How a Ferrari Saved My Marriage
Shared interests are key to a happy marriage, experts say. Here's what happened when I took that theory for a road test in a Ferrari.
My wife and I have a problem: We don't like the same things. Kimberly is all about art and nature hikes, while I dig computers and cars. She'll hunker down with a stack of recipes in the kitchen while I spend hours trolling the aisles of Home Depot for projects. She gardens while I shoot arrows at hay bales. She's a little bit country; I'm a little bit rock 'n' roll.
In fact, when I think about how little we have in common–besides our undying love and our shared desire to keep our daughters from falling into sewers–I start to worry. I mean, we're both passionate people, but spending no time in shared pursuits means we're missing out on huge slices of each other's lives, along with prime opportunities to enhance our relationship. "Independence is important, but it's also valuable for couples to share their interests," says Arthur Aron, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Stony Brook University. "It's an opportunity to expand your own interests, and when you do that you associate that expansion with your partner. It brings you closer together."
So with some coaching from Aron, I decided to introduce Kimberly to one of my passions, something any woman in her right mind would love: car racing! We'll try her stuff later.
Turn 1: Setting it Up
I've been a Formula 1 fanatic my entire life, and I suspected Kimberly might enjoy it too–even though she hadn't shown one iota of interest during our 15-year marriage. But the energy, the personalities, the drama! Who could resist that? I proposed a simple mission and plan, and she gamely agreed.
The mission: Head to a glamorous international racing event–the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
The plan: Do it in a Ferrari.
After all, what better way to get her attention than with a bombing run to the Canadian border and roaring up, 12 cylinders blazing, to the porte cochere of a swanky hotel?
Of course, I don't actually own a Ferrari, but I know who does: Ferrari! I arranged for a press loan of the sublimely awesome FF touring car. This spaceship, which arrived in a deep slate gray, has four seats and a quirky design, something like a two-door hatchback. At the time, it was a 208 mph, $300,000 family car with a withering 0-to-60 time of 3.7 seconds. The interior smells like a Coach store. The engine thunders like Thor. I scored passes for the hospitality suites at the race, and invites to parties and receptions.
When I told Aron about everything I'd arranged, he recommended dialing back the intensity a bit. Okay, a lot. "It needs to be a different experience for each of you, and not too overwhelming," he said. "Adjust your usual pace and enjoy the experience through her eyes while she enjoys this new world and this different side of you."
Fair enough. I nixed a party and altered our schedule so we'd swing by the track just briefly on Saturday for qualifying. Sunday would be our big track day.
Turn 2: Gaining Speed
We left on Friday in a heavy rain that didn't taper off until we pulled up to the valet stand in Montreal. Our bombing run up the Hudson was more of a stately cruise, which the all-wheel-drive Ferrari handled smartly, even with jets of water shooting at us from beneath the 12,000 trucks we passed.
Along the way we stopped in Lake George, and Kimberly whipped out her camera. Photography is one of her passions–and something I've been increasingly curious about myself. So we explored the misty lakeside Sagamore Resort–our dinner stop–and tried to capture some great shots. It turned into a friendly competition. She favored tight details, while I went for wide-angle vistas, usually featuring the wet Ferrari.
So far so good. We were having fun together.
Turn 3: Taking Evasive Maneuvers
After a midnight arrival, we roused ourselves slowly on Saturday morning. First stop: the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which was high on Kimberly's list. We browsed the exhibits, including one on industrial design I found fascinating. After a few hours we hopped into our Italian stallion and headed to the track for qualifying. There we watched the cars buzz by at ridiculous speeds, their high-revving engines producing equally high levels of noise. Kimberly seemed mystified at first–just a bunch of cars whizzing by–but I gave her a quick rundown on the key rivalries and the importance of qualifying. She then had enough of a hook to stay interested.
Our evening began with Ferrari's party at the St. James Hotel. This cool gala featured cameos by Hugh Grant and Miss America. We hobnobbed competently. Then it was off to dinner at Toroli, a tiny Japanese-French fusion restaurant she'd found and where I had the sushi-eating equivalent of driving the Ferrari. "I'm glad we chose an out-of-the-way restaurant that isn't overrun with race fans," Kimberly said. I appreciated her frankness and decided to mention how grateful I was that she was playing along so nicely with all this. Aron had hinted that this might be a smart gesture. "Expressing gratitude is a good thing," he'd said. "Let her know how happy you are that she's trying this out with you."
Done and done. I'm so good at this!
Turn 4: Giving Her Something to Cheer For
Race day arrived bright and sunny. We sauntered through the infield, took more photos, and then headed to the suite. I set us up with earplugs (vital!), drinks, and a clean line of sight to the monitors. "Think of everything she could need beforehand," Aron had advised. "It'll be hard for her to process information, and she'll appreciate your thoughtfulness."
It was an exciting race. I framed it for Kimberly by describing Ferrari's efforts to steal podiums from Red Bull Racing. While Ferrari didn't win, team driver Fernando Alonso snagged second with minutes to go. When that happened, Kimberly jumped up and cheered with the rest of the Ferrari fans, taking me by surprise. Wait, did this actually. . .work?
Homestretch: Handing Over the Keys
After the race, we met Kimberly's college chum and her husband for dinner. Aron saw this detour as another helpful way to diversify the weekend and to keep the emphasis on us as a couple rather than on us as a couple of race fans.
The next morning, we headed home. Rain was moving in, but we squeaked in some fun first, rocketing down a barren strip of highway at six in the morning. About 10 miles before the U.S. border, Kimberly took the wheel. She wanted the thrill of pulling up to the border patrol in a Ferrari. When she did, calmly handing over our passports with the bored nonchalance of a rock star, I have to admit she looked pretty hot.
"That was awesome," she laughed.
Back in the driver's seat, I asked her what I'd resisted asking her all weekend: "So, think you'd go to another race?"
"Sure, babe," she said. "And it doesn't even have to be in a Ferrari. Now, what say we go plant some purple kale?"