How to Cook up a Better Marriage

“So Jack,” younger friends have said to me, “now that you and Jo are in the second half century of marriage, it must be nice to have your act together and be done with marital struggles.”

Well, yes and no. We have resolved many problems, but there always seems to be room for growth. Take, for instance, what Jo said to me last month after I had read a passage from a marriage book to her.

“Sure, I’d love to do something fun together after dinner instead of just reading or watching TV.”

I had heard her on this subject before and knew what she meant. To my wife, “something fun” means going to a movie, playing a board game, playing cards, or doing a puzzle—some sort of relaxing, low key, fun activity that we can do together.

To me, “something fun” means reading a funny book to her while she does handwork. I also like learning something practical or useful, about something that interests me. I have zero interest in learning and playing card or board games, and don’t like movies unless they are funny.

I knew Jo was not asking to spend more time with me. We already do plenty together. We read the Bible and pray together every morning. We go for walks together nearly every day, weather permitting. And every night before going to sleep, I read something funny or relaxing to her. We also have plenty of occasions during each day to talk with each other. Except for a few, relatively short instances, we have always worked and served God together. But for Jo, something obviously was still missing.

This time, however, when she repeated her mantra I did not brush it off, but decided to look at it as a problem that needed solving creatively.

“What,” I asked, “is something we could do together that would be fun for both of us?”

The answer came surprisingly quickly. Jo loves to cook dishes she has never prepared before. And I love to learn new things that may someday be useful. We came up with the idea of a culinary date in which we would work together in preparing something fancy, something complicated, something that was so work intensive she would hesitate to make it just for us.

A few evenings later, we had our first culinary date and produced a large pot of Chinese Hot and Sour soup. It was work intensive! But fun! The soup required only four main ingredients in the broth boiling on the stove, but then came an amazing list of flavouring oils, vinegars, pastes and spices—ten of them! I had no idea how much measuring, mixing and stirring that required. That was the first of our gastronomic fun, but by no means the last.

We are constantly alert for new things to try. Recently, returning from a ministry trip in our mini-motorhome we camped on a Walmart parking lot, and walked across the street to the Cheesecake Cafe. Dinner consisted of some shared appetizer dishes. One delicious item—battered, deep-fat-fried button mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese, cranberries and sausage—reminded me of what my dad used to say in Dutch, “They were so tasty; I nearly swallowed my tongue along with the delicacy.”

Naturally we wanted to make this appetizer on a culinary date. Although Jo loves to research recipes and is very good at it, she couldn’t find one exactly like the Cheesecake Cafe one, so she improvised. It took a lot of work, but were those mushrooms ever scrumptious! And fun to make for both of us.

Master Cook, Her Assistant, and Seafood Crepes. Yum!

Master Cook, Her Assistant, and Seafood Crepes. Yum!

During our sunset walk last night, we discussed what we would cook at our next date in the kitchen. I’m looking forward to it already. And not just because I get good things to eat! I love working together with Jo in an area where she is the expert and I learn from her as she mentors me.

And it’s good to know we found another way to improve our marriage.

How do you keep your marriage from going stale?