A few months ago, most couples would have dismissed the idea of a couple project as simply a cute idea for which there was no real need. With Netflix over-exposure and tiring of social media and gaming sessions, couple projects are back on the menu of couple entertainment.
Couple Projects make a come back
A few years ago we wrote an article called Couple Projects. In one of life’s great mysteries, this blog consistently turns up in the Google search data as one of the most popular posts on the SmartLoving blog.
With couples suffering acute lockdown cabin fever, we figured it was time to revisit it – this time with the added challenge of constraints imposed by various quarantine regimes.
Fun is serious business
With families in lockdown for weeks on end, many have found creative ways to interact with the wider world with the aid of technology including vlogging and videoconference play dates. We ourselves have a daily facetime chat with our 15-month granddaughter and have had many social catchups with friends and family via zoom.
It’s also been delightful to see families doing old fashioned things like riding bikes around the neighbourhood and planting gardens. Who would have guessed that such things would become the new normal!
But what about couples? Though it’s an anxious time for most of us with so much uncertainty, we also need to recreate, not just as individuals, but also in our marriage.
Relationship educators and psychologists have noted the importance of shared recreation in a marriage. Time spent having fun together is important for our bonding and our relational resilience.
More importantly, a marriage without significant shared recreation is at risk. The sense of togetherness, affection and intimacy quickly fades when couples don’t prioritise recreational time together.
So, let’s put aside our guilt about indulging in couple recreation and approach it as a marital responsibility.
One of the things that helps us bond as a couple is a joint project – something about which we are both passionate and which takes a significant time investment.
In the lockdown environment, a joint project needs to be home-based and rely only on easily acquired materials. Here are five ideas we’ve tried over the past few months.
1: Puzzling together
You can order a jigsaw puzzle online or pick one up from the newsagent when you get your groceries. Set up a space where you can work on it over a day (500 pieces) a few days (1000 pieces) or a few weeks (2000 pieces).
In case you’re wondering where those time estimates came from, that’s the fruit of our still unfinished 2000 piece puzzle. It’s actually been weeks, but we’re struggling to stay motivated due to the intricacies of the firework skyscape. So, choose your size and image carefully to match your stamina!
And if your thing is 3D puzzles – order a Lego kit in your favourite theme (whoever said Lego was just for kids?)
2: Read a book aloud to each other
Binge watching Netflix might have been fine for the first few weeks, but if you want a story in a different medium, why not take turns to read from a book to each other.
It’s a wonderful thing to get lost in our imagination as a good author leads us into a story. It’s surely magical to share this experience together.
We frequently listen to audio books when travelling in the car and they are a good alternative if reading aloud is not your thing. We recently listened to a history of the Battle of Lepanto which is a pivotal event in the history of the Order of Malta, of which we are members.
Obviously, find something you will both will enjoy and give yourselves bonus points if you include character voices.
3: Let’s get cooking
While baking regular bread with dry yeast is a quick and easy way to get into bread making, sourdough is next level for those seeking a challenge. It’s been likened to having a pet; your sourdough starter is a living thing that requires regular feeding and temperature management.
Cooking is a great thing to do together, and after several attempts with unimpressive results, we’re starting to get the hang of it with some coaching from our daughter and a specialist sourdough cookbook. The fact that it’s not that easy makes us appreciate the accomplishment all the more.
It’s definitely a longer-term project with at least a week required to establish the starter. The coolest thing about it? Your starter will be of unique yeasts to your kitchen, so literally, no one can make sourdough like you.
4: Study together
Many a romance started in a study zone, so why not capture some of the magic as a married couple? Learning something new together is a powerful way to bond and develop new recreational interests.
Next week, we’re starting an online couple’s dance class. Truth be told, our previous attempts with private dance lessons, have been memorable for all the wrong reasons. Our laughable dancing skills need some privacy to mature, so our almost-empty-nest now makes the online option workable.
If dancing is not your thing (truth be told, it’s not really ours either… yet) there’s a plethora of online options in a variety of subjects – many of them free. Catholic study courses from Word on Fire, Ascension Press, the Augustine Institute and the Theology of the Body Institute offer subjects from bible study, theology, church history, to practical courses in evangelisation.
Then there’s also the SmartLoving platform where you can access the Sponsor Course at no cost for the next few months. This Sponsor course is designed for married couples accompanying an engaged couple preparing for marriage and is full of marital wisdom. It’s great for us married couples and who knows, it may even inspire you to become a sponsor for an engaged couple in your parish.
5: Declutter your space
Having, coincidently, just vacated our office of ten years with our changing needs, we have done lots of cleaning, sorting and throwing away. The office had plentiful storage which enabled us to avoid the need to discern whenever we really needed to keep any particular item.
The stockpiles of stationery, catering supplies, books and tech equipment represented two decades of accumulated indecision. It made the move an epic effort as we trawled through items that had once been useful but no longer had a place in our future.
We managed to find a few hours to revisit original course materials and logo designs for SmartLoving, dating back almost three decades. After one last moment of appreciation for the growth and learning that this journey has given us, we happily consigned them to one of the four rubbish skips we ultimately needed to empty the office.
Made famous by the books and reality TV show by Marie Kondo, a simplified home and a streamlined life is massively on trend. Psychologically, it’s very freeing to jettison the stuff that we no longer really need, liberating us to focus more on where we want to go, rather than dwelling on the past.
While we’re grounded by the lockdown, it’s the perfect time to face into our clutter and move it on if it no longer serves us. Doing this together can be a fruitful opportunity to revisit the memories each item represents as we ceremoniously move it on to another life.
The lockdown certainly has its challenges. For those of us affected by the virus, unemployed or in businesses that are seriously suffering, it’s hard to appreciate the opportunities it offers.
Even so, our faith reminds us that God can turn all things to blessing. Let us give thanks for the invitation this situation presents to review and reset our priorities.