How Important Are Common Interests in a Relationship?

Man playing a guitar to his girlfriend

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.

Join our conversation (87 Comments).
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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…

    1. 1.1
      Judy Smith

      Sounds like a conflict…high vs low for communication.

  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.

      2. 6.1.2

        Hi Evan, my issue is that I’ve always been told from my spiritual advisor that it’s best to have more things in common that not. And with that being said, it makes me think my current relationship is befitting. We have the same values and beliefs; however he is on the boring side and although he doesn’t deny me fun, it would be great if he’d be more outgoing so we could do things together outside of sleep, go to church, talk about work and have sex. He’s ready for marriage and I am too just not not sure if I’m settling and will cheat with someone I have more in common with.

        I do love your story and I wish I could just be happy even though he doesn’t have certain interest.   I’m in love with a bore…

        1. Jade

          Sorry, my current relationship isn’t befitting…

        2. Darren

          Lol …just the same with me im in love with a bore..he always do the talking about the politics..and when i interrupt and tell him that i have some question he would say listen to me first…then i listen..thats why i told myself you will not contact me for a week…

  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.

    2. 7.2

      Oh wow. I love this breakdown because it is so real. You basically gave a reminder that the answers to our questions really should come from within us because our instincts don’t lie. However we are distracted by the multitude of “answers” and “solutions” we find through the media instead of focusing on what is really going on around us and getting in tune with our own feelings that allow us to determine what’s right for ourselves. In addition to that we tend to dwell on the idea that “there is better out there,” causing us to give up easily, which doesn’t allow us to take the time to see what our relationships can grow into. That was on point. 👍🏼

    3. 7.3

      That makes sense….

    4. 7.4

      thank you!   Very well Said.   I needed to hear this, and yep I need to stop analyzing.   Whew can be exhausting.   We feel good when we are together and that’s what matters.


  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.

    1. 9.1

      Chance, I was reminded of this one fact from my boyfriend. However I do think that we can settle on what we want. No one will ever be perfect and that’s his stance when i try to break it off but I do want a companion, someone I have common interest with and we’ll enjoy some of the same things.   Right now, I find myself doing things I enjoy with other men because he doesn’t naturally gravitate to the things I like. And he reminds me that we don’t have this one thing in commone before making the decision to do what I want. He’s boring, loves politics and work. I love all other other things. LOL   He’s a great guy and has been super supportive and encouraging, however I often feel lonely because of our lack of common interest.   I just don’t want to be married to someone I constantly have to make a concession for and vice versa.

      1. 9.1.1

        Oh heck Jade, this sounds absolutely wrong. You seem to be ignoring the very clear advice that Evan    gives ie if he makes you feel happy when you’re with him, then he’s ok. If he makes you bored, irritable, miserable or anything else negative, the he’s wrong for you.

        I should know, I’m stuck in a realtionship with a boring, irritating, thoughtless, but essentially kind man and I’m too cowardly to take my own and Evans advice as I’m scared of being alone.

        If you’re young enough to move on, I would definitely recommend it.

        Good luck. I hope you have more guts than me!

  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

    1. 11.1

      So, how much should a person compromise then if they have the same values and beliefs but not much in common?   You have the mutual respect, communication, etc but have to true intimacy because outside of the basic “good” relationship characteristics, it’s boring because you don’t like his interest and he doesn’t like yours. People should compromise on certain things but long term compatitible and zeal have a lot to do with how well you interact together and what you do together as a couple.   Example:   His ideal night is a movie at home with pizza on the couch, never wants to go anywhere. My ideal night is going out to listen to a live band or sit outside with beer and talk. He’s introverted, enjoys a lot of non physical activities and God forbid it involve other people.   MISERY. And guess what, we have all other other things in common you listed.   Boring people and active people can only survive for a short period so I don’t really agree with some of the responses.

      1. 11.1.1
        Karmic Equation

        Jade, you and your guy are NOT compatible. You like different lifestyles. Your idea of fun is NOT HIS idea of fun.

        For example if your idea of fun is having a night out with the girls once a week and his idea of fun is having a day out with the guys once a week, even though you’re not having fun “together” you actually have the same idea of fun, you know what I mean.

        People can be great people, supportive, kind, loving. But if you actually don’t have lifestyle compatibility or worse, you resent each other’s lifestyles in some way, you’re not with a compatible person, even if you have the same values.

        I would say, you guys should break up amicably and go no contact until all the oxytocin is out of both your systems (probably 2-3 months). And perhaps try to be friends then. It sound like you guys make better friends than partners.

      2. 11.1.2

        I agree with you. Yes you can be happy even no common interests but its boring as hell.

      3. 11.1.3

        Sounds like you are not happy, and trying to find an answer that backs ups what you think. In all respect, stop writing on this site how boring your partner is and how much it won’t work, and do the guy a favour and leave him, let him find someone that he does have more in common with and who won’t be complaining about him on blogs. I don’t mean to come across harsh, I just don’t know how to word it nicer and get to the point lol

  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!

    2. 13.2
      The Big A


      I was thinking the same thing but couldn’t muster the elocution to say it in a correct fashion that people would understand without a kneejerk reaction.

  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.

    1. 15.1

      Woohoo, someone who sees my point…   I’m moving on from a relationship that has all the common good things but we don’t spend our free time together nor do well on vacations because of our lack of hobbies.   This is important as well and without this interest and interaction I’ve pulled away because beliefs, etc cannot keep you interested, it takes interaction.

    2. 15.2

      Perfectly put Helene.

      There are common interests (hobbies), common outlooks (beliefs and values) and common personality traits (understanding, good listener, talkative, good with money etc).

      It it appears to be important to have common outlooks and common/complimentary personality traits; but not important to have common interests – UNLESS they are interests which affects ones lifestyle to such an extent that they are sliding over into being more like a value or belief.

      It is however, a little hazy!!



  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

    1. 19.1

      Gabrielle, my lovely female cospecies, men are not confusing at all. They look for women who love themselves wholeheartedly, who laugh and love and smile. They look for a happy woman, because they feel that vibe.



      Shay, a tattooed neurotic fancy pants who never had trouble meeting nice guys.

  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

    1. 20.1

      That’s exactly my impression of Gina’s ex. Selfish and controlling.

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