Trout v. Wife
Trout v. Wife (2019)
“Dun dun!” In the marital justice system, trout-based offenses are considered especially heinous. In the homes of the fly-fishing community, the dedicated partners who investigate these vicious crimes are members of an elite squad known as the Spousal aquatic Vertebrate Unit (SVU). These are one wife’s stories…
For those living under a rock or otherwise less familiar with pop culture (I’m looking at you Josh Brown, @sanantoniobrown), that was the iconic opening statement from long-running television series, Law and Order. In thinking about how to dive into an article my husband asked me to write about the balance between hobbies (in this case fly-fishing) and married life, I couldn’t help but to think of the popular show and the general notion that sometimes these pursuits are sometimes at odds. I also wasn’t sure if I was really the right person to speak on this topic because, if I’m being honest, I do sometimes resent the almighty brown trout and the role it plays in my husband’s life. That being said, there are many more times I’m so grateful for this sport because my husband wouldn’t be the man I fell in love with without it. So with that in mind, I challenged myself to really look at our lives, realistically and ideally, to figure out a way these two at-times dichotomous entities (the trout and the wife) could co-exist in a less conflicting type of fashion.
So let’s get started! First, let’s start with a little background info so you understand my perspective. My name is Jackie Belhumeur Wayne and I’m a psychologist. Woo! So that means the following advice is actually professional too. Whaaat? Bet you didn’t know you were getting legit relationship advice when you opened up this fly-fishing blog! Second, I don’t currently fish. My husband will tell you I’ve only caught native brook trout. And while that’s technically true, it’s a gross overstatement. I caught one brook trout a year and a half ago when he was teaching me to cast. But because I haven’t been back since, my record sounds more impressive than it is. I will admit, however, that when I’m feeling particularly lazy, I’ll lean way too hard on that boast of his: “No babe, you go ahead. I’ll stay back. Can’t ruin the record!” So I’m a novice in the purest definition of the word. But in all honesty, we’re planning to take our 2-year-old Lab-Pit fishing this spring and I’d love to give it another try to see what all the fuss is about.
With all that in mind, below are my five recommendations for melding a healthy relationship (marriage, or otherwise) with a hobby. Because, we’re talking about fly-fishing here and my husband is Brown Trout Ben (and a high school biology teacher), I’ve organized my suggestions into the acronym SALMO, the genus for brown trout (full name, Salmo trutta). That’s right babe, I tossed around “aquatic vertebrate” earlier and now I’m busting out scientific names. Love you :)
Share the load: While work and home responsibilities used to be split between men and women, today we’re not only seeing more non-hetero relationships, but also more shared earnings outside the home. These shifts mean responsibilities inside the house need to be split as well. Most people think of this split as an even one, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be 50/50. The division only needs to be in a way that both partners feel is fair. In our relationship, my job is more flexible and I work fewer hours, so I leave for work later than Ben and I often get home earlier. We’ve divided our work so that we both put in the same number of hours each day, so I often will do a few chores in the mornings and evenings. I do this not because I’m woman, not because I’m home, and not because it’s “even,” but because it’s what we both feel is fair. Similarly, Ben often fishes on Saturdays, but he understands that if I need his help with a house project he needs to make the time on Sunday. He also knows that if a fishing buddy is sleeping over he needs to make up the guest bed. A great way to start a conversation about chores is to write out a list of tasks together, then divide them amongst yourselves in a way you both agree is fair. Posting a chore list can be helpful too because it allows both people to see their responsibilities without nagging or reminders.
Attention: Research has shown that receiving a partner’s attention boosts personal and relationship satisfaction. Attention can ultimately take many forms. It can be planned (e.g., post-fishing date night) or spontaneous (e.g., seeing a movie out of the blue). It can also be small (e.g., afternoon text message) or big (e.g., a Icelandic vacation) or as simple as sitting down to have a face-to-face conversation after a long weekend away fishing. If you or your partner is not naturally attentive, try asking for what you need from your partner. This may sound awkward, but asking for what you need (whether attention or something else) is the quickest, easiest way to get it. And getting what we need (and giving what our partner needs) is one of the quickest way to boost relationship satisfaction. Ben and I literally ask each other for “attention” or to “feel special.” “Attention” means cuddling or face-to-face time and “feeling special” means the other person buys dinner, a small treat (e.g., a colorful fanny pack [me]), or does something the first person wants to do (e.g., window shopping [Ben]).
Love: Passion may, and likely will, change over time in any long-term relationship, but it’s important that affection, or love, remain strong. It is associated with feeling accepted, happy, content, and cared for within the relationship. And, like the face-to-face conversation I mentioned above, it is as simple as saying, “I love you.” Ben and I snuggle together and with our dog while he hits the snooze button at 5:30 AM each weekday morning before getting up. We also frequently end phone and text conversations with an “I love you,” especially if he’s away fishing. In fact, this practice often devolves into faux arguments over who loves the other most (my favorite move is to yell, “I-love-you-most-byeeeee!” into the phone before hanging up). You’ll even notice that I gave him a “Love you” shout-out above before diving into my recommendations. If you’re trying to jump-start this exchange in your relationship, try being more affectionate yourself. This may encourage your partner to reciprocate. Or, like I mentioned above, just ask for it! Most people worry that asking for something will lessen the “genuine” nature of the gesture, but research suggests it doesn’t!
Mutual Expectations: Within a successful relationship, it’s helpful to know what to expect from your partner, but also what your partner expects from you. Admittedly, this is something Ben and I are working on. For example, because I do more chores throughout the week, I expect Ben to wash his dishes and put them in the dishwasher rather than leaving them out for me. I also know that he expects affection and attention from me after a long day at work, which isn’t necessarily my automatic response when I’m tired too. And what do you think is the best way to communicate your expectations? Yep, you guessed it: ask! In a related vein, expressing gratitude when your expectations are met (or for other reasons) fosters relationship satisfaction as well. When saying thank you, try to phrase it so that you are thanking your partner for who they are, rather than just for completing a task. Instead of, “Thanks for letting me go fish,” try, “I know you miss me when I fish; you’re so thoughtful for making time for my hobby.”
Optimism: Relationships are at their best when couples attribute the best of intentions to each other consistently. So this literally means it's healthier to view your partner through rose-colored glasses than without. And this is true even if it's to the extent that you’re seeing them as more decent than they actually are. Basically you need to be your partner’s #1 fan and cheerleading squad all in one. And like those references, you need to keep cheering and believing even when things look bleak. This approach encourages problem solving and cooperation as a couple. So when Ben stays on the water longer than he said he would, I try to remember how frustrated he often feels with work and how much he looks forward to his weekly trips rather than immediately assuming he is inconsiderate. And when I try to squeeze a chore (like taking out the trash) into a weekend outing, he remembers it’s not because I don’t value our couple time, but because I’m trying to also cross-off a chore from my list, which is longer than his per the fair breakdown I described above.
So that’s it! Pretty straightforward. If SALMO feels like too much, just remember to ask for what you need. For bonus points, check in with your partner to make sure their needs are being met too – they may not know to ask or have the luxury a fishing blog filled with spontaneous relationship advice :) And verbalize your feelings, whether that’s asking for what you need, or saying “I love you” and “thank you.” Happy fishing and relating!