This year will mark 30 years ago that my husband and I met, and 24 years that we have been married. We conceived three children together, and adopted another on two trips across the world. We have shared interesting experiences, challenging times, lots of laughs, and definitely some passionate moments. But if you ask my husband what he values most about our time together, he will not hesitate to give an answer that would surprise most people. He will say that he loves when I read to him.
We discovered this beautiful shared experience back in the late 80’s. I was a new college graduate living in an apartment and holding my first real job in rural Virginia; he was just back from a year abroad and working in New York City. We visited every few weekends. This particular time, he had traveled to see me, and on a whim, I picked up “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” from my shelf because I had never read it before. I began reading it aloud, he listened attentively, and the rest is history. I read the book all night long, and we laughed hysterically until the morning light.
Over the years, I discovered that if my husband came home perseverating about work issues or was overwhelmed with stress, if I offered to read to him, he would almost jump at the opportunity. He could forget his worries, connect with me, and enter into a new reality all at once. He would tell people that it was the most caring thing I did for him; he would probably still say that.
When our first two girls were six and two, I decided to try doing a Family Read Aloud time, and I began with the first Harry Potter book. My husband and older daughter listened while the younger one played nearby, but by the end of the book, it was just he and I again. Eventually I read all seven of the Harry Potter books out loud to him, with the girls around for some of them.
The reading material for our sessions has varied as much as it possibly could. He loves Stephen King, so I have read a few of those novels, but I read all my Oprah’s Book Club picks to him, too. We both love funny books, and the spiritual and inspirational ones are my favorite. Sometimes it is material we feel like we need to muddle through, and it’s easier to handle if we do it as a team. It was recommended that I read “Liar’s Poker” for my job at a brokerage, for example, and we even read “How to Buy a Used Volkswagen in Europe, Keep it Alive, and Bring it Home” together.
A lot of couples enjoy travel, shows, parties, movies and meals out, and we do as well, but there is something about sharing a book that provides another level of intimacy. We pause as needed to share our thoughts, feelings, connections, and predictions. We see through new eyes, but in a familiar voice, and in our own bed. We are outside ourselves and more fully inside ourselves at the same time.
We both go to sleep satisfied every time.