I actually have the reverse situation. My spouse is much more enthusiastic about Jewish practices than I am.
She likes to attend Shabbat services because she really finds it helpful to pray. I don't care for services all that much, but I like the other, more social activities synagogue life can offer. (It's actually amazing how many activities my synagogue offers during the week.) So, we compromise. I keep Friday completely unbooked with other activities (which is tough during baseball season) so that we can spend Shabbat together or occasionally attend services. And I attend whatever activities I want to with friends, while my partner doesn't join us.
We're currently trying to make some plans where we stay at home more on Shabbat, cook dinner, and invite people over. It's tough, though, when you're both so busy. But isn't that the purpose of Shabbat? Shut down time, slow the pace down, spend it with your family and friends.
We're pretty happy with how it all worked out.
My husband, who is Jewish, practically breaks out in hives whenever the prospect of interacting with organized religion comes up, whereas I've been an enthusiastic ritual junkie since puberty. We've learned how to navigate these differences in part because we've come to appreciate where the other person is coming from, and to recognize and be grateful every time a spouse does something outside of their comfort zone. Most importantly, I really had to stop seeing my actions as attempts to "change' him, to somehow trick him into appreciating something that he just fundamentally doesn't enjoy. That's a non-starter, and I highly discourage anyone from seeing themselves in that role. Your husband/wife/partner is not your child; it's not right to sneak Judaism into their life as if you were sneaking zucchini into a chocolate chip cookie recipe.
For us, we had to start by figuring out what was actually important to us as individuals, and find ways to satisfy those higher goals (much like any type of negotiation?). After mulling a lot, we realized that:
· I love ritual and he appreciates home-based family activities involving food --> so we make a nice Shabbat meal every week, and light candles, as well as say brachot and celebrate other food-based holidays at home (Rosh Hashana, Channukah, Purim, Passover...). We also regularly have friends (Jewish and not) over to celebrate these holidays. There's food, friends, and wine. What's not to like?
· He feels very uncomfortable in a synagogue, and I was surprised to learn that I don't need his presence to enjoy services --> He joins me only for Kol Nidre/Yom Kippur closing services and any other *big* event (if I had an aliyah, or a drash). But he does show support by driving me to shul, hanging out at a nearby coffeeshop, and driving me home afterwards.
· He likes traditions that bind him to his/our family heritage --> we have a mezzuzah, cook Jewish foods regularly.
· We largely agree on theological issues. --> We wrote our own haggadah (and our own Jewish wedding ceremony) which allows us to both participate wholeheartedly in a Jewish ritual that we are comfortable with. I was actually surprised that he was up for this, but both activities turned out to be quite powerful and meaningful; helping us to better understand who we were and weren't as a Jewish family.
· We disagree about Kashrut: I like to dabble but he is avidly opposed on moral grounds --> so I gave up the idea of having an even vaguely kosher home and merely eat/cook vegetarian more often, but don't complain when he adds bacon to his own dish.
One of the most important things that we've been working on over the past 3-4 years is what sort of Jewish family we want to be. It's not obvious, it's a work in progress. Much like figuring out what sort of marriage we want to have, I suppose. There's no wrong answer, so long as there's mutual respect and gentleness.
Your suggestions are good. I would simply add that, in our experience, introducing my spouse to other families/couples from our shul is actually a very intimidating experience -- much more so that incorporating other practices into our lives. It makes sense: to someone who is uncomfortable with organized Judaism, meeting other people who participate in organized Judaism is scary. I would recommend taking it really slow there; maybe participating in a non-religious event like the Oakland As game or camping or something else that happens outside of the synagogue. Or just accepting that your spouse has no real desire to make friends in those circles. And that's okay too.
A Note from Dawn Kepler:
I agree with you up to a point. An open conversation is best. BUT! Sometimes a person is dead set against something that they have not actually experienced. (Mia culpa!) But after being coaxed to do it with friends a person (yes, this happened to me) can discover that it’s delightful. Even adults can learn from Dr. Suess’ book, Sam I Am. If a friend you like is a member of your synagogue that should not put the person off limits to invite over. But you might invite them for a evening of games on a Saturday night and not jump in the deep end of ritual.
Some of my best Shabbat dinners were in a park – several families got together, brought the soccer cones, played soccer and then assembled at the wooden tables for Shabbat dinner. We were able to bless the wine and bread but forget candles, the breezes put them out. So I suggest finding an activity that your spouse likes and doing it with people he/she likes. Then with people you both enjoy, you can add other activities – like a Chanukah party where you make doughnuts, yum!