How Important Are Common Interests in a Relationship?

How Important Are Common Interests in a Relationship?

Hi Evan, I’m new to your site and advice, but I’m already hooked on your refreshingly honest advice and wisdom. I’ve read “Why He Disappeared”, and searched for some answers on your blog. There’s just one big thing I can’t seem to grasp: Is there a difference between compatibility and commonalities?

I’ve recently become interested in the artistic, sensitive type men. I’ve always been an artist myself, but have NEVER appreciated men with these qualities. I feel good about this new development, as I think it means I have more self-confidence, am less competitive, and just long for someone who understands the pros and cons of being creative for a living.

However, thanks to you, I also know that men don’t want to date themselves. This makes perfect sense to me; variety is one of my favorite things. But I do want common interests with a man, and the creative connection is now pretty important to me. Would an artistic, sensitive man ever want to date an artistic, sensitive woman? Or would we be incompatible because of these shared qualities?

Wondering if I should be looking for someone MORE different than myself…Amber

Okay, let me unravel this for all the readers who haven’t read “Why He Disappeared” yet (although if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?!).

You may be the best of friends, have amazing chemistry, and really “get” each other, but if both of you have the same flaws, the relationship may be untenable.

First of all, I did say that men didn’t want to date themselves, but that statement independent of its context is highly misleading.

The point was that if you want to date a smart, strong, successful man, his greatest concern isn’t necessarily whether you have a Masters’ degree, speak a second language, or have a summer home in the Hamptons. It’s how he feels around you. Most men ultimately gravitate toward women who make them feel sexy, funny and trusted.

That does not mean that men are not attracted to the female version of themselves. I spent 35 years chasing the female version of me – intellectual, liberal, passionate, opinionated; it just never WORKED, that’s all.

So do creative guys like creative women? No doubt. The problem isn’t whether such men will like you or understand you. The problem is whether your weaknesses will exacerbate each other.

Are you both highly emotional? Are you both fanciful dreamers? Are you sometimes depressed or even bipolar? Do you run from anything that seems stable because it seems boring? Do either of you have any practical skills? Will you ever be able to afford to raise children? Are either of you saving for retirement?

Because you may be the best of friends, have amazing chemistry, and really “get” each other, but if both of you have the same flaws, the relationship may be untenable. This is what I mean by compatibility.

Common interests have NOTHING TO DO with compatibility.

I will repeat: common interests have NOTHING TO DO with compatibility.

Compatibility is about respect, first and foremost. If you like running, and I don’t, we can be perfectly happy together – as long as you don’t judge me for not running and I don’t try to stop you from running.

Common interests have NOTHING TO DO with compatibility.

It’s that simple.

Runners and artists and surfers and actors and musicians and doglovers are often attracted to those who have the same hobbies. Except these hobbies are not (or at least should not be) the things upon which your marriage is based. Two doglovers that don’t know how to communicate are doomed. Two intellects that are stubborn and busy will struggle. Two skiers that can’t trust don’t stand a chance.

So don’t worry about whether you’re dating a sensitive artist or not. Worry about whether your relationship is easy and whether you’re built for the long haul. Your common interests may draw you together but they will not keep you together.


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  1. 1
    Jackie H.

    Sounds about right to me…getting married in just over a month to someone who I share a few common interests with…but mostly, our personalities gel….I’m high strung…he is not…which is the best example…

  2. 2

    @ Jackie H: at least you can admit it! :)

  3. 3
    Girl in the midwest

    You and my mom are always in agreement…  Haha.  I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized my mom was right about so many things.  She is very blunt, but she is honest and astute.  She told me that the key is not to look for the “best” (using criteria such as looks, money, education, humor, etc) guy you can get, but to find the guy who is the most suitable for you.  And these are often not the same people.  She said the “best” guy may not be the best guy for you.  They might be the best guy for someone else.

  4. 4
    Girl in the midwest

    Oh but you put it in much easier-to-hear terms than my mom.  :) 

  5. 5

    I agree with this post whole-heartedly.  I was with a wonderful man for years; we loved each other, shared values and were best friends.  But we are both unrealistic, avoidant when it comes to financial issues and very sensitive.  In many ways, the relationship was lovely but it simply wasn’t sustainable because while we “got” each other, we didn’t function well as a team when it came to day-to-day life.

  6. 6

    From your posts you have a wonderful wife. But you repeatedly state how you looked for A, B, C, X, Y, Z qualities and that didn’t work. I mean no disrespect to your wonderful wife whatsoever, but I honestly want to know, how do you know you didn’t settle? 

    1. 6.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @JESS – “How do you know you didn’t settle?”

      Because I’m happy.

      1. 6.1.1

        love this, at the end of the day we all wanna be happy whether he does something that irritates me but then turns around and completely surprises me with something else and i’m happy then that’s it.

  7. 7

    Excellent response, Evan. Including your answer to comment #7. I don’t understand this fixation or paranoia some people have with “settling” and they will never be convinced they’re really with their 100% best match or that — had they held out a little longer, been a little choosier — they might have had Mr. or Ms. Perfect. It’s an illusion and a fantasy. It reminds me of that preschool song, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.”  Whether it’s a consequence of the paradox of choice or whether we simply have access to too much information to distract us from what is right in front of our faces… there sure seem to be a lot of single people who don’t trust their own choices or even their own emotions (happiness) for fear they are settling. Frankly it seems pretty damn arrogant to live in constant uncertainty or just plain fear, of having compromised. Let’s face it — in life, we settle every single day for the simple reason that the world does not revolve around us. Put away the wish list and just gravitate toward people who make you feel good when you’re with them and quit analyzing it to death. OKay, now I’m sounding old and preachy, but there you have it. 

    1. 7.1

      Great response concerning settling.  I have been struggling with “everyone else’s opinion” and they think I am settling because he doesn’t make as much money as I do and the lifestyle might not be as I am used to.  I enjoy being with my guy.  He makes me happy.  I respect his character and feel he is a great communicator.  Neither of us make a LOT of money.  I would say we make about the same amount.  We are both starting over in life and there is no magic wand.  It’s going to take time and I won’t marry until I feel that together we can financially make it.  I must admit, I do have some concerns but I’m not sure if they are just something I need to work through.  I am trying not to be a materialistic person and I will admit I have had a pretty comfy life before my divorce two years ago.  I just want to be happy and realize that comes from the inside.  I like the fact the you pointed out compatibility and commonalities are two different things.  I feel character and integrity is most important.

  8. 8
    David T

    @Zann #8

    Why doesn’t your post have “like” button I can click? You expressed a life philosophy to be extended well beyond choosing a mate. It is the difference between going through your day striving to save 2 minutes on the road/get the biggest grapefruit at the grocery store/re-re-re-edit that facebook post to get the wording just right and just relaxing.  Enjoy the scenery during the 2 minute longer drive, savor the first grapefruit you grab (and having more time to eat it!) and knowing that you did get your point across even if you weren’t grammatically perfect and devastatingly witty.
    Enjoy the company of the woman or man that you almost always feel good around rather than fret about how much MORE fun you might be having if his shoulders were a little broader, she was a little less self-conscious, he was a bit mellower, she was more energized.

  9. 9

    @Zann #8 and David T #9
    Excellent posts and well-articulated.  Another thing about people who refuse to settle: they show an incredible lack of self-awareness because they fail to realize that others are settling for them in some, or perhaps even many, ways.

  10. 10

    I am not sure that compatibility even has to include a shared language as a common interest.  Interests are fine for dating but other things come higher up when you are living together.

  11. 11

    “Common interests have NOTHING TO DO with compatibility…” Amen, thank you for articulating that in one sentence. So many people are deluded by this and dismiss potential matches because they do not have enough common interests but this does not build the foundation of a healthy loving relationship – it all comes down to mutual respect, communication, core values etc

  12. 12

    At this point in my life, my main hobbies include meditating, doing yoga, a healing practice called Sat Nam Rasayan, improv and studying math and statistics. I know for me, I don’t need a man that does these hobbies. It would be nice if I had a man that was willing to come to a yoga class if I asked him but it’s not required and I at least would appreciate having someone listen to me talk about my interests and at least show some interest in my hobbies. I once was interested in a man who was into cars and bike racing. Never would be my thing but I was supportive about it and I think that’s really all one can ask

  13. 13

    I both agree and disagree with this. There are some interests that don’t matter…he likes to shoot darts while she likes to sew.  But when the interests are part of the lifestyle, they certainly do make a difference.
    For instance, I love to travel when I have some time off, be it an international jaunt or just a long weekend. If my partner has no interest in traveling with me, he’s not compatible because I don’t want to travel alone or have to find someone else to go with me for the rest of my life.  I want to enjoy the experience with a partner.  
    On the other hand, if I like to read, I don’t care at all if he likes to read.  As long as I have time to enjoy a good book.

    1. 13.1

      I agree that the problem occurs when interests are part of a lifestyle.  Case in point, my exhusband LOVED professional wrestling, I HATE it.  I didn’t think it would be an issue, however, every night he was watching wrestling in the living room while I went into the bedroom to watch something else.  He spent money we didn’t have on tickets for live events and pay per view, which caused arguments.  Granted there were far worse issues that led to our eventual divorce, but I was so happy when we did divorce that I didn’t have to listen to any more wrestling on the TV!

  14. 14

    Zann # 8 David T #9 Chance # 10
    YES, YES, YES!!!  Thank you!

  15. 15

    I think where the confusion lies is that SOME (not all) types of hobbies/common interests reflect a shared world view, which is one aspect of compatibility. For instance, someone whose interests are in “green” issues and spirituality/meditation may not mesh well with someone who is a hard-nosed oil magnate interested in speedboats and flash cars. Their “hobbies” go beyond simply activities to pass the time and reflect their different ambitions and outlook on life. This is different from someone who likes sewing dating someone who enjoys ten-pin bowling.
    Then there is the issue of shared time together. If one person likes to spend their weekends hiking and camping in the wilderness and the other doesn’t, or one person dedicated a lot of free time to competitive sports or volunteering at the homeless shelter, then unless you share that interest you ain’t gonna see much of your partner. This may be ok for some people – for others it can be a problem.
    I totally agree with Evan that common hobbies/interests are not enough to keep a couple together, nor are they even necessary for every couple, but equally, it would be foolish to totally disregard how the other person likes to spend their free time when you are assessing whether they would make a good mate.
    Compatibility is about how your personalities mesh together, and how you feel when you are around the other person – that said, hobbies and interests may be a pointer in some cases as to how well you will co-exist as a couple and what your life will look like.

  16. 16

    well the guy that was interested in cars and bikes was not a ‘hard nosed oil magnate’ as Helene suggested @16. It was actually a long distance thing and that was why it didn’t work out. I don’t think either of us wanted to give up our lives in our respective countries. We had a lot in common and he was intelligent and worked in IT, so a bit of a geek. I consider myself a bit nerdy.
    I actually have a male friend that is open to new age stuff like I am and does meditate but he is a little too weird for me. I’m not sure if I’d want a man who regularly practices meditation. I feel I need to meditate because of my temperment. I am a bit high strung and very sensitive so meditating helps me stay calm and centered. I would want a man that doesn’t ‘need’ meditation the way I ‘need’ it because I would like someone who is calmer then me. Not that I am uncalm, just that I have to work at it and am not naturally calm My mother is very calm. I am similar to my dad. We have fiery tempers so I think that’s why I would need a calming man, much like how my dad has a calm wife.

  17. 17

    I have found its important to support your partner’s interests. If he likes soccer, then go to the games. Encourage him in his interests. Most importantly do not call them stupid (even if they are :p ). He still wants me to enrol in the local women’s soccer… I think its cute that he tries. 
    For the most part I like how he encourages me to do things I enjoy – even if they him suiting and up dragging him to the opera or ballet. 

  18. 18

    So true, compatibility is about ‘respect’… and that is the reason why I ended my last relationship of three months, it seemed as though we were not compatible, not because of the lack of common interests, but the way we just kept butting heads.
    He got into motorcycles when we were dating, I was always supportive of it, for instance when he got his license I sketched a picture of a motorcycle and wrote “congrats babe”… but in no way am I a motorcycle enthusiast. 
    But when it came to watching movies that I like (comedy) they were “stupid” according to him, yet he wanted me to be “open-minded” to his Star Wars and Trek movies, which I was.  Yet he said that I should show more interest in Star Wars so we could have more to talk about in conversation.  I told him point blank that I was not going to turn into someone I am not.
    I was just asked by an acquaintance why we I broke up with him, and he asked why. I said we were not compatible.  It didn’t mean that we needed to like the same things, but he needed to respect what I enjoyed, show some type of enthusiasm and support as I did with his interests and hobbies. Plus a willingness to participate in things I enjoyed would have been nice, like hiking, and outdoor activities.  But he just showed no excitement for anything I valued.

  19. 19

    I’m a total newbie in this dating scene, so still learning (from you, master). . I bought your  ‘great book’ by our  master Evan Katz – ‘Why he disappeared’. soo insightful. Except that it is me playing the ‘disappearing act’ all along.  I keep my ex-b’f’s semi-nude pix under my bed. I watch porn on the net.. I get stimulated (physically and emotionally ) by young hot males. I have been described as a very sexi ‘hot chick’ by almost every creature on this earth, including males, females and animals.. 
    Mr Evan Marc Katz, gorgeous babe, can you write something controversial about girls who are not conventional, who are sensitive, psychotic, nice and sweet but feisty, girls who study science n play chess, and still feel like a woman.. girls who are  sooo confused.. xx. girls who accept you guys the way you are. trying to learn about you, you strange species.. you’re such hard work.. but soo worth it.. xx

  20. 20

    Gina, that man sounds selfish. Selfish people usually expect you to cater to their needs but never the other way around. Congrats on the break up

  21. 21

    Dear Gabrielle (#20): I really doubt there are many women who follow Evan’s blog who would consider themselves “conventional.”  If you keep  following the posts and comments, you will see that most of Evan’s readers/followers are intelligent, mature, diverse, feisty, (even scientific!) but primarily interested in improving our relationship skills. I think it’s safe to say that not many of us fall into the psycho-nice-sweet-hot-chik category, and I’m betting even fewer can lay claim to a hotness level that attracts even members of the animal kingdom…..(Dang!). Still, I’m betting that most of us are okay with that. At least, I am.   

  22. 22

    Shared values and mutual respect, trust, love trump common interests. My favorite tongue-in-cheek analogy to use is what good is it if we both kayak if one of us is an axe murderer? :-)

    1. 22.1

      Haha; I like this.  But, perhaps axe murdering would become a hobby the two of you could enjoy, together…;)

  23. 23

    my wife is more alpha male then me. She can also be controlling at times. She was not up and front with me during our engagement about her debts. She never told me she has 20k in credit card debts. She likes operas, concerts, music at home. She says up late till 12 or 1 am. At first, she watched tv in the bedroom when I was trying to sleep and got so pissed and yelled at her after asking several times to turn it off. She now does not come in the bedroom when I am trying to sleep…which is a good thing. She still does have her credit card spending habits and will buy things like appliances, a new car when I was not working and struggling to find work. She does not allow me to eat the food she buys and requires me to eat my own.  We have gone though marriage counseling and she has backed down in some of her controlling ways.  I find that she has lots of habits like her mom “genetic possibly?”. That drove her dad nuts, and now it can drive me nuts at times.  She has a love of dogs and sheltie is her favorite and at one time, she was making jokes, the dog should sit in the front seat and me sit in the back seat. She has been asked not to bring the dog to my extended family functions and once brought it to a after church function “odd”.
    She shows no affection to me but is more like a friend. We do not have kids no sex in over two years.
    She is paranoid, like her mom and that can be a turn off factor. She is a slob but if some one comes to visit, she will clean up the entire house because she hates embarrassment.
    Once she asked me to help her clean up the entire house and put all the things away, because a smoke alarm company employee was to test our smoke alarm which took less then five minutes.
    She also hates having her picture taken. Will do anything to be in control and hates embarrassment. She does send out birthday cards and Christmas cards to relatives and makes cake or pastries to give to people at times.
    What kind of woman did I marry?

  24. 24

    @James – I really feel for you. You sound so heartbroken and I know in time, your heart will lead you the right way or and you will have a solution :-)
    My former LTR and I had TONS of shared interests….except he was so competitive with everything that when we did anything together, he had to win….hence, I really didn’t feel special around him and did not like to things together because nothing was for fun, it was to “be the champion” for him. Not fun at all.
    So while I am searching for my “match” or “true love” or whatever you want to call it,  I think when it comes down to it, everyone wants that “feeling” of being valued, trusted, respected, secure, etc. I think that when people look for their “soul mate” this is what they are searching for, this feeling…and it’s out there for everyone! Men love kindness and loyalty and support. So do women. It just needs to be genuine and sincere…

  25. 25

    :Rewriting my post because it says error and I’m not sure if it uploaded. So, I apologize if it did post and it seems like I’m repeating myself…
    So, I just got dumped today because my ex said he’s not that interested in me. The reason he doesn’t fully in love with me is due to the fact that we have very different hobbies and likes. He likes to run as a work out and I like yoga, he likes white collar, anime and more serious action shows while I like to watch bobs burger, the Archer, shows that aren’t predictable like walking dead and other comedy shows. On a beautiful day I feel that I should at least walk outside especially hike somewhere so it’s not wasted while he doesn’t mind staying in and doesn’t like hiking. I have no problem running with him and watching his shows even though I hate his shows because one thing I learned from my parents, who have been married for 22 years, is that it is okay to have different interests as long as one is willing to accept them. I more than accepted his interests I wanted to embrace them because I enjoy doing anything with him that is positive and makes him happy. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stand What I like or the idea of doing what I like or me even doing things he liked if I didn’t care for it. He straight up said he wants more out of the relationship and he’s not getting it because we don’t have common interests. The funny thing is, we have similar goals, financial and religious views, morals, taste for food, appreciation for art, political views and similar ideas on how to raise children. For a while I’ve been trying to tell him that our different likes just tell us we are different people with similar views and that every individual is different. Tried to have him understand we are all different because of our own personal experience yet to have similar beliefs after it all should be the common interest that bring us together but I literally think he needs to date his twin. My point is, thank you for this post because I thought I was foolish to respect and accept his hobbies even though I didn’t care for them. I knew it was immature for someone to not be fully interested in someone just because they’re not into the same shows orsimilar interests/leisure activities.
    To make things even better, in the beginning of the relationship he didn’t cheat but started flirting with other women because he wanted someone who would open him up to different things, help him to think out the box and someone different from his norm… Is this a bad example of irony or no? Serious question. :-\ 

  26. 26

    True,  because me and the guy I been with almost 3 years we have common interest as , piano music,singing etc. but it do not keep our relationship going on and after read all books and try to understand why he were so weird all the time… why he leave me all the time and come back all the time etc now after almost 3 years  and pregnant …Evan my boyfriend is a BIPOLAR!
    I don’t know know this disease but I know I would like to know this before and don’t thick there were something wrong with me doing things. I  am so shocked and disappointed in this life…
    So its mean that is over I move out for good!


    1. 26.1

      Make sure he doesn’t have borderline personality disorder which is a lot worse. Many ppl confuse the two.

  27. 27

    I was always a serious weightlifter and exboyfriend was Not. It’s funny that he liked the results from my workouts but didn’t want to join me. We remained friends and a year ago he decided to workout again – now he’s hooked and loves bodybuilding. We work out together and take challenging hikes in the mountains. Who’d have expected that? 

  28. 28

    It seems that men care more about shared interests of potential mates than women do and I have a few theories on why this might be.  
    1.  Almost every guy i know is worried that he’ll marry a woman who ends up heavy.  Seriously: this possibility seems to give dudes the willies.  So, many think they can “ensure” that they won’t end up with a fatty by picking a woman who will hike, ski and run with them.  If I’ve noticed that she’s started to put on weight, I’ll just make sure we go on more long bike rides, together.  
    . Female friendships tend to be based on emotional closeness, deep conversations, confiding in each other.   Male friendships tend to be based on shared activities in which good conversation and emotional closeness might come as an added bIt unnecessary benefit.  So, many men think that picking a romantic partner should be like picking a friend, which for them is someone with shared interests whom they also want to f@ck.  I agree with Evan that, in fact, men should ignore common interests and focus on finding women who give them what their guy friends do not: gentleness, feminine support, etc.  

  29. 29

    Oh, and an old-ish but interesting piece on “shared interests” from The Times:

  30. 30

    Good article. 

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