How Volunteering Brought My Husband & I Closer Together

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Well
Forget jetting off to Cancun together. Try building a well.

Two years into our marriage, my husband, Dave, and I went on a cruise. While we had fun, our trip was marred by a major meltdown about parasailing. The details are too ugly to get into, but let’s just put it this way—two grown adults squabbling over parasailing isn’t pretty and led to one of our worst fights as a couple. New Trend: Newlyweds Put The Volunteer In Honeymoon

When we started planning our next trip, Dave and I wanted to do things differently and step outside of the first-world selfishness that caused so many problems on our first trip. So, we signed up to volunteer with an organization called Aqua Viva, whose mission is to builds wells in villages where water is scarce. Partnering with the local community, Aqua Viva trains volunteers to dig wells and teach hygiene in the schools. The volunteers are led by locals who work hard to ensure that the groups adhere to local morays. Fun And Free: Volunteer Date

 

So, last June, Dave and I spent one week in a small village in rural El Salvador with a group of people from our town. I worked with the hygiene team and Dave spent his days on the well. Every night we came home, muddy and exhausted. In order to spend time together we had to get up at 5am to meet for a small walk before we loaded up for the bumpy ride back into the village.

We were too tired to fight, but I don’t think we would have. While playing muddy games of soccer and teasing the girls about their crushes on the men from our team, I observed Dave from afar. At home, I often tease him for his fondness for watching re-runs of “Hogan’s Heroes” in his underwear and needle him about doing the dishes, but in El Salvador I saw Dave in a new light. He impressed the group leaders by being one of the hardest workers on the team. And even when the drilling hit a snag and forced the men to work until one in the morning, he remained calm and patient. While other members of our team talked longingly of hamburgers, Dave gratefully cleaned his plate of new foods like fried plantains and food I knew he hated—black beans.

And my husband also saw me do things he’d never seen me do before, play softball, speak a new language and dress a spider bite. And whereas our cruise left me feeling peevish about our relationship, going to El Salvador and working with my husband made me feel so lucky to be married to him.