Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hobbies That Work FOR Your Relationship or Marriage

It’s all too common for men and women to take up hobbies to have time away from their spouse. That’s understandable if you don’t know how to improve things, but not excusable. Besides, you should see what can happen when you invite your spouse to enjoy your hobby with you!

Any of you who have been with me for awhile know that woodworking is one of my hobbies, and I was somewhat amused when I got the following letter:

Mr. Cunningham,

My wife and I have been married for 32 years, and we are okay, I guess, as long as we do not spend too much time together. But I have a problem and I hope you can help me with it. It is with my woodworking hobby and my wife.

I have been building furniture and cabinets all my life, literally since childhood. I love wood. The smell of it when it is being cut or shaped. The way it changes as I shape it. The way the grain can be made to look like a hundred different things depending on what I put on it. The sheer fact that I can take a piece of a tree and turn it into something useful and beautiful.

And my wife apparently resents the hell out of it.

I love going to my shop and making things, as you probably guess from my description of how I love wood, and every time I go out there it puts me in a good mood, which my wife manages to spoil very quickly as soon as I come back into the house, if she can wait that long. Half the time she finds some excuse to come out and interrupt me. And it is always when I am not in a good position to stop.

Stupid stuff, you know? Like killing a spider in the hallway, or to taste something she is cooking, or hold up something she is puttering with while she does something to it. Or she will want me to come in the house to talk about the movies playing at the cinema or something like that. I never interrupt her when she is doing any of her hobby things, and the hypocrisy of this double standard is driving me nuts. Can you tell me how I might get her to leave me alone and let me enjoy my woodworking without invoking any more punishment?

Thank you,

My reply:

Hello, James,

No, I can’t tell you how to get her to leave you alone. But I can tell you how to get her to let you enjoy your hobby: Invite her to join you in it!

No joke, that’s what her interruptions are most likely expressing. She wants to do something with you. She wants your company.

Women hate to feel like they’re being left out of anything, because they have such a huge problem managing boredom, and if you’re going out to a space that seems “off limits” to her, and you come in the house in a better mood, that smells to her like she’s missing out on something fun, in addition to missing out on YOU.

Yeah, I know. You can’t see your wife in your woodshop. But hang with me here for a minute or two and you will.

Women absolutely love to see a man doing just about anything with competence. It’s a huge turn-on. And that especially includes making things from wood. Women “nest,” remember? Your hobby could actually BOOST your bedroom life. And when was the last time that you made something for your wife to put in the house?

You may recall from one of my newsletters about choosing the perfect gift for a woman that one of the most important things about the gift be that it is something special, just for her; mass-produced gifts only point out that you can spend money, not that you have paid attention to her. Making something for her in your shop could end up being a more-prized possession than even her wedding ring. And that’s not even the best part!

We men love to make things out of wood, but we hate finishing. There’s a really good reason for that. Building things satisfies a primal drive we have to create and provide for our family. But finishing (sanding, applying stain or protective finishes, etc., for you non-woodworkers), at least for most of us, is a lot of tedious, repetitive work that has extreme potential to take that thing we just built and make it both aggravating and ugly (if something goes wrong during finishing, again for you non-woodworkers). Now, brace yourself…

Finishing is a “nesting” type activity! Many women actually love doing it. To them, it’s like painting a room in the house, or any other kind of decoration, something that takes the plain and utilitarian and makes it both beautiful and personal. It’s intimate to them. And most of them are, quite frankly, a lot better at it than we are. For most of them, their brains are wired more to the creative side than ours are, so they are more likely to have artistic talent that we don’t have, and that may well be undiscovered and therefore untapped!

So instead of trying to keep your wife out of your shop, invite her to join you. Don’t expect her to want to be ripping sheets of plywood for cabinets or running rough wood over your jointer, at least not until she indicates that she’d like to learn how, but she may well be very good at and enjoy helping you keep things organized, stacking pieces and marking them off your cut lists as you mill them, sanding and checking for defects while you’re milling the next piece, and ultimately doing most if not all of the finish work that so many of us really don’t like to do.

This will put you in a position of authority, which is exciting to her, put your woodworking competence on display, which will also be exciting to her, give you a chance to be a leader in her presence, which will be greatly exciting to her, will give her access to that “man sanctum” in a way she never expected, also exciting, and will replace the interruptions and aggravation of which you complain with help and support. And when she sees all the wonderful things that can be made with all those tools, she won’t mind hearing how much you REALLY paid for them, either. LOL!

Take care, and keep in touch,

What about the rest of you? Do you have some sort of hobby that your wife interrupts that she could be joining in? Frankly, I’m shocked at how many women I’ve met that actually enjoy watching baseball, football, hockey, etc., with their men or even by themselves once invited to do so. I’m also amazed at how many literally are enthralled by the shooting sports, many of whom talk about “getting wet” while doing it. Can you imagine? You should see the women I’ve seen at gun shows, and you’d know they weren’t kidding. Indeed, seeing a very attractive woman fondling a pistol as if it were some sort of adult toy was what called this to my attention. My wife is great at handing me tools when I’m working on a car, too, and I’ve seen some take to tune-ups, brakes jobs, etc., as if they were born to it, and then clean up and look like a professional model.

So no, it doesn’t have to be woodworking, although it’s probably the best of all of them, because it’s the one that creates a special one-of-a-kind gift for her or your home or solves some problem (like storage problems or displaying some cool new vase she just found at a yard sale or boutique), which enhances her nesting ability, and entails a lot of things that she’s naturally good at. Just take what I’ve taught you, or will teach you if you read my book and newsletters, and look at what you do for fun.

You’ll find that there’s probably more than one thing you’ve excluded your wife or girlfriend from that she’ll not only enjoy doing with you, but can bring you closer together in other areas of your relationship or marriage, including the bedroom.
All you have to do is learn a few things about women and keep your eyes and ears open for opportunity. Once you spot the behavior that says she thinks she’s being left out of something fun, BOOM! Invite her in, and see what happens.

You can pick up a few things out of my newsletters, but if you really want to make life great, literally returning to honeymoon status even if you’re currently contemplating (or defending against) divorce, you need "THE Man's Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage," and you need it now. So go to http://www.makingherhappy.com and download your copy and get started. Or keep putting up with the nagging and all the parts of your hobby that takes all the fun out of it. It’s your choice. Make it a good one.

In the meantime, live well, be well, and have a wonderful day!
David Cunningham

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