I remember when, a few years ago, I decided to join the gym. I had visions of myself going every night after work, becoming friends with my fellow gym-goers, and sculpting my body into a taught, toned work of art.
Cut to three months later, as I sat in my office on the phone with said gym, desperately trying to quit. The peppy gym lady tried to convince me that I’d just hit a plateau and that I should just stick with it (had I tried the new aerobics class?). Then she broke out the big guns and reminded me that I’d actually signed up for a yearly contract, which would cost me about $300 to break. I remember saying, through huge bites of my egg and cheese sandwich, that it wasn’t personal; I actually didn’t really like gyms in general really, I’d just really like to quit the gym. I ended up forking over $300 just to break the contract.
Six years later, I’m having a discussion with J. about my latest fitness obsession, bikram yoga (90 minutes of yoga in a studio heated to 105 degrees). He doesn’t understand it, but is trying to be supportive. And when I told him that it would cost about triple what my old gym membership cost, he swallowed hard and suggested that maybe we talk about it before I sign my life away. (In a smart move, he refrained from dredging up my spotty track record with exercise classes.) After a week trial period of bikram, J. and I did something that we don’t normally do when I decide that I want to take up a new hobby: We actually sat down and discussed it.
It wasn’t just about the money, but also the time commitment involved. I’d be getting home at least two hours later than normal, so about the time J. heads to bed. That means two to three times a week we won’t have dinner together, or watch TV together, or get to review our day together. Two to three nights a week, our time together will be reduced to a brief kiss, perhaps a passing conversation about our days while we brush our teeth, and then almost immediate bedtime. Not exactly a recipe for the healthiest of marriages.
So we sat in the kitchen and, in between bites of raw green beans (a fitness fad usually pairs with a diet fad, too) I explained to J. why I loved the classes, and why I thought it’d be good to give this a shot. I envisioned him balking at the cost and the fact that I’m almost never home during the week as it is. But J. surprised me, as he often does, even after four years of marriage: He readily agreed to my proposition.
I wasn’t asking permission—that’s not how it works in our relationship—I was asking for J.’s support, and I got it. We discussed the efforts we’d make to spend more quality time together during the workweek, and I promised (more to myself than to him) that I’d really try to leave the office earlier when possible. We compromised, too: I vowed to be a little better about shopping in order to help fund my new hobby, and he promised to try to stay up a little later on my yoga nights so that we would at least have a little time together before both of us crashed. We ended the conversation on the same page, which I guess is how these ‘marital discussions’ are supposed to go.
Anyway, the arrangement isn’t perfect, and we still probably don’t communicate as much as we should during the week. Long hours, post-work events and tennis matches seep into our couple time, even as much as we try to keep them at bay. But hopefully my new yoga hobby will help keep me sane, unstressed and centered, so even though my time with J. might be limited, I’ll be a better wife when we do see each other. And who doesn’t need a hobby like that?
Do you and your groom have a discussion when one of you wants to do something—pick up a new hobby, take a trip, make a larger purchase—that will affect both your finances and the time you spend together? What things do you consider when reaching a conclusion?