7 Reasons Why You Should Read With Your Significant Other


By Clare Bristow

My partner and I have something we like to do together at evenings and weekends. You can do it anywhere, but we prefer the sofa or the bed. It’s traditional, it costs virtually nothing, and it brings us both a lot of pleasure. Yep, we read to each other.

It may sound achingly wholesome and conjure up images of Victorian parlors, but we’ve been reading together for a few months and I wouldn’t give it up. I’d recommend it to anyone, both for your relationship and your own wellbeing.

This isn’t earth-shattering news: most people would agree that spending time doing fun things with a partner (or indeed a friend, housemate or family member) makes for a stronger relationship.

Social science says so too. You might remember the story from last summer that sharing media like TV shows, books and films can help couples to stay close.

How did we start reading to each other? A while ago, a friend told me that when she and her other half are on long road journeys, one drives and the other reads out loud, and it struck me what a good idea that was.

Like a lot of people, I wanted to read more classic books, but couldn’t see how they would work with my usual reading pattern, which tends to be in short bursts. So I suggested to my partner that we try reading aloud, taking turns to do a chapter a night.

Since then we’ve finished The Odyssey and The Wind in the Willows (a feel-good book for Christmas), and now we’re in the middle of an Icelandic saga. What’s next? We’re ambitiously thinking of more epics, but no one says it has to be highbrow. If we feel like reading a celebrity memoir or a teen romance, then that’s what we’ll do.

So if you want something to do with your nearest and dearest that doesn’t involve going out, spending much or staring at a screen, here are some reasons to try reading together.

1. It’s natural.

Storytelling is a basic human instinct. Parents bond with their children by telling them stories, but in our society, so many of us stop having stories told to us once we’re old enough to read them ourselves – as if that was the only point of reading together.

Listening to a story as an adult shouldn’t make you feel patronized or babyish; it should bring back some of the comfort and wonder that children feel when someone reads to them.

2. It’s free.

How much does a book cost? Nothing, if you borrow it, or if it’s been sitting on your to-be-read shelf taunting you for a decade. (That’s not me. Definitely not. Oh, where did that James Joyce novel come from?)

Even if you buy a book, it’s one of the best-value entertainment forms out there. Blankets and hot drinks are optional extras.

3. It’s a great way to wind down.

On nights when we don’t read, my partner and I tend to sit looking at our separate screens, doing increasingly mindless things until one of us calls bedtime. On reading nights, we switch off the technology around ten, turn the lights down, snuggle under a blanket, and send our bodies messages that it’s time to rest soon. Even if we only read for fifteen minutes, we almost certainly get a better sleep on those nights.

Warning: you may actually fall asleep during storytime. If you’re the reader, take it as a sign that you’re soothing, not that you’re boring.

4. It brings you physically closer.

…potentially. I mean, you could read together over Skype (it would be a great way to bond in a long-distance relationship), while if you’re reading to someone driving a car, I don’t recommend getting too touchy-feely. But nothing beats snuggling together under a blanket with a good book.

5. It gives you something to talk about.

This is a double win. First, you can comment on the book in real time, and there’s someone there to listen. If you’re a reader who tends to shout at characters, or to look up from a book bewildered that no one around you cares about the crazy plot twist that just happened, you’ll appreciate the value of having someone there to share the highs, the lows, and all the witty remarks you care to make.

Second, you’ll both have in-jokes and memories to share long after you’ve finished the book. Like going on holiday together, but without the hassle of traveling.

6. It helps you read more broadly.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to read more? As with all good habits, having a buddy can help you stick to it, because you don’t want to let each other down. This really helps me with lengthy classic books: on my own, I tend to lose momentum and give up halfway through. It may take weeks to read a chapter a day with my partner, but at least we do finish it.

7. It makes you a better reader – and a better listener.

You might feel self-conscious reading aloud at first, if it’s not something you’d normally do – but, like me, you might be surprised how quickly you get comfortable with it. There’s something liberating about reading with gusto and drama (or just silly voices), knowing you won’t be judged.

I find that hearing the words spoken also makes me notice things I’d miss by silently scanning the page. Details in the narrative, repeating patterns, the musicality of the words the author chose: it helps me appreciate the book in a new way.

In a relationship, it’s never a bad thing to practice taking turns to speak and listen to each other, even when the words you say are someone else’s.

Clare is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a contributing writer, please click here.

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3 thoughts on “7 Reasons Why You Should Read With Your Significant Other

  1. Margarita says:

    My sweet husband has survived multiple strokes and reading can be challenging for him. I started reading aloud to him a number of years ago and in that time we’ve shared much laughter, some tears, feats of derring-do, and solved a couple of crimes. For Valentine’s day, we’re back to reading the letters of Abigail and John Adams. 😉 xoM

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