My wife Marian and I celebrated our wedding anniversary today. Early in the morning we took a stroll through the Morton Arboretum, a 1700 acre estate that we call our home away from home. Well not exactly home. We are members. For years we have hiked the trails, biked the paths, and lingered in the gardens of pure floral delight.
Today during our springtime ritual, I watched my wife gently pet the flowers, giving a pep talk to each one she greets. I sit on a bench smiling as she kneels on the ground for minutes with her face buried in a patch of Lily of the Valley flowers, inviting the wafting scent to fill her nostrils. I can watch this for hours. The connection she has with nature is something quite unique.
Reflecting on our time at the arboretum, reminded me how an activity like this connects us on such a deep level. I think in part, nature has the ability to center us on beauty, simplicity, and solitude. It also invites intimacy. Some of our deepest conversations happen when we stroll through nature.
I also thought about how activities like nature walks are affordable ways couples can connect. Right now, Spring is bursting with life, color, beauty, and fragrance. Spring is inviting us to engage. After the brutal winter we had in the Midwest, boy we need it!
Are you due or overdue for some couple time? Do you need a heavy dose of the great outdoors?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, let me share with you 5 affordable couple activities you can spring into action.
Bike or Hike the Trails near your home
A quick and easy way to enjoy an outdoor activity is practically in your back yard! Hitch the bikes to the back your car and head to the nearest trail and off you go. Or if you prefer a walk, take a casual stroll hand-in-hand and enjoy the sights, sounds, and freshness of spring. Biking or hiking is the perfect activity to reduce stress and to connect together.
Visit a local botanic garden
May is a great month to see trees and flowers blossom. Botanic gardens are often free or require a nominal fee to visit and well worth it. It is a romantic setting to relax together sitting on a bench or laying in the grass on a blanket. Later today, I drove Marian to the botanic garden where I asked her to marry me. It was nice to relive the moment several years ago when my best friend Doug hid behind some greenery playing his violin while I got on my knee and proposed marriage.
Plant a garden together
Gardens are therapeutic. The process parallels what it takes to grow a healthy relationship. It can be a great way to work on your marriage. Yes, there is the potential for an argument or two, but if you can work through them and stay the course, it can actually be a meaningful experience. The vegetables you plant together in the spring can be a salad you prepare together in the summer.
In the fall of 2001, within weeks of the 911 tragedy my wife and I took a long walk at the arboretum. Marian carefully selected an acorn that had fallen from a white oak tree. When we arrived home she gently placed it in new planter with fresh soil and took it to her office in downtown Chicago. For months, she carefully nurtured the plant, giving it proper food and lighting as she strategically placed it on a sill in her office providing enough sunlight.
The following spring, we planted it on the grounds of our church. Every week we would care for the sapling. Even the church groundskeeper was on duty to make sure the little oak got a fighting chance to survive. Survive he did! Even when a car ran off the road and drove over his little body, he was able to pull through. Today he is a healthy, growing tree now visible from a far distance. Whenever we drive past the church we always glance at our boy to make sure he’s doing okay.
Put on your baseball cap and watch a game
Guys love when their girls do activities with them! I hear this over and over in my work with couples. Nothing better than cheering on your favorite team with your “better half” at your side! I enjoy sitting in the stands with Marian next to me wearing her cool White Sox apparel. Or when it’s not a professional game, sometimes we stop at the park near our home and watch the semi-pro teams play soccer or football. It’s free and entertaining.
Take a drive out in the country
How long does it take to get out of the city or the burbs? Major interstates can get you there in no time. Once you reach the rural area, hit the next exit and take the back roads as far as you wish. It is one of the most fun and relaxing activities you can do together. Stop in the small towns and take a stroll down Main Street. Eat in a local establishment or have some ice cream.
Recently, Marian and I drove home from Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois. Instead of taking I-80 back home, we drove down Route 6. I selected the InkSpots channel on Pandora and we listened to classic sounds of the 40s. It was as if we were jettisoned back in time as we drove along the countryside through farmland and little towns, each one with a unique story to tell. In the town square in Ottawa, a large sculptor of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglass is located on the site of his first debate. We consider that detour one of the best experiences and it only took an extra hour to get home.