It wasn’t too long ago in the course of our marriage that my wife and I had a crisis. We’d been married for 35 years and our 3 children were no longer children and had flown the coop.
Strangely enough, all it took to help our relationship was a bird-feeder!
Throughout our years together we have always had our separate hobbies. I absolutely love birding and it’s been my main hobby since college. I went to Boise State University (when I started it was Boise College, by the time I’d finished it was a university) which is where I met Janet. Janet’s an artist and at the time she was doing a double-major in visual art and history. So I wouldn’t say painting was her hobby, per se, as much as it was her passion.
I liked that we weren’t both birders, but from the outset I was interested in sharing my passion with her, and likewise on her part. We would make bird-watching trips and she would do sketches of birds we saw. Sometimes her sketches would turn into full-blown paintings. To this day one of my favorite things she’s done is a still-life of a Pileated Woodpecker. Such colors! If I could ever convince her to put her work online I would show it to you. Let’s just say the hallmark of the male Pileated Woodpecker, its crimson crest, is captured to perfection and highlighted against a background of dark green foliage.
So how on Earth did we ever come to the tough spot we came to five years ago? The simple answer is, all relationships are bound to change and it’s up to us to adapt. Things changed over the years and our passions began to diverge. I, being the relatively steady and stable sort, remained passionate about birding, but the word she sometimes used was “obsessive.” Virtually any time I was not at the office or doing things with Janet you could find me in the great outdoors hiking around and watching birds, cataloging my sightings in my journal, camping, fishing and birding with friends. What can I say? Idaho is great place for these things!
While I was continuing on in my usual vein, Janet, on the other hand, grew away from painting. It just kind of happened over time, she seemed to have reached her peak and then shied away. And it wasn’t something I thought about too much, but I realized we didn’t really do any birding together anymore. Occasionally we would go camping, but for the most part we both had developed our separate lives.
I remember one time I came home from a weekend-long camping trip. It was Sunday night. The house was empty. There was no note, nothing.
She came home later and told me she’d been at the movies. Turns out she had also spent the weekend at the Holiday Inn. She said she was tired of being at home alone, it didn’t feel like home to her anymore. She was upset about how much time I’d been spending with my friends birding. We didn’t necessarily fight, but she was being strangely cold to me.
I didn’t know what to do. It struck me I was neglecting the relationship. Thing is, I'd never considered watching birds in my own backyard. I had always been in love with the idea and act of roaming around looking for birds. But I needed to do something. It was apparent to me that we would grow further apart and that the end of our marriage would be near if I didn't make some sort of compromise. In situations like this we tend to want to change the other person instead of ourselves. But fortunately I was clear-headed enough to understand I can't try to change Janet.
What I did was bought a platform bird-feeder online. I could spend more time at home with the wife and watch backyard birds flock to the new feeder! Talk about killing two birds with one stone! Anyhow, when I realized I had to balance my hobby-time and my hubby-time and I didn’t have to sacrifice my love of watching birds, it helped put the passion back in our relationship. And, with the birds making a bigger showing in our backyard, Janet started to get into bird-watching on her own accord.