Ask the grumpies: How to keep a marriage interesting and fun

CG asks:

Suggestions for keeping things interesting and fun in one’s long, happy marriage, especially when one or more partners are not at all romantic. :)

#1:  Is this a sex question?

#2:  …

I’m not really sure.  The internet suggests trying new experiences together. For us, we like to try new foods together. Travel together is also nice, though we haven’t done that since pre-pandemic and we’ve been ok.  I mean, even just sharing funny youtube videos.  We have got to be the least romantic people in the world.

Well, that’s not true– I’m the not romantic one.  I think DH is pretty romantic deep down and makes do with me anyway.

Given his romantic streak, I do occasionally do sweet things because I love him and want him to be happy and he seems to appreciate small romantic gestures.  Like he has a lab notebook for work, and I’ll sneak in there and leave tiny little love notes for him to randomly find.  Also, since DC2 started doing a lot of post-it-note art, I’ve added my own contribution of a couple post-it notes to DH’s work space that say things like, “Best husband ever, A++++++++++++++ Would marry again.”  Or he was feeling down the other day because lots of little things weren’t going well and like the oldest child he is, he feels a bit worthless if he can’t be of service (to quote Luisa in Encanto), so he now has a post-it note on his computer monitor where I wrote, “You have value just by being you.”

One of my favorite gifts from him is an acrostic poem with my name in diagonals on wood with the words carved and drawn in silver and my name in gold.  (Ex.  Literati for the I in Nicole and everything is silver, but the first I is gold.)  So maybe I do have a tiny bit of a romantic streak.

#1:  I really think this is a sex question.  Have you tried erotica?

Grumpy Nation, what suggestions do you have for CG?

25 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: How to keep a marriage interesting and fun”

  1. Bee Says:

    I feel like it could be a “how do I get my non-romantic partner to do the romantic things I want them to” question. In which case my answer is, by telling them to, or at least giving them some guidelines. (And the response to that is probably “What I want is for them to do it without me telling them!” but if that’s not happening, you have to tell them if you want it to happen.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t know if that’s CG’s case, but it is excellent advice just generally– people aren’t mind-readers.

      I don’t normally care for pop-psychology other than the same way I care for astrology (something fun to do online quizzes for but not to really take seriously), but I do think there’s something to the different gift languages. Or if there’s not really, it is still a useful tool to help relationships with different styles of communication, sort of like how the Myers Briggs may not be … validated but it is an extremely good tool for getting the conversation started on potential problems with group work in class projects.

      • cfroning Says:

        I hope you mean you don’t take astrology seriously, rather than astronomy. After all, we (the astronomers) released a picture of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way yesterday–very serious stuff. :)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        ROFL yes, astrology! Can you tell I just came back from a trip and am not fully recovered? (Also half the people who had been planning to come were out with Covid while the other half had had it in the past month… and I’m like is the congestion I have right now allergies, my imagination, or me being sick?)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Though in my defense, that may have been autocorrect who doesn’t believe in astronomy. Autocorrect has a lot of different beliefs.

    • Debbie M Says:

      Thanks for the laughs, you guys!

      I once had a roommate who wanted her boyfriend to magically know that for her birthday she wanted flowers and chocolates, but not just any flowers or chocolates, but the good ones. I learned to tell new boyfriends about this behind her back so I could live in a much happier household.

      Yes, it may feel like yet another way women have to do the organizing work (I forget the term for that). But, like teaching your kids to do chores, it’s a crazy amount of trouble at first but it pays off in the end. No one’s perfect, and if they know you really care about something, often they will try to accommodate you.

      Me, I’m a weirdo, so it’s always been quite clear that no one can magically know what I want. My first boyfriend gave me red long underwear and a jewelry box for my first birthday after we started dating. So romantic! But then he learned–for my next birthday I got a dictionary!

      I admit am extremely biased toward telling people things, though. That is partially because I, myself, am not good at taking a hint. And I care much more about honesty than tact (though it is quite possible to have both–see the scenes with the pregnant police lady in “Fargo”). Even if I can’t really handle the truth (climate change, fatal disease), I’d still rather know about it.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I was so mad at DH when for our first gift giving opportunity together his mom picked out jewelry for me (and left the price tag in and it was stupidly expensive… $58 for something that should have been $25 at the most and $58 was too much for a teen gift back in the 90s). I never wore any jewelry, I’d been excited to see what he thought I’d want, and we both came from low income homes and I did not want that much spent on me. But we talked it over and it never happened again. Maybe other people like expensive jewelry that someone’s female relative picked out but not me. I never have been able to give DH anything he appreciates—he prefers the hunt to the owning I think—so after we got married I gave up and he just gets money to shop with.

      • CG Says:

        For the first Christmas we were dating (in high school), DH’s mom had him give me a very nice hand-blown glass Christmas ornament. It could not have been more impersonal. I was not happy! We still put it on the tree every year and laugh about it.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I am so not going to help my kids pick out first presents. If they ask for help I with give them open-ended questions like, so what do they like? Not that I’m particularly good at gift giving generally!

      • Debbie M Says:

        I have, while waiting in line behind my boyfriend at the checkout stand, pulled something off the conveyer belt that he was buying and ask him, “Would this make a good present?” If so, I’d put it on my part of the conveyer belt and wrap it up, etc. This is almost the only way I’m sure I’m getting someone a good present. I also love wish lists. There is no element of surprise of course (unless you count that moment when I yank it off the conveyer belt.)

      • Linda T Says:

        Re: I never have been able to give DH anything he appreciates—he prefers the hunt to the owning I think—so after we got married, I gave up and he just gets money to shop with.
        But that is the perfect gift for him. You understood him and gave him what he wanted even though that wasn’t what you wanted.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Absolutely. Assuming my justification is correct.

  2. CG Says:

    Ha–this is not a sex question! But I think I wrote it in the middle of the pandemic when we saw each other 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (which we are not used to) and we were pretty much doing nothing interesting. It definitely felt like we were in a rut. I’m happy to report that now that we are back to doing more activities and leaving the house (and even traveling) things no longer feel as stagnant. So I guess that’s part of my answer–be sure to go out and do stuff when possible! If you and your spouse both create interesting lives for yourselves, you’ll be interesting to each other. Bee makes a good point, though, which it took me a while to learn. I definitely now say very explicitly what kinds of actions make me feel appreciated, and my spouse is willing to take direction on that.

    • Debbie M Says:

      Ah, you needed more lockdown-friendly activities! Glad things are looking up again now.

      We took our craft night online and made it weekly instead of monthly. Even as we ease back to in-person craft nights, we’re keeping the online ones the other weeks, partly because we get to have far away people at them. We also tried board gaming online.

  3. rs Says:

    This post made my day. Thanks for a good laugh :)

    Me and my husband talk about our work 24/7 since we work together. Doesn’t it sound romantic? Probably not, but it is fun to share personal and professional life and challenges together.

  4. Debbie M Says:

    Your notes remind me of a couple we just visited. They leave post-it notes about things like whether the visiting dog has already been fed. Because the dog cannot be trusted! (The husband wakes up early to go for jogs and go in to work; the wife wakes up later to work from home.) And two notes that look just like those made it on to the more permanent bulletin board because they are I-love-you notes.

    It’s so easy to get into ruts. Ideally your ruts have an interesting and fun element to them. Examples:
    * movies and books – watch/read different ones
    * parties – have different themes
    * cooking – try different recipes
    * gardening – pull the same weeds over and over (just kidding; I hate gardening)

    And then lots of people have overwhelming hobbies that mean they are always meeting new people. Like members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) have regional and national events. I’ve known serious players of ultimate frisbee who host people for regional events. Churches and libraries have events that attract different people. One couple I know joined board gaming groups to meet new people, and role playing groups do the same.

    I’ve also heard of people writing down activities (like give each other back rubs or read a short story aloud to each other) on little pieces of paper and throwing them in a jar. Then you can have little surprises occasionally when you pull them out.

    My favorite, like rs, is just talking. Talking about what happened at work, things we’ve read, what we’ve noticed at the store, etc.

  5. First Gen American Says:

    We struggle to spend enough time together. I travel for work again and we have an additional complication of not being able to go places overnight as a family as one adult usually needs to stay with my mom.

    Now that my son is driving, we were okay leaving him with my mom for one night and had a night out in the big city. It was really fun and it had been years since we had done something similar. (Usually only when an international friend comes to town do we see a show.)

    It does take effort and some thought. We made a pact early on that we wouldn’t force the other to do activities that one person hates or resents doing. Each is free to go but doesn’t force the other to participate if it’s not their thing. It’s not really a couples activity if one person is not into it.

    Addition through subtraction.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      When my parents became too frail to take care of my grandma occasionally and my sister was off to college, they paid for a home health care aid so my uncle could get occasional breaks.

  6. xykademiqz Says:

    Not sure how I missed this post!

    Anyway, my recommendation would be less time together, rather than more. More individual immersive experiences that you can then bring back to your partner and share. Hubs has his own interests/hobbies and I have mine, and pursuing these with vigor is enjoyable for each of us, and gives us cool stuff to share. I feel that pursuing passions makes people feel happy and fulfilled, and also makes them more interesting and exciting to others, so good things all around! Hobbies are also good as they connect you to like-minded individuals, and having new friends reduced the pressure on the partner to be the sole source of emotional support.

    Oh, and even though this wasn’t a sex question, it doesn’t mean there can’t be a sex solution! In addition to reading erotica (not everyone’s cup of tea) and/or watching p0rn (ditto), there’s watching mainstream but steamy TV together (on Netflix alone, there’s Sex/Life, Bridgerton, as well as a bunch of pretty raunchy Spanish, Italian, and Polish movies and shows). I’d also recommend getting some sex toys and maybe sharing some of more kinky fantasies that you were reluctant to share before? Everyone has something in this vein, and a long-term happy relationship should be the ideal context to explore those. That’s sure to keep things interesting!

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