Do mu­sic mis­matches doom re­la­tion­ships?

Ex­perts say hav­ing the same taste can ig­nite an ini­tial spark, but it’s not needed long term


On Katie Nestor’s first date with Gareth Williams, she gushed about the bands she’d see per­form at the WayHome mu­sic fes­ti­val just north of the city that week­end. Williams stared at her blankly.

“I was like, ‘Who is this guy who doesn’t know WayHome?’ ” Nestor laughed, re­call­ing the few dates later when she first learned Williams had no songs on his phone and was in­dif­fer­ent to mu­sic. “I was like, ‘Oh god, this guy is a loser.’ ” Yet, a year and a half later, they’re still go­ing strong.

Dat­ing apps have started cap­i­tal­iz­ing on mu­si­cal con­nec­tions.

Last year, Tin­der part­nered with Spo­tify to al­low users to post their favourite art- ists and their own “an­them” on pro­files, and dat­ing app Happn al­lows users to post songs on pro­files and send mu­sic to other users.

Taste­ and Mix’d are apps specif­i­cally for mu­sic lovers look­ing to con­nect with fel­low mu­sic lovers.

But does be­ing in sync in mu­si­cal taste trans­late to be­ing in tune as a cou­ple?

Re­la­tion­ship and mu­si­col­ogy ex­perts say that while lik­ing the same mu­sic can cre­ate an ini­tial spark be­tween daters, it’s not nec­es­sary for main­tain­ing a happy re­la­tion­ship. The deal-breakers are when one per­son can’t ac­cept the other’s dif­fer­ent taste, or when they try to force their mu­si­cal taste on an­other per­son — both cases usu­ally signs of big­ger prob­lems, they say.

“Quite of­ten at the be­gin­ning of re­la­tion­ships, cou­ples are of­ten look­ing for things they might have in com­mon,” said Kip Pe­g­ley, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of mu­si­col­ogy at Queen’s Univer­sity. “If you share cer­tain sim­i­lar­i­ties in mu­sic . . . that can also speak to a shared his­tory. ‘Oh, you were at that con­cert? I love them too.’ ”

For some sin­gles, mu­si­cal taste mat­ters big time. Nick­el­back, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga topped a poll of mu­si­cal turnoffs con­ducted by Taste­ in 2011.

Pe­g­ley com­pares read­ing some­one by their mu­sic col­lec­tion to read­ing them by their book col­lec­tion; it can give in­sight into what their other in­ter­ests are.

But there’s still hope for cou­ples such as Nestor and Williams, who have a love con­nec­tion but no mu­si­cal one, re­la­tion­ship ex­perts say.

“It’s per­fectly OK to be on dif­fer­ent pages about mu­sic,” said Natasha Sharma, a Toronto-based ther­a­pist and au­thor of The Kind­ness Jour­nal.

Sharma said mu­sic can be lumped in as a “sur­face” in­ter­est with things such as taste in movies and food. It’s more im­por­tant to agree on big-pic­ture stuff such as goals, val­ues and out­looks on life, she said.

It’s only when one per­son dis­par­ages the other’s taste or when one tries to force mu­sic on the other that Sharma sees red flags.

“Any time you push any­thing on a part­ner, it’s not good — whether it’s mu­sic or mar­riage,” she said.

“The prob­lem is, the per­son who is forc­ing it down their part­ner’s prover­bial throat isn’t re­spect­ing them as an in­di­vid­ual.”

But if one per­son doesn’t ini­tially like the other’s mu­sic, they shouldn’t give up try­ing, she said. Show­ing an in­ter­est in your part­ner’s in­ter­ests — be they mu­sic or sci-fi movies — lets them know you

“When you’re younger and you’re try­ing to fig­ure out, ‘Who would be my ideal dream man?’ you pic­ture a part­ner who has all the same in­ter­ests as you. But that’s re­ally not re­al­is­tic. That’s re­ally not what makes a good re­la­tion­ship.” KATIE NESTOR

care. Com­pletely shut­ting down some­one’s mu­sic can be par­tic­u­larly hurt­ful since it’s so per­sonal, she said.

When it comes to lik­ing the same mu­sic, there are sci­en­tific rea­sons why it may help you bond.

“We know from some brain stud­ies that mu­sic can bring up au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal mem­o­ries . . . mem­o­ries for events that have hap­pened to you,” said Lau­rel Trainor, a pro­fes­sor of cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science and di­rec­tor of McMaster Univer­sity’s In­sti­tute for Mu­sic and the Mind. “For ex­am­ple, the first date you went on, you might re­mem­ber the mu­sic that the band played.”

Trainor said re­searchers don’t know if, or to what ex­tent, that shared con­nec­tion im­pacts a re­la­tion­ship.

As for Nestor, 29, she said if she’d been younger when she met Williams, 33 — who said he only likes Oa­sis — his mu­si­cal in­dif­fer­ence might have been a deal­breaker.

“When you’re younger and you’re try­ing to fig­ure out, ‘Who would be my ideal dream man?’ you pic­ture a part­ner who has all the same in­ter­ests as you,” she said. “But that’s re­ally not re­al­is­tic. That’s re­ally not what makes a good re­la­tion­ship.”

Nestor said she now at­tends fewer con­certs, know­ing Williams won’t go with her, but that the two bond over shared close­ness with their fam­i­lies, Net­flix binges and be­ing ac­tive.

And they did even­tu­ally find mu­sic they could agree on: the Frozen sound­track.

“The songs are catchy,” Williams said. “Plus, when you (Nestor) sing, you butcher it and it makes me laugh.”


Katie Nestor and Gareth Wil­liams even­tu­ally found mu­sic they could agree on: the Frozen sound­track.


Katie Nestor is a huge fan of all types of mu­sic, while part­ner Gareth Wil­liams is pretty in­dif­fer­ent to any­thing ex­cept Oa­sis.

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