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Issue #21: Hams and our Most Important Relationship (Part One)

By Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

 

There are two kinds of ham radio operators when it comes to that most important relationship -- the one you have with your XYL or significant other. One of these is the ham who cares for amateur radio a great deal, but who also cares for the household balance and the accord established between the two parties. He or she wants to ensure that the hobby fits into life together as a whole and that it hasn't affected the relationship in any negative way. This view represented the bulk of the operators I've spoken to while conducting research and posting a Forum exchange on QRZ. Most of us realize we can't get far without the support of our other half.

But, there is a group of hams who believe that the hobby comes along with them and that it's "a package deal." I ran into this comment or one like it in my preparation, but it was in the minority. That attitude should be mentioned here as perhaps it may be behind a few negative spousal comments from the written replies. We had all types of replies, and luckily the survey was picked up and circulated by a few friends at clubs or companies and the result was a much larger-than-expected response. Initially, I thought I'd survey a few friends; this proved to be a lot more work!

For me, I think I've come to a point of accommodation with my wife. She took the same survey that many others did and replied anonymously so that her responses left me no clue that I was reading my partner's notes. We have commonly held views on the hobby because I've promised her that we'll have a discussion before any antenna goes up or any major purchase is made.

I have a blast with wires and vertical antennas and it would take a dramatic turn of events to suddenly have a 60 ft. tower and a Yagi in my yard. That said, I have all the radios and gear I need and I only lose a few bucks or break even when I sell something, so she has no major financial concerns.

The Survey Question Responses

After writing up and distributing a survey on this topic, I found that the ARRL had published a QST article in December of 1966, penned by a Silent Key named Don, formerly W2JMZ. It was entitled, "What Wives Think about Amateur Radio," and it began with a mailed survey. While the article goes into different areas than I had intended to discuss, I believe that our significant others are a lot more outspoken today. (By now, this piece must be in the public domain, so I've used some of the original cartoons in my article.) 

My responses to the QRZ online survey came in via SurveyMonkey.com. If you're interested in surveys for your club or another reason,  I don't recommend Survey Monkey at all. QRZ got stuck with more than $100 because I chose to take them up on their "free offer." One important element to my survey was a "Comments" box attached to each question, so that respondents could put whatever interesting thoughts they might have into the box as well as answer the multiple choice questions. The quotes and comments in my article came from those comment boxes.

My goal for the survey was to find out exactly how ham radio is viewed by the most important people in our lives. Here is Part One of my analysis of these survey responses. Thank you for the attention paid to this by a wonderful and giving group of respondents (buttering up my wife?). 

Our Survey

Initially, I asked a couple of questions which were designed to tell us a bit about our XYLs themselves. For example, we learned that about 35% began their involvement with Ham Radio when they formed the relationship with the operator, so it was already a part of the equation. In 41%, the hobby came later and they had to make the adjustment to this added factor in their relationship.

The balance of responses were individual comments explaining sometimes unique situations. One comment of interest: "He had this radio in his truck and a bunch of antennas - it looked like a porcupine! At that point I knew he was a nerd, and I went for him anyway." Another (so many XYL comments have to do with antennas): "He had a CB radio antenna that made his car look like a Mario Kart. He got his ham license after we were married. PS: He'd better not put anything like that on my car." But my favorite response was this one, "On an unofficial outing shortly before we had our first date, we took a scenic drive with a Swan 500 on the seat between us." Now, there is a ham radio partner to be proud of!

Reading my responses further, I find that a majority of respondants knew something about ham radio (60%) before the relationship began, but it wasn't always a positive impression. Here's a situation where radio clearly becomes something more than a hobby, in a 1+1=3 kind of matchup:  "I was also licensed before we met. We didn't meet through radio, but it turned out that it is something we have in common." Lucky hams, those two! However, there's a note of cynicism in several cases where our partners don't really "get" the hobby. One example, "There is no better sex repellent than Ham Radio. Ok, maybe grown men who collect action figures could be equally effective as a repellent."

I have hope, however, that my XYL may at least feel the same way as this spouse . . . "I am pleased to know that he enjoys a hobby with friends. He has made many new friends while being involved with Ham Radio. He is very active and volunteers for many of the local club activities. I also like to participate in these activities. There are so many nice people in the club. We do many things together and Ham Radio is a great outlet." I would say that the sarcastic, anti-ham comments were in the minority. Most messages left in the survey were positive, indicating that the partner is happy to see us working our hobby, and/or that the long term effect on our health and mental well-being is a positive one.

Amateur Radio's Effect on our Spouses/Partners

When I asked about what the partner has done to support the amateur radio operator, I found a very upbeat group of responses. While some characterized their support purely in financial terms, or in "allowing antennas in the yard," there were some wonderful partner responses that made me feel we are lucky as a hobby to have this level of support from XYLs. Take this one as an example: "I am a sounding board for his thoughts and ideas about amateur radio. I encourage him to participate in ARES, ARRL, and other amateur radio service opportunities. I travel with him to various events where he is teaching, networking, or conferring with others to improve emergency radio services and capabilities. I promote his involvement in my conversations with people in our community." Wow. That's a dedicated partner for you.

Here's another, "I have encouraged him to pursue his hobby, have tolerated wires all over our yard, have given him ham related gifts, and have learned enough code to understand a tapped out message of 'I love you' on my hand when we are in public." Thank you to these wonderful partners who were just a small part of an overwhelmingly positive set of responses to my question about supporting the operator in our hobby. Is it possible that we may have self-selected respondents who are positive? I guess that could happen. It's likely not in the nature of a sour person to spend ten minutes on something they hate.

When I asked about whether the partner had any interest in the hobby themselves, 53% of them determined that there would never be any circumstances in which they'd want to be licensed. Another 10% or so left the door open, and indicated that maybe someday they'll study and get their ticket. But I was surprised by the number of spouses/partners who commented that they already had their license. They may not be all that active; many have remained at the Tech license level, but they've indicated that it was important to them and to their relationship.

In Part 2 of this survey response, we'll talk about the other half of the questions . . . some of these were the "prickly" topics that are hard to broach with a life partner. For example, the actual cost of ham radio and a hobby that is, as one respondant put it, "never satisfied, always needing new gadgets and what not." Stay tuned for Issue #22 of "Trials and Errors -- Ham Life with an Amateur."

PS: Because there's another two weeks left in the open survey, feel free to ask YOUR partner to join us with a brief survey response, by visiting https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/F9D6VL6

73 for now,

Dave

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Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

Dave Jensen, W7DGJ, was first licensed in 1966. Originally WN7VDY (and later WA7VDY), Dave operated on 40 and 80 meter CW with a shack that consisted primarily of Heathkit equipment. Dave loved radio so much he went off to college to study broadcasting and came out with a BS in Communications from Ohio University (Athens, OH). He worked his way through a number of audio electronics companies after graduation, including the professional microphone business for Audio-Technica.  He was later licensed as W7DGJ out of Scottsdale, Arizona, where he ran an executive recruitment practice (CareerTrax Inc.) for several decades. Jensen has published articles in magazines dealing with science and engineering. His column “Tooling Up” ran for 20 years in the website of the leading science journal, SCIENCE, and his column called “Managing Your Career” continues to be a popular read each month for the Pharmaceutical and Household Products industries in two journals published by Rodman Publishing.


Articles Written by Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

This page was last updated June 18, 2023 19:11