Do Common Interests Matter?

“What really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films – these things matter.” –John Cusack, High Fidelity

You like U2, but she likes Garth Brooks. You like Star Wars, but she likes 27 Dresses (or even worse, Star Trek [kidding!]). You like football, she likes NASCAR. You like The Office, she likes Grey’s Anatomy. You like beach vacations, she likes mountain lodges. You exercise by playing frisbee, she works out by jogging in the park.

Does it really matter if you have different interests from the person you’re trying to date?

Match.com and other dating sites make a big fuss about sharing your interests with the world. I doubt they figure into their matching algorithms all that much, but they deem interests important enough to share on the front page of your profile.

To a certain extent, it’s hard to ignore when someone has a more eclectic taste in something that matches yours. (What, CuteTpie1983, you love Deer Tick too? I’m buying an engagement ring.)

But this goes beyond online dating–this applies to any relationship. Does it matter if you share common interests with your mate?

My take is: No, it doesn’t matter. What matters way more is common intrigue and respect.

Let me explain.

Say, for example, I’m dating a woman who’s really into rock climbing. I’m not into rock climbing. It’s not my passion. I might try it once for the heck of it, but it’s not my thing, and that’s fine.

And yet, I’m fascinated that the woman likes to climb rocks in her free time. It’s something that I know very little about, so I’d want to hear about it: How it works, stories, goals, etc. I’d like to watch her climb. I’m intrigued by it.

From her side, she has the choice to try to push me to adopt her hobby (which I’ve seen all the time in relationships, and I don’t think it’s healthy), or she can respect that I have my own passions and that I don’t need to start rock climbing to care about her.

Intrigue and respect. That’s what it comes down to, in my opinion.

Movies, music, sports, books…you can share those passions with your friends. Your partner doesn’t have to be everything for you in every area of your life. The one possible exception to this might actually be television. If you live with someone, it’s going to be divisive if you don’t share any common shows. So I think it might help to have a few shows that you both like, and for the rest of your lineup, you watch them on your own time and don’t force your boyfriend to watch Grey’s Anatomy when he could be watching The Office like any sensible person.

What do you think? (Not about the previous snide comment; rather, the whole “do common interests matter” question.)

29 thoughts on “Do Common Interests Matter?”

  1. You looked at that picture, and what you saw was “rock climbing”? Really, Jaam? Really?

    Regarding common interests, I lean towards agreeing with you more than I disagree with you. Here’s my take. It’s important to share some major common interests with your significant other, but not all of your interests. I believe that it’s difficult to sustain a relationship in which you don’t share any interests (even if granted common TV show interests). Intrigue and respect can exist (and continue even after a number of years), but I don’t think they’re enough to form a connection without some common overlap (save TV shows). For example, Laura and I are both avid travelers and we both love trying new restaurants and analyzing them. She also loves all things that relate to cooking. I have no interest in cooking, but I remain surprisingly intrigued by her passion for it even after more than 4 years. However, if it weren’t for the other shared passions (of which I listed a few), I don’t think our relationship would get by on the admiration of her cooking passion alone.

    Reply
    • Trev–Good points. One example of what you’re talking about that I mentioned in the post but didn’t delve into is beach vacations versus mountain vacations. Vacations are something you take as a couple. If someone really hates the beach and really loves the mountains, and the other person is the opposite, that relationship may be tough. But rarely are people that extreme in their opinions, I think. Maybe?

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      • My parents have completely different ideas of what makes a good vacation. My mom would love to relax on the beach, or explore new cities and go shopping. My dad’s idea of a good vacation is measured by the number of animals he can hunt and kill while he’s there.

        They celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary this past June.

        I attribute this mostly to my Mom’s enduring patience and willingness to bend. They sometimes take separate trips (he went to Alaska to hunt one year while she went to Ireland with extended family), but mostly they find a way to make a trip work for both of them. They’ll go to Florida so he can go deep sea fishing while she relaxes on the boat with a book and a margarita. They’re both in heaven. He does take it to extremes though, but she let’s him get away with it, so I can’t get too upset. For example…

        Saturday will mark the two year anniversary of when my dad underwent an unexpected quadruple bypass. While my mom was nursing him back to health, she made him promise to take her on an Alaskan cruise once he got better. No hunting, no camouflage, just spending time on a traditional cruise line, like Royal Caribbean, doing all of the things normal people do.

        The closest she got to that type of vacation was a two-day econo-ferry to Ketchikan during their trip. He hunted once they got off the boat. But she planned the damn trip, so she’s got no one to blame but herself!

        Their last actual vacation where he did not hunt (barring the one family trip we took to Mount Rushmore when I was 14) was in 1990.

        I don’t know how they do it sometimes. He’s obviously an outdoorsman, and she prefers indoor activities like reading, crafts and margaritas (Okay, give her a margarita and she’ll drink it anywhere quite frankly). 🙂 She told me once that they’ve both known people in separate spheres of life (like a friend of his and a work acquaintance of hers) who, despite my parent’s unique shared last name, never realized they were married because they are so different and they just didn’t seem like two people who would be together. But somehow it works!

        I think they both like their alone time enough to let the other pursue their chosen activity without interference. It’s like your recent blog entry–they prefer quality time together rather than quantity time. They’d rather have fun doing their own things without the other than share activities that make one of them miserable just for the sake of being together. Once they’re done, they find mutually compatible ways to spend time with each other. Between that and finding ways to make vacations work for each of them, like I mentioned above, they’ve seemed to be pretty darn successful, not just in the length of their marriage, but also the fulfillment it provides!

        Reply
        • Katie–That’s awesome. Really awesome. That actually sounds almost exactly like the type of marriage I want to have (in terms of different interests, quality time, taking trips together but doing different things, and doing many things alone if they’re not a shared passion). I’m glad it works so well for them, and it gives me hope! 🙂

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          • Yeah, I think there needs to be more give-and-take though, which I don’t really see in theirs as much as I would like. He literally won’t go ANYWHERE unless it involves hunting, unless the purpose of the trip is to visit family, like during the holidays. She always sucks it up and finds a way to enjoy herself, which I think could lead to resentment in most relationships. I really thought the Alaskan cruise would be an opportunity for her to take the type of vacation she wanted, but I was wrong! I think she gets fulfillment by making other people happy though, so it seems that everyone wins!

            I feel like I’m way too busy for a relationship right now, but only because I know that a lot of people (men and women) want quantity time, which I just can’t give. I’d rather have a great meal with someone that may only last an hour where I can give them my undivided attention rather than a whole evening where I’m trying to multi-task and not giving 100% at anything because I’m pulled in different directions. A lot of people don’t understand that. Or they may acknowledge your needs from the beginning, but just end up feeling hurt when they inevitably don’t get the time they want.

            Reply
            • Yeah, I can see how the hunting requirement might be limiting. If it was reading a book, sure, you can do that anywhere. But you can’t hunt at the City Museum.

              I think it’s tough for people to be up front about the amount of time they want to spend with someone else, because it’s very easy to use time as a gauge of interest or disinterest. It’s great that you know exactly what you want in those regards.

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        • Perhaps you’ve underestimated how much the margaritas come into play in keeping this relationship working like a well-oiled machine???

          Reply
  2. Sometimes I wonder if you write the blog then choose an appropriate photo, or find a great photo and write a blog entry that allows you to post the photo.

    Reply
    • John–I don’t think that has happened yet. Although I must admit that when I search for applicable pictures, sometimes I add the word “hot” in front of the search topic just to add a little spice to the blog. Thus, in this case the search was “hot rock climber.”

      Reply
      • I’m pretty sure that if that picture had been taken from a different angle, a nipple would have been involved.

        Would it have killed you to post a photo of a male hot rock climber for the ladies of the blog? 🙂

        Reply
  3. Boobies. I bet her right boob popped out in the next photo.

    Anyway, I have a psychology friend who is currently studying relationships and human attractions. She said that couples with more common interests have a more successful relationship than the ones who don’t. I think that’s true but not always. It’s easier to form bonds between people with common interests in the beginning. Whatever happens later to the relationship between the two happens. No matter how much common interests they have can’t pull them together again if they decide to part. It goes with all kinds and levels of relationships.

    Boobies. Just because.

    Reply
    • I would ask your friend about my “intrigue” theory. I doubt it’s been studied. My point is that intrigue is more important than interest, and it can possibly lead to significantly better conversations since you’re expanding your universe by learning about interests you had never considered.

      Reply
      • Okay. I’ll ask her about that. Intrigue vs. Insterest: Which is the best trigger to initiate a lasting intimate relationship. Sounds like a potential study.

        Reply
  4. Really? You don’t remember The Mimbo? Elaine’s rock climbing boyfriend who George had a man crush on? Come on, Stegmaier. Minus 1 for you.

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  5. I agree. I believe couples need to have some interests in common, but it definitely isn’t necessary for them to have everything in common. And even if they do have things in common, they don’t neccessarily always have to do those things together.

    The last guy I dated didn’t understand this at all. Anything that I was interested in, he wanted to do with me. This ranged anywhere from watching a baseball game, going to a concert (of a band he didn’t even like), to picking out a new pair of running shoes. Are you kidding me? I understand that someone may want to take interest in some of the things their partner does, but this was taking it a bit far. Even with the baseball games, which was a common interest, we don’t have to watch EVERY single game we can together. Some things I can and need to do on my own.

    Obviously, this situation was a little extreme and I know there were other underlying factors for the reason he wanted to be with me almost every waking second, but ultimately, it was the end of the dating relationship. Even before the break up, I tried repeatedly to explain things to him, but he would just become defensive and then turn things around on me.

    But I digress. I will disagree with the TV show aspect, though. I don’t watch TV, so whichever show he chooses to watch is fine with me – I’ll just go to the gym.

    Reply
    • Jill–Thanks for your comment. To me, that relationship sounds really suffocating. I don’t want someone adopting all of my interests and hobbies–I want them to have their own thing going on. Isn’t that why we start to like people in the first place anyway? You find it attractive that someone is passionate about something (regardless of whether or not you’re passionate about it), so why would you want them to adopt all of your interests? I’m surprised your guy didn’t see that.

      There might be another exception. I have a friend who loves to dance, and she has found that she really wants a dance partner. Someone who loves to dance, not someone she has to convince to love to dance. So that’s one case where common interests matter.

      Reply
      • It was extremely suffocating, among other things, and wasn’t healthy at all. He didn’t see it because he didn’t want to see it (his own underlying, personal issues).

        Yes, that seems to be an exception. However, I do believe there should be some common interests – I can’t imagine being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t have ANY of the same interests. Intrigue and respect can only go so far before I think it’d get lonely.

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        • Well, of course people need to do things together! I think that’s the case even if you don’t share the same interest. I mean, everyone eats, right? 🙂

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  6. I definitely agree with this in parts.

    I will never expect (or want) my husband (BOOYA! Married on the 8th!) to watch Gossip Girl or Vampire Diaries with me. Ever. But he does sometimes voluntarily. However, I actually prefer to watch “my” shows alone.

    This is because I get really into shows emotionally. And I enjoy that. That’s why I watch fictional shows, so I can enjoy them. Oftentimes I drink beer along with it because it makes me even MORE emotionally open.

    But back to the topic… we also watch a lot of soccer, hockey, Bill Maher, and more recently The Office. In my household, sports are important to have as common interests. If he was really into, say, baseball, I’m not sure that would work out. Baseball is on ALL THE TIME and it’s SO BORING. Plus the games can be epically long. (Not as bad as cricket) Who needs to have all that boring baseball taking up precious space on the DVR?!

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    • I think I need to add in about TV shows that I get really attached to my shows. So, if someone isn’t “that into it”, it really bothers me. My friend who I discuss Doctor Who with will play WoW or other games while watching. OMG this bothers me so much! How can he not fully focus on the glory of Doctor Who?!

      I tend to keep these emotions to myself though…to avoid looking like someone who camps out for comicon in my cosplay and cyberstalks Matt Smith. Which I don’t do! Promise.

      Anyway, I’m not this way about movies. I think it’s because movies are an event to me. I LOVE going to movie theaters…it’s like seeing live theatre but cheaper! A great community experience. My favorite memory is when watching Godzilla and Godzilla is dying and all you can hear is the heartbeat as the lead scientist dude gets closer and closer to her. It’s a very intense/emotional moment (the climax, if you will) and some dude in the front rows yells out “Whaaaa!” as if he’s scared. It was HILARIOUS. Most people would be annoyed by this (well, maybe not during Godzilla), but I love that kind of thing. It makes me feel connected to humanity. Like watching fireworks…that same feeling. All of these people together enjoying fire in the sky. That’s a pet please of mine. Community participation.

      Reply
  7. (I divided my response because it was so long)
    As for RL interests… I always thought of this in two ways:

    1) Short-term** individual activities such as rock climbing*, yoga, tennis, soccer*, reading, knitting, playing violin should be practiced by the person who is passionate about it. The other person need not force themselves into this. In fact, I think it yield bad results. What if the other person really excels at yoga because they’re more flexible? Now this activity you’ve felt confident in and taken a lot of pleasure in is suddenly being overshadowed. You then feel guilty because the partner is enjoying it so much since they’re good at it, and you want to encourage them. But…it’s distressing. This can go the other way, where they really suck at it and don’t like it and then end up resenting you for making them feel obligated to be a part of that activity.

    2) Couple or Group activities such as camping, movie going, drinking, dancing, beach going, skiing*, hiking*, etc. should be shared–including skill level. I couldn’t be with someone who “didn’t dance” because I love going out dancing and I don’t want to go do that with just my friends all the time. I want to have my sexy lover spin me on the dancefloor! Or, say, camping. If the other person is hardcore into 8-day back-country camping trips and I am more of a 3-day weekend front-country Coleman grill camper, then we’d only be able to front-country camp and the guy would resent me.

    *These activities could go both ways depending on the passion level and your location. Skiing could be more like going to the gym if you live a half hour from the slopes and just go for a few runs after work using your Nights pass, which would make it category 1. Or it could be an all day thing, which would make it category 2.

    **Short-term meaning they go on for only 1-2 hours at a time, not full weekends or weeks, which would be long-term

    Reply

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