You know, I get a lot of questions from couples who seem to have nothing in common anymore. They claim that they have drifted apart and have no common hobbies or areas of interest to bind them together. While I am both a fan and proponent of ensuring that each spouse has the ability to pursue their own interests as appropriate within a sacramental marriage, I am not a fan of chasing your own interests to the exclusion of doing anything together. In fact, not too long ago following one of my wife’s childhood interests to fruition became a rather joyful journey for both of us.
Ever since she was a young woman, she had an interest in Ham radio. Her father however did not encourage her interest. Having failed to pass the licensing exam himself, even though he was an electrical engineer, he was probably sure it was far beyond the capabilities of a teenage girl. I supposed that in addition to the various knowledge required to pass the exam, the amount of money involved in getting set up for DXing (long distance communications, e.g. Worldwide) can be prodigious, even if you “homebrew” or build it yourself. VHF can be gotten into for under $50 and allows communication for over a hundred mile radius if there is a repeater handy, but getting set up for DX can cost easily over a grand using combinations of used and home brewed equipment.
I’ve done my best over the years to make sure that my wife would see our marriage as a vehicle to achieving her dreams rather than an impediment to exploring the world and experiences around her. So when she mentioned to me that she had always wanted a ham license so she could talk to the world and get QSL (contact confirmation) cards from all over the world. I thought it was a fine idea. I got us both VHF HT’s (handi-talkies) for communication on the local clubs repeater, joined the local club, and studied with her for the exam. As a former radioman in the US Navy I had a huge advantage in that most of it was more of a review for me, and because radio and electronics repair had been a job I had long ago ceased to find her level of wonder in.
Enthusiasm is infectious and uplifting in any marriage, and a great for sharing joy, wonder, and happiness together. Whether it is in the bedroom, in daily interaction, or in hobbies it is a wonderful tool for bonding and teaching each other to find the joy in activities – even those which had gone stale. In my case radio. As she studied the for her test I began building out our home radio shack. I located and purchased a Yaesu FT-840 HF transceiver (a solid radio I could easily repair), I built a current balun (to keep dangerous RF out of our home), and obtained and hung a G5RV wire antenna, then bought an LDG Antenna Tuner and a very quiet Samlex 35 amp power supply. She could listen to the world, listen to the people talk, the shortwave bands. She was captivated, and I was pleased. We were regularly attending the club meetings and shortly after passing our technician and general exams in the same sitting together (our 11 year old passed her technician at the same time) we became full members of the club and began exploring the airwaves together. The total outlay was pretty hefty, but her smiles and laughter were worth it – and because of her I was finding a renewed love and enthusiasm for the hobby that had once been a job (and still is from time to time part of my work). We even have been able to share my love of all things naval and nautical and when she found a Museum Ships Weekend radio contest and we joyfully reached out to as many of the ships as we could, many we had toured together and a few I had been aboard in the military. We’re even looking forward to participating in a DX expedition to the South Pacific in the future, to sail on a windjammer and install radios and solar gear onto otherwise isolated atolls and islands while making as many new contacts as possible around the world!
Now that we’ve been doing this awhile I’ve learned some more interesting things that make working the radio as a team a lot more fun than one might imagine.
1. A woman’s voice breaks through pile-ups better than all the legal wattage in the world!
2. Most QSL clubs like the Century Club (www.3905ccn.com) make combos extra points towards awards and contests – meaning that more people than ever want to talk to you both when you sign in together.
3. If you want to master teamwork, try working a busy net where you are the focus of attention, 2 are better than one. If you can learn to intuit what is needed of each other in this activity then you can carry that breakthrough into other parts of your marriage.
4. It gives you something to look forward to for time together at home and can be done 24 hours a day, so no excuses for not making time.
5. There is more joy in sharing the excitement of your spouses success than there is in succeeding yourself – and there is nothing more exciting that watching your wife blossom before your eyes from her accomplishments and sharing in that joy.
All in all, I gained a new insight on ham radio and an appreciation for things I might never have realized held so much joy for me as well. Whereas I would love to say that I knew this all along, I cannot. I also gained the chance to find a new sense of wonder in both my hobby and my marriage, because its the discoveries we make along the way and not the destination alone which define us. Life is not a race, dare to eat a peach, stop to smell a rose, and take a path less traveled hand in hand – because those are the experiences that both define and bind us.
Have you ever shared a hobby with your spouse? Did it bring you closer together? Did you enjoy it more than you expected? Did it encourage you to try something you didn’t think you’d like? and if so did you discover that you liked it?
**Please feel free to write or comment on this post, I’d really like to hear from those that are able to have this experience and how it is changing their marriage, their wives, and their lives.