I live in Northwest Wisconsin on purpose and that is to soak in and enjoy all the Northwoods has to offer. Few things beat a sunrise or sunset on the Chippewa flowage or the tradition that is Wisconsin deer hunting. We are blessed with ample fishing and hunting opportunities that few areas in the country can compete with. But with blessing comes responsibility and unless you feed your marriages and relationships with the same fervor you feed your love of the outdoors; your relationships will suffer.
Let me explain.
More marriages die from neglect than they do of one catastrophic event such as addiction, abuse or an affair. What you may have fed regularly at the beginning of your relationship, now gets neglected due to work, kids, hobbies etc and as a result, disconnection and discontent can follow. Here are some tips to keep the marriage growing even while engaged in your pastimes and hobbies.
- Create Margin in the Relationship. Margin is defined as the difference between what you take in versus what you spend. We often think of it in monetary terms but good relationships need margin as well. If you know your hobby or interest is going to take you away for a period of time, do you invest prior in the relationship so you have relational equity to spend? If you are going to be gone hunting or fishing all weekend, perhaps setting up a date night prior is a way to stay connected even while apart.
- Measure the Relational Tank. I have often wished my wife came with a gauge on her forehead that would tell me upon a quick glance if she was running on empty. Unfortunately, she does not and unless I ask her and engage in dialogue, I would have no way of knowing how connected she is relationally. Make it a regular habit to connect with the goal of assessing how full in the relational tank. The Five Love Languages by Chapman is a great resource to assist in making sure the marital tank is full.
- Take your Spouse with You. My wife does not particularly care to fish or hunt but she loves to read. If I take her in the boat on a beautiful day where she can soak up the sun and read, I get the best of both worlds: me fishing and time with my bride. Don’t allow your hobbies to exclude the ones you love.
- Practice the Art of Dating. And I might add make it a regular part of your marriage. Dating is fun but most couples don’t do it regularly. I remember a man I had in my counseling office who ran his life off the calendar. January through March meant ice fishing, April meant turkey hunting, May through August is walleye fishing, followed by Musky fishing. September through October was bow hunting followed by the greatest November show on earth, the gun deer opener. December was muzzleloader time followed by gearing up for ice fishing again. And yet he wondered why his marriage was in the toilet and his wife was resentful of him. He simply spent no time with her or the kids. A regular date night included in the calendar would have gone a long way to making her feel loved while he lived out his passions.
This list is not exhaustive by any means but meant to have you pause and assess the health of your marriage before you live out your outdoor endeavors. No one ever looks back at the end of life counting how many deer they shot or walleyes they caught. They measure their life based upon how well they loved and cared for those who matter most.
So during this wonderful fall season, enjoy all that Wisconsin has to offer but don’t forget about your first love.
Darren Cox is the owner of Anchor Bay Counseling in Spooner, WI. He is a licensed mental health professional practicing in Wisconsin since 2004. He is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary holding a Masters Degree in Biblical Counseling and he resides in Shell Lake with his wife of 20 years and their three children.