HOW IMPORTANT are COMMON interests in a Relationship?
Debunking the myth that is interest-based compatibility.
I found myself seated across from a guy with a deep affection for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Despite my steadily decreasing vested interest in the success of this date, I listened intently to his anecdotes: seeing The Undertaker in the flesh, his favorite female contenders, his extensive collection of faux championship belts. Unfortunately for this fella, it wouldn’t have mattered how well he treated me down the line—in my mind, he will forever be The Wacko Wrestling Fanboy Who Isn’t Getting A Text Back Tomorrow. A little abrasive, don’t you think?
I thought so myself. In assessing a potential romantic partner, we often take their interests into great consideration. And the economy of justification is pretty reasonable: When you find someone who likes the same bizarre underground bands as you, it’s nothing short of a magic moment. Common interests are a relatively reliable barometer for compatibility; for instance, if you subscribe to the same late-night hosts, it’s likely your political POVS are aligned. Today, differences between partners are easily distinguishable, especially on apps like Tinder, where the totality of a person’s character is reduced to a bio and a bunch of photos. However, a Venn diagram of common interests that is basically two separate circles doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed to fail. In fact, it might just be kooky enough to work. Alain de Botton, author of The Course
of Love, is of the radical belief that everyone, everywhere, ends up marrying the wrong person. Keep in mind that marrying for love is a historically new concept— prior to the mid-20th century, marriages were primarily for financial or political stability, to ensure the continuity of a family’s lineage. Even today, people in arranged marriages don’t get to back out when they find out their new spouse is a total slob. Neat freak? Too bad your forever life partner hates doing the dishes!
This is why, even at the dating level, we tend to be ruthless in weeding people out: we presume that small disagreements will spell absolute mayhem for bigger issues in the future. “The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently—the person who is good at disagreement,” advises de Botton. “[It’s] the
capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of [a good relationship]. Compatibility is an achievement of love. It must not be its precondition.”
Let’s say your guy operates on Filipino time, while you make it a point to be 15 minutes early. You’re not big on social media, but he likes to document everything, all the time. In the spectrum of “too much” and “too little,” both of you have room for improvement. This is where perceived incompatibility can be used to your advantage. By acknowledging your differences and making a genuine effort to match one another, you can facilitate mutual growth and maturity.
Here’s something you’ve heard before: Relationships work best when you have a life outside of your significant other. The same goes for having an identity that is autonomous from his. When you eighty-six the “two become one” mindset and nurture interests that are different from the other person’s, you hold on to your sense of self. Holding on to a healthy relationship shouldn’t be too far behind.