My husband and I are nerds and not in the “it’s-so-trendy-now” way. We are a Star Wars-devoted family (#ripCarrieFisher); our co-ed baby shower involved Star Wars-themed terrarium centerpieces and our daughter has been Yoda, Darth Vader, and R2 D2 for Halloween. We are a BSG-binge-watching, Labyrinth-loving couple who have indoctrinated our kid into a fandom lifestyle. OG nerds. While our interests can diverge (he’s more GoT and I’m more Doctor Who), we can always find something to come together on (Stranger Things).
When my husband asked me to play Dungeons & Dragons with him, you would expect that I would have been 100% in. But I had my reservations. D&D might be a nerdy step too far for me…
For those unfamiliar, Dungeons & Dragons is a role-playing game, almost like those Choose Your Own Adventure books you read as a kid. You create your own character with specific traits and skills. As you make decisions, the roll of the dice decides the results of those actions. A Dungeon Master runs the game, revealing the universe you’re playing in as you go, as well as the results of your rolls. Roll badly and you might end up trapped in a tower, held hostage by disfigured demons.
At first I thought there might be some opportunities for some sexy role-playing, but cosplay this was not. This was serious. There were hours of terminology explanations, tutorials, character building, and learning the equations for actions and traits (who knew there would be so much math?). When it was finally time to actually play, I was overwhelmed by anxiety and, as per usual, took it out on my patient husband by snapping at him and threatening to quit before I even began.
I felt the pressure of his expectations. This was something he loved and wanted to share with me. I didn’t want to disappoint him by hating it, and so my knee-jerk reaction was to bolt before I had a chance to make it any worse.
I also felt the pressure to be damn good at the game. No matter how many times he assured me that it wouldn’t matter, my deeply competitive nature kept rearing its ugly head. I hate to be bad at anything. I believe my therapist refers to that as “perfectionism,” while my husband calls it “annoying.”
I arrived for my first game in an admittedly cranky mood. I’m not sure whether I wanted to proven right or wrong that D&D wasn’t for me. I quickly lucked out with some good dice rolls and found myself vanquishing zombie-fied elves. I got into a bar fight with a one-eyed female pirate. I couldn’t help but grow more and more excited and confident. While I’m pretty sure the Dungeon Master (my husband’s BFF) took it easy on me, and my husband assisted with some decisions, by the end I had flexed new imaginative muscles and started to understand the game. Four hours of stabbing orcs and searching for potions later, I was mentally exhausted and we called it a night.
This wasn’t the case of pretending to like something for the sake of my partner. While I’ve certainly been guilty of that in past relationships, I like to think I’ve outgrown that instinct. Instead, I learned how it might help our relationship. Not only did I earn extra “wife points,” but also I realized that D&D was a good relationship-building tool. Screw couples therapy!
My husband and I worked together to problem-solve throughout as we attempted to defeat our enemies. We balanced out one another’s strengths and weaknesses. He had a more thoughtful and strategic approach to the game, whereas, I was more instinctual and impulsive.
Even more refreshing for us – we had a chance to talk about something other than our jobs, household responsibilities, and raising our child. After being together for nearly a decade, it can be easy to fall into the same patterns. This was definitely a change from debating who had to pack lunch today and the best method for getting our stubborn daughter into bed before 9 pm.
I was able to appreciate my husband’s interest as more than a hobby, as something that was inherently difficult, intricate, and creative. I saw the preparation he put into the game and could appreciate it as a craft. I think too often it’s easy to dismiss our partner’s interests as minor compared to whatever the task at hand might be. I’ll cop to being frustrated when he’s knee-deep in research for his D&D character, and I just want him to clean the litter-boxes. I must remind myself not to fall victim to the “nagging wife”-trap when he inevitably loses himself for hours in D&D prep. The recycling can wait. And maybe it’s time I found my own version of playing D&D that’s just for me…until (if) I’m ready to share it with him.
Lastly, now I can look forward to another aspect of growing old with my husband, where he is the Dungeon Master of our retirement community’s D&D games.
About the author: Ally Weinberg lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and two cats. She works in television and sometimes writes things. She is passionate about all things related to kittens, pop-culture, and feminism. To learn more, please visit: https://fivefeetoffuryblog.wordpress.com/about/