Sometimes couples express concern about having no common interests in relationships with their partners. Last week, I visited two large arenas in Texas (AT&T Center and Toyota Center) where I paid ten times more for my stadium seats than I would have for equally uncomfortable seats in a movie theater. From a distance that exceeded the magnifying power of my glasses, I watched very tall men who donned expensive footwear as they played a game called basketball. I didn’t do this because I love the NBA. I did this because I love my boys. And, because I love them, I have made it a mission to get them to every NBA arena in the US (and one in Canada).
As it turns out, I have no common interests in relationships with my 16-year-old boys. (Well, I guess it’s true that my sense of humor is well matched for a 16-year-old boy at times). What they love to do is often not the same as what I love to do. I don’t watch NBA highlight films on youtube, (unless Cameron says, “Mom, watch this.”) and I never play fortnight, ever, though I did play a new game on Mitch’s phone until he gave up on me for being so inept. <Sigh> I do, however, care that these things bring my boy’s such joy, and I do delight in knowing what interests them.
Have you ever said to your partner (or just thought to yourself), “Is it just me, or do we have no common interests?” If so, I can’t imagine it was said or thought as a good thing. I know, it’s pretty amazing how quickly I can pick up on these nuances, right?
Fortunately, research offers us reassurance that it is not essential to have common interests in relationships. Instead, what matters most is having an interest in what one another enjoys. In some cases, it is possible to find ways to blend your interests, without actually sharing the same joys. For example, if your partner is obsessed with birdwatching, and you love hiking, photography, or travel, there are obvious ways to combine these passions without sourcing your joy from the same part of your shared activities. In other cases, this may not work and what floats your boat may not be compatible with what floats hers. That’s okay too.
If you tell yourself it’s a problem that you have no common interests, then it is very likely that it will be a problem. The problem, however, isn’t the lack of shared interests, it is the belief that it is a problem. It’s funny how that works. We are inclined to believe that if we think something, it must be true. Silly humans.
Another key ingredient in happy relationships is to have a shared meaning.
Shared meaning is a mutual understanding of the purpose and meaning of your relationship. There is no right meaning, there is only the meaning that is right for the two of you. Often, the shared meaning is found in the little things that define your “story of us.” It is the end of this sentence, “We are a couple who…” or, “Our love story is …” or, “We make a great pair because…”
A shared meaning develops from stories about who you are as a couple, how you view relationships and what is unique to your partnership. Shared meaning is what gives shape to who you are as a couple. When you have shared meaning, you are on the same page about what your relationship stands for, who you are as a couple, and how you go about the business of being an “us” in a world where there is no one way, and no right way, to be an “us.” There is only the way that works (or doesn’t work) for the two of you.
When it’s all said and done, we all want the same things from our relationship. We want to feel loved, important, secure, free to be ourselves, valued, worthy and like we are enough just the way we are, and we want to be treated kindly and with respect and appreciation.
As for the boys and me, we only have 20 more arenas to visit before we reach our goal to see a game in all 29 NBA arenas.