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Issue #22: Hams and our Most Important Relationship (Conclusion)

By Dave Jensen, W7DGJ


"Amateur radio is a great thing for my smart guy superman nerd and I see this gentleman's hobby brings happiness."

It was fun reading all the responses to our XYL Survey published online a month ago. I'd like to thank all the companies and clubs which publicized the survey, because we had many more responses than expected. 

One respondent pointed out that there is an entire science dedicated to surveys. I took this woman's response to heart and wanted to talk but could not reach her as the surveys were anonymous. In her final comment box, she stated: "Your survey questions are flawed because they are not neutral. You have written questions that make assumptions and which lead towards a result you may be seeking. They may not reflect the amateur radio hobby accurately, and basing an article on flawed questions will show a bias."

She's right that those who practice what is called 'quantitative marketing' develop surveys in a precise, scientific manner, as opposed to the casual methods that I employed with our simple questions. But I believe that we set up a survey without front-loading for a given result. I had no stake in the matter, and simply wanted to gauge how our partners or significant others feel about this hobby of ours. So, every question had a neutral response at it's core, and then that neutral response was framed on either side by responses either positive or negative. Plus, I added a comment box to every question for additional input that could be used for clarification. I was happy to see that these comment boxes were used liberally, and quite a number of those are reprinted in this recap.

What We've Learned About Our Hobby from XYL's and Significant Others

[Thank you to the ham who anonymously placed the great captions in the old artwork to the left. Many of us have seen it before, and it's highly relevant to this week's column.]

Did your 'other half' learn about your interests before or after you got together, and what were their initial impressions of the hobby?

I will only add a bit of color to these first "orienting" questions as they were discussed in Issue 21. Many of our respondents knew about your hobby when they met you, but a slightly higher number of them said that their spouse became a ham along the way. As far as their overall feelings about the hobby go, the great majority (nearly 70%) answered with one of the two positive comments offered in multiple choice. A much smaller group of 30% were negative, ranging from "I think it's a strange use of time and resources" to "It's OK, but only if he manages the time and expenses." There were a great number of comment box additions on either side of the question on this one, and I have reprinted some of those later in the article. (There were also a few choice negatives quoted in Part One, mostly dealing with the "nerd factor" or "attractiveness to the other sex" by our choice of hobby.)

Do you consider the hobby to be possibly of interest to you as well? 

As I read the responses from the completed survey, the majority (60%) of the respondents stated they aren't interested personally in the hobby, indicating that they'd never become licensed (although the comment boxes indicate that many of us are perhaps pushing hard for them to get their ticket). A smaller sub-sector left the door open and said that they'd like to have a bigger role of some kind in your activities (10%) with the hobby, and to my surprise nearly 30% had comments about their current license status. Many were studying or have already become licensed ham radio operators, with comments about the fact that it's wonderful common ground between the two. More power to those partners!

Two open questions (comment boxes only) about the Positives and Negatives of the hobby:

It was great to read so many positive comments about the hobby and the fact that it keeps us out of bars and that the effect on our friendships and overall health is good. It's clear that our significant others believe this is a healthy hobby; the great majority of responses indicate a very positive benefit to what we do with our radios. There were a number of proud comments about how we dedicate time to our community, and to helping others.

On the negative front -- even from those who had positive feelings about the healthy effect of the hobby -- many comments showed that we may spend too much time on the radio. There were a number of sad comments about the loneliness that our partners feel when we lock ourselves up in the shack.

There were many negative comments about the appearance of the house or yard, especially for those without a dedicated private space for radios. "The wires, antennas, and mess" comments were plentiful. I wasn't surprised by these negative comments on antennas as I have heard them here, but the sheer number of complaints/concerns about the appearance of our radio room was a bit surprising. After reading some of those (a few repeated in the list below) I took a fresh look at the bedroom we converted to my hobby room and noted that our sofa was totally covered  -- boxes, cables and POTA gear coming and going. A table, which once held only a lamp and a piece of art, now lays covered in copies of QST, Electric Radio and CQ. Oops! I guess I have some clean up of my own coming soon.

How does our partner feel about the cost of our hobby?

The single biggest reply for this category was the positive one, or "The ham radio operator has the hobby in balance and is respectful of the expenditures versus our budgets" at 56%. That's a good sign! In fact, there were another 22% of partners who came back and indicated that we could spend more on the hobby and that it wouldn't upset them. Between those two responses, that was a great acceptance and approval of the way we manage this expensive hobby. Good job ham radio operators! The remaining 20+% were split with statements about their partners having spent far too much on the hobby already, or needing some help in budgeting. You'll see some of these choice comments in the section below my signature line.

As the survey came to a close, I asked about our respondent's hobbies and whether or not we were respectful of their personal interests. Many hobbies were mentioned and the great majority of comments were positive; we are evidently giving our partners the space they need to manage their own interests, and in fact most of us are very encouraging. I then asked them what one thing we might do that would ensure they were happier with amateur radio.

This last question was a comment box, and only a few respondents missed the chance to contribute on that one. The answers were mixed but I would say that the major theme was positive. We have their support, generally, although we could be a bit less messy or less obstrusive with where we place our antennas and gear around the house. The issue of "Radio time vs. Wife time" came up again a number of times, leading me to not only count my blessings, but also to put down the mic and step outside of the shack a bit more frequently for things that we can do together.  

Please enjoy the selection of comments below from this exceptional group of respondents who helped with the survey and who all deserve a hug and thanks for their candid commentaries.

73 for now,  Dave


More Classic Responses from the Survey

"He was a CB user as a child, so I knew he was into radio. He got his ticket years later. Then, I did too so we could share a hobby."

"I am proud of his dedication to providing emergency communications when needed, and also his work encouraging and training others to provide such services."

"We became hams together."

"I don't have anything but a passing interest, and many of his ham friends are weird but lovable. I sometimes enjoy listening to a QSO when it is someone in a remote area of the world."

"His hobby does seem like it is never finished; there is always something else, something new and different."

"My husband and I can tell we are perfect for each other because he likes to broadcast, and I like to listen to a world band radio. I'm also a postage stamp collector, so it's fun for us to see if I have stamps from obscure places with which he makes contact."

"I've found vintage equipment for him, helped hold things when building antennas, and listened patiently to his contacts and stories."

"I am happy to be there for him if he wants to discuss amateur radio. I encourage his participation in events even if it means he is busy the whole weekend. I support his decisions about how much money to invest in new equipment and supplies because he does budget wisely, so it doesn't negatively affect us financially."

"I'm proud of his many radio accomplishments."

"I got my license as well, but I still don't operate; I feel like I don't know enough to confidently operate on my own."


"I let him convert our walk-in closet into a little radio room. I let him put up antennas."

"I take him coffee, snacks and sometimes scotch when he is in a long winded net."

"I became a ham radio operator as well and have met many wonderful people because of this hobby."

"I ignore it as best I can."

"I got my General ticket but I'm not very active. I don't interfere or complain about antennas, or new gear. The hobby is always changing."

"Early in our relationship, it bothered me that he wasn't spending as much time with me as I wanted. After 34 years together, I just let him do what he seems to love. Overall, I like seeing how he enjoys himself and I'm glad that he still has a hobby. I encourage him when he tells me he just spoke to someone in Europe or a far away place."

"I'm fine with him spending whatever time he wants on it. Seems like a good hobby attracting good people. Also, I like that we have a form of emergency communication, if needed."

"Endless spending of money. Endless!"

"I support my husband 100% - we've a ranch for towers, a radio room built into our new home and I welcome radio friends (now my friends too) whenever they drop in. I support him and his hobby 100%. Our 2 daughters are also hams and I support them as well."

"I make him buy stuff at Hamfests, and if he won't, I buy it for him. I help string wires all throughout our trees. I don't startle when another drill bit comes through the wall of the house! I bring him whiskey and potato chips when he's got an old friend on the horn."

"I wouldn't be interested in a license myself, but I would like to participate or have a role sometimes. I wish he knew that."

"I would never need a license for my own hobby. However, I did get my tech license. I use it only to talk to his buddies in order to track him down."

"My husband wanted me to at least get my Tech license, but I went on to get my General, and then about a year later I surprised him by taking and passing my Extra class exam on the first try."

"We take part in the hobby as equals."

"I really don't know if I'd ever develop an interest in this or not. Maybe?"

"I would like to know how to turn the radios on and work them in case of an emergency."

"Although I've studied the license manual and have taken several practice tests, Ham Radio is not at the top of my passion list. I don't rule out taking the test one day, but I don't need that kind of pressure in my life right now."

"Amateur radio is a great thing for my smart guy superman nerd and I see this gentleman's hobby brings happiness."

"He enjoys the time he spends on this hobby, as well as the interactions with friends and other operators. It makes me happy to see him having such a great time. This hobby provides something fun for him to do and helps to keep his mind engaged, otherwise he tends to get bored if he has nothing to do."

"It gives him something to do, he's met a lot of new people from all over, and it keeps him out of trouble (most of the time."

"Very nerdy hobby. I don't get the excitement because phones and social media exist. I don't get the appeal."

"It brings him great joy and I like to see him happy. Before the advancement of the computer age, he was able to use his hobby to help missionaries from our church to communicate with family and medical professionals during their time abroad. It keeps him connected with others and gives him an outlet for his engineering background."

"It brings a service to our community, intellectual stimulation, good friends and social interaction, and satisfaction through worthwhile endeavors."

"The knowledge he has acquired to achieve his Extra license has broadened his knowledge of science tremendously. He has made so many new friends and they support each other in so many ways. Before we retired, there was some apprehension about what we were going to do, as we have always been busy and involved. Ham Radio has filled that area of our lives in a very positive way. It has certainly expanded his horizon. I'm very proud of him."

"It's a hobby that my husband shared with his father, so I feel he's honoring his dad's memory. I can see that my husband enjoys communicating with people around the world. That is a fascinating aspect of the hobby. Although my husband is social, he prefers hobbies that are more introverted. I'm glad he's on the radio and not playing poker!"

"Time spent away from family is a concern, or away from other chores/responsibilities. Especially the money spent on equipment because it turns into an obsession for more reach on the bands."

"It's a concern that the carpet under the radio desk is getting worn out."

"At times, I'm a radio widow. I just don't understand the thrill of the whole contest thing."

"He buys, he sells, he repairs. It makes him happy."

"He is fiscally responsible when considering investments in radio equipment. I respect the fact that radio equipment isn't cheap, and the better your equipment, the better will be your hobby experience. As long as the dogs and I can eat, he can spend the money he has earned any way he likes. I appreciate that he allows me the same latitude."

"I'd like to occasionally be told that I'm still number One."

"When buying gear, does my husband even look for sale prices and specials like I do?? Hmmmm..."

"I wish he'd keep his space picked up properly and a bit more organized."

"Unsightly equipment, gets in the way and clutters up the house. Attracts weird friends."

"I wish he would please spend more time with me."


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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 27, 2023 22:13