Samara O'Shea

Dear Samara,

I love my husband and he loves me, but sometimes I wonder what is more important to him. Me or his toys? He has a motor boat, a motorcycle, two cars that he tinkers with and he collects weird machines that he likes to try to fix. Needless to say, our garage is overflowing with junk.

I have no interest in this stuff but how do I get him to spend more of his free time with me and not his toys? Is our relationship always going to be this way? Am I doomed?



Hi Patti,

Ah yes, boys and their toys. What’s a girl to do?

First let me say that I think it’s good for guys—for all people—to have a thing. Hobbies are a great escape from the stresses of life. Your husband’s specific interest—machinery and gadgets—is one of the healthier leisure pursuits to have. Of course, any hobby can venture into unhealthy territory if it gets in the way of relationships, so I have a few suggestions.

One: Include your husband’s beloved toys on dates. For example, I have no interest in how a boat operates but I thoroughly enjoy an afternoon on the water. Ask him, “Can we take the boat out this weekend?” Or “Let’s drive the GTO/Mustang/Whatever the car is to that cute town nearby and go on picnic/have brunch/watch the fireworks.” You’re demonstrating interest in that which he loves while also securing quality time for the two of you.

Two: If the weekend arrives and the two of you don’t have plans, I’m guessing he heads right to into the garage to tinker away. Start planning your weekends in advance. Ask him on Wednesday if he wants to go to the Local Winery Harvest Festival on Saturday afternoon and meet Joe and Rhonda for dinner afterward. Of course, you’ll want to leave some time, Sunday afternoons perhaps, for him to have at it with his hobby.

Three: If he resists making advance weekend plans—“No, I’m fixing the engine this weekend!”—and double dates (with you and his machines), then it’s best to sit him down and talk. The reason I don’t suggest doing this first is so you can try to gauge where he’s coming from. My first two ideas aren’t meant to be game playing, but to help you feel the situation out and stop you from assuming you know exactly what’s going on in his head. If, however, you do end up with strong evidence that he prefers his gadgets above all else, it’s time to talk. Say something like, “I feel that you prefer to spend time in the garage with your gadgets instead of with me and it hurts my feelings.” Read this link about I-statements—a form of communication that seeks to minimize blaming and resentment—before speaking with him.

Finally: Do you have a thing? Is there something you love to do by yourself or with friends? I’m not suggesting that if he has a thing and you have a thing then—voila!—problem solved. However, if there’s something you’re as passionate about as he is about his toys, then the playing field will feel more level. If nothing comes to mind, I recommend trying new things: Cooking classes, singing lessons, Zumba. Or find relaxing ways to spend your down time. As in, “Okay he’s in the garage, I’m going to get a massage and pedicure.”


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* The ideas and advice presented here are not a substitute for professional advice. Talk to your psychologist, counselor, physician or health care professional for situations that warrant further analysis.