be one thing that has been most vital in helping us connect and stay connected.
Last year he introduced an idea: we should do Second City’s writing program together. At first I just said, “oh yeah. Sure.” Not taking him too seriously. But after he mentioned it about five more times, I realized he wasn’t just saying it the way we say, “we should buy a vacation home on Oahu.” He actually meant he wanted to do this program now, and he wanted me to do it with him. It was terrifying, pushed me way outside of my comfort zone, and I don’t regret it at all.
I gave him a tiny commitment to take Level 1, but I didn’t promise anything beyond that. I ended up really loving it and continued, even taking a class without him! We are at the end of this program now. We are currently in the middle of putting up our graduation show (if you’re near Chicago, come see it!) and as we are going through this crazy process, I’ve been reflecting on how completely, utterly good this has been for us. Taking the writing program together not only gave us a purpose for connecting, it gave us something new to connect about– a shared interest, shared group of friends, and shared experience when we really needed it.
Tips for Finding Your Point of Intersection
As the editor of a marriage blog, I’ve also been trying to put this experience into words to share hope for other couples who may also be in a season of dream-chasing while also raising small children. I talked a little bit in my post about how prioritizing your spouse is essential, but it can be especially difficult to do that when you’re so disconnected.
While I think it’s important for spouses to have their own interests, their own things, I also think it’s important to find something to do that is just about the two of you. If you don’t, you run the risk of just living parallel lives. In marriage, it’s easy to end up in our own lanes running parallel to each other. We need to be purposeful about finding points of intersection and connection, to meet each other there, to continue to grow together. Without intersecting and connecting, you become exactly what you don’t want to become: roommates. Here are some suggestions based on our experience for finding that “thing” you can enjoy together.
1. Find common ground
If your spouse has always wanted to skydive, but you have a crippling fear of heights, perhaps taking up skydiving together isn’t going to fit your relationship. Whatever you are going to do together shouldn’t be completely out of the question for one of you.
At first thought, the Writing Program at Second City was not something I would have considered common ground for me and Jonah. He figured that since I was into writing and he was into all things Second City, it’d be a great fit. I was terrified at the idea of trying to write comedy (I mean, trying to be funny?! Is there anything worse?!). He was right though– while writing sketch comedy has never been an interest or goal of mine, I do love writing, and I found Level 1 of the program to be excellent advice for all kinds of writers. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Take some risks
This was a huge risk for me. I needed to be willing to be stretched. Underneath the fear of writing sketch comedy, I knew that it was at least possible that I would enjoy this and get something out of the class. I’m semi-used to putting writing out there, but putting it out there on the internet is different than to a circle of other writers. Face to face. Thankfully, the teachers at Second City are some of the most positive, encouraging, and helpful people I’ve ever met. (As a teacher, I’ve learned a lot from them in that respect, too!)
It was a risk for my husband as well, though I didn’t see it that way at the time. We were on his turf! But while he was already a great improviser and actor, it was his first attempt at writing comedy as well. Which brings me to my last point…
3. It should be NEW for both of you
Having new experiences together is so important. If you already have a hobby that you and your spouse do together regularly (or semi-regularly), that’s great and you should keep doing that; however, an article from the Berkeley Science Review reports that “psychological research suggests that couples who play together feel closer, experience more positive emotions, and as a result are happier together,” and this is especially true when the couple is trying out something new and exciting. These activities often involve cooperating, create shared meaning, and the feelings of newness and excitement get linked to your relationship. The feelings of pleasure from the experience extend to feelings of pleasure for your partner, and as a result, you grow closer to one another.
Second City was certainly not a new setting for Jonah, but he also wasn’t much of a writer. I loved to write, but never considered writing comedy. Even though I didn’t see it as such at the time, Jonah was taking a risk by signing up for the program, too. While it was something he wanted to do, it wasn’t necessarily in his wheelhouse. The writing program connected us on Saturdays during class, but it also carried over into the rest of the week. We talked about class on the way home, checked with each other throughout the week to see how our homework was going, ran ideas past each other… we supported each other in this new adventure while also connecting in a new way.
As we were sitting in Donny’s Skybox, watching six actors perform scenes we had written, I was overcome with two feelings: excitement that this was happening and love for my husband. Doing the writing program together brought us closer together during a time that it was easy to grow further apart. It was the point of intersection for the dual paths we were forging and brought us back to a singular one. It kept us tied to each other, brought me into my husband’s new world in the right way, and helped both of us grow as people. And these people want to #staymarried.
The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.
Katie Saesan is the editor of the #staymarried blog. She doesn’t write here often, though her fingerprints are on every entry that’s ever been published. We are so incredibly thankful for the faithfulness, hard work, and enthusiasm she brings to the #staymarried mission. She and her husband Jonah, along with their adorable son Skip, are chasing dreams just north of Chicago, IL. If you’d like to hear more from her, you can find her on Twitter and her own blog where she writes about two of the things she loves most in life: running and reading.
Interested in reading other posts by Katie? Check these out…
♥ Does Your Marriage Need a Rebrand – Six Simple Ways to Prioritize Your Spouse
♥ Walking Side-by-Side – How to Keep Perfect Pace with Your Partner
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